Seychelles Botanical Gardens – A living green heritage |07 November 2019
One of the must see places in Seychelles for people with a love of nature is the Botanical Gardens. Managed by the National Botanical Gardens Foundation since December 2009, it is located at Mont Fleuri, on the outskirts of Victoria, the capital.
Established in 1901 by a Mauritian agronomist, Rivalz Dupont, the 15-acre garden is one of Seychelles’ oldest national monuments and is a living green heritage providing a quiet, green getaway with a 20-minute walk from the busy town centre. The garden has developed into one of Victoria’s main tourist attractions.
While most of us Seychellois take this beautiful and well manicured garden for granted, the Botanical Gardens is a beauty ready to be discovered.
The following are must-see attractions at the Botanical Gardens:
Coco de mer
The first thing to greet you as you enter the gardens is the sight of the biggest nut in the world – the coco de mer. The most iconic of Seychelles' endemic plants, the Lodoicea Maldivica grows in its natural state in the Vallée de Mai on Praslin, the island nation’s second-most populated island. In 1956 the Duke of Edinburgh planted the most fruitful coco de mer palm in the Botanical Gardens.
Endemic and other birds
Among the endemic birds found in the garden are the fruit eating Blue Pigeon, locally known as the ‘Pizon Olande’, the nectar-sipping Sunbird or ‘Kolibri’, and the Seychelles Bulbul or ‘Merl’. Some introduced species have also found their home in the gardens like the colourful introduced Madagascar Fody or ‘Sren’, the Indian Myna Bird or ‘Marten’, the Malagasy Turtle Dove or ‘Tourtrel de Zil’ and the Barred Ground Dove or ‘Tourtrel Koko’.
One of the most eye-catching exotic plants found in the gardens is the Cannonball tree, so named because of not only are the fruits as large, round and heavy as their namesakes but when falling to the ground, they often do so with loud and explosive noises. The Cannonball tree is believed to be native to South America, India and the Caribbean islands. This is an unusual tree which bears flowers and fruits along the trunk. The fruit emits an unpleasant odour and can be used as an insect repellent just by rubbing it to the skin or clothes
An added attraction to the gardens is the population of giant tortoises originally from the world heritage site of Aldabra. They are one of the top attractions at the Botanical Gardens as one can get up close to one of the creatures that grow to a very old age. The tortoises are in an enclosure dedicated to these oldest inhabitants of Seychelles. These majestic creatures can live up to over 100 years and populated our islands well before the first settlers arrived
The garden also showcases a collection of terrapins locally known as ‘Torti Soupap’. These dull-coloured turtles are believed to have been introduced from the African continent and Madagascar. Take your time at their pond to see them emerge from beneath their shell as these small creatures are known to camouflage themselves. They can be difficult to be distinguished from other features in the pond especially the stones.
Aside from the beautiful flora and various species of animals, the Seychelles Botanical Gardens also houses some commemorative monuments.
Among the monuments and rock formations in the garden is the Stone Seat, dedicated to the founders of the Botanical Gardens, Paul Rivalz Dupont and British entomologist Desmond Vesey-Fitzgerald who came to Seychelles in 1933 to implement control measures against the insects that were destroying the coconut plantations.
Guangzhou Chinese Garden
Opened in December 2016 and located on a hill in the western corner of the garden, the Guangzhou Garden showcases key structures of a Chinese city. It includes a sculpture of the Five Rams, which according to Chinese belief conveys good wishes for the prosperity of the country and the harmonious life of the people. The garden, which is spread over one acre of land, also exhibits vegetation from Guangzhou planted alongside Seychelles’ plants. They include bamboo, orchid and the kapok tree also known as Red Kapok or Hero tree.
Thai garden with the unique El Coco feature
If you are an admirer of exotic spices and cuisine from Thailand, then visit the Thai garden which was opened in May 2014. This new feature is described as “a real piece of Thailand” in Seychelles. The garden consists of plants from Thailand and South East Asia. These plants include various kind of orchids, kitchen mint, hairy basil, sweet basil, windbetalleafbash, lime and common lime, Indian borage, among many others. A unique feature of the garden is the El Coco, a symbol of an elephant and a coco de mer, national emblems of both countries.
Japan-Seychelles Friendship monument
The Japan-Seychelles Friendship Monument is a tribute to those who contributed to the organisation of the Seychelles Pavilion at the Osaka Expo’ in 1990. Bearing the formal title of International Garden and Greenery Exposition, Osaka, 1990, abbreviated in Japanese to Hana-haku, or ‘Flower Expo’, the fair's purpose was to promote harmony between man and nature and to focus attention on global environmental issues.
