Curieuse Island is a small granitic island 1.13 sq mi (2.9 km2) in the Seychelles close to the north coast of the island of Praslin.
Curieuse is notable for its bare red earth intermingled with the unique coco de mer palms, one of the cultural icons of the Seychelles, only growing on the two neighboring islands.
Originally named “Ile Rouge” due to its red coloured soil. In 1768 the French claimed possession of the island, naming it after the schooner “La Curieuse”, a ship that was under the command of explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne. Like a number of islands in the Seychelles, there was a native giant tortoise population that was quickly extirpated. In 1771 sailors set fire to the island, intending to make harvesting of the coco de mer nuts easier. The fire destroyed many of the islands’ native trees, and indications of the fire can still be seen today, nearly 250 years later. In 1829, Curieuse was first used as a leper colony, and it functioned in this capacity until 1965. This helped protect the ecosystem from human influence. Today, ruins of the leprosarium remain, as well as the former physician’s residence at Anse St. Joseph (now an educational center and museum).
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