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Vallée De Mai National Park

Praslin Island, Seychelles

This UNESCO World Heritage Site on Praslin island is known to preserve a prehistoric forest that has been housing several endemic species of flora and fauna for ages. These include giant coco de mer fruit palm, vanilla orchids, splayed traveller’s palm, Seychelles bulbul, fruit pigeon, and black parrot – the national bird of Seychelles. Tourists can take a hike along the marked trail within the national park.

It consists of a well-preserved palm forest, flagship species made up of the island endemic coco de mer, as well as five other endemic palms. The coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica), a monocot tree in the Arecaceae (palm family), has the largest seeds (double nut seed) of any plant in the world. Also unique to the park is its wildlife, including birds such as the rare Seychelles black parrot, mammals, crustaceans, snails, and reptiles.

At only 19.5ha the Vallée de Mai is one of the world’s smallest natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and millions of years of isolation have led to the evolution of many unique species in this forest that are found nowhere else in the world. Described as the true ‘Garden of Eden’ by General Charles Gordon in 1881, the Vallée de Mai has been a source of inspiration and wonder for many years. This mysterious forest first received national protection in 1966 when it was declared a Nature Reserve by the government. Later, in 1983, its international significance and outstanding value were recognised when it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) was awarded the stewardship of this important area in 1989.

The park is the habitat for endemic coco-de-mer, which is reported as the "flagship species of global significance" growing to a height of 25–34 metres (82–112 ft). It is fan-shaped with leaves 7–10 metres (23–33 ft) long and 4.5 metres (15 ft) wide, and its petioles (stems) are 4 metres (13 ft) long. The tree bears the largest double nut with the largest seed, among the species of the plant biodiversity found in the world; the weight of its largest fruit was 42 kilograms.

This tree is made up of stilt roots and has its canopy formed by leaves. The roots and the trunk are not easily distinguishable and they bear fruits of round and oval shape. The aesthetic beauty of this natural palm forest is a grand display of an array of green, red and brown palm fronds. Some amount of supplementation has occurred in the plantation of these species of palms with the only intent of maintaining the ecosystem.

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