Category Archives: heritage garden

Scouts day out at the Sanctuary and Heritage Garden

On Friday 24 a group of scouts visited the wetland, Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, and Heritage Garden courtesy of the scout movement and as part of a scout camp for the August holidays.

Every school holiday, the  Seychelles Scouts Association prepares a special programme for children, which involves both scouts and children from the community. The programme is designed to get children off the streets during the school holidays to come together for five days of learning, fellowship and adventure. As part of their five-day activities they participated in Nature Seychelles programmes that use nature therapy on this Friday afternoon. 10 scouts, 4 leaders and 39 children who are not scouts participated. Robin (the green health coordinator) Martin, our community coordinator and Lucina (at the Heritage Garden) planned and carried out all the activities which involved working in the garden and sanctuary and green exercise.

Fun and games  in the outdoors are the basis for green exercise

Activities included stripping the backs off of Cassuarina poles to be used in the Sanctuary for the bird hide, and learning how to pot seedlings and turn over compost  in the garden. Robin even had some of the children moving frog tadpoles, which had made a home in holes dug up for plants, to the safety of the Sanctuary’s ponds. This had the children knee deep in mud and screeching in delight.

Mud is fun!

In the garden, they learnt the names and uses of all the plants. It was amazing to see how much they already knew about some of the local plants particularly spices like Cinnamon and Curry leaf and fruit trees like Soursop, Sugar apple, Star fruit and Golden apple.

Learning how to pot seedlings

Katherine, a volunteer who teaches exercises, introduced some green exercise in one of the clearings in the Sanctuary. Children and leaders all participated and she even had the children devising their own games. It was a Friday afternoon well spent for both visitors and staff.

Members of the Japan-Seychelles Association visit the Sanctuary

The visitors gamely smell noni fruit

On 9 August, we played host to a group 16 people who are members of the Japan-Seychelles Association in the Kyoto City region.  Two university professors accompanied  thirteen primary school teachers most and one junior high school girl student to a visit of our sites – the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman and Heritage Garden. Martin Varley, our community coordinator conducted the group around the sites and explained their importance and the functions they fulfill.

The group enjoyed going through the garden and learning about the various traditional plants. Martin even coaxed some of the visitors into smelling Noni fruit, which has a rather pungent smell. He made up for it by crashing the leaves of some of the herbs in the garden for the visitors to take in their lovely aromas.

“Our purpose of visiting Seychelles is to learn about the environment and conservation education of Seychelles and know how it is performed, and we got many hints for the Japanese side to improve our  own here,” said Prof. Takesato Watanabe

“Our members found that your environment education has been done among all the people of the country and schools. Organization like yours are well organized and effectively working together with your government and international networks,” he said.

Other features of the Sanctuary that the visitors found interesting were the boardwalk and bird hide made entirely of recycled plastic.

A natural solution to society’s problems

Children from the President's village at the Heritage Garden

Children from the President's village at the Heritage Garden

Children love being outdoors. Playing is great and is a chance to explore outside of the boundaries of the home. Not only is it fun for the kids, it’s good for them too. Scientists have discovered that children function better cognitively and emotionally in ‘green environments’, that is places with nature vegetation, than those without.  No wonder that a study of urban children discovered that 96% of them illustrated outdoor places when asked to make a map or drawing of all their favourite place.

Conversely, a lack of routine contact with nature can be detrimental to children’s health and may result in stunted academic and developmental growth. This condition has been termed Nature Deficit Disorder by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods. Louv says we have entered a new era of city- centred life that restricts outdoor play, in conjunction with a plugged-in culture that draws kids indoors. But, Louv argues that, the agrarian, nature-oriented existence hard-wired into human brains isn’t quite ready for the overstimulating environment we’ve carved out for ourselves. Some children adapt, but those who don’t develop symptoms including attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

Nature Seychelles’ Sanctuary at Roche Caiman is a great local green space which we use to tackle this problem head-on. Many children have visited and enjoyed the benefits of being outdoors. The most recent was a group of twenty-five children from the Presidents Village who were brought by local company Applebys Corporate Service Limited to enjoy a taste nature last weekend.

The children were taken on a tour of the nature reserve by Martin Varley, Community and Stakeholder Action Co-ordinator, where they had chance to watch wildlife at first hand and also take part in some fun games with strong environmental messages. They were also taken round the adjacent Heritage Garden which showcases a diverse range of traditionally grown Seychelles fruit, vegetables and medicinal herbs.

The experience on the reserve formed the basis of the second part of the visit which was led by Green Health Co-ordinator Robin Hanson, who used the animals on the reserve as a platform for a special natural exercise class for the children, another form of recreation with proven health and wellbeing benefits. The weather stayed kind and at the end of the morning the children were buzzing with excitement about their visit.

“We all know how good it is to be outside,” said Nature Seychelles CEO Nirmal Shah, “Kids are healthier and happier and with a good dose of exercise they can be stronger too. It’s great to be able to work with a local company like Appleby’s to provide a break for these kids from the President’s Village and show then what we have here at Roche Caiman. Everyone is a winner”.

We may not be able to prevent our children from suffering the impacts of our changing society, but it’s good to know that the remedy is close at hand.

This post first appeared in the Today in Seychelles newspaper.

