Ile aux Aigrettes, located just some hundred meters off the coast between Mahebourg and Blue Bay, is a natural reserve maintained by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. Should one go there? Is it worth a visit? Well that mainly depends on one’s personal interests and preferences.
For some people Ile aux Aigrettes may be not more than a small flat island with lots of trees and bushes. There’s no restaurant and there are no beaches and BBQs. If you are interested in those things you may prefer to stay away.
For others, like us, Ile aux Aigrettes is one small but important element of the whole conservation and restoration program that is aimed on saving the threatened endemic Mauritian species. If you are interested in such things, a visit at Ile aux Aigrettes allows you to learn more about the conservation work being done here and on the main island of Mauritius and (with a little bit of good luck) you will see birds and plants that you will not see around your hotel and that are rather hard to find in the small remains of the Mauritian forests. During our visits we saw, and photographed, the Mauritian Fody, the Pink Pigeon and even the rare small Olive White-Eye, the Telfair’s Skink and the Ornate Day Gecko. Besides those the island is home to some Aldabra Giant Tortoises, Fruit Bats and other little creatures. Further you can find various interesting plants and have a look the plant nursery.
The only way to visit the island is to join one of the guided tours. Tours can be booked at most hotels or touristic service providers. Of course it is also possible to make reservations directly at the reservation office or by phone. For information check out the official website www.ile-aux-aigrettes.com.
When we were there in 2011 and 2013, the price for the tour was 800 MUR per person (including the boat transfer between the little harbor at Pointe d’Esny and the island). If you see the 800 MUR not only as an entrance fee but as your support to the whole project, it seems a very fair price. However, additional donations can be made and you may even participate on their adoption program. The tour takes about 1 to 1.5 hours and the guides will tell you a lot about the islands Flora and Fauna and the conservation work being done. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. The more you ask the more they’ll tell you. It’s interesting. English and French are well understood. For other languages better ask in advance.
The tour typically ends at a small museum which is connected to a souvenir shop. In there you’ll find a small variety of souvenirs and a collection of interesting books. No one pushes you to buy something but you may find something that you like.
If you decide to go and visit Ile aux Aigrettes I would recommend you to make a reservation for a tour in the morning (9:30 am or earlier). That’s for two reasons. The birds are typically more active in the morning than they are later the day and besides this you might find the lower temperatures more comfortable. Bring some water, comfortable shoes and a good insect repellent with you and don’t forget to bring your camera. Keep your eyes open and stay with the guide. That’s how you get to see the most.