Discovered in 1744 by Lazare Picault, Curieuse took the name of the schooner commanded by Lampérière in 1868, under the command of Marion Dufresne. Stretching over about 3.5 km long and 1.5 km wide, it is barely 1 km from Anse Boudin, north of Praslin. It is not very high, since its highest point is only 172 m, but it has a rugged relief and seems impenetrable. A generous vegetation covers it: mango trees, banana trees, orange trees, jackfruit trees, beef hearts, and even coconut trees! But of the important colony of yesteryear, which covered almost the entire island, only a few stumps remain. So 420 feet of coconuts were planted in 1998, in the hope of seeing the rebirth of a coconut grove as beautiful as the one that was accidentally burnt down in 1771 by the sailors of a British corvette. A few coconut palms have survived here and there.
Curieuse, although amputated of its invaluable forest of antan, does not remain less attractive. Its enormous takamakas (surely the largest in the archipelago) shade a coastline whose coves serve as natural harbors for sailors. Turtles have replaced lepers on this land. A camp had indeed been opened there in 1833, to house a hundred lepers from Mauritius. They were soon transferred to the islands of Ronde and Praslin for the men, and Mahé for the women, which worried the Praslinois and Mahélois, who feared that this dangerous neighbourhood would spread the disease to their islands. Also, under the persistent pressure of the population, the authorities came to reopen, in 1938, the leper colony of Curieuse, the last lepers having been transferred to Mahé, at Anse Boileau, only in 1965.
Today, all that remains from that time are burnt houses, as well as a large uninhabited colonial house, once reserved for Dr Mac Gregor, the doctor of Praslin who came there regularly. This atmospheric house, where a scene from Goodbye Emmanuelle was shot, has been restored and converted into an education and information centre. The latter, financed by France, was inaugurated in 1996. Only one family, the Suzettes, live on the island and are in charge of maintaining the park, where very young sea turtles live behind a long stone dike, protected from predators (cats, rats and crabs). The keeper watches over the eggs that the females lay in May and June in the sand, where they must remain for two months before hatching. Only then will the newborns be carried into the life-saving enclosure. About a hundred giant tortoises, the oldest of which is a century old, live in semi-liberty on this island where some 30,000 visitors a year arrive and do not stray from the tourist trail. This pleasant official path leads to the doctor's house through a strange terrain ploughed by huge crabs, and through a mangrove with six varieties of mangroves. The island is also known for its remarkable granite formations, at the mouth of the very photogenic Laraie Bay. All these curiosities do not really justify the 200 SR tax (including access to the islet of Saint-Pierre) that every visitor must pay to wander around the island of lepers, this excursion of a few hours being on the program of several hotels and excursionists of Praslin.
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