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SEYCHELLES ISLANDS - PRASLIN, LA DIGUE, SILHOUETTE AND ALDABRA

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Resorts, beaches and surprises highlight holidays in the Seychelles. On Praslin Island, you can visit the reputed Garden of Eden and see the world's largest seed. La Digue, Seychelles boasts the most romantic beach in the world.

Coco de mer palm in Botanical Garden. Victoria, Mahé.
Coco de mer palm in Botanical Garden. Victoria, Mahé.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

On Silhouette Island, you can pet rare giant tortoises, rescued from extinction. And on Aldabra atoll, you can tour a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the earth's largest population of tortoises—five times the number on the Galapagos.

Where are the Seychelles?

Located 1,600 kilometers from any continent, the Seychelles define escape. Spread over 1.3 million square kilometers, in the Indian Ocean, the 115 Seychelles islands cover a land area of just 455 square kilometers.

With their palm-stencilled sunsets, emerald peaks, orchid-filled valleys and pristine beaches, scalloped with turquoise lagoons, the Seychelles islands are idyllic. Paul McCartney brought his bride, Heather Mills, here to honeymoon after their 2002 wedding.

Praslin Seychelles

In Vallée de Mai, on Praslin Island, we half-expected to see a T. rex munching on the Jurassic vegetation. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a primeval forest of 4,000 coco de mer trees that grow 30 meters high and live for 200 to 400 years.

Female coco de mer palms produce the largest seeds in the world. Weighing up to 20 kg each, the seed has the shape of a female pelvis. The male coco de mer palm flaunts cylinder-shaped clusters of small flowers called catkins.

Seychelles Islands viewed from Curieuse.
Seychelles Islands viewed from Curieuse.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

In 1881, General Gordon of Khartoum proclaimed the Vallée de Mai was the biblical Garden of Eden, and the coco de mer, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. For years, European leaders imported and gorged on jelly from young coco de mer seeds, which they believed was an aphrodisiac. Today, the coco de mer is protected.

La Digue Island

On La Digue, we strolled along talcum powder beaches, between pink granite boulders scattered like house-size Henry Moore sculptures.

At Curieuse, we snorkelled in water the colour of peacock feathers. Birdwatching was a highlight on both islands.

Silhouette Island

Ron Gerlach lives with his wife, Gill, on Silhouette. Ron explained how they, and their son, Justin, found eight surviving Seychelles Giant Tortoises, a species thought to be extinct since 1840.

Ron Gerlach with Seychelles giant tortoise
Ron Gerlach with Seychelles giant tortoise
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

We could hardly wait to see these rare creatures after hearing how the Gerlachs bartered for them, moved the 230-kilo tortoises from other islands to Silhouette and painstakingly, egg-by-egg, increased their numbers in a hatchery. (The Gerlachs fund their conservation through an Adopt-a-Baby-Tortoise program.)

When Ron Gerlach introduced us to our first Seychelles Giant Tortoise, we gently stroked its neck. Rising on its toes, it stretched out like a kitten, encouraging the caresses. We swear it smiled.

Aldabra atoll

The vast distances between Seychelles islands only became evident when we sailed a day and a half from Poivre Island to the Aldabra Group. The world's largest atoll is inaccessible, except by scientists, a bimonthly supply ship and occasional cruise ships, which have permission to bring passengers to the research station on Picard Island, one of four islands comprising the Aldabra atoll.

Wardens describe their studies of the 100,000 Aldabra tortoises that inhabit the UNESCO nature reserve. In the central lagoon, frigate birds create a cacophony in the surrounding mangroves. The birdwatching, combined with underwater views of reef fish, sharks and rays, made it the highlight of our holidays in the Seychelles.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Seychelles Tourist Board: www.seychelles.travel