Butt Nuts & Beaches

Everywhere you look in The Seychelles you’ll see images of a coconut that looks suspiciously like a massive arse. It’s the nut of the Coco De Mer which only grows naturally in two places in the world; the islands of Curieuse and Praslin. Yeah okay they are grown elsewhere these days, but if you’re going to put them in your eyeholes you might as well go to the source. The Vallée De Mai is your best chance of seeing them and it’s also one of the world’s smallest natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites so there’s that.

Here is Tarrant modelling the latest in butt nut fashion. You can buy the nuts as souvenirs, you’ll be given a certificate stating that you’re allowed to have it, but they cut the bit out of them that germinates so don’t even think about trying to grow your own Coco De Mer in your back garden in Scunthorpe.

We hopped on a bus which deposited us not a huge distance from the entrance, we parted with our entrance fee and a guide told us our options. We could absolutely go it alone around the well marked trails, but I’m guessing the Coco De Mer looks like a palm tree. I’m going to need someone to point at it for me and tell me exactly what I’m gawping at. We could join a group tour, but we’d have to wait for another eight humans to show up, or we could take a private guide for Rs1000 per group which is a whopping quantity of cash but we’d already researched the prices, we’d come here prepared to spend the dolla dolla bills, and we do so like a private tour.

That, if I remember correctly is a takamaka tree. Good, solid wood. The fuck off big leaf to the right could be what Dora called a leaf palm, they use it for thatching.

Right then. Show me the butt nut please, Dora! And show us the butt nut she did. She started off by handing us some butt nuts to hold and fuck me, they’re heavy bastards! And they’re held onto the tree with this… thingy… and there’s more than one and how can it take all that weight? The one we held was about 15kgs but they can get up to 20kgs. Records breakers, these buggers, the Seychellois are very proud of them and well they should be. They have the biggest nut in the world, the heaviest nut, the longest leaves of any flowering plant, and the longest male flower in the world.

The male Coco De Mer. He’ll produce a few of these catkins.

Ah, the male flower. The Coco De Mer has separate male and female trees and whilst the female produces the butt nut wrapped in a husk, the male produces fuck off great big catkins shaped like giant dicks. For a lesbian I’m easy too easily amused by phallic objects. The males are taller than the females, 80% of pollination is done by the wind so they need to be taller so their pollen spreads and lands on the females. The other 20% is done by geckos, slugs and birds going after the honey.

For the first years of its life the Coco De Mer grows one leaf per year. To be fair they’re fucking gigantic, though that has a lot to do with the fact they’re fighting for sunlight here. After growing only massive leaves for 15 years (or often up to 20 years) it grows a trunk. After 25 years you can start to tell if it’s male or female. Once the female produces a nut it can take up to 7 years to ripen. The butt shaped nuts are inside the husks you see on the tree. You can imagine how huge and heavy they get.

Also, fun fact, Coco De Mer translates as coconut of the sea. Before The Seychelles was discovered by the French they only ever found the nuts bobbing around in the sea or washing up on foreign shores so they just assumed it was from some manner of mysterious underwater tree. Obviously that was the most logical explanation. These days not just anyone can grow a Coco De Mer. Kew Gardens has a couple. Botanical gardens can ask permission to grow them but they might not get the permission. Dora says in order to stop people poaching the nuts they’ll sometimes give permission to individuals to grow them too.

These are parts of the palmiste. I think, from memory, the tendrils grow inside the very spiky purse which eventually splits releasing these flowers.

Dora led us through the national park pointing out lizards, snails, huge fucking spiders, and various other palm trees. They have six species of endemic palm tree in The Seychelles, obviously I can’t remember them all but one of them is the Palmiste. They used to kill the whole tree just to get to the heart which they’d put in a Millionaire’s Salad. One heart isn’t even enough for one salad. These days they’re protected so if you see Millionaire’s Salad on the menu it’s made with the heart of the coconut palm instead.

Dora doesn’t mind spiders. I fucking hate them. She called these guys palm spiders.

