The Seychelles Islands encompasses 115 islands spanning over an area of 455 km² and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.4 million km² in the western Indian Ocean. It represents an archipelago of renowned beauty that covers the Indian Ocean from between 4 and 10 degrees south of the equator and which lies between 480km and 1,600km from the east coast of Africa. Among those 115 islands, 41 make up the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands on earth while an extra 74 form the low-lying coral atolls and reef islands of the outer islands.
Vallée De Mai
The Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve is host to a palm forest that is dominated by the endemic Coco-de-Mer palms. The Vallée is host to six species of palm to be found only in Seychelles. The Coco de Mer has the largest seeds of any plant in the world; the leaves growing up to 6 m wide and 14 m long. Also unique to the park is its wildlife, including birds such as the rare Seychelles Black Parrot, mammals, crustaceans, snails, and reptiles.
Where is Vallée De Mai?
Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve ( 4°19’S, 55°44’E) is a located in the centre of Praslin National Park on Praslin Island, 50 kilometers (km) north-east of Mahé in the Seychelles. The island of Praslin can be visited while you are doing island hopping in your yacht!
Praslin, having a population of 6,500 inhabitanta, is Seychelles’ second largest island. It is 45km to the northeast of Mahé and measures 10km by 3.7km. Enjoying a leisurely tour around the island in a rented car will take approximately 2 hours.
Praslin is the home of the fabulous Vallée de Mai, one of Seychelles’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The island features really superb beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette, both appearing on the top-10 list of world’s best beaches in recent years.
Almost a century and a half after the visiting of the islands, General Gordon became certain that the Vallée de Mai was the original site of the Garden of Eden. This is where the legendary Coco-de-Mer- the world’s heaviest nut -grows high on ancient palms in a primeval forest.
Vallee De Mai: A World Heritage Site
The legendary Vallée de Mai is Seychelles’ second UNESCO World Heritage Site, administered by the Seychelles Islands Foundation. It was once believed to be the original site of the Garden of Eden, this hauntingly stunning primeval forest is home to some 6000 Coco-de-mer trees, considered to be among the botanical wonders of the world.
Vallee De Mai: Vegetation
In the heart of the small island of Praslin, the reserve has the remnants of a natural palm forest preserved in almost its original state. The famous Coco de Mer originating from a palm-tree, was once believed to grow in the depths of the sea, is the largest seed in the plant kingdom.
There are four main vegetation types on the island of Praslin, three occurring in the Vallée de Mai area: lowland forest, dominated by large timber trees once covered large areas of the island but, following human settlement, this has been replaced with well-developed secondary forest with the endemic palm, cinnamon, Dodonaeaviscosa , mango, Sideroxylonferrugineum and Randialancifolia . Intermediate palm forest, unique to the Vallée de Mai, with the endemic palms, coco de Mer; eroded land, following burning as well as soil erosion, previously of intermediate and lowland forest, has been recolonized by, or planted with Randialancifolia , Chrysobalanusicaco , borsigiana , Dodonaea sp. and Dilleniaferruginea . This is the only place in the Seychelles where all six endemic palm species grow side by side. A further 28 endemic species of plant have been registered, including the vine, once thought extinct and then believed to exist only on Curieuse Island. Tatamaka and Calice du Pape have been planted in the reserve.
Vallee De Mai : Fauna
The most notable species is the endemic black parrot, restricted to Praslin Island and dependent on the Vallée de Mai and surrounding palm forest. Other birds include Seychelles kestrel, the bulbul, blue pigeon, sunbird and cave-nesting swift let. Reptiles include the endemic chameleon, Seychelles house snake, green and bronze geckos, skinks, Seychelles wolf snake and blind snake. Six species of caecilian (related to frogs but looking more like large worms) can be found in the deep beds of moist humus, but these are rarely found even by scientists. The stream contains freshwater crab, the big freshwater prawn, shrimp and the only endemic species of freshwater fish, the Gourgeon. You will also come across two endemic snails: the brown and the blackfish snail.
Visit Vallee De Mai
When starting the visit you will approach the entrance from the road. The abundance of life is apparent. Trees are everywhere, the earth is completely and permanently covered by fallen leaves, and you see birds all around you, while hearing a delicate waterfall breaking through the green wall.
Walking around inside the park is a pure bliss for the senses and makes you feel like a dwarf since everything around you is gigantic! The Coco de Mer tree is the main attraction of the park and there are around 4000 of them, and they are huge! The tallest tree can reach up to 30 metres, the leaves can grow up to being 6 metres wide and 14 metres long. Truly giant palm trees! The base of the palm tree is so stable that it keeps the palm straight, even under tropical rains and storms. Realising the natural power emanating from these giants, and their age (over 200 years), makes you feel modest and respectful.
The large leaves prove especially useful when it is raining, when they naturally transform into giant umbrellas. The trees are most famous, though, for their nuts. As might be expected, they are large, too. One of these enormous fruits can weigh up to 20 kilograms, which makes it the heaviest nut in the world. Its fame, however, comes mainly from its erotic connotations, form, and supposedly aphrodisiacal effects. It has even been thought that the Seychelles were the original Garden of Eden, because of the nuts.
Being a granitic island, the Seychelles is a ‘micro-continent’ in itself that has had quite a different history from the other volcanic or coralline islands in the Indian Ocean; therefore, it has a large number of endemics and no comparison can be made with other islands in the Indian Ocean.
Enjoy your visit of Vallee De Mai!