Lady Luck struck twice this morning. I awoke feeling like a new woman – almost 100%. Second, we got a call asking if we would like to join a group going on a glass bottom, replacing a couple forced to cancel due to illness. I had already booked a snorkelling trip but we jumped at the opportunity for the more extensive tour, especially since we knew the three other couples and liked them all very much. We were so glad that we did!
Clean, lush and spectacularly beautiful – those were my first impressions of the country. Mahe is the largest island of the Seychelles and where the capital, Victoria, is situated.
We were met at the port by the mother of a family-operated tour business (Teddy’s Glass Bottom Boat Tours), whisked quickly to a dock where her son and friend awaited to take us out to the Marine Park. In the middle, with crystal clear water around us, Perry started throwing bread to the fish. They rose to the surface in unison, grabbing at the slice as if their life depended on it. Most were small, colourful fish but sometimes larger ones pushed them aside to get the treasure.
After mooring close to an island, we jumped in the water to snorkel. The water was delightfully warm and refreshing and the coral and sea life quite beautiful.
We next moored at a beach where a BBQ lunch of very fresh fish and chicken with salads was laid out by the daughter. The folding tables and chairs would later be packed up so that they left no trace on the island.
Nearby Moyenne Island is a national park willed to the country by Brendon Grimshaw a Yorkshire journalist who fell in love with the island and purchased it for £8,000 in 1962. During his over 50 years on the island he preserved the natural environment and ensured that the giant tortoises and various indigenous bird species were protected. We enjoyed patting the wonderfully leathery tortoise heads (they actually came up to us and ‘asked’ for a scratch) and walked around the island, noting the graves of Grimshaw and his father (who came to join him at 83 yrs old).
A short tour of Mahe by van (with Teddy driving and providing commentary) gave us an appreciation of the history of the Seychelles. Although the British assumed control in 1812, the French influence is still very strong, most evident in the accent and Creole language of the people. However, the landscape, architecture and style is reminiscent of many former British colonies. Others in the group had been to Bermuda and they immediately made the comparison. Tony and I found ourselves thinking of another Victoria as we wound our way up the mountain above the capital and the islands – that of The Peak in Hong Kong.
This whole experience was a dramatic contrast to all of our previous ports – the Seychellians truly understand the value of their environment and take care to treat it with respect. I’d love to return to enjoy the numerous hiking trails and see and experience more of the islands and waters surrounding them.