Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, April 02, 2015

16. Seychelles


Location of the Seychelles, East of Zanzibar
Seychelles is a country comprised of 115 assorted islands, some not even inhabited, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We stopped at only the two largest. Our first stop, the Island of Mahe, with Victoria being the capital of the Seychelles, was wonderful. Instead of joining a tour we hired a taxi and the driver, Armand, was our guide. He spoke English with a French accent but was easily understood.

Even though the Seychelles were under British rule since 1810, most people here speak Creole or French. This is because the very first settlers of the islands were French people. There were no natives before the Europeans arrived. The first French settlers built their farms, lived a quiet, rural life and spoke French. No matter who ruled them, they lived their lives in peace and slow, quiet isolation. The few times those farmers had to interact with the British officials were rare. The English language never took hold among the locals. Today this is all changed. The younger generation no longer works on the farm. In the 1960's, plantations accounted for 33% of the economy but by 2006, it was only 3%.
Hindu Temple in Downtown Victoria

Armand was a terrific guide. Being 60 years old and having worked for a tour company for 10 years, he knew his way around Mahe Island. His first small tour was through the capital city of the Seychelles, Victoria, the largest town on the Island of Mahe. Proudly he showed us the very clean and very organized town. Our immediate impression was that this is not an inexpensive, time forgotten, location but a modern, tourist oriented location on Earth, lead and administrated
Million Dollar Housing
by smart people. One section of Victoria near the harbor, has a man made Island with hundreds of expensive, exquisite houses. Each house costs a minimum of one million U.S. Dollars. Anybody who buys a house for this much money on this Island is given immediate Seychellois 
citizenship and a passport. There are hardly any houses for sale on this island and the waiting list is long if you decide you want to buy there.

We took the shore road to the next
Shore Road
biggest town on Male, Anse Royal. About 20 km south of Victoria, Anse Royal features an old spice plantation, the Jardin de Roi which is stuffed with trees, bushes and plants of all sorts so that it looked like a “natural” garden to me. No, there are no straight rows planted. Orchards, organized and set up like a checkerboard are not to be found. The shrubs, trees and the mix of spices, medicinal plants and fruits seem to be grown at random, planted where there is room or where conditions for the
Jack Fruit
plants are ideal. It is a fantastic set up. The farmhouse sits in the middle of it all, prim and proper and cozy. Large verandas give shade and decks around the house. From the house one can overlook the whole terrain and see all the plants, cinnamon, jack-fruit, cotton, saffron, nutmeg, black pepper, star fruit, bananas, turmeric, vanilla, etc. etc. You name the spice or fruit and they most likely grow it here.

Lipstick Plant Used to Make Red Colouring
Inside Nutmeg Fruit

Coco de Mer also called a Double Coconut
Each tree has a male and female part and both are needed to produce the nut (inside the female part)

Cacao - Inside are the Seeds Used to
Make Chocolate

Bird of Paradise

Another Variety of Bird of Paradise
While today it is no longer a commercial farm, it still shows how it was years ago when rare fruits, spices and medicinal plants were grown. All those plants made for a good living. My head exploded with all the new information I was given. Plants I have never seen before and know nothing about, all of a sudden become interesting and might save someone's life. This place, Jardin du Roi, was right up my alley. Were it not for the heat and humidity I could have stayed longer, but climbing up and down the slope wore me out.
Refreshing Drink
A fusion drink of organic fruits and veggies, sitting in the deep shade of the veranda helped me a bit, still it felt hot. Armand, who was our knowledgeable guide among the plants, understood perfectly and we rested up a bit. A herd of giant tortoises, some over 100 years old were held in a pen nearby. The premises also held fruit bats, vivid feathered birds but no poisonous anything.  There are no large animals on any of the Islands and no poisonous snakes, spiders or any kind of
Giant Tortoises Over 100 Years Old
dangerous creatures.
Even the waters off the beaches are free of sharks. The Seychelles seem to be a special place.

These are not volcanic islands or atolls. The base of the Islands, the substructure under the water is all or mostly granite. Those rocks are at least 500 million years old. Some scientists speculate that Gondwana, the prehistoric super continent, originated here. The Seychelles are what is left over when the Teutonic plates started to drift apart and form today's continents. So it all started here, is what they speculate. Simply amazing!

La Digue was the other island we visited the next day. Again, coming off the tender, we rented a taxi for $ 60.-. This time the driver was a young man who spoke better English and was nice enough but he could not hold a candle to Armand from yesterday, in terms of his knowledge.

Main Street
The difference between the two main Islands of the Seychelles is startling. While Mahe is geared towards business and government, La Digue is all touristy and laid back. Just a few cars are on the island of La Digue. The main roads are very narrow, 2 cars passing always creates a dilemma and requires careful planning. The local population rides bicycles or walks or sometimes travels by ox-cart. The pace of life is slow. Granite boulders and rocks seem to be strewn all over the island and beaches. There is not a lot of flat land available
Ox Cart Transportation for the Locals
and the mountainous regions are too steep to build on. All this makes
for a very picturesque setting. Grand, but cozy hotels are set near the waters edge. All was done elegantly and was expensive looking. Our taxi showed us the best of the best and I was duly impressed. The natural setting of water, beach and man-made buildings created marvelous settings. Postcard perfect! A vacationers dream. You could make an advertisement for holidays with the beautiful scenery around every corner. La Digue is a paradise and people who
Beautiful Beaches
love beaches will find the best beaches here. While not cheap, it seems reasonable enough for the middle class. Guesthouses might be a better way than the super expensive, yet hugely impressive boutique hotels that abound near the waters edge.

We got a good overview of the Island using our taxi and even climbed a steep
Another Beautiful Beach
hill where tourists normally don't go. La Digue is a vacation island were traffic is controlled, where time seems to slow down, where relaxing and daydreaming are given priorities.
See the Seychelles if you want to have a tropical paradise for a few weeks. Great spot to dream.

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