Denis Island - Seychelles
Denis Island is named after a French explorer, Denis de Trobriant, who first sighted her from the vessel L’Etoile on 12 August, 1773, although the early Arab seafarers who were plying their trade in the Indian Ocean from as early as the 9th century would almost certainly have come across the island at a far earlier date. The same can undoubtedly be said of the pirates who haunted the area during the 17th and 18th centuries.
De Trobriant, who landed on the fertile island, found it to be a haven for a diverse assortment of birds as well as turtles and possibly even sea cows or, at least, seals. In his log he mentions that, in the name of the King of France, he buried a bottle containing the Act of Possession that, to this day, has never been found.
As Mahé became settled, it so happened that several of her satellite islands, including Denis, became inhabited in turn by early French settlers who introduced various crops, including sugar.
From the 1850’s onwards, copra, the dried flesh of the coconut, became an important export for Seychelles and a plantation of coconut trees was duly planted on the island which also had many of its guano deposits excavated.
The year 1881 saw the building of a 70 ft lighthouse on Denis that still stands today on its imposing metal tripod as a reminder of the hazard to shipping the island once posed. In 1908 there followed the construction of the only ecumenical chapel in the archipelago.
Having changed owners several times over the years, in 1975, Denis was purchased by Mr. Pierre Burkhardt, a French industrialist, who opened the island to tourism in December of 1977. In 1999 Mr. Michael and Mrs. Kathleen Mason acquired the island and, today, continue the island’s tradition of offering the finest hospitality in the most stunning natural surrounds.
Denis is a 30 minute flight on Air Seychelles from Mahé. The vegetation is rich, even by Seychelles’ standards, as a result of the guano deposited over the years. It is particularly popular with deep-sea anglers pursuing barracudas, sailfish, dorados and bonitos, which can be caught year-round. Marlin is caught from October to December. Five world records for dogtooth tuna have been taken here. There are also facilities for less demanding activities : swimming, watersports and trips by glass-bottomed boat.
The minimum stay on Denis is three days. Transfers can also be arranged through Helicopter Seychelles.
Denis island, perched at the very rim of the Seychelles plateau that divides its shallow waters from the mid-ocean depths, possesses a diverse eco-system that has changed little since the first explorers made landfall on her pristine shores.
Largely undisturbed for more than two centuries and, despite having relatively recently opened her doors to the privileged few, Denis has changed remarkably little in all that time, her numerous treasures, both above and beneath the waves, still very much intact.
Denis’ 143 hectares is covered with lush vegetation and by a spread of native trees, affording ample shade through which meander scenic pathways and tracks, inviting personal voyages of discovery. Here you will find such historic landmarks as the old village with houses dating back to 1935, the hospital, a picturesque chapel, the famous lighthouse and the island cemetery.
Today, Denis island is as much as ever a haven for birdlife, providing a sanctuary for such species as noddies, terns, plovers, whimbrels, tropic birds and frigates to name but a few.
Having already conducted one effective campaign to eradicate rats and another to replant trees, the island is proud to have played host to the recent translocation of a population of 47 rare Seychelles Fodies or Toktoks a project expected to lead to the removal of the Fody from the IUCN Globally Threatened Birds list.
Denis is also home to numerous sea turtles who return time and again to lay their eggs on her protected shoreline where they are monitored and tagged, providing valuable information to conservationists in their efforts to assist in the protection of the species.
In deference to island tradition and in an effort to achieve a degree of self sufficiency, the Denis island farm contains pigs, cows, chickens and quails and also features an ancient vanilla plantation, harking back to the days when the original ‘ilois’ or islanders were very much reliant on what they could grow themselves.