The west is the driest, flattest part of the island, partly covered by the prairie of Plaine Corail, famous for its limestone caves. There are two worthwhile attractions here just ten minutes’ drive from the airport: Caverne Patate, the longest and best-known cave, and the island’s newest attraction, the François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve, where giant tortoises already look at home.

François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve

Walking among around two hundred giant tortoises in the wild is the key draw at François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve. Brought over from La Vanille Réserve Mascareignes on Mauritius eight years ago, some 1500 Aldabra tortoises have now been reintroduced into the wild in this 20-hectare nature reserve. The tortoises can be stroked and adopted, while a suspended wooden walkway takes you past 186,000 endemics replanted as part of an on-going “re-wilding” project.

Also included in the ticket is a half-hour guided visit to a limestone cave: the only show cave in the Indian Ocean. Strategically placed lights reveal rock formations such as columns, curtains and eccentrics, and small groups are shown the bones of a solitaire, stuck in the cave walls. Elsewhere in the reserve there’s a cage of rare golden-coloured Rodrigues fruit bats (Pteropus rodricensis), the island’s only endemic mammal, saved from extinction by Gerald Durrell, and still critically endangered with around nine thousand pairs – they can be seen flying at dusk island-wide. A small but good museum details the human, natural and geological history of the island, and there’s a café-restaurant on site.

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