Garden of Eden
The millions of years of isolation before man came to the Seychelles, enabled a unique assembly of plants and animals to develop on these tiny fragments of land. It was General Gordon (of Khartoum fame) who was first convinced that the Vallée de Mai on Praslin was the original site of the Garden of Eden.
Like many other delicate island ecosystems, Seychelles suffered a loss of biodiversity during early human history, which included the disappearance of most of the giant tortoises from its granite islands, the felling of coastal and mid-level forests, as well as the extinction of species such as the chestnut flanked white eye, Seychelles Parakeet and saltwater crocodile. Nevertheless, extinctions were far fewer in Seychelles than in many other islands, possibly due to the shorter period of human occupation (since 1770). The Seychelles is today known for its success stories in protecting its flora and fauna.
Endemic plant species
The granite islands of Seychelles are home to the order of 75 endemic plant species, with another 25 species or so in the Aldabra group. The most well-known of which is undoubtedly the Coco-de-mer, a species of palm that can be found mainly on the islands of Praslin and nearby Curieuse. Nicknamed the 'love nut' from its suggestive form, the coco-de-mer is the world's largest seed. The jellyfish tree is another with only eight surviving examples. This strange and ancient plant has so far resisted all efforts to be propagated. Another unique plant species found only on Aride Island Special Reserve is the Wrights Gardenia.
Seychelles hosts some of the largest seabird colonies in the world. Islands such as Aride Island, Bird, Cousin, Cosmoledo and Aldabra host many different species of seabirds which include the fairy tern, sooty tern, white-tailed tropicbird, frigatebirds and noddies. Aride Island alone has more species of seabird and greater numbers of them than all the other granite islands combined including the largest colonies of Lesser Noddy and Audubon's Shearwater in the world.
Aldabra Giant Tortoise
Aldabra giant tortoises populate many of the Seychelles’ islands, making the Aldabra population the largest in the world. The granite islands also supported a distinct species of Seychelles giant tortoises, which until recently was believed to be extinct. A small population of the Seychelles giant tortoise can now be found on Silhouette Island and this population looks set to grow thanks to a successful breeding program which has been put in place for them.
Extraordinary marine life
The marine life in Seychelles can be quite extraordinary, especially around the more remote coral islands. To date, more than 1000 species of fish have been recorded and most are unafraid of divers and snorkelers. Unfortunately coral bleaching has damaged many of the reefs, but some reefs, such as Silhouette Island, are now showing a healthy recovery providing an opportunity for great diving and snorkelling.
After banning the capturing of marine turtles in 1994, turtle populations around protected islands are now recovering, however, they continue to decline at unprotected sites.