Voyage to Agalega Islands  
Agalega is a small island in the Indian Ocean, 697 miles (1122 Kms) almost north of Mauritius. In fact it consists of two islands; the North Island and the South Island. There are two villages in the north, namely Vingt Cinq and La Fourche and Ste Rita is the only village in the South. Vingt Cinq village is the centre of administration for both islands.

The road network consists of coral and sand tracks and there are some pick-up vans to move around free of cost. One landing strip made up of compacted coal and sand is found in North Island, with a small terminal building that is also a cargo shed and fuel depot. Light aircrafts can land and take off. No harbour exists. Ships, which visit Agalega for transportation of provisions, have to anchor in the high sea at some 500 metres from the jetty situated at St. James Anchorage, North Island.

No piped water system exists on both islands. Water for drinking and cooking purposes is collected mainly through run-offs from roof tops. Water for other purposes is obtained from wells. There is also no piped sewerage system but some buildings are equipped with flush toilet facilities connected to soak pits.

Telecommunication facilities exist on both islands.

Only pre-primary and primary levels of education are available; secondary education is completed in Mauritius.

Each island has a dispensary which is run by a Nursing Officer and a mid-wife. Doctors from Mauritius tour the island on regular short missions.

Agalega is part of Mauritius and only the Outer Islands Development Corporation (OIDC) of Mauritius can organise trips to Agalega. Civilians who go there are mostly public officers, doctors, technicians, priests, fishermen, field workers and building contractors.

The voyage is either by sea on board the Mauritius Pride ship or by air on the Dornier plane, which is a search and rescue aircraft of the Coast Guard department of the Police force. As a TV technician working for the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), I made the trip on Friday 24th May 2002, together with Mr André Liaw of Leal Communication and Informatics (LCI), to check satellite reception for the FIFA World Cup 2002 football matches. I went again on Monday 22nd March 2004 to carry out a survey for the installation of TV and FM transmitters on the island.


Location map of Agalega Island

The Mauritius Pride ship anchored off the coast near Port St James
in the north Agalega island

The jetty at Port St James for transferring passengers and cargo
to the Mauritius Pride
I made the two trips on board th Dornier aircraft. The passengers gather early in the morning in the big hangar where the two Dornier aircrafts and the helicopters of the coastguards are kept. All passengers and their luggage are weighed and the aircraft take-off weight must not be exceeded. The three pilots (two in the cockpit and one in the navigation booth) are very strict about this. The time of departure depends on weather conditions but it is usually around five o'clock in the morning.

The Hindustan 228-101 Dornier aircraft

The cockpit of the Dornier

The Dornier aircraft upon arrival in Agalega

The terminal building cum fuel depot
The journey lasts for about three hours and the plane flies at an altitude of ten thousand feet at a speed of about two hundred knots. No snack is served on board so passengers must cater for their own food. They also travel at their own risks and in case of an accident neither the passenger nor his heirs can claim any damage from the Government or whosoever. An indemnity bond must be signed by each passenger prior to departure, both in Mauritius and in Agalega for the return trip.
Travelling by the Dornier can be a rattling experience. The plane is neither pressurized nor air conditioned. It is cold inside and the engine noise is severely felt. Those who know protect themselves against the cold and the noise. On my first voyage, I was armed against neither of these discomforts. But I was really overjoyed to participate in this adventure.
Agalega is renowned for its coconut plantations and the first sight of the island from the air gives the impression of a green jewel lying on the blue velvet of the ocean. As soon as you land on the battered airstrip, you are welcomed by a crowd of people and offered fresh coconut milk to drink while you are asked about the latest news from Mauritius. Agalega may soon become a tourist destination and no doubt the airport will benefit from a substantial uplifting.

Ste Rita village in the south

Vingt Cinq village in the north
The two islands are separated by a 1.5 Km stretch of sand and coral and the inhabitants can either painfully walk across at low tides or wait for high tides to cross from one island to the other by boat. Recently they have devised an ingenious means of transport consisting of a wheeled carriage pulled by a tractor.

Crossing at low tides

The inter-island passenger vehicle
The administrative headquarters of Agalega Island, known as "La Grande Case". It is also here that meals are served to the guests. Both islands are equipped with a generator set for the supply of electricity from 10.00 to 11.00 a.m. and from 6.00 to 10.00 p.m., with plans to extend the service round the clock.

On my first trip, I reached Agalega at eight o'clock in the morning and left on the same day at one o'clock in the afternoon. A visit of only five hours. FIVE MEMORABLE HOURS, as I was really struck by the scenic beauty of the place. I did not get the chance to visit the south island because it was not easy to cross the sand bank then. This was made good on my second visit. The south island is much more appealing, maybe because it is still in its rustic state, while the north island appears to be more modern. Below are some snaps of both islands.
North Island

La Grande Case - the main administrative headquarters

Living quarters for the guests

The Health Centre

The church in the north

The kindergarten

The Jacques Le Chartier Govt primary school

The post office and bank

The Police station

Airport technical facilities installation

A small shop

Mauritius Telecom earth station equipped with solar panels

Civil Aviation Department earth station

The main road

Luxurious vegetation on the island
South Island

The Officer in Charge headquarters

The church

The primary school

The retail shop

The main road across Ste Rita village

Housing estates in the south

Wreck of the ship Wajao off the coast of the south island. The ship was a coastal trading vessel sailing under the UK flag and was wrecked in the Agalega Islands during a cyclone on the 7th November 1933

The two postcards of Agalega that were published by Mr Peter Pindak in co-op with npc@volny.cz

South Island 2004-090

North Island 2004-091
 

http://www.qsl.net/3b6rf/
Read about the adventure of 21 people from 9 different countries who stayed in Agalega during four weeks in May 2001 to cover various Radio Amateur activities. There are several links on the pages and all of them are worthwhile visiting. Thanks to Mart Mobius from Germany (http://www.dl6uaa.de/indexa.html) who guided me to this site.
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzkViDHvBFM
Watch a short clip about the installation of the new airport beacon (NDB) in 2012.
 

http://www.encyclopedia.mu
 
March 2015

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