This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Results 1-2of 2 Reviews
Shirley, New York
June 9, 2011
Bournemouth, United Kingdom
October 13, 2005
When I entered the Vallee de Mai, I was taken back by the sudden peacefulness. There was dead silence; the air was still and the atmosphere serene. Indeed, I walked for a good half-hour before I came across another human being, the only interruption to the silence at that time being a few babbling brooks. There are several paths through the jungle-like valley. I started with the circular route, which takes around 2 hours, and was certainly my favourite, as it included traversing several streams, which are the source of drinking water for most of the island, passing giant granite boulders, and a climb up to a shelter, which gave a wonderful view over the valley as far as the sea. I then cut down the Cedar Path and along the Central Path, which is where I stumbled across hoards of shouting European coach parties. The silence was completely shattered and I had to battle my way through the masses, which did rather spoil the atmosphere. Still, these groups only seem to stick very near to the entrance, so for independent visitors, and any coach members with sense enough to break away, the best way to appreciate the Vallee is to head to the farthest reaches. At the time of my visit, May 2005, there were no paths suitable for visitors in wheelchairs, but there are plans to provide them, and the sooner, the better.
The most famous inhabitant of the Vallee de Mai is the coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica), which has become the symbol of the Seychelles and is everywhere, including the passport immigration stamps. The unusual palms live for up to 400 years and are surrounded by many local legends. The female and male parts of the plant are shaped rather suggestively, and each palm can only be either male or female, which is an unusual characteristic in plants. The male palms grow to 30m and produce a lengthy reproductive catkin. The female palm grows to 24m and produces a nut that can weigh up to 22Kg and is shaped rather like the lower regions of human female anatomy, leading it to often be referred to as the "love nut." No one is sure how the coco de mer palms are actually pollinated, but the legend goes that in the depths of stormy nights the male uproots and visits the female, and anyone who witnesses this will drop dead.
Other plants to be found in the Vallee include various screwpines, latannyens, and palmiste, the very tip of which was once the sought after ingredient for millionaire’s salad, alongside jackfruit, breadfruit, and bwa rouz. Bats are the only mammals native to Seychelles, and fruit bats can be seen here along with the introduced tenerec, a weird hedgehog-like shrew; geckos; skinks; tree frogs; crabs; and some lovely snails. Very lucky visitors (not me!) see black parrots (Coracopsis nigra barklyi), as well as bulbuls, blue pigeons, sunbirds, kestrels, and swiftlets.
The entrance to the Vallee is near the top of the steep, winding road that bisects the island. Due to the lack of pavements, and the interesting local driving tactics (I was once on a bus that met another bus on a winding mountain road: neither gave way, sparks flew, and we were jammed fast there for quite some time), I would not recommend walking. There is a bus stop right outside, and it is on one of the more regular routes ($0.50 per single trip), but the buses are still quite sporadic and finish early. A hire car is the best bet (from £25/day for a jeep), and the whole island can be covered easily in 2 days.
Entry into the Vallee is free for Seychelles residents, but everyone else will need to pay in foreign exchange, US$10. There is a very small shop that doubles up as the ticket office and really only sells the expensive tat made in China that can be bought anywhere on the islands. It also has a tiny café counter. At the entrance is a display of coco de mer nuts, which can be handled. Love nuts can only be exported with an official government licence, and a good specimen will set you back $400. I found the Vallee very humid once among all of the plants, so taking water is essential, along with the provided map, good walking shoes - the paths are well maintained but there are slippery sections of rock - and some binocs to check out the wildlife. About 0.5KM down the hill from the entrance is a beautiful rushing waterfall that is visible from your car if you don’t want to risk your life walking on the road.
When General Gordon visited the Vallee de Mai, he claimed it to be the long-lost Garden of Eden, the coco de mer to be the Tree of Knowledge, and its nut the Forbidden Fruit. Every visitor to Praslin should see if they agree.
From journal Praslin - an island of true beauty