We have left East Africa behind and we are sailing across the Indian Ocean toward the Seychelles & Maldives.
As I mentioned, we are under Pirate Watch again as the area we are passing through is considered HRA – High Risk Area for Piracy. The ship will be in permanent contact with an International Navy Task Force that is assigned to protect merchant vessels from pirate attacks re a United Nations mandate. As part of the security plan, during hours of darkness only essential deck lights will be on and we have been asked to turn off cabin lights when not required, and close our curtains.
Sea days. I love sea days. Some people hate them and think they should be in a port every day. But I find it’s a time to be relax. You don’t have to get up and get ready for another tour. You can just do whatever you wish all day, “like catch up with blogging!!” and sometimes it is nice just to do nothing…..
.….and so two days across the Indian Ocean to Mahé in the Seychelle Islands which are a breath of fresh air literally and figuratively after the grimy decay of the cities of East Africa. The contrast was palitable. Beautiful beaches with swaying palm trees, and rain forests. Tropical island. Spice plantations and everything is so green and lush. Standing on one spot, I am sure I can see hundreds of different types of vegetation with humongous leaves and fronds.
The British first came here in 1609, then it was taken over by the French until 1812 when it again became a British Colony. In 1976 Seychelles became an independent nation. They speak a sort of Creole here, called Seychellois, but French & English is spoken throughout the islands. There are over 100 islands that make up the Seychelles, although many are not inhabited. The population is around 90,000. I was surprised to learn the Seychelles essentially have a matriarchal society with mothers controlling households, expenses and the wellbeing of the children. Men are supposed to be important for their earning ability and unwed mothers are a social norm. Financial support however comes mostly from family members. Seems like these guys have a good thing going here. No?
Tourism leads the economy making up about 39% of the labour force. But when the drop in tourism occurred during the Gulf War, the government began encouraging more farming and agriculture, mainly growing spices, vanilla, pepper, coconuts & sweet potatoes. I learned that red, black and white pepper all grow on the same tree. It’s just at what point you harvest it.
I was intrigued by the coco de mer, a very tall palm tree which has a fruit or seed pod that grows to a weight of approximately 30kg. The pod is very ‘suggestive’ looking, some say, like a woman’s derriére or tush. It’s also called the “love nut” because of its appearance and it is used in some Ayurvedic and chinese traditional medicines. The hard outer shell can be used to make bowls. We also got to see the giant tortoises called Aldabra, one of the largest in the world. They grow to over 500 pounds and can live over 200 years. They told us they have no idea of their numbers. But they are native to the Seychelles.
After our visit to the spice plantation, we went to the beach and hopped on a catamaran and sailed out to a spot for snorkelling. Lots of fish and the water is warm – 82 degrees. Pure bliss after the heat and humidity, and later when a few of us decided to walk to the Botanical Gardens to have a look around, we were dripping wet within moments. We soon found our way into the downtown area. No shopping on Sunday, so we found a local bar on the second floor overlooking the main intersection of the capital Victoria, with it’s lovely old clock tower and enjoyed cold beer and fries. Why not!!