Originally named Ile Rouge due to the red coloured soil, in 1768 the French claimed possession of the island and named it after a schooner "La Curieuse" which was under the command of explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne. Like many of the Seychelles islands there was a native giant tortoise population that was quickly extirpated.
In 1771 sailors set fire to the island, intending to make harvesting the coco de mer nuts easier. The fire destroyed many of the islands forests and its native trees and today indications of the fire can still be seen nearly 250 years on.
In 1833 Curieuse became a leper colony that didn't cease operations until 1965. Today ruins of the leprosarium remain as well as the former physician's residence at Anse St. Joseph which is now an educational center and museum.
In 1979 Curieuse and surrounding waters were declared the Curieuse Marine National Park in order to protect the native wildlife. Today it is the home of roughly 300 Aldabra Giant Tortoise. In the late 1970s a conservation project was started to move tortoises from Aldabra to Curieuse. On the southern part of the island is a mangrove swamp which is traversed by a walkway for park visitors. The island is also known for coco de mer palms, giant takamaka trees, a large hawksbill turtle rookery and several bird species including the rare Seychelles Black Parrot Coracopis nigra barklyi, which is found only here and on Praslin.
Most visitors to the Curieuse Marine National Park disembark at Baie Laraie where the shallow water is known for its population of large humphead parrotfish growing up to 1.2 m in length. At the rangers headquarters a number of giant tortoises move about. There is a trail from Baie Laraie to Anse St. José on the other side of the island passing over the boardwalk through the thick mangrove forest. The ruins of the leper colony is now well blended into the landscape and includes Creole colonial architecture which consists of a doctor's house turned into a museum containing all the information about Curieuse Island. On the beach in front of the Doctor's House sea turtles lay their eggs.