A Journey to the Cradle Of Life in Seychelles
TheVibe Editorial | BonZour Seychelles
In the year 1859, the recluse traveller and scientist Charles Darwin published The Origins of Species, a scientific treatise that shook the world with its revolutionary idea on the theory of evolution. This large manuscript — a product of many decades of scientific observation uncovered the secrets of life to challenge the prevailing Christian thoughts of the Original Sin.
On the Galapagos, Darwin found many new species of flora and fauna, the traces of which could only be found there. Seychelles on the Eastern Coast of Africa with its unique wildlife and plants is not much different from the wonders of Galapagos, and some believe the secret to life may well lie here.
Aldabra — The Cradle of Life
Aldabra, a lost world situated on the Outer Islands of the Seychelles, is one such place that could hold the answers. Historically referred to as Al Hadra by Arab seafarers, Aldabra is the world’s second largest coral atoll. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Island is one of the few places on earth that remains almost untouched by humans. The Island reflects both fossil and geomorphological features, and hence is the source of some of the most incredible biodiversity to be found in the world.
Aldabra could well be the mythical Garden of Eden. Sir David Attenborough called the Island, “One of the wonders of the world” and also referred to it as one of the “crown jewels” of the Indian Ocean. There are 307 species of animals and plants on Aldabra. With so much abundance, the truth is far more stranger than fiction here.
You will find the largest population of giant tortoises in the world (100,000 animals), that were popularly studied by Darwin in the Galapagos. With access to these Islands, you can discover at least 13 species of dolphins, orcas and humpback whales that have at times been sighted here. Life has a beautiful and bountiful way of expressing itself here.
But the crucible of life in Seychelles is just one of the many hints to the origins myth of the Islands. Stories and lores have been associated for centuries thanks to the human cross-cultural migration.
“…externally the coco-de-mer represents the belly and thighs, the true seat of carnal desires,” General Charles Gordon, 1881.
The legends of Coco De Mer
Many travellers have inked their versions of the Islands over the centuries. Back during the Victorian era, General Charles George Gordon, who visited the Seychelles, believed that the Vallée de Mai on the island of Praslin was the original Garden of Eden as described in the Bible. According to him, the endemic coco de mer was the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Coco De Mer (French) is a rare species of the palm tree native to the Seychelles islands and is a subject of various legends and lore. The nut of the coco de mer is the largest seed in the plant kingdom, and is curiously shaped and the size of a woman’s disembodied buttocks on one side, and a woman’s belly and thighs on the other side. The palm has seperate male and female trees, and the male part is shaped as the male phallus. The nut owing to its weight easily sinks to the bottom of the sea, before the gases trapped inside, bring it to the surface. Ancient Malaya seafarers have recorded testaments of coco de mer nuts “falling upwards” from the sea bed. Unsurprisingly, these “nuts” have for long been considered a fascinating object of desire for their novelty value.
Another legend attributed to the ancient Portugese historian Joao de Barros describes the Coco De Mer seeds as having possesed amazing healing powers, superior even to those of the “precious stone bezoar”. Yet like the many mysteries of evolution, one continues to confound scientists – how the male and female trees cross-pollinate. Thanks to their peculiar shapes, local legends also speak of how the trees “copulate”.
Antonio Filippin — The Artist, Sculptor and Philosopher
One man has dedicated his life to understanding the secrets of life that the Islands may have. Artist, sculptor and philosopher Antonio Filippin is an unassuming man with a distinct take on life. Born Italian and based of Germany earlier, Filippin made the Seychelles his home. His unconventional, artistic, bohemian style portrays his philosophy on sexuality and harmony of life.
His work inspired by the beauty of the Coco De Mer celebrates the female form, interspersed with carvings and sculptors of various animals, plants and mythical creatures. He doesn’t explain much of his art, leaving it open for interpretation, but prod him on and he runs us through some of the exhibits.
The artist greeted us with much enthusiasm as he ran us through his hand-built house. Antonio built this house in 1992 over a span of three years, all by himself.
The house is strategically made of rocks, and has a beautiful waterfall bang in the middle of the ground floor. His adobe is an extension of his philosophy and surprises lurk behind very corner. He takes us to a wall which looks unassuming at first, before it flips to reveal Antonio’s bathroom, which has natural rain water channeling through the shower. Ornate art decor is strewn all over, making this a must-stop cultural visit. As we part ways, Antonio explains that life is what you make of it. Although the origins may well be debated in his secret pirate cove, the expression is not.
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