Thursday, 5 April 2018
SEYCHELLES: Morne Seychellois National Park
The Morne Seychellois National Park is situated on the island of Mahe, the largest island of the Seychelles archipelago.
Morne Seychellois covers an area of approximately 3,045 hectares, more than 20% of Mahe and made up of a mixture of mangroves, lush tropical jungles and tall mountains.
It is 10km in length and between 2km and 4km wide, equipped with an extensive trail network, covering more than 15km.
The role of the National Park defined by the act of 1979, is to protect the already fragile ecosystem by minimizing the effect of human disturbances.
Morne Seychelles is home to a vast amount of indigenous flora and fauna, twelve endemic land birds of the granitics, seven of which are to be found on Mahe.
These include the Seychelles Scops-owl, one of the most elusive species of all. Its stronghold is the Morne Seychellois National Park and it can often be heard around dusk at various locations along the Sans Souci road.
The Seychelles Kestrel, Blue Pigeon and Sunbird are common sights in the park, which makes it perfect for bird lovers.
You will always be able to spot the endemic Bulbul, the Pitcher plant and have interesting encounters with the Seychelles wolf snake.
The park is home to some of the most rewarding hikes on the island. For experienced hikers, a tour to the top of the highest mountain, the 905-metre Morne Seychellois (3,000 ft), certainly cannot be topped, and promises sensational views.
The starting point is a path below the plantation on Sans Souci road. Main trails involves, Copolia, Morn Blanc and Casse Dent.
Morne Seychellois is one of the last places where relics from the 20th century can also be seen. These cultural sites where originally used for the exploitation of Cinnamon and coffee.
These ruins of old distilleries and houses is the last link that the population has with its passed agricultural life before turning to a touristic destination.
To allow visitors to explore the vast and spectacular Morne Seychellois National Park, a number of official trails exist.
These consist of Copolia, Casse Dents, Mare Aux Cochons, Trois feres, Anse major and Dans Galas trails.
Most of the trails vary in length, with varying degree of physical difficulty, offering panoramic views and fascinating ecology.
Mission Lodge located at Sans Souci-Port Glaud is a very popular historical site. Originally known as Venn’s Town, in 1876 a school was built there to educate African children.
The mission was visited regularly by important personalities such as; renowned painter and naturalist-Marianne North, HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Duke of Edinburgh visited in 1972 and opened a viewing lodge.
The most remarkable vegetation is the avenue of Sandragon trees (Pterocapus indicus) planted around 1880.
Anse Major was once important for the production of cultivated vanilla, cinnamon oil, copra, citrus fruit and patchouli, from which an essential oil is extracted for use in perfumes.
Produce was transported mainly by local wooden pirogue boats but a good path was also built from Danzil to Anse Major during the 19th century. It is reputed to have been possible to ride a bicycle along it at one time.
The Mare Aux Cochons’ introduced cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), now so abundant in Seychelles forests, was exploited commercially during the 20th century.
The ruins of several distilleries are a special feature of this trail, reflecting the importance of the area to this economic venture.
Enormous amounts of wood fuel were required to produce the steam that was passed through the cinnamon leaves.
Water was channelled in from nearby rivers, using bamboo and later metal guttering, to cool the distillate so that the oil could be collected.
Much of the trail passes through secondary forest with cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and other introduced trees predominating , but there is also a scattering of palms and other endemic trees such as Bois Rouge (Dillenia ferruginea).
The route to Glacis d’Antin (Deros ) is more interesting ,with a variety of habitats ranging from moist forest to open glacis.
The climb reveals many endemic plants, including several palm species, Vacoa Marron (Pandanus sechellarum), Bois de Natte (Mimusops sechellarum), Bois Calou (Memecylon eleagni), Bois de Montagne (Campnosperma sechellarum) and Capucin (Northea hornei).
The freshwater marsh of Mare aux Cochons is the best of the few upland swamps existing in Seychelles. Although modified by human activities, it retains the typical moisture-loving Vacoa Parasol (Pandanus hornei) and remains an essential habitat for native insects such as dragonflies and damselflies.
It is also an important source of water for West Mahé.
Dans Gallas name refers to the Gallas a group of Ethiopian people who were released on Mahe during the 19th century during the slave trade.
They were quite tall and were as a result referred to as giants. The main features of this trail are the panoramic views and the scenery which you discover as you follow the route, rather than any ecological richness.
In fact the Le Niole highlands have been badly affected in the past by the exploitation of timber, as much for the value of the timber.
Later, plantation of Eucalyptus species were established to control the effects of soil erosion. In the valley to the south of the ridge are forestry plantation of Santol, Mahogany and Pine.
The Trois Frere trail gets its name from the three peaks overlooking Victoria. Trois frères OR Three brothers as they are called probably arising from the close proximity of the three peaks.
The trail culminates at the foot of the Trois Frères Cross. The Cross is a traditional pilgrimage site for the catholic community on Good Friday.
The conditions in the mid altitude rocky zones are very harsh and few exotic species can grow well , whereas the native shrubs are well adapted to such circumstances.
Examples are the numerous screw pines (Vacoa or Pandanus), sharp-leaved sedges and indeed the Pitcher Plant (Nepenthes pervillei).
In spite of the luxuriant growth of the forest, the soil in Copolia trail is often infertile.
Most of the nutrients are tied up in the trees themselves as well as in the leaf litter and humus on the forest floor.
Endemic palms form am understory, particularly, Lantanier Feuille (Phoenicoprium borsigianum), Lantanier Latte (Verschaffeltia Splendida) and higher up, the smaller Latanier Hauban (Roscheria melanochaetes).
In the undergrowth are endemic sedges, ferns, Petit coco marron (Hypoxidia rhizophylla), and grasses. Moss covered rocks and boulders complete the picture.
These forested uplands are essential water catchment areas for Mahe. They are also the habitats of endemics birds such as the Seychelles Bulbul, Seychelles Sunbird and Seychelles Blue pigeon.
One of the tinniest frogs also lives here, well camouflaged but very vocal.
Its eggs hatch directly into miniscule frogs, as the tadpole stage takes place inside the egg.