The forest remained untouched until the 1930s when deforestation and planting of exotic species such as cinnamon, vanilla, fruit trees started to affect the native vegetation. In the 1960s the area was declared a nature reserve by the Seychelles Government. In 1989 the Seychelles Islands Foundation was awarded the management and protection of the reserve and ensures that tourism, education, research and conservation are all conducted harmoniously and sustainably in this unique forest.
The Vallée de Mai, is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its outstanding natural beauty and high biodiversity. It consists of a well-preserved palm forest, with the flagship species of the island's endemic Coco de Mer, as well as five other endemic palms.
The Coco de Mer palm (Lodoceia maldivica) is one of the six endemic palms of the Seychelles and occurs only on the islands of Praslin and Curieuse.
Of the six endemic palms it is the only dioecious species - the male and female flowers located on different plants. The Coco de Mer is a tree of gigantic proportions (holding five botanical records) with adult trees reaching over 25 metres in height, it is the largest and heaviest nut (seed) in the plant kingdom, weighing up to 25kg! The female nut takes around six years to mature on the tree and like a fingerprint, each nut is individually shaped.
The coco de mer is listed as endangered and under protection from poaching and trading.
There are six species of palms which are endemic to the islands, apart from the endemic coco de mer, five other endemic palm species can be found at the Vallée de Mai. It is one of the few places where all six endemic species still occur naturally.
A variety of fauna can be spoted in the forest, with the palm trees as their habitat: the Seychelles black parrot, Seychelles blue pigeon, Seychelles bulbul, Seychelles kestrel. Other animals are the giant Seychelles bronze gecko, day gecko, tiger chameleon, Seychelles treefrogs and a few others can be seen in the forest.
Thank you to Dr. Frauke Fleischer-Dogley for giving me the opportunity to volunteer for the Seychelles Islands Foundation and experience this unique forest.
Copyright 2017 © Melina Yakas