Tyson stretches his wrinkly, 120-year-old neck as an invitation to stroke it.
It feels much like it looks: dry and leathery, yet utterly wonderful.
Tyson is a rare Aldabra giant land tortoise and my wife Kerry and I are meeting this gentle giant in his natural habitat, the endlessly exotic Seychelles, the string of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off the northern tip of Madagascar.
It’s the largest concentration of such reptiles in the world.
There are 300 in all, from the tiny hatchlings in the nursery to the half-ton, 150-year-old rough-shelled male, the oldest being on earth.
Tyson can eat the grass and low-lying vegetation he can reach anytime.
That’s why, when tourists arrive with sea hibiscus leaves, plucked from high branches, he gets as excited as a century-old, lumbering senior can get.
He accepts the offered leaves, one by one, gratefully, chews methodically and extends his neck for a pat and another mouthful of sea hibiscus.
We’re awed to be hanging out with such a cool, old dude in such an insanely beautiful setting.
The arrival at Curieuse was also extraordinary.
We’ve also hired Hybert Hortence, a chill, dreadlocked Seychellois to be our captain for the week.
That way, we can have all the fun and he can do all the sailing.
But we’re selfish.
We want the boat to ourselves so we can design day-to-day itineraries with Hybert that involved little else besides pleasure seeking.
Hybert stops whenever we want, anchors and takes us by dingy, or lets us swim, snorkel or kayak, to the most incredible deserted stretches of sand with French names like Anse Lazio and Anse Jasmin.
It’s not just white-sand eye candy fronted by emerald waters, it also has massive, granite boulders creating drama, and inviting coves.
We’ll venture inland twice.
Once, on La Digue, to cycle as far as we can uphill toward Belle Vue, before we have to abandon the bikes and continue on foot for the panoramic view of the entire west coast of the island.
The other time, on Praslin Island, we catch the bus in Baie Sainte Anne to the Vallee de Mai, the so-called Garden of Eden, where the palm forest is primeval and supersized.
There are lots of examples of the unique coconut that elicit giggling, pointing and whispering, especially when displayed alongside the giant phallic appendage that grows on the male palm.