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Seychelles: Rude plants at Valée de Mai

Vallee de Mai on Praslin

Vallee de Mai on Praslin

Most visitors to Praslin Island in the Seychelles go for one thing: its beaches. But when the sun has grilled their skin to the consistency of crispy bacon, many head to the hilly, shady interior of Valée de Mai National Park – which is conveniently located between the 2 main beaches.

Plenty of freshly-baked day-trippers make a stopover at this World Heritage site. It’s known for the country’s largest virgin collection (about 600 trees) of the native Coco de Mer palm, the fruits of which resemble something out of a sex shop in Japan.

You've gotta be nuts to buy this

For starters, it is pretty big (for a nut, that is) – they can weigh up to 30kg and are about the size and (pretty detailed) shape of a woman’s hip area – both back AND front. You’ll see plenty of tacky postcards advertising this fact. The similarity is uncanny – the bum curves, the cracks, and even the, ahem, front bits and bristles. Because of its rather rude shape, early explorers got very excited over this discovery, prompting General Gordon (a very serious chap) to declare the Coco de Mer as “the true seat of carnal desire”. There is also a male version of the palm, which (naturally) sprouts something of a phallic nature. This led to  General Gordon declaring the Valleé de Mai as the Garden of Eden, and the Coco de Mer as the forbidden fruit.

In fact, the ‘nuts’ were so popular in the 18th century that they’ve been harvested to near extinction for their giggle value. Today, these palms are protected (there are only about 7,000 trees), but you can still buy the nuts as part of a sustainable industry. Since each one has to have a certificate and ID number to deter nut poachers (yes, there’s even a black market for them), they’re probably the world’s most expensive nuts, going for about S$300-S$600 each. That’s not all – each licensed souvenir shop is only allotted 2 nuts a month!

The trail of palms

Visiting the Park
The park’s shaded almost completely by palm trees with leaves larger than a beach umbrella (some 14m long!). The different species of palm are highlighted by the park brochure, but most visitors don’t bother with brochures, preferring instead to go in large group tours that follow the park’s shortest route. Who could blame them when they’re wearing beach flip flops on a nature trail?

Away from groups of Russian or French tourists, the park is tranquil, save for the occasional call of the black parrot. It’s one of the rarest birds in the world because it lives ONLY within this tiny park. However, finding the bird is challenging (often with negative results), involving lots of neck craning, patience and buzzing insects.

As it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (it’s one of the smallest), all the trails are well-marked and well-maintained, the longest of which loops around the park and takes in the park’s hilliest points in roughly 3 hours. The only thing steeper than the park is its entry fee, which is at €20.

One Response to “Seychelles: Rude plants at Valée de Mai”

  1. Business Intelligence And Data Warehouse says:

    Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time :-)

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