In the heart of the granitic Seychelles island of Praslin lies an ecological wonder known as the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. Discover rare, endemic species at this magical UNESCO World Heritage site.
Vallée de Mai is an incredible palm forest located in Praslin, Seychelles. Its beauty and biodiversity has attracted international renown for centuries and was once described as the true ‘Garden of Eden’ by General Charles Gordon. Today, it serves as the best example of Seychelles islands endemic palm forests and is a sanctuary for the endangered coco de mer palm, which produces the largest seed in the world.
In this guide, I’ll give you an up-to-date rundown of how to visit the one and only Vallée de Mai on Praslin Island. I’ll also include photography from my trip that I hope will inspire you to visit this amazing place.
Featured in: Praslin Island Travel Guide – 15 Best Things to do
- Vallée de Mai – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Where is Vallée de Mai on Praslin?
- What to Expect at Vallée de Mai
- Where to Stay on Praslin Island
- More Seychelles Travel Inspiration
Vallée de Mai – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Vallée de Mai is one of two UNESCO recognized World Heritage Sites of the Seychelles (the other is Aldabra Atoll). It holds world-acclaim for being the best preservation forest for the endangered Coco de mer palm (Lodoicea), as well as five other palms endemic to the Seychelles. It was given its world heritage status in 1983.
The site is roughly 19.5 ha in size and is much as it was since prehistoric times. It’s natural beauty and opportunity to walk amongst some of the rarest fauna species on the planet make a visit to Vallée de Mai on Praslin one of the must-do things on the island.
Vallée de Mai, translates to May Valley from French, and is often written as Vallee de Mai in English.
COVID UPDATE FOR SEYCHELLES
Currently, you need to show proof of a negative PCR test to enter the Seychelles. Upon departure, you can book a rapid antigen or PCR test with Seychelles Medical on Mahe, La Digue or Praslin.
Important: All visitors to the Seychelles must currently show proof of travel insurance covering expenses related to Coronavirus. One of the best offerings with this inclusion is from Safetywing, which has cover starting at under $50. Another popular option for the Seychelles is World Nomads insurance.
Up-to-date Visitor’s Information:
- Vallée de Mai Entrance Fee: 350 SCR
- Timings & Opening Hours: 9 AM – 5:30 PM – visits are limited to one hour.
The reserve is open 7 days a week between 9 AM and 5:30 PM. However, visits are limited to one hour. There are a few trails leading through the Nature Reserve including:
- Circular Path (North and South)
- Central Path
- Cedar Path
Additionally, below I’ve included a Vallée de Mai map that shows the paths and attractions.
Tip: Book a top-rated guided tour of Vallée de Mai which also includes a trip to Anse Lazio.
Ticket purchases help support the Seychelles’ UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including 20% for the Seychelles Islands Foundation Management, 30% for Vallée de Mai and coco de mer management, and the remainder 50% goes towards the Aldabra Atoll.
Vallée de Mai Map
Where is Vallée de Mai on Praslin?
Vallée de Mai is located right in the heart of Praslin Island in the Seychelles, within the Praslin National Park. Additionally, the entrance is very accessible as it is right off the main road that connects Grand Anse beach to the eastern side (ferry side).
How to Get Here
Of course, if you’re not already on the island, you’ll first need to get to Praslin.
Since the Vallée de Mai is located in centre of the island, getting here will require some public or private transport if you don’t have your own car. Of course, if you book a whole day tour that includes a guided visit to Vallée de Mai and the famous Anse Lazio, then transport, including hotel pickup and drop off, is included.
Alternatively, you could arrange a taxi to the Nature Reserve from your hotel. There is a parking space on the opposite side of the road from the entrance, where you can occasionally find taxis heading back. Taxis are metered in the Seychelles, so the price will depend on the distance from your hotel.
Is there a bus to Vallée de Mai?
While I didn’t take the bus, after some research it seems that there is a bus route that you can take. The bus you’ll want is this one:
Route 61: Mont Plaisir – Anse Boudin via Vallée de Mai
The cost is 14 SCR for a bus to Vallee de Mai. Just wait at any bus stop on the route above. Here’s a map showing the bus routes between Mont Plaisir and Anse Boudin (via Vallée de Mai).
Related: La Digue Island Travel Guide
Vallée de Mai Tour
Before we get into what to expect at this incredible ecological wonder, I wanted to give you one more logistical consideration.
If you want a professionally guided tour of the Nature Reserve, including information about its history and the diverse range of endemic plant and animal species, then I highly recommend contacting my friend Medina from Laboudolloniana Tours.
She was my private guide during my visit and she is very skilled and knowledgeable. In fact, her father, Victorin Laboudallon is a highly celebrated Seychellouis naturalist, credited for discovering new plant species and who is also the founder of TRASS, a volunteer initiative aimed at repopulating over 15 000 plants across Praslin every year. Medina definitely takes after her father and I highly recommend you giving her a message for a great experience.
