They once believed that this enchanting forest, on the tropical island of Praslin, was the Garden of Eden. I can see why. It's so other-worldly that you expect to see dinosaurs crashing through the jungle at any minute. A forest from long, long ago and unlike any other you'll ever see.
The famous coco de mer coconut trees grow in two reserves: the Vallee de Mai and the Fond Ferdinand. The Vallee de Mai costs three times the price, is far more commercialized, six times smaller and isn't as lovely.
Most tourists only know about the Valle de Mai and miss out on the wonderful Fond Ferdinand. It was only thanks to the wonderful Jacqueline from Residence Praslinoise that we discovered Praslin's best kept secret on our last visit to the island.
You can get to the reserve by bus or by car - the reserve isn't even on Google maps so ask your hotel etc. for directions. If you come by bus just let the driver know you want to get off at Fond Ferdinand.
From the road you walk up a short path to the ticket office. Entrance is 100 Rupees - the fee includes a really informative guide and some stunning views across the island from the top of the reserve. You are likely to have the place to yourself too.
I loved these trees, our guide explained that the dried "fronds" turn black and they use them as "rasta" hair at festivals.
You might be lucky enough to see a blue-eyed eel. This one is so tame you can feed him by hand and pet him.
The Coco De Mer coconut only grows wild on Praslin Island. The aphrodisiac fruit of the young coconut is supposedly so delicious that once tasted you'll forever crave it.
Nowadays you can't taste it - it's forbidden.
Stealing one from a tree will get you five years in jail - stealing two will get you ten years etc.. Some of the old ones that fall from the trees are sustainably collected and sold to tourists.
Once you get into the forest you realise why they believed this to be the Garden of Eden.
It truly is like nothing I've ever seen before.
Ferns and creepers languish at your feet, huge canopies of strange trees tower over you, and the manic laughter and chatter of tropical birds assails you as you pass.
Every now and again a lizard appears, as if tailing you through the reserve, and, if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of a haughty chameleon sticking his tongue out at some fantastical looking insect.
Once you get above the forest canopy the views across Praslin and out across La Digue are spectacular. In fact from up here you can see ten islands stretching out across the horizon.