With swaying palm-fringed beaches studded with granite boulders, crystal clear waters and powdery white sands, Praslin is the stuff of tropical island dreams. But within the superlative Seychelles paradise landscape, it’s the slower pace of life and the Vallée de Mai – a designated World Heritage Site – that truly sets Praslin apart. Visit for the combination of beach perfection and to discover the extraordinary ecosystem here.
Praslin, 45km northeast of Mahé, is the Seychelles’ second-largest granitic island in both size and population. The landscape might initially look less grand than Mahé’s, with its towering mountains, but the primeval palm forests of the valleys on Praslin are found nowhere else on earth. All six endemic palms are found here, including the island’s symbol, the iconic coco de mer. And while Mahé isn’t exactly manic, here on Praslin you can really slow down and enjoy a truly chilled approach to life.
No trip to Praslin is complete without a visit to the World Heritage Site of Vallée de Mai, the world’s largest forest of coco de mer. Even if you aren’t that interested in flora, the atmosphere of the place is inspiring – and seeing the coco de mer trees in such quantities is a pretty unique experience. The female tree has the largest, heaviest seed in the world, a double nut with an uncanny resemblance to the female pelvic region. The enormous catkin of the male tree also has to be seen to be believed!
The valley occupies the heart of Praslin, halfway between Grand Anse and Baie St Anne. An excellent guide leaflet is included with the admission fee, which helps support the work of the Seychelles Islands Foundation, managers of the valley and of the Seychelles’ other World Heritage Site, Aldabra.
Several nature trails run through the valley. These are well marked and maintained and are shown clearly in the free leaflet. Options include a short tour taking in most of the botanical sites (lasting about an hour), or a longer circular route (two to three hours at a leisurely pace) which includes a spectacular viewpoint where black parrots and Seychelles cave swiftlets may often be seen. Walking is easy, and though the path rises and falls, it’s not too steep.
All six endemic palms of the Seychelles are found in Vallée de Mai along with the national bird, the Seychelles black parrot, which also breeds only on Praslin. The silence of the valley is broken by the piercing whistle of the black parrot, but the birds are often difficult to locate in the dense forest. They are most easily seen in more open areas, including close to the entrance and from the viewing point.
The British general, Charles Gordon, visiting the valley in 1881, concluded that this valley was the Garden of Eden, and the coco de mer the Tree of Knowledge. Okay, this may be a bit fanciful, but few could dispute that the coco de mer nut does resemble the thighs and belly of a woman.
The coast road north from the airport at Amitié leads past Anse Kerlan to the gates of Constance Lemuria Resort. Anse Kerlan can sometimes be rough, and currents are strong during the northwest monsoon, but on calmer days it’s excellent for swimming and snorkelling. Lemuria Resort has the only 18-hole golf course in the Seychelles and some very attractive grounds. Anse Georgette, also within the grounds, is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Seychelles.
At Amitié, opposite the airstrip by the sea, is the Black Pearl Praslin Ocean Farm. The main business of the farm is the culture of black pearls in oyster beds between Praslin and Curieuse, and the sale of jewellery incorporating the pearls in beautiful gold and silver settings. These are extremely attractive, but also pretty expensive. There’s also an aquarium touch pool, with concrete tanks displaying corals, reef fish and invertebrates.
Grand Anse is the largest settlement on Praslin, but it’s a quiet place compared to the larger villages of Mahé. There are several hotels, restaurants and takeaways here, though heavy seaweed on the beach makes it a little less picturesque than elsewhere. Black parrots can sometimes be seen in the tall mango and breadfruit trees behind the Britannia Hotel, 200m inland from the parish Church of St Matthew.
Whether you’re an actual twitcher or not, the chance to see a completely unique form of wildlife on holiday is something you shouldn’t miss. The black parrot is endemic to the island of Praslin and is the only place it breeds, nesting in the hollows of rotten coco de mer palms. You’re unlikely to see many birds inside the valley; they tend to stay above the treetops. Only the piercing whistle of the black parrot reminds you that they are out there, somewhere.
