Rodrigues – Île aux Cocos | Birds Of Paradise

Île aux Cocos is an island of an island. An island of sleepy and laid-back Rodrigues*. It is the prototype of an uninhabited bounty island. Uninhabited, except for birds, a lot of birds. It is estimated that about 4500 birds can be seen on Île Aux Cocos at any moment. Principally, you can observe four species: sooty terns, white terns and two species of noddies. If you’re not particularly fond of our avian friends, there’s little else to do on the island. Think dazzlingly white beaches, turquoise seas and delicious idleness.

* Rodrigues is an autonomous outer island and dependency of the Republic of Mauritius located in the Indian Ocean. It is part of the Mascarene archipelago which also includes La Réunion.


Virgin Birds,  Yéyés & Mandarins

The most elegant bird around is without any doubt the white tern (Gygis Alba), which is quite rare in Rodrigues. It is nicknamed “the Virgin Bird” due to its immaculately white colour. Some of the species are migratory birds, like the sooty terns, which the people of Rodrigues have nicknamed “yéyé” due to their thundering cheeping; they come and stay on the island during the summer. The noddy, nicknamed “mandarin”, is found in greater numbers than the other species. Two species, not easily discernible, live together: the brown noddy (Anous stolidus) and the lesser noddy (Anous tenuirostris).


Pirogue day-trip to the nature reserve

A obligatory guided tour leads you through the center of the island and allows you to discover the different species of birds. Ranked as a nature reserve, visits on this islet are strictly controlled by the State and necessitate proper authorization (through tour-operators). Intelligently preserved, the whole island cannot be visited; only one third of its surface is inaccessible to the public. Although the island is frequently visited by day-trippers – mostly in small wooden boats, pirogues – from Rodrigues and Mauritius, it never gets really crowded. So far. The voyage sometimes turns into an adventure when the tide is low. At certain places, corals and rocks are just above the surface of the water, while at others, you need to steer clear of a sandbank to avoid being stranded. Oh yeah, forget about that packed lunch. At noon you’re well catered for. A simple, yet delicious meal is cooked up for you!

I strongly recommend doing this trip with a Rodriguan tour operator, while spending a day or five on lovely Rodrigues island.


Conservation and cohabitation 

The neighbouring “twin” island, Île aux Sables, which provides shelter to thousands of birds, is completely shut off to the public. In addition, fishing in the islets’ surroundings is not authorized so as to preserve the food resources of the occupants that are fond of squids and small fishes. Two guardians, staying permanently on the island, share between themselves the task of keeping an eye over the island. Thanks to these controls, the island remains a reproduction site for the species: a proof of a successful cohabitation between the birds and the tourists. So it reads on the website of Mysterra Magazine.



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Fabulous picture perfect colours!


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Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A pirates life for me.


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A bird known under a lot of names: White Tern, White Noddy, Angel Tern or “the virgin bird”. “Z’oiseaux la vierge” in Rodriguan Creole.


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Calm and pacific when resting on the beach, the noddy turns out to be a fierce guardian of its brood when you get too close to its nest. Normally, the nests are carefully perched on the trees, but it does happens that at times some can be found on the ground itself, hence making it easier to observe the eggs or the fledglings. It goes without saying that this needs not be touched.


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Noddy guarding her two fluffy chicks.


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Noddy defending her one egg nest.


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As far as humans can penetrate bird country.


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Covered with coconut trees, casuarina trees and a great variety of prickly shrubs, the island is bordered by a long fine sandy beach.


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‘Mainland’ Rodrigues looming on the horizon.


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Neighbouring twin island, Île aux Sables.


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Everywhere, hundreds of birds swarmed up in a deafening cacophony; others were perched in groups of tens on the branches of the trees.  Hitchcock’s “Birds” anyone?


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Combing the beach for nesting material.


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More info

Île aux Cocos – The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

Day Trip to Ile aux Cocos (Mauritius Attractions)

The secret of happiness is an island called Rodrigues (The Independent)

Rodrigues: the sleepy isles (The Telegraph)

Île aux Cocos (Mysterra Magazine)