Written by J. G. Nash on 24 Dec, 2004
The Seychelles have long been known for two unique factors: the nation consists primarily of the only mid-ocean islands made of granite, and it is only there where the world's largest and heaviest nut grows naturally. Let's take a look…Read More
The Seychelles have long been known for two unique factors: the nation consists primarily of the only mid-ocean islands made of granite, and it is only there where the world's largest and heaviest nut grows naturally. Let's take a look at that wondrous nut, the fruit of the exceptionally rare Coco de Mer tree.
The palm that bears the Coco de Mer (coconut of the sea) was first found in, and only in, the Seychelles, specifically, only on the island of Praslin. No one knows precisely when that was, but available records do show that, for example, a 13th-century Hapsburg king, Rudolf II, paid 4,000 gold florins for one of the nuts. At the same time, Middle Eastern potentates were passing laws prohibiting ownership by any of their subjects, since they wanted they mystical fruit all for themselves.
The mystery surrounding the Coco de Mer comes from several of its curious characteristics. First, the nut never propagated widely because, unlike the coconut, which floats away to sprout on distant beaches, the Coco de Mer's fruit is heavier than water when it falls to the ground, so it sinks rather than floats. Some time later, when the seed is no longer fertile, a gas forms inside the shell, causing the nut to rise to the surface of the water. It was those "upward falling" nuts that led early Arab seamen to believe the trees to be growing on the bottom of the Indian Ocean, thus the name "Coconut of the Sea." It was also those floating nuts that were gathered and sold, for a king's ransom, in Europe and Arabia.
As though the underwater tree wasn't enough of as legend in and of itself, once the plants were discovered (on Praslin), it was learned that there were male and female trees with extraordinary characteristics. The fruit itself grows only on female trees, and when stripped of its outer husk, has a remarkable resemblance to the naked human female pelvis. The male of the species develops phallic catkins, which may grow to 2 feet in length and 2 inches in diameter. For several generations after the arrival of the first permanent settlers in the islands (the 18th century), the Seychellois believed that the catkins became erect after sunset, and that then, in the dark of night, the trees reproduced much like mammals. To witness such an event would result in immediate blindness.
The unusual trees were first introduced to the world when British General Charles Gordon (the Martyr of Khartum) visited Seychelles in 1881. He'd been sent from Sudan to study and report on the feasibility of fortifying Mahe against an attack by the French. A highly educated man, Gordon subscribed to a theory that Seychelles were once part of a landmass joining everything between Africa and India. In a highly read and widely circulated dispatch to England, Gordon declared that the site of Biblical Eden had been near Seychelles. When he later visited Praslin and found both breadfruit and the Coco de Mer (which he believed to be the Tree of Life and the Tree of Good and Evil respectively), he was sure that the Garden of Eden had been found.
Other than as a botanical curiosity and producer of expensive souvenirs, the Coco de Mer has little use to man. The gelatinous meat of the nut (which some have compared to congealed semen) is tasteless and apparently of little or no nutritional value. But the nut is of such significance to Seychelles that it has been featured in state crests, on flags, and as part of the nation's currency. Over the past century, a handful of the trees have been exported, usually as gifts, to botanical gardens around the world: there is one, for example, growing happily in Sarasota, Florida, although it has yet to bear a nut.
Tightly controlled licenses are required to sell and/or export the nuts, but, if you want, you'll be able to buy and bring one home with you, a souvenir of your time in Eden.
Written by vc81 on 17 Oct, 2005
Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, nestles between the port and the forested mountain ranges that run down the centre of Mahe. "L’Establissement" was founded as a French military base in 1778, but became known as Victoria to honour the new queen when the English took…Read More
Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, nestles between the port and the forested mountain ranges that run down the centre of Mahe. "L’Establissement" was founded as a French military base in 1778, but became known as Victoria to honour the new queen when the English took control in 1841. Now it is a cultural melting pot of French, British, African, Chinese, and Indian influences. It is a tiny place and can easily be looked around in one day.
The main sights include:
Clock Tower- The country’s most famous monument is an ornate silver clock erected in 1903 to celebrate Seychelles’ new status as a crown colony. It stands proudly in the central crossroads, surrounded by the colonial style courthouse and Queen Victoria fountain, with the verdant mountains in the background.
Botanical Gardens (Mont Fleuri Rd., US$5)- These peaceful small gardens, designed in 1901, contain Mahe’s only coco de mer - the symbol of Seychelles, along with other endemic palms, flowers and fruit trees. There is a small giant tortoise park, a limited café and a rainforest walk.
Victoria Market- The Sir Selwyn Clarke Market is the morning hub of Victoria. Upstairs, the brightly painted boutiques are aimed at tourists. The best locally crafted items include coconut products, jewellery, hand-dyed pareos and silk paintings. Downstairs in the concrete courtyard, stalls sell local foods including Hellfire chilli sauce, whole spices and citronella tea, as well as fruit and vegetables. There is a large fresh fish market, including many colourful species which aren’t normally associated with eating. However, self-catering visitors better cross their fingers, because whatever is present depends on if the supply boat has come in. Sometimes there will be a bountiful variety of shockingly expensive produce (e.g. a box of 40 oranges costs $120), other times the stalls will be empty apart from a few piles of tiny green mangoes.
Kaz Zanana- The "Pineapple House" on Revolution Ave. is a wooden gallery of local art, including work by my favourite, George Camille, who uses a wide variety of media, including silk painting, watercolour, and collage to produce wonderful scenes depicting everyday Kreol life.
