History of Seychelles

History of Seychelles for Absolut Magazine

If one single factor has determined the course of Seychelles colourful history, then it is the fact that, as a country, it was settled relatively recently, in the mid-18th century, by French colonists and their retainers or, as the story goes, by a prophetic assortment of 15 whites, five Malabar Indians, seven Africans and a negress’.

So much for settlement, but the unrecorded history of the islands that appear on a number of the earliest maps, predates this by many centuries and has also coloured the character of the islands and their evolution into the nation state that we know today as Seychelles.

In around 600 BC a Phoenician expedition sent down the Red Sea by pharaoh Necho II of Egypt circumnavigated Africa and returned through the Pillars of Hercules after three years. Did they make landfall in the islands we now know as Seychelles? We have to be content with conjecture with regards to this fascinating prospect.

The first people to pass by the islands and probably use them as temporary shelters were the ancestors of the people who eventually populated the nearby island of Madagascar. They rode the oceans on primitive but rugged outrigger canoes from their home in the Sunda Islands of the Malay Archipelago sometime between 200 and 500 AD and it is likely some of their craft, blown off course during their spectacular migration, used the islands as a base before venturing on into the azure vastness to what would eventually become their new home.

Early Arab explorers came across these island jewels dotted in a lost corner of the western Indian Ocean as they made their first forays into what they called ‘bahr al zanj’, (the sea of the blacks) which was perhaps a reference to the spoils of early expeditions when they captured slaves from the east coast of the African continent.

It is clear from certain early manuscripts of Perso-Arab origin that the Arab mariners of as early as the 9th century knew these islands as jazayer é zarrin (the golden isles) which is how their unreal natural beauty must have appeared after months sailing on a featureless ocean. The atoll of Aldabra, one of Seychelles farthest outposts, carries an Arabic name which means ‘the green one’: another reference to an island popping up, literally, from out of the blue. Certain rough island graves have also been attributed to Arab sailors who never made it home from their long, hazardous expeditions into the great watery unknown.

Portuguese navigator Juan de Nova made the first recorded landfall in the Seychelles in 1501 followed by a sighting of her Amirantes group by the celebrated Vasco de Gama in the following year. On early Portuguese maps, Seychelles appeared as the Sete Irmas  or Seven Sisters but would have to wait until 1609 for the first landing of a squadron from the English East India Company whose crew brought back tales of the islands’ abundance, the koker nuts and the fierce ‘allagartes’ that patrolled the surrounding waters.

The next group of people to visit Seychelles and use it as a lair were the pirates. A little known historical fact places a large pirate community on the island of Ile Ste. Marie off north-western Madagascar in the early 1700’s as they fled, first the Caribbean and then the Cape Verde Islands to find a haven in the unknown waters of the western Indian Ocean. In Ile Ste Marie they founded their own pirate republic – Libertalia, complete with its own laws and language and they managed a commercial operation so large that it even tempted the Americans to travel for the first time into the Indian Ocean. Some of the great pirates of the day: Irving, Teatch, White and Kidd made an appearance at some point in Libertalia. It is even claimed that, from there, around 1720, Olivier Levasseur, known as La Buse, travelled to Seychelles with three ships where he concealed a fabulous booty he raided from the Vierge du Cap among the hills of Bel Ombre in northern Mahé. To this day, the treasure has never been found, even though it is claimed artefacts from this horde have made their way into certain private collections.

The pirates came and went but, after several exploratory expeditions, the French finally claimed the islands’ beauty as their own, first occupying Ste Anne island before moving on to Mahé.

The first few years of the colony were hard times. The harvests failed, the settlers faced starvation and their commanders lost control. The grandly named Jardin du Roi spice garden project ended in fiasco. In May 1780 a ship was sighted from Mahé. Believing it to be English and not wanting the garden to fall into enemy hands the gardens were burnt to the ground. When the ship sailed closer it was discovered to be French after all. But by then it was too late: the gardens and the spices, save a cinnamon tree or two, were completely destroyed.  Other man-made destructions occurred in those early years: the tortoise population on Mahé was decimated with many hundreds of tortoises shipped to Isle de France or eaten by the settlers. By 1778 they were almost completely wiped out on Mahé. The endemic Seychelles crocodile was also hunted to extinction as were several species of birds.   

