by Glynn Burridge
The Seychelles Islands are renowned for their diversity, both in terms of their islands, multi-ethnicity, culture and flora & fauna and the islands offer a broad range of things to do while on holiday: fishing; sailing and cruising; diving and snorkelling; spa retreats; island-hopping; golf and trekking.
Trekking the island pathways on the four principal islands of Mahé, Praslin, La Digue and Silhouette is a rare feast for all the senses, allowing walkers of all ages to savour the delights of Seychelles’ pristine environment so extraordinary, parts of it were once believed to be the original site of the biblical Garden of Eden.
The grand sweep of Seychelles’ unique natural world extends from lofty, cloud-covered, mist forests that are home to ferns and other moisture-loving species, through lower woodlands with their variety of palms, right down to a shoreline fringed in some places by mangroves and their associated ecosystems. Seychelles is home to five distinct categories of plants: exotics; mangroves; coastal forest species; plants growing at low elevation and rainforest plants, many of which are visible on the network of trails.
One particular trail, or set of trails, deserving special mention is Praslin Island’s famous Vallée de Mai where grows the legendary coco-de-mer, the double-lobed coconut and world’s heaviest seed in the form of a woman’s pelvis. The vallée boasts several walks, some long, some short that traverse this hidden glade and along which several important species can be discovered. Situated in the heart of the National Park of Praslin, with a surface of 19,5 hectares, in 1983 it became the second UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Seychelles.
Even when the coco-de-mer is the dominant and most spectacular specimen of flora in the valley, it is by no way the only specimen of rare and fascinating flora and there is a water fall at its meridional edge which is an unforgettable panoramic discovery.
Higher up the vallée may be found several indigenous trees with large leaves. This ultimate tropical garden also shelters many types of unique birds, with the black parrot, the bulbul of the Seychelles and the blue pigeon of the Seychelles all found within its borders. The endemic boa can also be found, two types of geckos, the small tiger chameleon, endemic grasshoppers, threaded insects and also the tiny arboreal frog – one of the tiniest frogs on earth.
While not every walk and trail can hope to match what the vallée has to offer, Mahé’s copolia trail is one of the favourites on the main island. This trail is around 1.4 Kms and takes you to the 4th highest peak of Seychelles. The views from the top are absolutely stunning. The trek itself allows sightings of the famous insect eating pitcher plant, a mountainous variety of pandan and bois calou trees.
On La Digue Island, one of the most spectacular walks is to Nid DÁigle, the highest point on the island which, once again, commands fabulous views of the ocean and surrounding islands as well offering sightings of the endemic giant gecko, star of Bethlehem flowers and the endemic Seychelles palm grasshopper.
On Silhouette Island, the Anse Mondon trail explores the north-eastern coast of the island, ending on beautiful Anse Mondon Beach. This 3.2 km hike takes about one and a half hours, passing through some areas populated with coconut, mango and citrus trees and others featuring colonies of bats and giant silk trees, often punctuated by sublime ocean vistas.
Even the Seychelles skies are a treasure trove for birdwatchers, for within the islands are 13 species and 17 subspecies of birdlife that occur nowhere else on earth, including such uber-rare birds as the Seychelles Scops Owl; Seychelles White Eye; Black Parrot; Black Paradise Flycatcher; Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles Magpie Robin, to name but a few.
Wherever you venture, you are strongly advised to seek the services of a professional guide who can match any given trail to your specific capabilities and also introduce you to all the species you will meet on your journey into some of the most fascinating places you will ever encounter.
To help hikers on their way, the Seychelles Tourism Board has very recently launched a 77-page guide in collaboration with authors Remy Ravon and Romain Latourniere, titled Hiking in Seychelles which covers a total of 15 routes across four islands. This useful guide contains invaluable information about each trail, its distance, level of difficulty and remarkable features that leaves very few questions unanswered.
Hiking remains one of the most fun, spectacular and affordable ways to enjoy Seychelles’ unique environment that is home to an amazing diversity of flora and fauna featuring some of the rarest species on the planet.
Must-try walks & trails:
This 90-minute trail is a continuous climb from a high starting point in the Morne Seychellois National Park to the top of a prominent mountain of west Mahé, characterized by cloud forest but commanding extraordinary views. First passing through a tea plantation the trail encounters an interesting patch of endemic Vacoa plants as well as Capucin and Latanier. Higher up, one encounters Cinnamon forest, Jackfruit trees and Jambrosa. With altitude, the forest becomes moister, encouraging the growth of mosses and ferns which, together with sang dragon trees and bird nest ferns accompany the walker to the summit and to the spectacular views it offers. This trail offers the chance to see one of the tiniest frogs in the world as well as birdlife in the form of Seychelles’ Bulbuls, Mynahs and Sunbirds.
This one and a half hour route, which commences at Val Riche, about 6km south from Victoria, offers stunning views from the summit of Copolia, accessed through Takamaka woodland, Cinnamon forest with Rubber trees featuring a variety of endemic palms and other endemic plants. Seychelles Bulbuls are common birds found here. Higher up, the proportion of endemic plants increases as the summit approaches with its glorious views of Morne Seychellois, Seychelles’ highest mountain, and Trios Frères. The panoramas of Mahé’s east coast , Praslin and La Digue are equally stunning.
This trail to a place once settled by Ethiopian people freed by the British Navy from Arab slavers, takes two and a half hours to complete and commences at the information point at Le Niol before climbing to a shelter at its half way point that offers amazing views of Beau Vallon Bay and Silhouette Island. Endemic palms make an appearance on the second half of the route as the path ascends into Cinnamon forest dotted with Albezia and tall palms. The elusive Scops Owl can be found here.