Part 3 of our April in Africa trip: the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands just south of the equator, east of Africa, and ‘a thousand miles from anywhere,’ as the tourist board slogan reminds visitors. The inner granite islands were created from a splinter of India when it tore away from Africa over 650 million years ago and were subsequently protected from the outside world by a thousand mile moat of ocean.

Cape Town to Mahe

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The main islands have only been settled for about 200 years, first by the French and then by the English. Many African slaves were brought in to work the land, and other nationalities – Arabs, Chinese and Indians came and stayed also. The Seychellois population today is a melange of all these influences, resulting in a relative lack of racial tension. Seychellois women, in particular, are famed throughout Africa for their beauty and elegance: “French enough to have good shapes, English enough to have good manners, Asian enough to have a touch of the exotic about them, and African enough to have a call of the wild in them!”

Kreol is the lingua franca of the islands, but most Seychellois speak at least three languages fluently: Kreol, English and French. Kreol is a French-based pidgin language: ‘good morning’ is bonjour in French, bonzour in Kreol; ‘how are you’ is comment çava in French, komman sava in Kreol.

We stayed at the Eden Blue Hotel, a beautiful open-air-lobby hotel at the marina.

We stayed at the Eden Blue Hotel, a beautiful open-air-lobby hotel at the marina.

.....with water fountains everywhere.....

…..with water fountains everywhere…..

....and a matching pool.

….and a beautifully lit pool.

Mahe is a granite island with beautiful granite outcroppings....

Mahé is a granite island with beautiful granite outcroppings….

....with white sand beaches....

….with white sand beaches….

.....tepid ocean temperatures....

…..tepid ocean temperatures….

....and beautiful coastline....

….and beautiful coastline….

...as far as we could see.

…as far as we could see.

The entire island was lush and green.

The entire island was lush and green.

A sampling of the local Creole foods at Marie-Antoinette, a charming little restaurant in a classic old-style thatched house full of historic and traditional memorabilia. Marie-Antoinette is also home to the Livingstone Gallery, in honor of the late American adventurer, Henry Morton Stanley who stayed there in 1872 and named it Livingstone Cottage.

A sampling of the local Creole foods at Marie-Antoinette, a charming little restaurant in a classic old-style thatched house full of historic and traditional memorabilia. Marie-Antoinette is also home to the Livingstone Gallery, in honor of the late American adventurer, Henry Morton Stanley who stayed there in 1872 and named it Livingstone Cottage.

Will was in 7th heaven during a walk through the local spice gardens because of all the birds.

Will was in 7th heaven during a walk through the local spice gardens because of all the birds. Here he is spying on a Seychelles Fody.

The Seychelles contains an immense diversity of species with over 1,100 flowering plants.

The Seychelles contains an immense diversity of species with over 1,100 flowering plants.

The lobster claw flower is a type of Heliconia.

The lobster claw flower is a type of Heliconia.

We don’t normally dedicate space to talk about a plant, but the coco de mer garners such attention in the Seychelles, we’re making an exception.  Well, that and we’re feeling a bit sophomoric. Fair warning of pictures to come: one of the plant’s archaic botanical names is Lodoicea callipyge, in which callipyge is from the Greek words meaning “beautiful rump.”

The coco de mer is endemic to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles. The tree grows to 25–34 m tall. The leaves are fan-shaped, 7–10 m long and 4.5 m wide with a 4 m petiole. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The male flowers are catkin-like, up to 1 m long. The mature fruit is 40–50 cm in diameter and weighs 15–30 kg, and contains the largest seed in the plant kingdom. The fruit, which requires 6–7 years to mature and a further two years to germinate, is sometimes also referred to as the sea coconut, love nut, double coconut, coco fesse, or Seychelles nut.[

The coco de mer is endemic to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles. The fruit, which requires 6–7 years to mature and a further two years to germinate, is sometimes also referred to as the sea coconut, love nut (can you guess why?), double coconut, or Seychelles nut.

