Science and your health

Take a walk on the wild side

Walking is popular in Seychelles

Walking in nature is very healthy.  It rejuvenates the mind, the body and the spirit. It is said that the Japanese have a word for walking through a forest, “Shinrin-yoku” which may mean “forest bathing” or taking in the forest atmosphere. It refers to spending time out in a forest for its restorative effects. Some research has shown that a few hours of forest bathing may help people breathe in phytoncides, active substances released by plants, which appear to lower blood pressure and stress, and boost the immune system.

Walking is a popular pass time in Seychelles and there are a number of sites offered up by the geographical wonder that is Mahe, and other nearby islands, for those who wish to indulge in this activity.

As part of the Nature Seychelles Green Health programme, we have had the opportunity to explore some of them. We have discovered that the mossy tropical forests that cover the upper slopes of Mahe are pleasant places in which to spend the day. Their open spaces provide wonderful views of the surrounding landscape as far as the eye can see, in itself a rewarding experience. And then there is the bond you form with your fellow man as you walk – an easy camaraderie develops and there is sharing of knowledge, experiences, food and water.

For the naturalist, a two hour walk up in hills can be full of pleasant discoveries. If you wish to spot some of the native species of Seychelles, then the Morne Seychellois National Park is a good place to start. Within a short time into a walk, an encounter with a rare animal or an plant is certain.

The park also holds many wonderful plants, among them the Pitcher plant or monkey cups. Seychelles has its own species of this unique liana known for its taste for insects. Upon arriving at a cluster, you will immediately be struck by the cup-like lidded containers that grow from the vines, says Robin, Nature Seychelles Green Health Coordinator who has tried out many of the trails for his programme.

The cups of the pitcher plant trap insects which the plant uses as food. The nectar producing organs around the “lip” of the cup attract ants and other invertebrates, which fall into the liquid within and drown. Cells lining the pitcher then produce a digestive chemical and absorb nutrients from the liquid. How cool is it to stumble upon a carnivorous plant on your walk?

Another of the park’s treasures is the Seychelles Jellyfish tree. This very small tree was thought to be extinct before it was re-discovered in the 1970s. Only tens of individuals remain on Mahe, so it’s a rare treat to see one. The tree gets its name from clusters of flowers, which look like an upside down jellyfish, best seen when the tree is in flower.

Within the park you will also encounter endemic  palms, tree-ferns and mosses. The Seychelles Tree Fern, the only fern with a tall stem, makes you fill like you are walking under an umbrella.

There many other trails outside and within the park. Make it a point to find one and enjoy what it has to offer. All trails are marked and maintained  and a visit to the Department of Environment should provide you with the information you need.

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