Bird Island’s Eco Credentials
Bird Island Lodge is proud to be an environmentally and socially responsible tourism operation. As a closed island environment, we are able to say that we alone are responsible for the protection, preservation and enhancement of Bird Island and its surrounding reefs and waters through sustainable management practices.
Eco-design: The hotel buildings were built using local products where possible (Seychelles does not have a big manufacturing industry and needs to import many goods) and using local labour. They were built amongst the gardens of the island and have an open air design so as to avoid the need for air conditioning.
Energy: All hot water is produced by dual solar panels for every two chalets. We recently installed two new and very efficient generators to provide electricity for the whole island, which has reduced our fuel usage enormously. We have no outdoor lighting and we do not have any air conditioning, fridges, televisions, etc. in the rooms so that power usage per chalet is kept to a minimum.
Conservation: Bird Island has been a family business for over 40 years. It has always been run on ecological principles and has always run conservation programmes for various aspects of its wildlife since the early 1970s. Currently we are focusing on programmes to monitor and protect the Sooty Terns, which breed on the island in their thousands during May-Sept; the Green and Hawksbill Turtles, which also come to the island to lay their eggs; the long tailed white tropic bird, which nests on the ground next to trees; the newly introduced Seychelles sunbirds, which we trans-located from the main island in February 2006; weather monitoring and plenty of other programmes. We have guests who volunteer with our turtle monitoring project during the Hawksbill season and we run nature tours on the island at least 4 times a week with our resident conservation officer, Robby. As well as this, we often take research students for a week or more on the island on the basis that they receive free accommodation in return for a final copy of their study.
Ecological sustainability: Bird Island has its own farm, where as many fresh vegetables as possible is grown for the restaurant. We produce spring onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, pak choi, pumpkins, aubergines, chillies, herbs, papayas, and coconuts, to name a few. Another regular feature on our menu is fresh fish, as it is the island’s staple food caught on a daily basis by our local fisherman. The kitchen has a composting system in place so that no food is wasted. For drinking water, the island’s rain water is collected and treated for suitable use.
Community: We have had a policy for over 40 years to employ local staff. As we are an island destination, our staff live and work on the island. We provide free accommodation and food and staff with children are allowed to keep their children living with them until the law regulates that they must be educated on the main island. We have a policy of allowing the older children up to the island for weekends and holidays when there is space available on the aircraft and we do not charge our staff for this. We also have a policy whereby we will offer our staff monetary loans if they wish to build a house for themselves on the main island and we do not charge them interest. The working population on the island operates as a small community and we have a very paternalistic approach to ensuring their welfare. We also actively involve our staff in our conservation projects and our conservation officer is responsible for educating new members of staff about their surroundings and the work that we do on the island to conserve this habitat. Our nature tour also contains elements of cultural interest for clients – discussing the medicinal uses of island plants, folk law, traditional methods of land management and fishing.
We are the only private island in the Seychelles to actively maintain a low local rate for Seychellois to come up to the island and experience a different part of their country.
Bird Island’s Eco History
- Since 1967 management of vegetation in the Sooty Tern breeding area has increased the colony size from c.18,000 pairs in the 1960s to c.750,000 pairs today.
- Support provided for research on Sooty Tern biology in relation to egg harvest that commenced in 1972; and continued support for the extension of this work from 1993 to the present day.
- Cessation of turtle harvesting on the island led to Bird Island hosting good populations of both Green and Hawksbill Turtles, and this is now backed by support for tagging of female turtles that come ashore to lay, and monitoring of the success of nests as part of a wider turtle monitoring programme in the Seychelles.
- In 1994 Bird Island was runner up in the British Airways “Tourism for Tomorrow Award”.
- Eradication rabbits; and of rats in 1995-1996, both accidentally introduced, has led to an increase in the populations of Brown Noddies, which now nest on the ground, and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and White-tailed Tropicbirds.
- Support provided for a PhD study of the relative success of tree and ground-nesting Common Noddies.
- Support to Nature Seychelles (Birdlife partner in Seychelles) to monitor all species of seabird breeding on Bird Island.
- Support to visiting scientists investigating the island’s geography, flora and marine life.
- Maintenance of an education programme for visitors to the island, including nature walks given by a trained member of the hotel staff and a display of posters in the restaurant building, that explain research and monitoring programmes on the island.
- The setting up and maintenance of a small weather station, which provides regular information for the Seychelles Meteorological Office.
- Sir David Attenborough visited the island along with a BBC film crew to film the Sooty Tern Colony for two episodes of the series ‘The Life of Birds’. The colony appears in ‘The demands of the egg’ and ‘The problems of parenthood’, broadcast in 1998 and 1999.
- In 2003 Bird Island won a Green Planet Award for Environmental Management and Good Practice.
- In 2005 Bird Island won another Green Planet Award for Environmental Management and Good Practice.
- Again in 2005 The Bird Island staff were collectively named as Birdwatcher of the Year by the Seychelles Birds Committee.
- Bird Island was runner up in the best hotel category for the Responsible Travel awards presented at the World Travel Market in London in November 2005. We were the only property in the Seychelles to be nominated.
- Bird Island named as the 7th best destination to travel to in the world for ‘genuine’ eco-tourism by the BBC Wildlife Magazine in 2006.
- In February 2006, a breeding population of the Seychelles Sunbird was introduced to the island from the main island of Mahé.
- By 2017, in effort to protect the island’s surrounding marine ecosystems, the management ceases sport fishing by boat as one of the activities offered and begins to promote catch-and-release shore fishing.
- …Our work continues.