ISLANDS OF SEYCHELLES ARCHIPELAGO-PART 3
PRASLIN GROUP AND ITS “SATELLITES
A cluster of inner granitic islands, and islets, of which Praslin the second most important in size and population of the Seychelles archipelago, is the centre.
La Digue is the second ; Curieuse, the third largest of that group ,Cousin, Cousine, Ile Aride, Petite Soeur, Grande Soeur ,Ile La Fouche, Ile aux Cocos, Ile Ronde, Marianne, Félicité, Ile aux Récifs, Ile aux Fous, St Pierre, Chauve- Souris….
An inner granitic island 38.4km north of Mahé, it is 13km long and 4km wide with an area of 10.1000 acres and is 384 metres high.
Praslin was named in 1768 in honour of the ‘”Duc de Praslin”, the French Minister of Marine during the Marion du Fresne expedition of 1768.(Its original name, given by Lazare Picault in 1744 was “Ile de Palme” and ‘Ile Moras” was given by Nicolas Morphey in 1756). It was during that same expedition that a Stone of Possession was placed at Anse- Possession and the famous coco de mer was ‘discovered’ by the surveyor, Barré. The coco de mer, found originally only in Seychelles, in the “Vallée de Mai” which was declared a World Heritage site in 1983.
The 46- acre of ‘natural garden’ had been visited in 1881 by General Gordon of Khartoum who firmly believed it was the original site of the Garden of Eden .Acquired by government from someone, Mr. France Jumeau, who did all for its protection, it was turned into a reserve in 1945 The coco de mer, to him was the ‘Forbidden fruit’, was the Tree of Knowledge(‘Good and Evil’) whilst the breadfruit nearby was the Tree of Life .
Praslin is the last refuge of one of the rarest birds on earth, the black parrot(‘kato nwanr’).
Described by some as ‘a beautiful emerald island…and one of the prettiest » of Seychelles, it lies 5.5 km east of Praslin and 43 km from Port Victoria ,its highest peak being 325 metres and an area of 2500 acres.
La Digue island was named after one of the ships of Marion du Fresne who discovered it in 1768. On 12th February 1771 the French took possession of the island after Charles Ogar and the officer of the French corvette, ‘l’Heure du Berger” ,commanded by Chevalier du Roslan received orders to do so in the name of the King of France. They built a monument of stones and placed a sealed bottle with official papers in it.
The French started an early settlement consisting of ‘liberated’ blacks who were given slaves. At that time , the island was full of crocodiles (‘caīmans’) and later even wild peacocks were introduced by an Arab landowner.
La Digue is said to be the last refuge on earth of the rare and beautiful Paradise Flycatcher or ‘veuve’. In 1981 a Reserve was created to protect it. The land was leased by Mrs René Payet to the Royal Society of Nature Conservation.
It lies about 8 km north-west of Praslin, the most northern of the Seychelles’ inner islands covering 170 acres and is 134 metres high. It is a breeding ground for sea-birds---having the world’s largest population of lesser noddies and roseate terns. It was bought in 1973 from the Chenard family by Christopher Cadbury, the President of what is today the Royal Society for Nature Conservation.
It is home to the ‘Bois Citron (Wrights Gardenia)
ILE AUX FOUS
Another breeding ground for sea-birds, ’booby’ or ‘fou’; it is 3 km north west of Praslin.
Another granitic island, 65 metres above sea-level, 71 acres, it is the home of a very rare species- the Seychelles brush warbler. Another bird endemic to Cousin is a weaver-the Seychelles fody or ‘tok tok’ (the name is derived from its distinctive cry!). Its previous owner, Mr. France Jumeau, did much to protect the many other birds co-existing on the island, In 1968, it was declared a bird sanctuary ---the only internationally sponsored permanent nature reserve in the Indian Ocean--- administered by the International Council for Bird Preservation(I.C.B.P.0.)
This helped to save the “petite merle des îles”(the Seychelles brush warbler) which was classified as an ‘endangered’ species in the red data book(with some forty birds remaining) and found only on Cousin. This has been one of the greatest success stories in conservation!
Lying at 2 km suth-west of Cousin Island,63 acres, it reaches 76 metres and has a lot of fringing reef. It is the home of the ‘Tok Tok’,( Seychelles’ fody) as well.
The island which is the third largest island in the Praslin group lies 43 km from Port Victoria and has an area of 3 square kilometers,707 acres and a top elevation of 178 metres. It is named after one of the two(2) ships of the Marion du Fresne expedition of 1768.Curieuse was once a leper settlement.
It lies 1500 metres off Pointe Zanguilles on Praslin, 1.5 acres, being one of the several islets and rock patches in Côte d’Or Bay. It is said that it was once one of the five(5) homes of the coco de mer palm.
It bears the same name as an island in the Mahé group , 1.5 acres, and was once named Jeanette Island.
ILE RONDE (ROUND ISLAND)
Bearing the same name as one in the Mahé group ,51 acres( the 20.4 hectares), the island lies very close to Praslin with a 75-metre high summit , symmetrical in shape and surrounded by crystal clear water.
Rocky, and rising 105 metres, 86 acres and 59.2 km from Mahé, it is the westerly of the sister islets separated by « a deep channel of the bluest water ».
At 2.5 km north of Félicité, close to La Digue, with an elevation of 113 metres ,210 acres and rocky, it is slightly taller than its sister island.
Situated at three(3) kilometers north-east of La Digue and some fifty(56) kilometers from Port Victoria it covers around 268 hectares(670 acres) and is 227 metres high. It is well-known as the island where the “best-liked exile”, the Sultan of Perak(Malaysia) spent some five(5) of his twenty(20) years at the end of the 20th century.
It is the most easterly of the Praslin group lying 3 km east of Félicité Island,59.2km from Mahé,238 acres. Green, steep and granitic it rises to 129 metres.
ILE AUX RĒCIFS
Twenty four(24) kilometres east of Ste Anne in the Mahé group,50 acres, it has been described as a ‘distinctive white rock” rising to 47 metres and is a breeding habitat of sea-birds.
ILE AUX COCOS
The five-acre island, made up of beautiful rock formation, lies half a kilometre to the north of Félicité, close to La Digue.
ILE LA FOUCHE
The protected islet is only 1.2 km in size, close to La Digue.
© ZAN KLOD(Jean-Claude, P.MAHOUNE)
Ivans K. ANDRĒ
(Source: Private Archives)