Vallee de Mai Nature Preserve
A British general, a suggestive tree, a map of paradise.
With its pristine beaches, crystal blue seas, and abundant natural beauty, it’s easy to see why people generally consider this collection of islands to be close to paradise on earth.
But when British General Charles “Chinese” Gordon declared the island of Praslin in the Seychelles to be the Garden of Eden in 1881, he meant it much more literally.
Gordon drew maps showing how the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, could be said to conform to the geography of the Garden of Eden, as described in the Bible. Even more specifically, Gordon found a species of tree specific to the islands, which he believed to be the actual Tree of Knowledge: the now-endangered coco de mer, said to look like the tempting female form. It’s also the largest seed on the planet.
Gordon, who was called “Chinese” for his achievements putting down the 1860s Taiping Rebellion, was a renowned British general and eccentric Christian evangelist. After he was killed in the battle of Khartoum, his brother published a biography of him which included his Garden of Eden theory. More recently, the island was in the news as the honeymoon location of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
If you visit the island, be sure to check out Vallee de Mai nature preserve to see some of the few remaining coco de mer trees.
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