Spectacular Seychelles, by Ted Cookson

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SPECTACULAR SEYCHELLES

by Ted Cookson
Published in October 2009
Beach on Mahe Island, Seychelles, 26-second video clip
Tea bagging machine at the Indian Ocean Tea Company on Mahe Island, Seychelles, 30-second video clip
Dancers performing on cruise ship at Victoria, Seychelles, 84-second video clip
Band and dancers performing on cruise ship at Victoria, Seychelles, 45-second video clip



Early on the morning of 25 April 2008 the skies opened up and it rained cats and dogs as our cruise ship docked at Victoria, the capital of the Republic of Seychelles. Discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1502, this 116-island republic was named after Jean Moreau de Sechelles, who served as finance minister to King Louis XV of France. That morning our party of five crammed into a small Avis Hyundai Tucson rental car for a drive around the main island of Mahe. Because the roads are narrow and winding and left-hand drive is the custom, we had to be very vigilant behind the wheel. While we didn't experience that much rain during our counter-clockwise circular island tour, the mostly-cloudy sky still managed to obscure much of the beauty of the Seychelles' unique granite boulder-strewn beaches. Along the way we stopped at the Indian Ocean Tea Company where local leaves are blended with tea imported from Sri Lanka to be sold locally as "Seychelles tea." After lunch we walked around Victoria and then drove over the hill to Beau Vallon Bay which boasts Mahe Island's prettiest beach.

Uninhabited when sighted by the Portuguese, records show that the British East India Company made the first European landing in 1609. A French expIoratory mission of 1742 led to the island of Mahe being named after the governor of Mauritius, Mahe de Labourdonnais. The French subsequently laid claim to the Seychelles in 1756 and began to settle there in 1770. The Seychelles became a British dependency in 1814 and a crown colony in 1903. Independence was finally awarded by Britain in 1976. High end tourism is the mainstay of the economy.

The Seychelles boasts vast expanses of uncrowded white sandy beaches made all the more picturesque by large granite boulders, verdant undergrowth, and a beautiful blue-green sea. In addition, there are 45 square km (17 square miles) of protected ocean in the form of seven marine national parks.

On Mahe, the most mountainous of the 115 islands of the Seychelles, there is a lovely circular drive which first crosses the backbone of the island and then mostly hugs the coast around the south of the island. At the tea factory, situated along the highway up in the hills 3 km (2 miles) from Port Glaud on the northwest coast of Mahe, visitors can view the entire tea-making process from the drying of tea leaves through to packaging. Interesting, the majority of the tea blended locally is imported from Sri Lanka with only a small component being grown in the Seychelles. Some 45 tons of tea is exported annually by this tea plant.

Victoria, with a population of 23,000, is home to a third of the country's population. Boasting a botanical garden, a busy market, and some old colonial architecture, the capital of the Seychelles is tightly sandwiched between steep hills and its small harbor.

Perhaps because it is only 3 km (2 miles) from Victoria, Beau Vallon Bay is the most popular beach on Mahe. Its white sandy beach studded with coconut palms is beautiful, and the view of mountainous Silhouette Island at sunset from Beau Vallon Bay is incomparable.

Between May and September the southwest trade winds bring cool and dry weather, but the winds during this season create heavy seas which can make swimming uncomfortable. On the other hand, between October and April the northwest trade winds are associated with warm and wet weather. January is the wettest month while July and August are the driest. Even though the Seychelles is not in the cyclone belt, the presence of a storm elsewhere in the Indian Ocean can mean that the skies over the Seychelles are gray. The cyclone season lasts from December to March. The months of March, April, October and November, usually windless, are the best months for diving in the Seychelles. Diving in this island republic is superb due to the large granite rocks and sea mounts which abound.

There are two air routes from Cairo to the island of Mahe in the Seychelles. Kenya Airways flies to Mahe via Nairobi twice weekly for approx. EGP 6,000 round trip, while Emirates flies to Mahe via Dubai four times a week for approx. EGP 8,130 round trip.    

 

ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 311 of the 319 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  ept@link.net.  Web site:  www.eptours.com
 

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