Green health: reconnecting people with nature

Saturday July 2, 2011 marked another exciting milestone  for Nature Seychelles –  the official launching of Green Health Seychelles – our new and innovative programme. Attended by a cross section of Seychellois, residents, members and friends of Nature Seychelles, the launch held at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman, introduced to the public the green health concept that uses nature to improve health.

Here is a slide show of the days events:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube DirektGreen Health Seychelles Launch

A full story on the launch is on our website.

Saving wetlands

This year’s theme for World Wetlands Day, celebrated on 2 February, is Forests for water and wetlands. The theme has been chosen to correspond with 2011 as the  UN International Year of Forests. The theme asks us to look at the ‘big picture’ of forests and wetlands in our lives. So today we’ll tell you something small about the wetland we manage.

The Sanctuary at Roche Caiman is a 2.9 ha freshwater wetland close to the sea. The site which  resulted from reclamation works on the East Coast of Mahe in the 80s is popular as an outdoors classroom, for bird watching and is now the site, alongside the Heritage Garden, of our green health activities started to increase public interest in conservation.

The site’s vegetation consists of native and introduced coastal trees such as Casuarinas, Badamier (Indian Almond, Terminalia catappa), Kalis Dipap (Tabebuia pallida) and a small number of Takamaka (Calophyllum inophyllum), with invasive reeds such as Typha javanica (Zon) and other dense emergent vegetation. There are two species of mangroves in some parts of the wetland.

Abundant invertebrates dominated by dragonflies and damselflies inhabit the area; they include palm spiders, water skater and crabs. Vertebrates include four species of freshwater fish with an endemic species, frogs, skinks and eleven species of birds mostly herons and some natives and migrants.

The Sanctuary provides school children with a valuable outdoor classroom for their curricula. It is also a recreation area for the general public. Schools and the community around Roche Caiman as well as from elsewhere on Mahe, tourists groups looking for a natural spot within the city limits, and religious groups seeking for the solace granted by nature have been hosted by staff at the wetland. We view this as an opportunity to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general.

discovering pond creatures

discovering pond creatures

Nature Seychelles has undertaken extensive restoration on the site in order to enhance the pre-existing habitats and to create additional habitats so that the wetland can benefit from more species. A boardwalk runs through the Sanctuary with wayside panels and signboards displaying text and illustrations of the ecosystem and facilitating guiding.

wayside exhibtry is used for teaching

wayside exhibtry is used for teaching

The recently constructed Nature X centre is used for our green health activities and has been the meeting point for enthusiasts of our yoga classes.

Originally we had envisaged the Sanctuary as an ‘open air classroom’ to cater for the practical needs of students. But interests have both grown and been varied and a full programme that will cater to these needs, will soon be launched.

I sing the songs that make the whole world sing…

What it lacks in plumage (it’s not as brightly coloured as other Sunbirds), the Seychelles Sunbird makes up for in song (and in its lovely Creole name, Kolibri). Since our Dragon Tree flowered, we’ve had a number of these lively birds coming for the nectar. And there’s been lots of singing and marvellous (acrobatic) displays to entertain us at lunch. There have been some among us who’ve called it a racket. We just shoosh them. The males of the species apparently are the loud ones. The Sunbirds are accompanied by a number of bees, but they’ve not been dangerous. Too high on nectar I bet.

Watch me do this!

Watch me do this!

And this!

And this!

The Dragon Tree is a palm like shrub native to the Seychelles (Dracaena reflexa to Science, Bwa Sandel in Creole), found in scrub, woodlands and open spaces throughout the granitic islands. Related species with colourful flowers are grown in gardens.

See me flower

See me flower

Heritage Garden: a passion fruit mishap inspires

Lucina is busy preparing the Heritage Garden for the official opening in October. She has everything going the way she wants. She is  a hardworking woman this one, and when I am taking a break, I like going out to talk to her about the crops, spices and herbs, and to just marvel at the beautiful garden, which I know from “before” pictures was just a patch of soil.

I can’t tell you how surprised I was the other day when I saw her passing outside my window lugging two poles. So I followed her outside, just as I heard Terence exclaiming, “bring your camera Liz, Lucina is building”. Turns out Lucina’s prized passion fruits had come down when the trellis that supports them was blown over by the wind. It was a beautiful constructed trellis, under which were two benches and a table made from timber off-cuts. A nice place to sit under. One could sit there to relax and catch the breeze or watch the bees pollinating flowers. We have had meetings under there. And lunch and tea breaks. We were also looking forward to the fruit. (To replace the Noni juice in the fridge:)).

Passion fruit

Lucina has now managed to put the trellis back together. I expected to see a carpenter wielding some manly tools. But no, she did it all by herself. She even managed to rescue some fruit. The rest of the vines and leaves will end up as compost to continue the cycle of life in the garden.

Lucina putting back her passion together

A few hours later I met her on the corridor covered in sweat and searching for the shower. I gave her a sympathetic smile, which her bubbly self returned. “Every day something new”, she said. Yap, this garden teaches us something new every day. It teaches us that gardens need love, caring, patience and perseverance. Just like we all do. And just like the work we do for nature, the environment and wildlife does.

The Heritage Garden – a demonstration garden and nursery – was established to help people create and maintain gardens of medicinal and edible plants, useful herbs and vanishing food crops. To read about the impact it has had, see related stories in Zwazo No. 19: “Visitors flock to peek at neighborhood nature”, and “Edible Landscaping”.