From Grand Anse, the coast road continues southward towards a series of eight beautiful bays. This is a wonderfully peaceful stretch of coast, though not the best for swimming due to the shallow waters, except close to high tide.
The first bay is Anse Citron, followed by Anse Bateau, with the thatched building of Les Rochers Restaurant. A further 750m after the restaurant is Villa Flamboyant at Anse St Sauveur. This small, charismatic guesthouse is a great place to see black parrots, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. There’s also a gallery selling prints of paintings by former owner Verney Cresswell.
Beyond Villa Flamboyant is Anse Takamaka, followed by Anse Cimetière and Anse Bois de Rose, where Coco de Mer Hotel and Black Parrot Suites is the only substantial establishment on this entire stretch of coast.
Rounding Pointe Cocos, the southern tip of Praslin, the road reaches Anse Consolation followed by Anse Marie Louise, which is good for swimming, except at low tide. An unmarked track inland leads to Fond Ferdinand, similar in character to Vallée de Mai but much wilder without the well-marked pathways.
The road then turns steeply uphill, passing the upmarket Château de Feuilles Hotel and Restaurant before the view of Baie St Anne opens up and the road descends to the village. The jetty here is the terminal for inter-island ferries to Mahé as well as La Digue schooners. Many charter boats and local fishing boats moor within the wide arms of the bay.
Praslin attracts art lovers and artists. A little further on, at the edge of the village, a sign points to Cap Samy Art Gallery, 300m up a steep hill.
At the north end of the bay the main road leads to Anse La Blague. After 1.2km, you pass the Iles des Palmes eco-resort beach bungalows and the Art Gallery and Giant Tortoise Park. The gallery exhibits the interesting Seychelles panoramas and nature originals of local artist Raymond Dubuisson, but the tortoise park is a mildly misleadingly grand name for a slightly larger than average tortoise pen!
After a further 1km, the road dips to the beach, where there’s a snack bar on the beach. Diving, windsurfing and jet surfing can be arranged by Bleu Marine. Uphill is the home and art gallery of ‘Robinson’ Sey Marx, offering reasonably priced original paintings.
Returning to the junction at Baie St Anne, the straight inland road passes through endemic woodland to the romantic Tante Mimi Restaurant on the right. Next to the restaurant, within the same grounds is George Camille Art Gallery.
Beyond Tante Mimi is Côte d’Or, Praslin’s equivalent of Beau Vallon on Mahé with a wide range of hotels, guesthouses and marine-based activities to keep visitors occupied. Sheltered by nearby Curieuse Island, the 3km-long beach is excellent for swimming year-round, and is perfect for children. The beach shelves very gradually so it’s necessary to walk out a long way at low tide to find water deep enough for swimming.
The best snorkelling is around the boulders at the northern end of the beach and out towards Chauve Souris Island. There are several boats available for hire offering trips to nearby islands or just around the corner and the beaches of Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette.
The road returns to the coast at the north end of the bay at Paradise Sun Hotel. Passing Pointe Zanguilles at the north end of Côte d’Or, you reach Anse Possession, a beautiful bay that takes its name from the fact that in 1768 the first French explorers erected a plaque here, claiming possession of the island.
Anse Lazio vies with Anse Source d’Argent (on La Digue) in many polls to be ‘the best beach in the world’. The sand here is as fine and soft as caster sugar and is scattered with granite boulders. You can’t come here and not post some jealousy-inducing pictures on the ‘gram; it’s not every day you get to pose on such a renowned stretch of sand.
To enjoy the beach at its finest, it’s best to come early in the morning before the crowds. Its reputation has gone before it and it has become relatively crowded, with quite a few charter boats usually anchored here, except in strong northwest winds. Nevertheless, it’s still an undeniably beautiful spot and the swimming and snorkelling are excellent; the latter is best around the rocks at the corners of the bay. There are two restaurants: Bonbon Plume, with thatched umbrellas dotted across a lawn by the sea, and, at the opposite end of the beach, Le Chevalier Restaurant, in a hotel set back from the shoreline. Both offer mainly seafood and Seychellois cuisine.