Fiennes Esplanade- The stalls on this shady avenue stock the worst of tacky souvenirs, including dyed-pink coral, shells and shark jaws and should be avoided at all costs by anyone with an environmental conscience.
Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception- The centre of religious life for most Seychellois is a huge 1874 French colonial style church, which peers down on the capital from atop a flight of stone steps. Outside is a lovely small garden with a graceful statue of the Virgin Mary, in front of the ornately sinister Capuchin seminary built in 1933.
St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral - This modern cathedral was built in 2003, incorporating its 150 year old predecessor. Inside the feel is fresh and contemporary, with plain whitewashed walls, and lovely stained-glass windows depicting dolphins and local fish.
Written by vc81 on 08 Oct, 2005
I worked for 3 months as a scientific diver in the Port Launay area of Mahe, and I found the range and diversity of dive sites very impressive. The coral reefs around Mahe are by no means the most colourful or diverse in the world,…Read More
I worked for 3 months as a scientific diver in the Port Launay area of Mahe, and I found the range and diversity of dive sites very impressive. The coral reefs around Mahe are by no means the most colourful or diverse in the world, and have been damaged by the tsunami, bleaching events, and construction work on the island. However, they are recovering, and there are still many coral varieties to be seen, along with thousands of species of tropical fish and invertebrates. Common fish include bumphead parrots, humphead wrasse, white tip reef sharks, eagle rays, frogfish, stonefish, puffer fish, whale sharks, and loads of angels and butterflies.
My top-five commercial sites around Mahe are:
L'ilot (18-20m): Dives here circumnavigate the tiny granitic islet on the north edge of Beau Vallon Bay. There is a beautiful garden of soft corals and giant clams, and loads of fish, including parrotfish, tunas, potato groupers, butterfly fish, angels, surgeons, eagle rays, and huge shoals of snappers that envelop you. There are often hawksbill turtles to be seen, and octopus, lobster, and eels. The mystical whale sharks also like to hang around here when they're in town.
Aquarium (12m): A great site, and the name doesn't lie. Two large coral bombies in Beau Vallon Bay, which are covered in millions of fish, especially little damsels, angels, anemone fish, butterflies, surgeons, and puffers. I have also seen green turtles here. It is very colouful, and perfect for inexperienced divers.
Shark Bank (35m, good from 18m): Massive granite boulders are surrounded by huge schools of fish, including snappers and barracudas and large numbers of bumpheads, eagle rays, and marbled sting rays. It is a great easy deep dive, with a real feel of the big blue about it.
Ennerdale Wreck (30m): In between Mahe and Praslin, this large wreck is not complete, but still very interesting to explore. There are fewer fish here than at other sites, but if you enjoy challenging dives, you will like battling your way around in the killer current often present here.
Baie Ternay (depending on tide down to 16m): This is a beautiful sheltered bay that is part of a marine park, so it has one of the best abundance and diversity levels of fish and coral. I regularly saw hawksbill turtles here, and it is possible to snorkle from the shore, where there are fish juveniles and sub-adults hiding in the sea grass, far onto the reef.
There are several operators in Beau Vallon. I can recommend the Underwater Centre at the Coral Strand Hotel (www.diveseychelles.com.sc) and Big Blue Divers farther up the beach at Vacoa Village (www.bigbluedivers.sc). Dives cost from about SR150 ($25) for short range, including equipment.
Underwater fanatics should plan their holiday to coincide with the week-long Seychelles Underwater festival (SUBIOS) held annually May, centred around Beau Vallon. There are many interesting lectures, movies, and displays given by visiting eminent scientists and filmmakers and water-sport events for adults and children.
Written by cjg1 on 29 Mar, 2011
The Seychelles had always been on my places to visit list and finally I made it to this beautiful place. My wife and I decided to visit for my Birthday week in February 2011. We picked the Hilton Northolme Resort as our hotel; the location…Read More
The Seychelles had always been on my places to visit list and finally I made it to this beautiful place. My wife and I decided to visit for my Birthday week in February 2011. We picked the Hilton Northolme Resort as our hotel; the location was beautiful and the stay was free (we had seven certs to use from a previous Hilton promotion).I couldn't have chosen a more beautiful and serene place to spend my vacation with my wife. The natural beauty of the place was awe inspiring; I was actually at a loss for words. From the high green cliffs to the crystal blue waters; everything was paradise to see. This was one of those memorable trips that has blown any previous trips out of the water.The best thing about Mahe is that you can do as much or as little as you want. There is so much to do on the beach or in the water: snorkel, scuba, sailing, swimming or just lounging on the beach with a drink.There are some beautiful spots on the island especially Beau Vallon Beach; on of the most popular stretches of beach on the island. My wife and I enjoyed our walks on the beach. Each stretch of sand had something differnt; sand color, rock formations, waves and water color. During our walks we found some beautiful shells as well as interesting granite rock clusters.Swimming was wonderful. The water was crystal clear and warm. We spent hours at the beach reveling in this natural beauty.Mahe is more than just the beach. The town of Victoria is a fun place to shop, dine and explore. Check out Little Ben, The History Museum, The Anglican Church or The Temple. Explore the Botanical Gardens for some unique and interesting plants and trees. Tour the Tea Plantation and sample some of the delicious locally grown Citronelle Tea.Mahe has some tasty food especially Creole. Don't be afraid to ask the locals where and what to eat; they won't steer you wrong. During our viist we met some of the friendliest and helpful people; even the cab drivers were incredibly nice. Close