Thursday, October 19, 2017

Granite Islands Make Powdery Sand Beaches

19 October 2017

You'd think we'd get tired of gorgeous turquoise and aqua water, powdery white sand, and breezy beaches - but somehow, we never do.  Even if we're only walking on the beach, or sitting on the random beach chairs outside a café, there is something so relaxing and mesmerizing about the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, as well as the distant thunder of the larger waves breaking out on the edge of the rocky shelf that seems to surround much of the island.  And despite all that noise, the beaches are just so tranquil.  We spend half our day by the beach.

We moved to another apartment a bit south of where we started, and are now in the community of Anse Royale.  Anse is the Creole word for beach.  Anse Royale has some very nice restaurants and cafés, a local market for fresh produce and fish, and a collection of small shops selling packaged items.  Not a whole lot else here, though there's also a hospital, the university, a small police station, and a tiny post office.  I guess it qualifies as a small town, though, since there's also a school here.

I haven't been able to get a decent photo of the Seychellois flag, since the only breeze is right on the beach.  So I'm including a photo lifted from the internet, since it really is a pretty flag.  The rectangle is comprised of long narrow triangles radiating out from the lower left corner.  Each color is meaningful: in sequence, the blue represents the sky and the sea surrounding the Seychelles; yellow is the sun, giving light and life; red is for the people and their work for the future; the white symbolizes social justice and harmony; and the green represents the land, the trees and plants, the natural environment.

This flag was adopted in 1996, despite the fact that the islands became independent from Great Britain in 1976.  (The colors of the flag are also the colors of the two major political parties at the time.)

The Seychelles has a rather interesting history, though part of that is due to the geology of these islands.  Most of these islands are granite, full of boulders separating the beaches and forming rocky headlands, or cropping up in flat areas making farming difficult, or rising up on the tops of the hills and looking like spines on a dragon.  (Some of the other islands are coral atolls, which are lovely but also difficult to cultivate.)

So to early civilizations, these rocky islands didn't look very hospitable.  Apparently people from other islands in the Indian Ocean came by, visited, collected coconuts or whatever, and moved on.  The Portuguese sailed by, as did the British.  Finally, in 1742, the French came by and eventually claimed the islands.  There was a lot of back and forth with the colonies in Mauritius, to the south, and workers (slaves) were brought in from Africa and the Indian sub-continent.  

Of course, the various British-French wars spilled over into the Indian Ocean, and the island colonies were won and lost, back and forth.  By 1811, the Seychelles were under British rule, though they were always affiliated with Mauritius, despite the 1000 mile or so distance between the two island groupings.  In 1903, the Seychelles finally became a Crown Colony, meaning they had their own governor.  

In the 1960s, calls for independence from Great Britain grew, and the islands finally became an independent nation in 1976.

So this is a young nation, despite the ancient rock on which it stands.

I've been reading about the islands, and the government's decisions to limit growth, especially in the area of tourism.  We met a man from Melbourne today, who said they come here because the Seychelles aren't marketed in Australia.  (Oddly, he also works at the hospital where I had my minor surgery in Melbourne, and he actually knows my doctor!  What a tiny little world it is!)

Anyway, the Seychellois government has voted to limit hotel size, preventing mega-hotels being built on beachfront property and promoting small and locally-owned hotels or guesthouses.  This is a unique and fragile environment, with a balanced eco-system.  The government is trying to protect that, to the point of having a rule or regulation that all airlines landing in the Seychelles must spray the interior of their planes before take-off.  There has also been talk of limiting the number of daily visitors to these islands, another way to protect the impact on the environment.  Of course, it's more difficult to regulate the number of people arriving by air or sea than it is at, well, Machu Picchu, where they only sell a certain number of entry passes for each day, and those must be purchased in advance.  But as the world population becomes larger, and travel becomes easier, small and fragile environments or heritage sites need to be increasingly careful in terms of protecting those places.  And that includes regulating the number of visitors daily. 

So while we're enjoying the beaches, well, we're also trying to be ethical travellers.  Staying in locally-owned self-catering apartments.  Eating at small local cafés, shopping at the small local shops and markets.  We already know how to conserve water, having lived in the USVI.  All the usual things one does to try to have a small impact on the environment.

Oh, one of the unique plants here is the coco de mer, the coconut of the sea.  The actual nut is not only the world's largest coconut but also the largest seed in the world.  One side looks vaguely like a tush, and the other looks more like a woman's pelvic region that anything else.  Absolutely an odd coconut!!!

I keep trying to get a photo of the flying foxes, which swoop around all day and into the evening - I can't find them folded up sleeping in trees, and they fly by too quickly to get a decent photo.  And tropicbirds, those bright white sea birds with the long long tail feathers wafting along in their wake, another flying creature I can't seem to capture on my camera.

But our neighborhood grey heron was cooperative, and even stood up for a few photos.  I think she may have a nest, though I didn't go over to check.  But she's been sitting in the same spot for a few days, so I'm guessing a nest.

We also had this wonderful boulder near our first apartment - doesn't it look like a whale spyhopping out of the ocean?  We called it whale rock, and it became a marker on our route home.  Turn left at Whale Rock.

And the money!  I love currency from countries where they make the bills brightly colored and full of local plants and animals.  The 25 rupee bill has killifish and blue pigeon on one side, and the magpie robin on the other.  The 50 rupee has the tree frog, and the famous black parrot, found nowhere else in the world.  The 100 rupee features the banded snail, and the black paradise flycatcher.  And the 500 shows the tiger chameleon, and the Seychelles kestrel.  Colorful and educational!  Love it!

At this point, we aren't sure where we'll be next week.  Maybe elsewhere on Mahe Island.  Maybe on a different island.

We're just wandering in the Seychelles.



  1. Another amazing blog!
    I really enjoy learning g about other parts of the world.
    Omg...X rated coconuts!

  2. is there anyway to get an email notification every time you post here? I LOVE this blog!

    1. Stephanie, if you look at the block where you write your comment, I think you should see something below the block, down in the lower right region. I have a little box where you can click and make a check mark, and next to it it says "Notify me." I think that's where you click to sign up for notifications when we post the blog. Not positive, since I'm the blog writer so what I see might not be what you see. But I think that's it.