History of Bird Island

It was reported by a passing ship in 1771 that the island was “covered with birds innumerable”. When the current owners bought the island in 1967, nature and its delicate environment had been forgotten about and the ‘innumerable’ birds had been dramatically reduced in numbers and confined only to the northernmost end of the island.

Between 1896 and 1906, 17000 tons of Guano were removed from the island and exported to the sugarcane fields of Mauritius. A coconut plantation was then established together with cash crops such as papaya and cotton.

In the 37 years that Bird Island has been owned by Mr. Savy and his partners, the story of the island is one of maximization of the island’s conservation value in parallel with the development of a small tourist facility, Bird Island Lodge. The programme adopted from the outset comprised one of the world’s first eco-tourism ventures, and has been extremely successful in both aspects of conservation and tourism.

1771
 Bird Island is sighted by the master of ‘The Eagle’ cruiser. He reported the following; “Birds innumerable and many sea cows (dugongs) on the beach” and he named the island ‘Bird Island’.

1787
 Expedition by the French by Malavois. He made references of poor timber and a single pond of old, bad tasting fresh water.

1808
 French Privateer ‘Hirondelle’ with 180 people on a voyage from the Red Sea wrecked on the reef off the north east coast. The survivors lived on the island for 22 days before sailing to Mahé on a make-shift raft.

1882
 HMS ‘Alert’ called on Bird Island and reported only 2 African residents who salted fish and birds. Their presence or how they survived is not recorded.

1895
 Guano or phosphate mining operation established. 17,000 tons of guano exported within 10 years. The mining operation supported nearly 100 people, the highest population of the island during her history.

1906
 The guano was exhausted and most people returned to Mahé.

1931
 Only 12 people left on the island, surviving on small coconut plantation and growing cotton. In the mid 30’s Papaya planting and other human activities reduced most of the environment and decimated the sooty tern population from over a million pairs to barely 65,000 pairs.

1955
 Only 18,000 pairs left due to losses of habitat and over cropping of eggs. The remaining birds were confined to the sandbanks on the northern tip of the island.

1967
 Bird Island was sold to its present owner.

1973
 Tourism started with the opening of the first 10 chalets.

1978
 Bird Island operating with full 24 chalets.

1989
 ‘Esmeralda’ our giant tortoise made history by becoming the heaviest tortoise in the world, topping the scales at 298 kilos.

1993
 Inauguration of the new lodge. The old lodge demolished the following year.

1994
 Bird Island won the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award.

1995
 Marksmen sent to Bird to exterminate rabbits that had become a pest. Management introduced the turtle conservation project with the help of Dr Jeanne Mortimer, the resident turtle expert in the country.

1996
 Eradication of rats from the island. This exercise lasted for six months and was 100% successful.

1997
 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.

2003
 Bird Island won a Green Planet Award for Environmental Management and Good Practice.

2005
 Bird Island won a second Green Planet Award for Environmental Management and Good Practice.

2005
 The Bird Island staff were collectively named as Birdwatcher of the Year by the Seychelles Birds Committee.

2005
 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.

2006
 Bird Island named as the 7th best destination to travel to in the world for ‘genuine’ eco-tourism by the BBC Wildlife Magazine.