With scenery as verdant as the jungles of Jurassic Park and the prehistoric wildlife to match, the Seychelles must surely be at the top of the bucket list for nature-loving travellers who want to do more than just sunbathe. From the endemic, ancient coco de mar palms heaving with the world’s largest—and most suggestively shaped—nuts (go on and Google them) to the Aldabra giant tortoises, this is the land of perpetual summer with endless intrigue. Here’s how to make a trip to the Seychelles more than just a fly-and-flop holiday.
Meet A Giant Tortoise
With an average weight of 250 kilograms, the dinosaur-like Aldabra giant tortoise is a staggering sight. Endemic to the hard-to-access Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles and vulnerable to extinction, Aldabra giant tortoises have now been introduced to another location in the Seychelles, Desroches Island, the flat, coralline private island of Four Seasons Desroches.
Four Seasons Desroches has partnered with the small NGO, Island Conservation Society to create an on-site Tortoise Sanctuary that not only safeguards the species’ survival but also promotes awareness by providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for visitors.
“Giant Tortoises are an iconic species within Seychelles and are a fantastic attraction,” says Craig Nisbet from theIsland Conservation Society who works on Desroches.“Visitors to the country are always keen to meet them, and…establishing free-ranging populations provide an additional safety net, whilst helping to maintain the current genetic diversity of the species.”
There’s a clear favourite tortoise at the Tortoise Sanctuary, and it’s George, a gigantic, 120-year-old tortoise, who roams freely and is surprisingly agile—especially when presented with green apples, his favourite treat.
Coco de Mer
It’s impossible to visit the Seychelles and not hear about the legendary coco de mer, the world’s heaviest nut with an average weight around 15 to 30 kilograms. Even the Seychelles’ passport stamp is designed in the distinct curves of the coco de mer nut, which bares an eyebrow-raising resemblance to a woman’s backside.
Coco de mer palm trees are endemic to the Seychelles, but are still very scarce, as the fruit takes 6 to 10 years to reach its full size, and coco de mer poaching is a big issue. (Nuts can only be sold, bought, and removed from the country in accordance with strict laws.)
While visiting the densely forested Félicité Island, the private island of eco-luxe pioneers Six Senses Zil Pasyon, you can go on an hour’s hike to find a small grouping of five of these dwarfing trees, chock-full of coco de mer nuts bigger—and heavier—than bowling balls. With sustainability being a key pillar of the Six Senses brand, the island has been undergoing an exhaustive, 10-year restoration project, where invasive species—like coco-plums trees, first brought over by humans—are eradicated and indigenous flora and fauna are reintroduced.
Beyond the earth and into the water, Six Senses Zil Payson collaborates with Nature Seychelles and Seychelles National Park Authority on their coral restoration programme in the clear blue, marine-protected waters around Félicité. There’s currently an offshore coral nursery to shelter some 2,000 growing coral fragments in an effort to slowly counter the negative impacts of climate change and the coral bleaching brought on by El Niño in 2016.
Swim with Mantas
The marine biodiversity of the Seychelles another clear draw for thrill-seekers, and manta rays—reaching up to 5 meters in size—are some of the country’s most astonishing specimens. Blue Safari Seychelles, operating in the remote and little-visited Outer Islands of the Seychelles, host manta ray snorkeling and identification expeditions with their conservation team, where graceful and otherworldly mantas are logged and photographed for research purposes.
The Seychelles is a tropical garden paradise—in fact, early explorers alleged it to be the fabled Garden of Eden. Get up close and personal with the country’s exotic flora by taking a garden tour of Maia on Mahé with Head Gardener, Allain Marguerite. Maia has over 30-acres of award-winning gardens. Home to over 300 endemic and rare species of flowers, herbs, spices, and fruits, exploring these gardens are a feast for all the senses. Highlights for the eyes include rare orchids and ethereal Heliconia lobster claws. The nose is charmed with notes of heady frangipani and jasmine, and spicy cinnamon and zesty lemongrass. And the mouth can enjoy cashews, avocados, star fruit, mango, papaya, and breadfruit, which are all grown in the gardens and then used in Maia’s kitchens.
Elegant Resorts creates luxurious, bespoke itineraries to the Seychelles and beyond, with insider expertise and an ever-expanding, eclectic portfolio that spans the globe. For further information, please contact Elegant Resorts Reservations on 01244 897294 or visit website www.elegantresorts.co.uk