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Praslin lies 37 kilometres northeast of MahÃ© and is accessible by boat in two hours, or by air in 15 minutes. When the Frenchman Lazare Picault first came upon Praslin on June 10th 1744, in the virtually uncharted waters of the Seychelles, he called it the Island of Palms, so impressed was he with its unbelievably lush vegetation. A century ago, General Gordon (of Khartoum) visited this island and became convinced that it was the location of the original earthly paradise, the Garden of Eden. He developed the idea when he saw the strange shape of the "coco-de-mer", the enormous coconut shaped like a female pelvis. He identified this with Eve. Once the haunt of Arab traders and a sometime treasure house for pirates, Praslin is the blueprint for everyone's idea of the perfect tropical island. Praslin measures only 10.5 kilometres by roughly 3.7 kilometres. Yet, as visitors discover, in that limited space it has richness and variety. All around Praslin are huge, fantasically shaped rocks, which look like vast Henry Moore sculptures. In comparison, the coral reefs are mere striplings, perhaps six to eight thousand years old and teeming with life; a landscape painted in the myriad colours of living coral, jewel-like shells and an amazing nine hundred species of fish. Much of the interior is virtually virgin forest, and the exquisitely beautiful VallÃ©e de Mai, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, is the home of the unique coco de mer, vanilla orchids, many species of lizards and some of the earth's rarest birds. The coco de mer is a fruit from an extraordinary palm tree, which is found in only one place in the world, the VallÃ©e de Mai on Praslin Island. This strange object was much prized over past centuries; philosophers believed it was the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and that it grew under the sea, on account of the fact that it floated as far as the Maldive islands. It gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac, perhaps because of the singular shapes of the male stalk and the female fruit. The Emperor Rudolph II of Hapsburg, towards the end of his life, offered two gold florins for one of those fabulous nuts.
Praslin, though small, is the second largest island in the Seychelles and more than warrants exploration. It is also the ideal place from which to visit many of the islands. It is home to three of the world's rarest birds: the Seychelles bulbul, fruit pigeon and the black parrot. Most of the hotels on Praslin are small with a few exceptions, like Berjaya Praslin Beach Resort, Paradise Sun, L'Archipel, La Reserve and Coco de Mer. All the hotels on Praslin offer a high standard of comfort and the majority are chalets or bungalows. There are several small guesthouses.