As a Christmas/birthday/Valentines Day/any other possible present I might be eligible for in 2019, Benjy took me to the Seychelles. Yeah, I didn’t know where it was either when he first presented me with the trip. The Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just east of Africa.
For our jaunt to the Seychelles, Benjy cashed in the points and scored us seats on Qatar Airlines. Those Arabs know how to travel in style.
We had a layover in Doha, Qatar. We didn’t get to see anything other than the airport, but that alone was impressive. The airport is apparently known for these gigantic bears.
The perks that Benjy accumulates through his job, like airline miles and frequent guest points, enables us to travel 85-90% of the time quite comfortably, oftentimes inexpensively and, occasionally, downright splendidly. The other 10-15% of the time…well…let’s just say that part usually adds to the adventure of it all. It’s during this portion of our trip that I typically find myself (as I did here) in the middle of nowhere, lugging all my personal belongings like a pack mule, stumbling onto a bus packed to the gills with locals, having only a vague idea of where we were going and when we should get off. It was another Romancing the Stone experience.
It’s in situations like this that the disposition and character of the local people are typically revealed. So here I was looking like Quasimoto with my back pack on, standing in the aisle since there were no empty seats, sweating like a pig and holding on for dear life because the bus driver was driving like he’s racing in the Daytona 500, when this lady with a sunny face looked up at me and sweetly patted her lap offering to hold one of my bags for me. And such are the Seychellois (as the Seychelle people are called). They are so very kind and helpful. Just a few minutes later, the bus driver without prompting pulled over right where we needed to go. I think everyone was probably just as happy for us to get off that bus as we were.
The Seychelles is made up of 115 tiny islands, many of them uninhabited. To fully appreciate this island nation, Benjy determined that we should travel by boat. Now, I have never been a cruise ship kind of girl. The idea of cramming thousands of people onto a ship just doesn’t appeal to me…but this was no ship.
We sailed on a 52-foot catamaran. This would be our home for the next 7 days.
There were 10 other passengers and 2 crew, a captain and a chef.
With the exception of Benjy and me, the rest of the passengers were all European. There were Germans, French, Czech, Hungarians and Italians. Some did not speak English (at least not very well) and the language most in common was German. Since we didn’t speak German, or sadly any other language, Benjy and I spent a lot of time by ourselves.
Nonetheless, we had plenty to see and do and the 360 degree views were magnificent.
On the boat we enjoyed fish caught right off the back of our boat…
…and fruit grown on the islands.
Our crew were 2 native Seychellois guys.
Since the Seychelles was formerly a French and British colony, the Seychellois are an interesting mix of European and African culture not unlike the Creole people who live in Louisiana in the U.S. In fact, the Seychelles is one of only 2 countries in the world with the official language of Creole, the other country being Haiti. Creole is spoken at home and in everyday life, but formal French and English are taught in the schools. As a result, Seychellois speak 3 languages fluently, a fact I find remarkable considering that most Americans (including myself) can only speak one language.
Growing up in the Florida panhandle, not far from Louisiana, Benjy and are quite familiar with and love Louisiana Creole and Cajun food. It’s probably what we miss most living in Hong Kong because you definitely can’t get that kind of food here. The Creole food in the Seychelles was not what we were used to, however.
Unlike our Louisiana favorites like seafood gumbo and crawfish etouffee, Seychellois Creole food is more like Indian food. The plate of food above is a typical Seychellois Creole meal with fish curry, pureed lentils, cabbage (that was much like cole slaw) and rice. It’s spicy and it’s so, so good!
So the main reason why Benjy decided to take me to the Seychelles is because he knows that I am an animal lover and that I really enjoy snorkeling. The fauna that the Seychelles is most known for are their giant tortoises. Don’t call them turtles (as I made the mistake of doing several times); they have those too. Tortoises are the giant, terrestrial reptiles with the big shells.
These guys just wander around the islands and they can live as long as 250 years.
These two were hanging out in the middle of the street when Benjy and I pedaled by on our bikes. People just drove their cars around them.
We spent much of our time exploring uninhabited islands and snorkeling.
I didn’t have an underwater camera, so unfortunately, I can’t show you any pictures of all the sea life we encountered beneath the surface. We came upon sharks, cuttlefish, rays and all kinds of colorful fish. The absolute highlight of the trip was witnessing this…
We were enjoying a barbeque lunch on the beach when one of the Italians started yelling “tartaruga! tartaruga!” We all looked up and saw dozens of these little guys crawling out of the mangroves toward the water.
As they made their way to the ocean, many of us took on the role as guardians of the galaxy by chasing away the attacking hermit crabs, birds, and eels. To them this was an all-you-can-eat buffet right before their eyes!
As far as we know, most all of the hatchlings made it safely to the water.
What happened to them from here is anyone’s guess.
The Seychelles is also home of the world’s largest nut, the coco de mer.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the shape of the nut is a bit salacious. Before the Seychelles was discovered by western explorers, nuts were carried by ocean currents and washed ashore on beaches sometimes as faraway as Malaysia. Legend had it that the nuts fell from trees growing in an underwater forest in the Indian Ocean.
The coco de mer tree is a rare species of palm tree endemic to the Seychelles. The tree is enormous. It’s difficult to get perspective in a picture, but this one with Benjy in it gives you an idea of how big the tree is. One palm branch is almost twice Benjy’s height.
The Seychelles was a long journey even from Hong Kong, but it was definitely worth the trip.