The world heritage includes the small Mai Valley on the island of Praslin. There are still remnants of the natural palm forest in which the famous Seychelles nut palm grows according to indexdotcom. Its tree fruit (“Coco de Mer”), which weighs up to 20 kg, contains the largest seed in the world.
Mai Valley Nature Park: Facts
|Official title:||Mai Valley Nature Park|
|Natural monument:||Vallée de Mai as a 0.195 km² large valley in the central hill country and part of the 3.25 km² Praslin National Park; since 1979 national park|
|Location:||in the center of the Praslin National Park, on the island of Praslin, northeast of the main island of Mahé|
|Meaning:||Preservation of an almost unchanged palm forest with the famous “Coco de Mer”|
|Flora and fauna:||the Seychelles nut palm (“Coco de Mer”), which occurs only in the Seychelles, has the largest seeds in the plant kingdom and a height of 30 to 40 m; in addition, six other palm species and screw trees, such as the Hornes screw tree, which are only native to the Seychelles; as one of the remarkable native birds the black parrot with a population of almost 110 animals, also the thick-billed flight bird, wart pigeon and the Seychelles cave salangan, which nest in caves; only mammals of the Mai Valley Seychelles fruit bat and the bat species Coleura seychellensis, which belongs to the family of the smooth-nosed cantilever|
A Garden of Eden in the middle of the Indian Ocean
General Charles Gordon (Gordon Pascha), who went down in history as the “hero of Khartoum”, was supposed to explore the military uses of the Seychelles at the end of the 19th century. But Her Majesty’s soldier discovered, as he wrote effusively, the Old Testament Garden of Eden: “As far as I can think, every condition is met if one decides that the landscape of Eden is in the Seychelles.”
He saw the native Seychelles nut palm as the “tree of knowledge”. In view of the phallus-like male inflorescence and the heart-shaped female flowers, the nut of which is reminiscent of a rounded female basin, Gordon and other contemporaries let their imagination run wild. On stormy nights, so the legend says, there is a gorgeous love game between the palm trees as between a man and a woman. So it is not surprising that some believed that a potency-enhancing agent could be obtained from the grated nut. Others trusted in their healing power for poisoning, epilepsy and brain softening.
No fruit has had a similar legend for centuries; none was more precious than the Seychelles nut, which the first French settlers referred to as the “indecent coconut”. Only rarely has it been washed ashore on the coasts of the Maldives, India and Ceylon. Since no one had seen the trees with the miraculous fruits, seafarers believed in the 16th century that they came from palm trees that grow on the sea floor. This explains its name “Coco de Mer” (“Sea Coconut”).
Portuguese circumnavigators and explorers offered the Seychelles nut, mostly sliced, polished and set in silver and gold by goldsmiths in Europe, to European princes as a treasure. But the princely bid did not always satisfy the providers. Although the German Emperor Rudolf II, who came from the House of Habsburg, was prepared to pay the equivalent of 122 kilograms of gold for such a drinking vessel, he did not come into possession of it.
The palm trees that produced these nuts were only discovered very late in the Seychelles, where they grow by the thousands in a wide valley on the small island of Praslin. In the Vallée de Mai with its dense jungle, sweeping treetops form an almost closed ceiling made of palm fronds, through which only sparse light penetrates into the twilight “magic forest”. Numerous screw trees grow on long stilt roots between six different palm species that are native to the region and form an impenetrable thicket. The constantly blowing wind, which causes the huge palm fronds to crackle and crack, rustle and murmur, reinforces the impression of an “enchanted forest”.
Only here live some dark gray, extremely shy black parrots, which only rarely let out piercing, whistling calls. High up in the treetops they look for fruits and buds. They skillfully use their toes and beak for climbing, and it is not uncommon for them to hang upside down on the fruit stands with acrobatic skill. On the same fruit-bearing trees there are also the brightly colored wart pigeons, which, despite their bright red heads, are very difficult to spot due to their calm and quiet nature.
The Seychelles fruit bats leave their roosts at dusk with slow flight movements, but also during the day when the sky is overcast. With their excellent sense of smell, they can find aromatic, fragrant fruits whose pulp they are after. During the day they hang upside down in the tops of tall trees. In cool weather and rain they wrap the flight skins tightly around the body like a coat; when the sun is shining they are spread and ventilated. When the blazing sun shines mercilessly on the resting fruit bats, they use their flying membranes as fans. The fruit bats clean themselves almost without ceasing, licking their flight skins in order to keep them supple.
The Seychelles nut palms are still the main attraction of the Mai Valley. They form the largest leaves and the heaviest seeds in the plant kingdom and are still puzzling today. It is still unknown how the female flowers, which are almost completely enclosed in a round, woody capsule, are fertilized. Because no one has yet observed the “legendary pairing” of these trees. If someone did this, according to legend, he would die on the spot.