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Seychelles: a place of superlatives and technicolor

It is not easy to write about the Seychelles without using superlatives and yet, if there is any place that warrants the use of such flamboyant language, it is indeed this fantastically colourful island nation. When my mind goes back to these islands, I find that a photo filter automatically installs itself on my memories (preferably with a polarised one ;)). I have never seen quite so many shades of blue and so many variations in transparency and translucence in my life. I flew from Dubai and as we started approaching the Seychelles, I looked out of the window, eagerly anticipating my first glimpse of these jewel-like islands embedded in glittering blue waters. I was not disappointed. Stray clouds partly tried to mask the first sets of islands but the gorgeous blues around the emerald green islands were clearly visible.

These islands are so much more than pretty beaches and fantastic snorkelling. As I catch my breath at the top of the Copolia Trail, I am surrounded by endemic pitcher plants soaked in rainwater. I reached the view point just between two showers, typical of this "cloud forest" habitat with a hint of sun glistening off the mass of pitcher plants almost spilling across the dark granitic rocks.

For me, Socotra in the Gulf of Aden has always been the “Galapagos of the East”, with its spectacular Dragon Blood trees and Socotra sunbirds. When the Seychelles broke off from Gondwana 125 million years ago, it took with it a precious cargo of spectacular wildlife some of which are only found on these 115 islands. This is also the origin of the islands being partly granitic and partly coral based. Humans are thought to have discovered the islands only around the seventh century. When Vasco da Gama embarked on his second journey to India, he went past the Amirantes Islands putting the Seychelles on Portuguese maps. The Seychelles officially became French in 1756 and were named after the then Minister of Finance- Jean Moreau de Sechelles. After a colonial period that saw the British take over the islands from the French, the Seychelles gained its independence and is today a multi-ethnic nation that relies heavily on tourism and on its fishing industry.

As I put on my “conservation goggles” the thing that strikes me the most about this nation is that, although fish is of great importance economically and culturally, there is no guide for “sustainable fishing” available. Such a document/poster would help spread awareness among the general population about the threat of overfishing, guide Seychellois towards fishing species which are not threatened and an accompanying calendar could show when the fish are reproducing (a time when it is best not to harvest fish). Waste segregation and invasive species are some of the other issues that the local government and dedicated individuals are tackling one day at a time. On the flip side, local NGO’s in partnership with international NGO’s have successfully saved and increased populations of endemics bird species that were on the brink of extinction, like the Seychelles magpie robin, the Seychelles Paradise flycatcher and the Seychelles warbler.

It is a honeymoon/holiday destination with tourists coming from mostly cold places to enjoy the soft sandy beaches and warm temperatures. While I was visiting, I was surprised to see a great many Russian tourists; but it makes sense I suppose- it makes for an ideal change in landscape and weather. The granitic islands with their spectacular colours contrasting on pearly white beaches are the oldest islands in the world. I also had the unique opportunity of visiting one of the most beautiful raised coral islands, belonging to the Seychelles Outer Islands. These sandy islands are in a constant ballet with the sea, with times when the land is more exposed to other times when there is almost no beach. A thousand birds, fish, turtles, and exotic marine species call these islands their home. Seeing this spectacular marine life in their natural habitat is an opportunity that is quite incredible, especially knowing with the current threat of Climate Change, these islands may disappear and future generations will not get to experience the beauty of the twinkling gems in the Indian Ocean.

If it is relaxation, sun, beach, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and superb marine life, then the Seychelles is the perfect holiday destination for you.

Photographing on a full moon night is challenging especially with a bumbling tortoise in the fore-ground

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