This provocative looking member of the palm family has been the butt of jokes (pun intended) for years, and for centuries before, highly revered and the stuff of legend. In the Maldives, any coco de mer nuts that were found in the ocean or on the beaches were supposed to be given to the king, and keeping a nut for yourself or selling it could have resulted in the death penalty.  However, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor (late 1500s) was able to purchase one of these nuts for 4,000 gold florins. The Dutch Admiral Wolfert Hermanssen also received a nut as a gift for his services, from the Sultan of Bantam in 1602, for fighting the Portuguese and protecting the capital of Bantam. However, the nut that the admiral was given was missing the top part; apparently the Sultan had ordered the top of the nut to be cut off, in order not to upset the noble admiral’s modesty.

Fruits of coco de mer are developed only on female trees. Male trees have long phallic-looking catkins. Because of these unusual, erotic shapes, some people believed that the trees made passionate love on stormy nights. According to the legend, male trees uproot themselves, and approach female trees. Apparently the love-making trees are rather shy, and the legend has it that whoever sees the trees mating will die or go blind. The fact that even now the pollination of the coco de mer is not fully understood, is one of the factors behind the legend.

Fruits of coco de mer are developed only on female trees. Male trees have long phallic-looking catkins. Because of these unusual, erotic shapes, some people believed that the trees made passionate love on stormy nights. According to the legend, male trees uproot themselves, and approach female trees. Apparently the love-making trees are rather shy, and the legend has it that whoever sees the trees mating will die or go blind. The fact that even now the pollination of the coco de mer is not fully understood, is one of the factors behind the legend.

The coco de mer has the largest seed in the plant kingdom, following a general evolutionary pattern. Plants tend to evolve large seeds after they colonize isolated islands, and island plant species often have much larger seeds than their mainland relatives.

The coco de mer has the largest seed in the plant kingdom, following a general evolutionary pattern. Plants tend to evolve large seeds after they colonize isolated islands, and island plant species often have much larger seeds than their mainland relatives.

The Aldabra giant tortoise is primarily found inhabiting grasslands and swamps on the islands of the Aldabra atoll, which forms part of the Seychelles island chain in the Indian Ocean. They once shared these islands with a number of other giant tortoise species, but many of these were hunted to extinction in the 1700s and 1800s.

The Aldabra giant tortoise is primarily found inhabiting grasslands and swamps on the islands of the Aldabra atoll, which forms part of the Seychelles island chain in the Indian Ocean. They once shared these islands with a number of other giant tortoise species, but many of these were hunted to extinction in the 1700s and 1800s.

With an average lifespan of 100 years or more, the Aldabra giant tortoises can weigh as much as 900 lbs and can grow to be 4 ft long.

With an average lifespan of 100 years or more, the Aldabra giant tortoises can weigh as much as 900 lbs and can grow to be 4 ft long.

They have an incredibly long neck which they use to tear leaves from the branches higher up trees.

They have an incredibly long neck which they use to tear leaves from the branches higher up trees.

This arrangement is known as a "ménages à tortoise".

“Ménages à tortoise.”

Shauna enjoying the wonderfully lush spice gardens.

Shauna enjoying the wonderfully lush spice gardens.

The white powder beaches were pristine.

The white powder beaches were pristine, the water colors sublime.

The old Seychelle homes were designed to catch the ocean breezes.

The old Seychelle homes were designed to catch the ocean breezes.

Originally, we planned to go to the Farquhar Atoll from Mahé, but Fantala, the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Indian Ocean, made a visit first.

Originally, we planned to go to the Farquhar Atoll from Mahé, but Fantala, the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Indian Ocean, made a visit first.

Because of the damage to Farquhar, we rerouted to the Cosmoledo Atoll.

Because of the damage to Farquhar, we rerouted to the Cosmoledo Atoll.

The Cosmoledo Atoll is part of the Aldabra Group -- the most western islands of the Seychelles.  The Aldabra Islands are actually closer to the African mainland that to Mahé.

The Cosmoledo Atoll is part of the Aldabra Group — the most western islands of the Seychelles. The Aldabra Islands are actually closer to the African mainland that to Mahé.

We had such beautiful weather our first day in Mahé, we thought we had escaped Fantala, but then...

We had such beautiful weather our first day in Mahé, we thought we had escaped Fantala, but then this. Oh well, even with rain we found the Seychelles to be paradise.

Special thanks to Khashana Travel for our stay in paradise.