Seychelles' Best Anchorages - Baie Lare, Curieuse
Now that you’ve anchored in Baie Lare, what can you do here? Firstly, let's remind you that this is a National Marine Park. The boundaries are clearly marked on your charts, so look and do not touch, and take nothing away, even dead shells are part of the ecosystem, and please no fishing.
In keeping with the rest of the Seychelles islands, Curieuse island packs a lot of history into its short time since being first charted, and for its size. Measuring only 2.2 miles or so in length and on average 1 mile wide, Curieuse sits just North of the island of Praslin. From a map, the islands appear to be two parts of a jigsaw.
It was in 1744 that Curieuse was first charted by the famous French Navigator Lazare Picault. It was at this point named Isle Rouge, probably due to the vast areas of bare red earth exposed by erosion following devastating fires. However, another expedition in 1768 led by another French Commander, Lieutenant Lamperaire, caused the name to be changed to Curieuse after one of the two ships in the expedition.
In those days, the main inhabitants of the island were Giant Tortoises and Crocodiles. The first inhabitants soon wiped those out. The tortoises were eventually replaced by their close
cousins from Aldabra through reintroduction between 1978 and 1982.
The island was exploited heavily for its Coco de Mers, tortoises, turtles, timber and all its natural resources. The environmental damage was so severe, that even in those time some
appealed for grace for the island. A British colonial official Mr George Harrison suggested that the island was suitable as a leper colony. The presence of perceived unclean persons gave the island a period of grace from exploitation, few would land on an island designated as a Leper colony. The first leper area was at Anse Cimitier and was present between 1829 and 1902.
During this time, the Doctor's house was built in 1873 for its most famous resident. The Honourable Reverend Dr William Macgregor started his illustrious 42-year colonial official career as Doctor to Praslin and La Digue between 1873 and 1875, also responsible for the Lepers of Curieuse. He had a special interest in leprosy, its causes and possible cures. Dr Macgregor finished his career as Governor of Queensland and retired to his native Aberdeen in 1919.
Another famous visitor to the island was General Gordon, known in history for his Khartoum fame and fate. Having visited the islands he declared that the Coco de Mer, grown naturally only on Praslin and Curieuse islands, was the forbidden fruit and the former was the garden of Eden.
A leper settlement was re-established on the island in 1937, this time along the shores of Anse St Jose. This one remained until 1956. The dwellings persist although mostly in ruins.
Following the removal of the lepers, the island was leased for various agricultural activities. Livestock of Cattle and pigs were important products, as well as Vanilla, copra and the production of charcoal. The last being the cause of a fire that devasted a large area of the island in 1967, which prompted the authorities to cancel the lease.
One of the most ambitious projects was the building of a causeway to create a pond for the raising of Hawksbill turtles for commercial purposes. The trade in turtle shells was lucrative and Mr Henri Chenard must have thought he could rear turtles if he kept them captured in a pond. Alas, the turtles became sick and the venture, thankfully, failed. The causeway has been maintained to some level until the Tsunami of 2004 destroyed much of it.
The Island and its surrounded waters were designated a National Marine Park in 1979 and remain so. The Doctor's house now serves as a museum, having been restored in 1996 with
donations from the French government and declared a National monument in 1984.
Curieuse has several clearly marked treks around the island. It is well worth a visit and at least a day to appreciate its beauty and the diversity of life on such a small island. Once you get back to the boat snorkelling along the reefs will offer some great opportunities to see the life beneath the waves. We regularly see three turtles in the bay. If you feed the Dusky batfish from your boat, they will follow you around when you go snorkelling. The corals are showing signs of recovery so please avoid standing on them and be careful not to damage them.