Visit Praslin, Seychelles
Although Praslin is the second-largest island in the Seychelles, its population is the size of a small European town. Arrive by light aircraft (a 15-minute flight from Mahé) and you’ll see a jungle-covered mountain ridge breaching from the ocean, with the occasional scattering of low-rise houses and a tiny jetty. The classic tropical-island triad of sun, sea and sand are a big draw, but you’ll also find botanical curiosities, rare birdlife and the gentle pace of traditional Seychellois island life.
The island was once a port for Arab merchants and later as a pirate hideout, but now you’ll find a handful of coastal villages and the occasional tiny shop selling fresh bread and smoked sailfish. Hire a car and you can drive between villages, passing roadside stalls selling fresh fruit and fishermen selling the day’s fresh catch. Stopping at a traffic light (the only one on the island), you might find that you’re waiting for a plane to come in to land, sweeping right over the road.
As you drive along, you’ll catch glimpses of beach between the palms and takamaka trees. Pull over to investigate and you’re likely to find a secluded, untouched cove to yourself. Every islander is eager to call their beaches ‘picture perfect’ but on Praslin, they have a point. Anse Lazio, a fine-sand boulder-flanked beach on the northwestern coast, is not too narrow, not too long, with a backdrop of nothing but trees. It’s just right.
On the northeastern coast, Cote D’Or is one of the longest stretches of beach. Well-spaced hotels and B&Bs are tucked amongst the palms, as well as a few little shops and local restaurants. Eating out locally is recommended but you won’t find any haute cuisine, instead there’s lots of simply cooked fresh fish and curries.
Inland, the majority of the island is Praslin National Park, a refuge for the island’s rare, indigenous and endemic plants and birds. Because no roads turn inland, you’ll need to explore by foot. We recommend going with a guide, who can help you spot the often-shy Seychelles blue pigeon or sunbirds by identifying their calls, as well as leading you along the sometimes-challenging trails.
Vallée de Mai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the park, where the endemic coco de mer palm grows (it only grows naturally on one other island). Inside the palm groves, the leaves are so large and heavy that they clatter together in the wild, sounding like rain. You can spend an age simply peering up at them, but go with a guide who can regale some of their vital statistics, including the local legend that they can live to be 500 years old.
Their seeds, which take seven years to ripen, are quite the curiosity. At around 29 kg (64 lbs) they are the largest and heaviest seed in the plant world and once worth their weight in gold. Their unique shape has earned them the name coco-fesses (buttocks coconuts) and persuaded 19th-century British General Charles George Gordon to declare that he’d found the Garden of Eden and its forbidden fruits. However, his contemporaries were quick to question how Eve could have handled the giant seeds.
You can also take a trip across to Curieuse Island, the only other place the coco de mer grows naturally. In 1833, a leper colony opened on the island, and the ruins still (just about) stand today. This small patch of sand and its surrounding waters are now a protected reserve, with a history and ecology museum set up in a restored creole-colonial villa that once belonged to the island’s doctor.
Curieuse is just one of Praslin’s outlying islands. A collection of islets, islands and atolls are scattered off the northeast coast, and surrounded by some of the region’s best snorkeling spots. The best way to explore is on a guided catamaran tour, where there’s a chance of spotting grazing turtles or the gentle sweep of a manta ray.
Best time to visit
There’s little seasonal variation in temperatures on Praslin, with temperatures hovering around 28°C (82°F) all year round. The sun shines year-round, with the occasional tropical shower. The only real variation is the wind, which tends to be the calmest in April or October when the trade winds are changing direction.
Suggested itineraries featuring Praslin
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Accommodation choices for Praslin
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Ideas for experiencing Praslin
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