Related: Best Praslin Beaches
What to Expect at Vallée de Mai
Once you arrive, you’ll need to pay the entrance fee of 350 SCR. Afterwards, staff will grant you access to the site. At the entrance, you’ll find a gift shop, small restaurant, and restrooms.
If you continue on to your left, you’ll find the trail heading into Vallee de Mai Praslin.
Almost immediately you’ll be immersed in a magical tropical palm forest with a dense canopy. At the entrance, there are dried examples of the coco de mer (male and female), as well as a few other Seychelles endemic palm seeds.
If you didn’t opt for taking a guided tour, then I suggest taking the central path and following the circular path north back to the entrance.
The Endemic Coco De Mer at Vallée de Mai
Of course, the main attraction and reason for the Vallée de Mai’s protected status is that it is the best and most abundant reserve for the endemic coco de mer palm.
The coco de mer, or “nut of the sea” in English, is an endangered palm endemic to Praslin that produces the largest seed in the plant kingdom. It has a unique shape and plays an important role in the island’s unique ecosystem.
Its scientific name Lodoicea maldivica, is named so due to a bit of a historic scientific fallacy. The coco de mer was first discovered on the islands of the Maldives, over 2000 kilometres away. However, the palm has never grown in the Maldives, but instead, the coco de mer seed had floated across the ocean! The interesting thing is that the coco de mer actually sinks, and rests on the bottom of the ocean for several years until the inside withers away and sends the coco de mer floats back up to the surface.
Since there was no evidence on the Maldives of the seed’s plant origin, it was first suspected that it originated from a new species of plant underwater. There is currently an effort in the local naturalist community to have the scientific name changed to reflect the plant’s endemic origin in the Seychelles.
As mentioned, Vallée de Mai is the best place to see a natural coco de mer forests. The coco de mer holds considerable cultural and historic value to the Seychellois people and they are very proud of it.
More Endemic Species of Vallée de Mai Praslin
There are actually 5 more endemic plant species found within Vallée de Mai. These include:
- thief palm
- Seychelles stilt palm
- lattanyen milpat
- lattanyen oban
Additionally, you’ll also find several fruit trees and unique tropical plants among the palms. Below are some photos that I captured of the diverse plant life of this beautiful palm forest.
Of course, you’ll also find a wide range of wildlife here. Some of these are only found on Praslin including the Seychelles black parrot, which almost exclusively nests in the dead standing trunks of the coco de mer palm.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get an opportunity to spot the black parrot. However, I’ve been told that they frequently fly through the nature reserve earlier in the morning.
Other endemic birds, mammals, snails and reptiles include:
- Seychelles blue pigeon
- Seychelles bulbul (look for the loud bird with the funk haircut)
- The Seychelles green gecko
- Seychelles bronze geckos (3 different types)
- Seychelles tree frog
I’m sure you’ll have a blast looking for all of the rare animals who call Vallée de Mai home. I sure did. However, some, especially the frogs and bronze geckos are very difficult to spot. I certainly wouldn’t have spotted so many without the help of my guide Medina.
Where to Stay on Praslin Island
Praslin is the second largest of the inner islands and flaunts some incredible hotels and resorts. Being a little sleepier than Mahe, Praslin caters to the more relaxed crowd.
The main area to stay in Praslin is along Cote D’Or Beach. This is the main tourist strip with plenty of hotels and beachside resorts. However, there are also great resorts and accommodation options all over Praslin, including near the famous Anse Lazio. I’ve written a separate, comprehensive Praslin accommodation guide but below are a few of the top picks.
Amazing Beachside Resort on Cote D’Or: Acajou Beach Resort
Acajou is a beautiful resort offering 4-star accommodation right on the doorstep of the white sands of Cote D’Or. I had the pleasure of staying here and honestly, it was one of the best resorts I’ve ever stayed at. Acajou offer ocean views rooms, a swimming pool and some of the best fine-dining on the island.
Luxury Honeymoon Suites: Constance Lemuria
Tucked away between 3 of the best beaches on Praslin, this luxury, 5 star resort is ranked as one of the best honeymoon resorts in the Seychelles. Attached is a luxury spa centre complete with hot tub and sauna set in a palm and bamboo forest. There’s even a 18-hole golf course.
Budget Self Catering: Treasure Island Retreat
To be fair, I wouldn’t call any of the hotels on Praslin “budget”. However, for those looking to enjoy the nature and save a few pennies on accommodation and food, opting for a self-catering stay on Praslin is a good bet. The best one you’ll find on the island is Treasure Island Retreat. This hotel offers seafront apartments on Anse Kerlan, each complete with king-sized beds and fully-equipped kitchen and furnished terrace or balcony.
More Seychelles Travel Inspiration
I sincerely hope that my photography and this travel guide to Vallée de Mai Praslin Island, the Seychelles, has inspired you to visit this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While you’re check out some of my other articles. Below you’ll find more ideas and travel inspiration for Praslin and the Seychelles islands.