Seychelles is Totem’s introduction to cruising in Africa. AFRICA! It’s mind-blowing to our family, and exciting after lingering a couple of years in Asia to be surrounded by such different culture, history, sights, tastes and sounds. [Above: Seychellois boy watching his president in a motorcade through The People’s Stadium, where we watched independence day festivities.]
Cruising Seychelles has been spectacular, even if much of our time here has been spent on recovering from a chunk of off-grid time (hello, people! hello, internet! Hello, grocery stores!) and, as usual, fixing things that aren’t working (watermaker, outboard, autopilot) or maintaining things so they don’t break (engine, steering system, windlass). Keeping up with life has been well interspersed with social fun and exploring ashore – somehow, three weeks have slipped by. Here’s what I love most about cruising in Seychelles- so far.
The quality of produce makes everything we’ve seen since, well, Australia pale by comparison. It’s the tomatoes that knock me over. I don’t think we’ve had a REALLY good tomato (meaty, flavorful, juicy) in years; what’s available in most of the tropics is kind of under ripe, bland, watery shadow. Laugh, but we like eating good fresh food and having some of the best tomatoes ever (that we didn’t grow ourselves!) is a real treat. And then it’s not just tomatoes: there are beautiful fresh herbs, baguettes in every hamlet (and in town, you can get them warm from the oven), imported cheeses that make me want to cry, they look so good!
And then, there are the eggs. Well. We’ve had our share of questionable eggs over the last few years. Yesterday, I actually gave my family food poisoning, and it was probably a bad egg in our stir fry at lunch that included our last Maldivian egg. This is MORTIFYING. They were a dodgy proposition in Sri Lanka and even worse in Maldives (where they are shipped from India). For breakfast fry-ups we’ve been eating local eggs, and they are absolutely delicious.
All cleavage, all the time.
OK, so I don’t have a décolleté to show off, but plenty of other women here do – and they are going for it! Painted on clothes, boobs everywhere, and nobody cares. For the last few years, with rare exceptions (Singapore…trying to think of others…can’t), I’ve had to adapt what I would like to wear through a filter of what’s going to be acceptable with the culture where we are guests: covering shoulders, covering knees, etc. And just to head off any presumptions, it wasn’t all Islam driving the dress code; this was just as important for being respectful on Christian islands of Papua New Guinea. It is REALLY nice not to have to worry about whether what I’m wearing might offend anyone, and just wear that tank top or short skirt because it’s stinkin’ hot, or because I feel like it!
We’re spoiled by beautiful places, but this is especially dramatic. There’s a rainbow every day. No, really. And sometimes, there are two rainbows a day. It’s crazy! I was putting rainbow pictures up daily on our Facebook page for a while, but how many rainbows does a person want to see? (well…I like to see them. A lot).
Seychelles is host to the giant tortoise; endemic only here, the Mascarenes (that is, Mauritius & nearby islands) and the Galapagos.
The largest population is in Seychelles; we saw our first clutch of them at the (wow, expensive) Botanic Gardens in Victoria, and were thoroughly charmed…although they did kind of look like a bunch of potatoes in a mud hole. Have you seen a tortoise yawn? CUTE!
Then the other day, Karen was collecting seeds from a botanist here for a homeschool project and learned the neighborhood has “wild” giant tortoises. And not only that (which, I mean, COOL right? Wild tortoises, wandering into your yard?) – but believe it, the tortoises are PESTS! Yes! Because they eat tender greens, so it’s a little bit like having rabbits or deer… just in slow motion. But they’ll do serious damage to a garden unless there’s an alternative food source, so the couple buys fresh tender greens to feed the tortoise in order to keep them from decimating the flowering plants in their garden. Isn’t that kind of nuts, in the funniest way?
The best part of Seychelles- and there’s a lot to love- is how friendly it is. The last countries we’ve been in haven’t been unfriendly per se (although I felt our otherness pretty keenly in most of Asia, and held at arm’s length just about everywhere except Indonesia) but they haven’t been this warmly welcoming. When we’ve asked for directions, it’s not unusual to have someone take you instead of outlining a route. This would make it very easy to stay, although we’re starting to look at where we go from here.
The exuberance of Seychellois strikes a sharp contrast with the reserved cultures of recent memory, like Maldives and Malaysia. When we went to a Seychelles Independence Day celebration, there was literally dancing in the bleachers when the President went by in a motorcade, waving through the open window of his sedan! I couldn’t help a quick tally of the capacity of the stadium with the population of the country: we probably had 10% right there, on one place, watching paratroopers land on a target in the middle of the field. WILD.
Before we take off, there are a few things I hope to tick off the Do In Seychelles list.
Spend time the water. Although the ocean here is beautiful, I haven’t really been swimming. We could fix this by choosing anchorages that lend themselves to snorkeling, although the kids loved body surfing in the waves at Beau Vallon. But we spent the first two weeks anchored near a tuna cannery that attracts sharks, which dampened enthusiasm; reading about nearby fatal shark attacks kept it down. Love sharks, but respect them too! And then, we understand the marine environment here is relatively damaged by bleaching events, and it just may not be that interesting to our eyes. But I know we’re pretty jaded after seeing spectacular underwater life elsewhere; we need to get over it, and enjoy where we are.
Eat an octopus curry. There are two local specialties I’m told I really should try, and since fruit bat curry holds zero appeal, I’m hoping to find an excellent octopus curry instead. I’m an adventurous eater, but once in my lifetime is enough for bat! Eating in restaurants is costly, but small take away outlets do brisk business in creole dishes; a typical meal with rice, curry and sides of salad and fresh chili sauce run less than $4.
Go on about a dozen more hikes! Here on Mahe, there are many hikes to beautiful views, and most of them are extremely accessible- like this one with a view down to Victoria. A friend pointed out that photo evidence suggested I hiked this one in flip flops. Well, sandals are the only our family (when we have to wear shoes, anyway), but most of this altitude to this pretty hike was attained with a $0.30 bus ride- you could probably do it barefoot!
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