After all the pirate precautions, we have at last arrived at the port I’ve been wanting to visit for several years now. On our 2010 World Cruise, we were scheduled to come here, but pirate activity at that time changed our itinerary and we went to the Maldives instead.
Maybe it was because of my excitement or maybe it was because the full moon was shining into our cabin window at an early hour, but I just had to get up early and spend as much time awake as possible today. So, finally after tossing and turning, I got up at 5:15 a.m. to take pictures of the full moon shining on the water. I took this just as the moon had passed from behind a cloud. And within the hour of walking around the deck just breathing in the air near the Seychelles, on the opposite side of the deck was the sunrise. It just doesn’t get better than this!
A few quick facts about the Seychelles. It is a group of about 115 islands that lie 990 miles off the coast of east Africa. The three central islands (Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue) are granite while the smaller outlying islands are coral atolls. Unlike similar islands, the Seychelles are not volcanic. They seem to be the peaks of a huge underwater plateau that fell off the edge of India about 65 million years ago. Their flag is also very colorful and unusual. I had hoped to take a picture of it, but never saw one (we were mostly in the water.) Might want to Google it.
We were docked on the island of Mahe near one of the smallest capital cities in the world – Victoria – which is also the only major port in the Seychelles. As we were sailing in, and I didn’t think it could get any better than this, right in front of us was a rainbow! This place is magical! To add a little more excitement to the day, our captain made an early morning announcement that we would be delayed about 30 minutes because a NATO warship was still in our berth, and we had to wait until it left. Here it is leaving and our pilot boat coming out to us at the same time.
We took a ship’s tour which was called a Coral Cruise. We were on a huge catamaran, the Anahita, that easily held 40-50 people very comfortably at tables for six, and it was totally covered. There were three ways to get into the water and there were also two huge nets in the front for an extra fun ride! There was also a huge bar area and down below two nice bathrooms. It was pretty amazing. The tour that contracted this with Holland America was called Mason’s Travel. I think they must be one of the biggest tour groups in the area.
We did not go very far from the ship to our snorkel destination. There are a group of smaller islands to the east of Mahe Island which make up a government protected Marine National Park. We were still in the harbor and could see our ship from where we anchored. On the way out, I realized as I was taking pictures how mountainous the Seychelles are. The island we were on was very picturesque.
Our tour consisted of three parts. The first was to get on a glass bottom boat (like a sub) to see the underwater life that way. It was OK, but we didn’t see many fish – and the ones we did see were basically the same. Also, the windows were dirty, so we couldn’t get good pictures of the not so good stuff to see! And it was so stuffy and warm inside the area where we sat, one lady in front of us couldn’t breathe and had to go back up on top.
We divided into two groups for this, so upon our return, we did the second activity – feed the fish bread from the side of the catamaran. This was the weakest part of the activity. We basically saw two different kind of fish come to the surface to fight over wads of bread. The ones in this picture have the bright yellow fins so they were easier to see than the grayish/silver ones. Let’s leave it at . . . it was just nice to be out on the water.
And finally what we had been waiting for – let the snorkeling begin!!! This is the reef we swam along (I could only get this much in the picture – it was longer than this.) We only had 45 minutes in the water, but we saw a greater variety of fish than we had ever seen before. The water was slightly murky, not nearly as clear as in Phuket, but we saw more fish here than there. And the coral was fantastic – the best I’ve ever seen anywhere else – and a great variety as well. The only thing that was distracting was the seaweed grass that floated on the water and kinda hung on to you when you were in them. I kept pulling big chunks of them out of my suit as I tried to swim around them (and I kept hoping that was all that I was pulling out!) The only benefit of all the seaweed type of grass was the fish liked them. So, we could just float on top and wait and watch as the fish swam in and out. Here are some pictures of fish and coral we saw. And the last picture shows how much Doug liked what he saw (as I did – but someone has to take the picture!)Also, our catamaran is in the background so you get a sense of its size.
After the snorkel, we enjoyed our time as we went back to our ship – a little music, fun on the nets, and even a little kiss!
It was later than we had thought it would be, so instead of trying to find a lunch in town, we quickly took a shower and grabbed a quick bite in the Lido before taking the shuttle bus into the town of Victoria. We toted our computers hoping to be able to find a Wi-Fi spot. Well, in the search for one, we saw some of the highlights of the town. First, the clock tower – in the heart of the town. Interesting story – when it was brought over from London in 1903, during the transfer the pendulum and chimes fell into the water, so while it is a pretty clock, it doesn’t work the way it was intended!
We went in and out of shops/cafes, etc. looking for a spot, but none was to be found until someone told us about “Double Click” – so off we went to find this somewhat obscure little place. We passed by this most colorful and decorative Hindu temple – such a contrast to the rest of the town! Next we went by the big local market that is on a small, pedestrian street. It is called Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market. (Don’t know why the Selwyn is repeated!) We didn’t go in thinking we might on our way back. But it is centered around an open square with two levels of this shops around it – with the produce and fish, etc. on the ground floor. After almost stumbling upon our destination, we spent about 30 minutes on our computers – very slow connection so I couldn’t send pics on my Facebook page as I had hoped.
As we were leaving, it was raining – pouring. We realized it would not let up and we needed to get back to pick up the shuttle bus back to the dock. So, we made a run for it, going under any awning we could find. Needless to say, we didn’t stop to see the market place . . or anything else. Somewhat drenched, we got on the shuttle bus and headed back. We knew we were in a third world country when the bus driver decided to go past a stuck car on the road by simply driving up on the sidewalk. I thought for sure he would tip the bus over – but I guess he’s done it before!!!
There were a few little craft stalls set up by the ship, so I was able to buy the Coco de Mer soap I had wanted to get. The Coco de Mer palm tree is native to the Seychelles and is extremely rare. The nut is two lobed, and it takes 10 years to ripen. The oils are used in soap and give them a silky quality.
There were many things to see and do here besides the water – although that is the main thing in the Seychelles. They also have an outstanding botanical garden with giant tortoises and the Coco de Mer palm trees. The Beau Vallon beach is said to be the best one on the island with lots of water sports available on it, plus lots of restaurants and shops along the beach as well. We had hoped to have lunch there just to see it and have great seafood, but there just wasn’t enough time.
Doug and I had our own private sail-away up on the front of Deck 6. The regular sail-away had the band, appetizers, drinks and lots of people on the Lido deck. We enjoyed a very quiet and calm time as we sailed away from this paradise. Here is a picture of the Marine Park’s islands from the ship’s view, followed by another beautiful view of the islands. I took lots of pictures, so can only include some samples.
While I was taking these nature pictures, Doug was taking pictures of the NATO warship that was waiting to return to the berth we used during the day. He even zoomed in enough to see the helicopter and the soldiers in their camouflaged uniforms on deck watching us watch them!
We went in at sunset. Having missed dinner in the main dining room, we went to the Lido and had the best fish dinner (I think it’s a Basso fish – don’t know if we can get this at home – hope so.) Turns out we ended up sitting with Barb and Charlie and heard about their “land” day in the Seychelles. It was great that everyone had a fun day here.
And so, another great day comes to an end. This great day was very special, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to be here.