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Vallée de Mai marks 40 years as a Unesco world heritage site |09 February 2024

Vallée de Mai marks  40 years as a Unesco  world heritage site

President Ramkalawan on a guided tour of the site as the Vallée de Mai visitor science app is launched (Photo: Romano Laurence)

President Wavel Ramkalawan, patron of the Seychelles Islands Foundation, and First Lady Linda Ramkalawan were the guests of honour at yesterday’s ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the inscription of the Vallée de Mai as a Unesco world heritage site.

The ceremony which was originally scheduled for December 9, 2023, on the actual inscription date, was postponed as a result of the December 7 calamities.

Held at the Vallée de Mai cafeteria, attendees included ministers, Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) board of trustees, members of the National Assembly, district administrators, SIF staff and other stakeholders who were greeted upon arrival with mesmerising chirps from the black parrot.

In his address, President Ramkalawan thanked the board of trustees, the special 40th anniversary committee and all past and present SIF staff for their devotion in giving great value to the site.

The head of state also paid tribute to all tourism industry professionals who play an important role in promoting the site to visitors.

Himself a Praslinois, Mr Ramkalawan shared his great appreciation and honour to have been the first patron of the SIF and the joy of being amongst the chirping black parrots in the relaxing palm forest on the day.

However, he shared his disappointment over the ongoing poaching at the site and called on all Seychellois, especially Praslinois, who are viewed as custodians of the Vallée de Mai to lend a hand to stop illicit activities and help preserve the site.

For his part, the chairman of the board of trustees, Bernard Georges, recounted the garden’s history from the time it was purchased by France Jumeau and how it got the name ‘Vallée de Mai.’

The 40th anniversary of the inscription of the Vallée de Mai also coincides with the 130th anniversary of the Fond Ferdinand becoming a government property and Mr Georges pointed out that as the principal tree in Seychelles’ national crest, the Seychellois nation is built around the coco de mer, which was offered to the world through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

Director of Unesco world heritage centre, Lazare Eloundou Assomo also addressed the guests via video link where he highlighted the unique importance of the Vallée de Mai, which he described as the “green heart of Praslin island” and “one of the most scenic treasures of the world”.

He also thanked all staff members and the people of Seychelles for preserving this legacy.

The day’s ceremony included a public speaking by Baie Ste Anne primary school students, an inspiring poem by Seychelles National Youth Assembly Speaker Saïd Lesperance about the wonder and natural beauty of the Vallée de Mai, while legendary singer Joseph ‘Joe’ Samy interpreted the ‘Garden of Eden’ song, originally sung by Regis Hoareau, and the French version of his own song titled ‘Don’t let them die’.

A special committee had been set up to organise the year-long activities to commemorate the milestone and board of trustees member from Praslin, Romano Laurence chaired the committee which comprised different stakeholders from the community.

“We have always wanted to bring the community closer to the Vallée de Mai and the Seychelles Islands Foundation. The 40th anniversary was the right opportunity, by getting the community involved in the celebration,” said Mr Laurence.

The committee members were the Praslin liaison officer, the MNAs of both districts on Praslin, representatives of the tourism sector, ministries of local government and education, the media, SIF and Vallée de Mai.

“Apart from yesterday’s event, the committee came up with a list of activities and events to showcase the importance of the Vallée de Mai to Praslin and Seychelles as a whole. The activities included educational and outreach programmes, night safaris, painting of murals at the ERO passenger terminal, a science and research symposium showcasing all the research done in the Vallée de Mai, a musical show by school children and Praslin artists singing the many songs composed about Vallée de Mai,” said Mr Laurence.

“All the activities were a real success and I would like to thank the committee members for making the year-long celebration a real success,” Mr Laurence shared.

During the ceremony, Mr Laurence also presented each committee members with a small token of appreciation.

Several staff members were rewarded with long service awards and certificates for completing five, 10 and 15 years of service, while the special committee members were each presented with goody bags as a token of appreciation.

Mr Laurence also thanked all staff members, past and present, for their hard work and dedication towards their duties and in maintaining this beautiful Garden of Eden. He encouraged all Seychellois to visit and take good care of this smallest Unesco world heritage site, stating that “the more we look after it, the more benefit it will bring to Praslin and our beautiful Seychelles.”

As part of efforts to enhance engagement to the community, above what is being done on a regular basis, the SIF has vowed a R100,000 worth donation to the Praslin community on a yearly basis. This donation will go towards areas of need and this started with the Ministry of Health. SIF handed over a donation of emergency care ambulance equipment which will be of benefit to the health care services on Praslin.

It was principal medical officer, Dr Josapha Jouanneau and Myra Ernesta, nurse in charge on Praslin, who accepted the donation on behalf of the ministry. Dr Jouanneau shared words of thanks and appreciation for the gesture which he described as a very good example of a partnership with the community for the betterment of the people.

The ceremony was also ideal for the presentation of a fire prevention and contingency plan to the patron, President Ramkalawan, and Antoine Souris from the Seychelles Fire and Rescue Services Agency (SFRSA) by the Vallée de Mai site manager, Marc Jean-Baptiste.

The plan, as part of efforts to prevent forest fires in the Vallée De Mai, was developed by Seychellois-owned company, SEJ Consulting Services, the Seychelles Islands Foundation with the financial help of the Franklina Foundation based in Switzerland with the engagement of stakeholders such as SFRSA and the disaster risk management division.

The ceremony ended with a short guided tour of the site while launching the Vallée de Mai visitor science app which will provide an interactive guide through the garden. The app describes the site’s uniqueness and different species.

Guests will also be able to record and share their own sightings to a database which will contribute towards continuous research and monitoring of the site.

Visitors only need to download the app, buy an entrance ticket, scan the QR code and get started as they walk around the 14 stations of the garden.

The occasion was especially an auspicious one for liaison officer Vincent Cedras, who was visiting the Vallée de Mai for the first time, while First Lady Linda Ramkalawan was on her second – the first being almost 39 years ago on the occasion of her honeymoon.


Nadia Bédier


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