A stormy welcome to Bird Island

Air Seychelles Twin Otter, backbone of inter-island travel (Photo: Chris Feare)

On 27 May we boarded a Twin Otter at Seychelles International Airport’s domestic terminal for the scheduled flight to Bird Island. There was little wind – the south-east trade winds have not yet really set in – and the blue sky had a few light clouds drifting slowly across. In his pre-amble the captain said there was some cloud around Bird Island, about 100 km to the north, and that we might experience some turbulence.

Bird Island receiving a deluge of rain (Photo: Christine Larose)

The flight was uneventful, providing us with splendid views of Silhouette and North Islands. The weather forecast had been right however, and as we approached Bird more cloud came into view. As we flew around the island to approach from the north-east, rain began to stream across the windscreen. As it became heavier the wipers were switched on. They fought bravely but as we descended towards the airstrip the wipers lost the battle and visibility fell to zero. An adjustment to the flaps and a surge of power aborted the landing. Flying around for a short time did not produce a better result and the captain announced that he would make a third attempt but, if this failed, we would have to return to Mahe. Third time was lucky, however, and in continuing appalling conditions he approached from the south and managed to put the plane down on the waterlogged airstrip.

A very green and waterlogged Bird Island (Photo: Chris Feare)

Thanks to the pilots’ experience and skills we reached our destination but the rain continued to pound the island for the remainder of the day, at times accompanied by brilliant flashes of lightening and echoing loud peals of thunder. The heavy rain, but not the noise and light, continues throughout the next day, severely limiting our activities, and those of the tourists, on the island.
This unseasonal weather (May is traditionally associated with the start of the dry season) might be associated with the prevailing warm surface water of the Western Indian Ocean. This increases the rate of evaporation and thus the humidity of the air column, stimulating rainfall. Thankfully, 29 May dawned bright, sunny and hot, which hopefully bodes well for the Sooty Terns that are arriving and beginning their annual breeding cycle.

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