An Indian diversity garden that symbolises the cultural links between Seychelles and India is a new feature that will open soon at the Seychelles Botanical Gardens.
The garden was inaugurated recently as part of activities to commemorate Seychelles-India Day organised by the Indian Association in Seychelles.
“The garden will feature plants and different artefacts from the states in India with direct links and connections to people in Seychelles,” said the chief executive of the National Botanical Gardens Foundation, Raymond Brioche.
The accompanying photographs by our photographer Jude Morel show some highlights of the Botanical Gardens that evoke an oasis of peace and tranquility.
Half a mile away to the south from the capital city of Victoria, an entrance with beautiful wood carved signage leads into the resplendent Botanical Gardens. Covering an area of 15 acres, these grounds offer visitors an inkling of the marvellous beauty of the flora of the Seychelles. For here, one discovers the 6 endemic palms among of the exotic palms, endemic as well as indigenous exotic trees together with a variety of colourful ornamentals. There is also a large pen with a collection of giant tortoises from Aldabra.
The decision to establish botanical garden here at Mont Fleuri goes way back to 1895 when the colonial administrator at that time, Thomas Risely Griffith, made known his conviction that a botanical experimental station where specimens of various plants could be grown and then distributed to land owners would help in the propagation of fruit trees and hard timber, that in the long term would be of economic importance to the country.
In 1900 his successor, Sir Ernest Beckham Sweet Escott, contacted the director of the Royal Gardens at Kew in England to ask for financial assistance and advice in establishing the gardens. On February 4, 1901, a thirty-one year old Mauritian botanist Paul Evenor Rivalz Dupont arrived in Seychelles and was appointed curator of the botanic station.
With his steadfastness of purpose and passionate interest for plants, Paul Evenor Rivalz Dupont eventually accomplished the administrator’s ambitious scheme. By 1904 when Seychelles welcomed its second governor, William Edward Davidson, the Botanical Gardens were fully established.
In the succeeding years Mr Dupont travelled extensively to places like Ceylon, Malaysia and India and brought back more than two hundred different plants including fruit trees, palms, timber trees and ornamentals that today form part of Seychelles’ lush vegetation. In 1924 he was appointed as Director of Agriculture. In April 1928, he married Josephine Marie Félicie Yvonne Sauvage. He left Seychelles in 1935 and died on January 20, 1938.
A stone monument pays tribute to the invaluable contributions that he made to our agricultural prosperity. The monument also venerates the memory of Desmond Foster Vesey-Fitzgerald, an Irish entomologist who came to Seychelles in 1936 to assist the government in the eradication of scale insects which had infested coconut plantations on Mahé and threatened to destroy the coconut industry which for the most part of the early twentieth century was an important economic mainstay for the islands.
Mr Fitzgerald utilised a method that to the delightful stupefaction of the landowners put a definitive end to melitommainsulare (the larvae of which lived in coconut trunks) that most widespread and dreaded source of vexation for landowners. He introduced 3 species of ladybirds which fed on the scale insects and consequently saved thousands of coconut palms from infestation. Included among the six endemic palms of Seychelles growing in the Botanical Gardens is a female coco de mer tree which was planted by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip on October 19, 1956.
The botanical treasures here are myriad: towering araucarias (known in creole as pye sapin) which are coniferous evergreens whose history extends back 200 million years to the appearance of the early dinosaurs; majestic travellers’ trees (bannann vwayazer) from Madagascar. Their leaf stalks can hold up to 2 litres of water; giant allocasias which are water lilies that grow up to three metres high, and the preciously rare and endemic Wright’s gardenia (bwa citron) which was planted by the famous member of The Beatles, the late George Harrison on December 12, 2000. This particular tree which usually erupts into bloom after a heavy rainfall is named after a British biologist Percival Wright who discovered it on Aride Island in the 1860s.
On Friday June 3, 2044, a historical ceremony will take place here beneath the giant mango tree. For here, there lies buried, a canister containing poems and essays written by school children as acts of contrition and repentance, on behalf of the Seychellois nation who onced too often has advertently or inadvertently caused irreversible harm to nature and the environment. It will be exhumed and revealed to their grand children.
The canister was consigned to the ground at noon on June 3, 1994 in the presence of the late Danielle Jorre de St. Jorre who was Minister for the Environment and other government officials and foreign dignitaries.
Many visitors who come to Seychelles visit the Botanical Gardens on guided tours or independently.
Amongst whom are some very important and dignitaries from across the board:
Duke of Edinburgh
President of India
President of Sri Lanka
President of the Maldives