Praslin has a lot more to offer than just its beaches – see for yourself….
The Praslin Museum
This “museum” is less a traditional museum and more a very informative tour of a private estate featuring medicinal and endemic plants and wildlife of the Seychelles. It takes a bit of bashing on sites like TripAdvisor, but we found it quite interesting and enjoyable. Elliott’s favorite time was spent inside the fruit bat cage, and I enjoyed seeing our first Seychellois tortoises up close.
We saw vanilla and mango trees, I got to participate in coconut de-husking, and we even sampled some citronelle tea.
(Watch the live coconut de-husking here!) We also saw a collection of traditional tools and musical instruments, stood inside a palm-leaf hut, and learned about traditional food preparation.
The 5th largest island in the Seychelles, Curieuse is just over 1km from Praslin and makes for a wonderful day trip by boat. The island has a diverse history, including being “leased” to private companies for the production of vanilla, copra (dried coconut used for oil production), and livestock, and serving as a leper colony from 1829-1965. It also contains many endemic and native plant species.
We went for the turtles; Curieuse is home to about 300 Aldabra Giant land tortoises, the largest in the inner granitic islands.
After playing with the tortoises and feeding them lots of leaves from the plants right on the island (their natural food), we took a leisurely hike. We saw many mangroves, land snails, and great views, along with another animal or two.
At the end of the hike, we were treated to a beautiful beach (go figure) and a delicious local lunch.
Another big draw of this island is Curieuse Marine National Park. On our boat trip back to Praslin after lunch, we made two stops and did some great snorkeling.
Valle de Mai
The highlight on Praslin is most definitely its Unesco World Heritage Site. Valle de Mai is literally a prehistoric palm forest that is believed to have remained virtually unchanged over millions of years. It is home to six endemic palms, most notably the coco de mer.
Coco de mer palms grow naturally only on Praslin and Curieuse, and were once believed to grow in the depths of the sea (the English translation is “coconut of the sea”). The female tree’s seed, heart-shaped and weighing up to 25kg, is the largest and heaviest of the plant kingdom. Because its shape is reminiscent of a woman’s pelvic region, the seed once enjoyed a reputation as a coveted treasure in former royal courts. Both trees and seeds are endangered due to parasites, fire, logging, poaching and theft, and are therefore highly protected. The seeds may also qualify as the most expensive in the world, ranging in price from $200-$600! Due to their low numbers, the number that can be sold is highly regulated, and a new tree must be planted for every seed that is sold.
The male tree is equally unique, with its phallic-shaped seed.
Our guided tour felt like a walk through the “Garden of Eden,” and I’m not sure we’ve ever been aware of our smallness compared to this giant Earth.
Valle de Mai is also home to many animals…