Vallée de Mai gears up for 40th anniversary celebration |20 March 2023
The iconic Vallée de Mai on Praslin will this year celebrate 40 years since its inscription as Unesco World Heritage on December 9, 1983.
The Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF), which manages this natural palm forest, will throughout the year conduct a series of activities to celebrate this milestone and showcase 40 years of challenges and success of the site.
For such a celebration, a special event committee comprising different stakeholders and chaired by the Praslin representative of the SIF Board of Trustees, Romano Laurence, has been set up. The other committee members include Honourable Churchill Gill and Honourable Wavel Woodcock – the members of the National Assembly for Baie Ste Anne and Grand Anse Praslin respectively; Vincent Cedras, the President’s Liaison officer for Praslin; Sybille Cardon, the chairperson of the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA); Denis Antat representing the Local Government; Lynndina Essack representing the Ministry of Education; Carol Nicette and Barbara Hoareau who are both media representatives. Representing the Seychelles Islands Foundation are Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, Marc Jean-Baptiste, Maria Monthy, Maria Brioche, Aruna Sunassee and Elna Stravens.
The committee held a press conference last Friday to officially launch the logo for the celebrations while revealing the activities to take place throughout the year.
“40 years of Vallée de Mai as a Unesco World Heritage site is a celebration for the whole of Seychelles and not only for SIF. Therefore, the series of activities to mark this momentous occasion will touch different areas and ages. We want everyone to be able to feel part of it and participate with us,” Mr Laurence expressed to kick-start the conference.
The chief executive of SIF, Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, explained the reasons behind the Vallée de Mai becoming Unesco recognised and the effort made by the SIF team to ensure that the site remains on par.
She briefly touched on the various ongoing programmes such as research, outreach, school holiday camps and other community level projects.
On his part, the site manager, Marc Jean-Baptiste, briefly discussed the scientific importance of the site of ‘outstanding universal value’ of the living laboratory.
He explained the importance of maintaining a balance between the conservation works and ensuring that tourism activities do not affect the site.
“Vallée de Mai creates a socio-economic hub on Praslin with visitors coming from all corners to visit the site and directly or indirectly benefiting other stakeholders on the island such as hotels, tourist guides, taxi drivers, restaurants, farmers, fishermen and others. Eventually the entire island and country benefit from it and it is therefore only fair that to celebrate this milestone we involve all stakeholders and the entire community,” Mr Jean-Baptiste said.
The member of National Assembly for Baie Ste Anne, Hon. Churchill Gill, called on all stakeholders, especially Praslinois, to come together and do their part in protecting and sustaining the site.
“As inhabitants of this island, we are blessed to have such a pristine palm garden among us. Therefore we should be the custodians of this site and it is very important that we value and maintain it for generations to come and so that we can all benefit from it.”
Sybille Cardon from the SHTA shared the importance of the site to the tourism industry as well as the need to ensure tourism industry staff are better equipped to share and sell the site to their guests. Therefore, among activities on schedule, employees from tourism establishments will be guided in the Vallée de Mai and given the necessary knowledge to be in a position to propose a trip to the Vallée de Mai to their guests. Night safari is another activity which might also be of interest to both visitors and locals as certain species are nocturnal.
The committee also seized this opportunity to thank all stakeholders, especially the Vallée de Mai staff, for their contribution to attaining this milestone and called on further engagement from community.
The logo for the celebration which was also unveiled at the press event was designed by Mariaan Laubscher after taking into consideration the members input and proposals.
Dr Fleischer-Dogley took the opportunity to thank Ms Laubscher for her service which she offered free of charge to the 40th anniversary celebration.
The calendar of activities will be published shortly and it includes a scientific symposium, public speaking competition for schools, ‘giving back to the community’ programmes, ‘anti-poaching walk’, media presentations, blood donation drive by the staff of the Vallée de Mai and a day of celebrations on December 9 to mark the actual inscription date.
Activities, which started earlier this year, will run until February 2024 and are meant to engage everyone.
To conclude, Mr Laurence challenged all Seychellois and residents who have never visited the Vallée de Mai to do so during this auspicious year.
It is to be noted that entrance is free for all Seychellois and residents.
About the Vallée de Mai
Located in the heart of Praslin island, the Vallée de Mai is a natural palm forest preserved in almost its original state. It remains a must see to all visitors touring the island.
Vallée de Mai is a 19.5 ha area of palm forest which has remained largely unchanged since prehistoric times. Dominating the landscape is the world's largest population of endemic coco-de-mer, a flagship species of global significance as the bearer of the largest seed in the plant kingdom. The forest is also home to five other endemic palms and many endemic fauna. It is scenically attractive and has a distinctive natural beauty.
The palms form a dense forest, along with broadleaf shrubs and trees, which together constitute an ecosystem where unique ecological processes and interactions of nutrient cycling, seed dispersal, and pollination occur.