The Amirante Group of islands is one of the most unpopulated areas of Seychelles. Although it consists of almost half the landmass of the Seychelles, it is home to less than 2% of the country’s population. This island paradise, located in the Outer Islands, consists of about 20 islands, atolls and islets; each with their own character and charm.
The Amirantes archipelago lies south-west of the extensive, shallow-water Seychelles Bank in the western Indian Ocean and comprises of a group of carbonate island and islets extending over a distance of approximately 152 km, from African Banks in the north to Desnoeufs Island in the south.
The Amirante Islands (Ilhas do Almirantes) were discovered in 1503 by Vasco da Gama on his second exploration voyage. The islands were later renamed “Les Amirantes” (Admiral Islands) and were claimed for France in 1802. In 1814, the islands were passed on to the British as part of Mauritius and eventually, in 1909 the Seychelles became a separate colony which included, of course, the Amirante Islands. One of the Amirante Islands, Desroches (also known as Île Desroches), was split from the Seychelles by the United Kingdom in 1965 but was returned in 1976 when the Seychelles attained independence.
The African Banks can be found 230 km west of Mahé and forms part of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles. The shrub-lined sandy African Banks are the northernmost islands of the Amirante. First discovered in 1797, the islands were named Îlots Africains by Admiral Willaumez, commander of La Régénérée. The African Banks consist of 2 small islands which lie on the edge of the Amirante Bank, North Island and South Island. The islands hold important breeding grounds for both seabirds and turtles.
Rémire Island (also known as Eagle Island) is found 245 km south-west of Mahé and is only 0.27 square kilometres in size. The island was named after an English ship which visited in 1771, captained by Chevalier de la Billière. The island is the northernmost inhabited island of the Amirante, and was once used for guano production and to grow coconuts and vegetables. Today, the island hosts a small guest house and a 457 m runway. Fairy Terns and Lesser Noddies are often spotted on the island.
Étoile and Boudeuse Cays can be found roughly 330 km south of Mahé. Boudeuse is the farthest south-western feature on the Amirante Bank and the westernmost island of the group. Both are uninhabited and were named after ships used in Bougainville’s famous voyage by Chevalier du Roslan in 1771. The sandy islands hold grass and low shrubs, giving way to sandy beaches. The islets are established as Important Birding Areas as they are part of only 3 breeding sites of Roseate Terns in the Seychelles.
D’Arros and St. Joseph Atoll, comprised of a small inner ring of islands, can be found 250 km south-west of Mahé. Once owned by a prominent Seychellois family, the islands later belonged to what was once the Iranian royal family, following which it was purchased by the L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt who owned it until 2012. It was sold by her for 60 million US dollars and remains in private ownership whilst being managed by the Save Our Seas Foundation. In 2014 it was officially designated a nature reserve.
Marie-Louise and Desnœufs islands form part of the southern islands of the Amirante Islands roughly 280 km south-west of Mahé. The islands were first sighted and named in 1771 by Chevalier du Roslan. Uninhabited until the end of the 19th century, a small settlement was established on the islands for the production and farming of guano, maize, vegetables, poultry and pigs. The islands were later taken over by the Island Development Company and eventually all agricultural endeavours were ceased.
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