There are a lot of invasive species of trees here too, it used to be a private botanical garden before it was taken over by the government. They can’t just chop shit down though, they have to kill things slowly so they strip the bark and it dies. There’s a very cute but very damaging spiky creature that was introduced here too so they’re working on getting rid of that. They had a problem with crazy yellow ants but if course they can’t poison them so they put down traps. This whole thing is a labour of love for indigenous flora and fauna, a lot of which can only be found on The Seychelles thanks to millions of years of isolation.

Anse Lazio, our second excursion of the day, as viewed from a beach towel spread out underneath a takamaka tree.

It was such a good morning. Sure, my bank account was weeping in a corner but we were packed full of awe and knowledge. We got back to Cote D’or around lunch time and figured we had plenty of time to check out another beach. Our beach was an absolute stunner but we’d heard good things about Anse Lazio which was only a short bus ride followed by a short walk away.

Saw plenty of these guys whilst snorkeling at Anse Lazio.

I say short walk. It’s a fucking steep hill up then down. How very dare you, Anse Lazio?! We are on holiday! You’re well rewarded for your efforts though, it’s a gorgeous stretch of sand. We settled under the shade of a takamaka tree. We actually know what they are now thanks to Dora. Despite everything from beaches to the local rum being named after them they’re actually from Asia. It’s a hard wood used to make solid furniture. I’m just a fucking wealth of information, me.

My favourite stripey

This snorkeling though, it really is incredible. I saw more fish than I saw on my dive. Big stripey boi, little stripey boi, orange lipped pretty boi. Oh, angelfish too. I can often pick those fuckers out of a lineup. We hung out on the beach for a while, dipping into the water to put more fish in our eyeholes, then headed off to catch the bus back. Anse Lazio has apparently been voted the most beautiful beach on several occasions but I think, somewhat controversially, our beach is prettier.

It’s Tarrant’s birthday today too so we finished off the day with cocktails at a particularly fancy bar. It’s probably a good job they were eye-wateringly expensive or we’d have probably drank too many and ended up trying to skinny dip in their really rather posh pool.

Pool side mojitos. Don’t mind if we do.

Today was the most activity we’d indulged in since we touched the end marker in Prestatyn on the Offa’s Dyke Path. I’d forgotten I had, like, muscles and shit. We’d had our chill days but now we figured we’d better go and do more Seychelles related stuff. Turns out this island paradise has way more going for it than perfect beaches.

Jump to “Useful shit to know…”

Vallée de Mai & Anse Lazio, Praslin, The Seychelles

Stayed at: Villa Bedier, Cote D’or, Praslin

Villa Bedier. Guys it’s such a perfect place to stay. Mere metres from an incredible beach, so close to bars, restaurants and a takeaway, and buses to other parts of Praslin. The staff are fantastic, always friendly and helpful. Our room was large and comfortable, we had a lovely veranda with table and chairs, and two sunbeds. The kitchen was fully equipped, the bedroom had excellent AC, and the room was cleaned to a high standard every day. Oh, and they don’t just provide towels, they provide beach towels too. There is literally no downside to these self catering villas.

Useful shit to know…

  • We took the 61 from the bus stop at Cote D’Or (Moulinie Estate) which takes you to the jetty then onto Vallée De Mai. We weren’t sure exactly where the bus stop was to get off so we just hit the button when we were close and waited to see where the driver dropped us.
  • To get back, we walked out of the Vallée De Mai and turned left. Not far up the road is a bus stop. We waited there for the 61 to take us back to Cote D’or, and I believe the 63 would have done the same job.
  • It’s Rs350 each to get into Vallée De Mai. If you want a group tour it’s Rs150 each but you have to wait for 8 to 10 people who also want to do it. A private tour is Rs1000 per group. Our guide was with us for about an hour and 20 minutes.
  • You could easily walk around Vallée de Mai in flip flops, the path is well kept. Take water and mozzie repellent.
  • The 61 or 62 will take you from Cote D’or (Moulinie Estate) to Anse Boudin. From here you can walk to Anse Lazio, it takes about 15 minutes and involves a steep hill up then down. You catch the bus back, the 61 or 62, from the same place you got off.
  • Buses are, at the time of writing, Rs12 per trip if you’re paying cash. It’s a flat rate for any one journey.
  • For the snorkeling at Anse Lazio, we headed to the rocks at the right hand side as you look at the sea.

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