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Seychelles: The Land of Giants

The Top 4 Hardest Things to Miss
Written by Kelly Morse

Home to some of the world’s largest flora and fauna, the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles in the warm Indian Ocean have species that seem otherworldly. Located northeast of Madagascar, the main island of the Seychelles, Mahé, is an ideal base for embarking on adventures to the inner and outer islands.  With bountiful biodiversity, there is something to discover around every corner. Here is a list of some of the most massive wildlife that has pushed the boundaries of being BIG!

Photo courtesy Tony Baskeyfield, Seychelles Tourism Board

WHALE SHARKS
Claim to fame: Largest extant fish species
Average size: 9.7m long, 9 tonnes

Despite their massive size, whale sharks are known for being quite friendly and docile towards humans allowing snorkellers and divers to even play with them in the water. The best seasons to spot them are October, but sightings are also possible in August and September. For an eco-friendly experience, the Marine Conservation Society offers tourists a chance to join researchers in monitoring activities. Pilots use microlights to spot whale sharks from the sky then radio back the location to a boat below where divers are then dispatched to the area. In accessible locations, tourists can join in on the action.

For more information on the programme, click here.

Photo courtesy Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board

GIANT TORTOISE
Claim to fame: One of the world’s largest tortoises
Average size: 120cm shell, 250kg

The Aldabra atoll of the Seychelles islands, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds the largest population of giant tortoises in the world with an approximate 150,000 strong population. Island gigantism, a phenomenon where animals on isolated islands grow to above average sizes due to less competition and predators, is believed to be the reason behind these colossal creatures. Not to mention, some are believed to reach nearly 200 years of age.

Access to Aldabra is strict and permission must first be received from the Seychelles Islands Foundation.

Photo courtesy Gerard Larose, Seychelles Tourism Board

COCO DE MER
Claim to fame: The world’s largest seed
Average size: 40-50cm in diameter, 15-30kg

The Seychelles’ second UNESCO Site is Vallée de Mai on Praslin island – also known as the original Garden of Eden. This preserved palm forest is famous for the endemic Coco de mer palms. Seeds of these palms, nicknamed the “love nut”, resemble a suggestive shape of a woman and are another example, like The Giant Tortoise, of island gigantism. They can only be found on the Praslin and Curieuse islands in the Seychelles.

Photo courtesy Brocken Inaglory, Wikimedia Commons

COCONUT CRABS
Claim to fame: The world’s largest land-living crab
Average size:  40cm long, 4.1kg

While coconuts are not a significant source of food for the Coconut Crabs, they have been seen carrying these fruits from the ground to about 10m up and tossing them to the ground. This clever maneuver helps the crab to poke his claws inside the fruit when the coconut cracks on the forest floor below. But how does the crab get down? It skydives sans parachute. Coconut Crabs can survive a fall of 4.5 meters. Found in the southern atolls of the Seychelles, keep an eye on your jewelry, because these crabs, also known as Robber Crabs, like to steal shiny objects.

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