The year 1789 saw the start of the French Revolution. The colony in Seychelles at this time consisted of 69 French, including three soldiers, 32 free ‘coloureds’ and 487 slaves. In 1790 the French community, fired by the new spirit of revolution, set up their own Assembly and Committee, announcing independence from the Isle de France. But the newly independent colony did not last long. One by one the great declarations of independence were dropped, particularly the abolition of slavery, which was not at all popular with the colonists. Eventually it was agreed that the powers of the committee should be given to a new commandant who would be able to govern more effectively. The new commandant was a popular choice: Captain Queau de Quinssy (later spelled Quincy).

He was not only the longest serving Governor of the colony, but also achieved the most during the long troubled years of the Napoleonic Wars. During these wars the islands changed hands between the French and the English several times, and it was Quincy who repeatedly capitulated (no less than seven times!) to avoid bloodshed. It was soon agreed that Seychelles should be a neutral port to the English and the French and so the settlers avoided the conflicts and blockades that other Indian Ocean ports suffered. This also suited the many French corsairs who were sailing the Indian Ocean plundering enemy ships: Mahé became a popular port of call for many of the most notorious corsairs of the day.

The British fought for Seychelles and Isle de France because both island nations were strategic points on the route between India and the Cape, and because the corsairs remained a menace. In 1810, after a long blockade, Isle de France capitulated and the British renamed it Mauritius. That Seychelles would become British property was now guaranteed, and duly occurred in 1814. Quincy remained in office under British rule and died on Mahé in 1827 at the age of 79. He was buried with full honours near Government House, where his impressive grave still stands today.

During the British colonial period, Seychelles gained roads, schools, churches and a hospital. By 1900 the population had grown to 7,000 and in 1903 Seychelles became a crown colony in its own right, separate at last from Mauritius. The British Governor commemorated the event by erecting a clock tower in the centre of Victoria, a replica of the clock tower at London’s Vauxhall Bridge.

Although a British colony, the culture of Seychelles remained steadfastly French. British Governors did attempt to anglicise the islands, but with little success: customs and language did not alter much during the British colonial era.

It was during the Second World War that the winds of political change began to stir in Seychelles and, shortly afterwards, universal adult suffrage was granted. In 1962 two political parties were formed under the leadership of two lawyers who were to remain the main political figureheads for the rest of the century: France Albert Rene and James Mancham. Independence from Britain was gained in 1976, and today Seychelles is a Republic (population 93,000) within the British Commonwealth under the leadership of President Danny Rollen Faure.






 History pic

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Glynn Burridge on National Geographic

Video from ‘A Local’s Guide to Seychelles’ by Glynn Burridge for National Geographic. Click here for the full article.




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Glynn Burridge appears in Imperia Magazine


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Glynn Burridge appears in Imperia Magazine


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Bird Island

The Lodge at World’s Edge

                                                      By Glynn Burridge

 2014-06-15 13.47.51

I first came to Bird Island in 1978, shortly after settling in Seychelles and, immediately, was captured by its astonishing beauty which has remained for me the benchmark against which I have judged the many islands of the archipelago I have visited since

Today, 36 years later, I am visiting again, as I have many times over the intervening years and it is as clear to me as ever that Seychelles’ islands, in the context of a planet which is sadly becoming grimier by the day, are increasingly special for the beauty, tranquillity and lifestyle they continue to offer. If this is the case, then among them, Bird Island is truly unique.

Bird’s uniqueness has many facets and one of them is its size. Where the sheer mass of many islands makes them difficult to navigate, and so enjoy, Bird comes in one delicious, bite-sized chunk, that you can walk around in about an hour, savouring every aspect of its beauty as you do so: raw nature at its best; shimmering sands of world-ranking beaches rolling into a sapphire ocean; sublime swimming and snorkelling; a lush interior criss-crossed by meandering, leafy, island pathways and, of course, if you turn up at the right time of year, the spectacular experience of one of the most important seabird colonies on earth – to the tune of close to a million nesting Sooty Terns.

Perched on the northernmost tip of the Seychelles plateau where the ocean floor slips away to a depth of 2000 metres, Bird Island’s history is equally spectacular. First sighted by the master of the Eagle cruiser in 1771, he remarked on the great number of birds and also Dugongs or sea cows which gave Bird its early name of Ile aux Vaches. Bird’s next encounter with the outside world came in 1808, when the French privateer, Hirondelle, with 100 passengers aboard en route from the Red Sea became wrecked on the island’s north-east coast. The survivors lived on the island for 22 days before sailing to Mahe, 100 miles distant, on a makeshift raft. The end of that century saw the island used as a base for salting fish and birds and also for the mining of phosphate which, at one point, saw the island population swell to around 100 people. One particularly intriguing story is of two Savy brothers who went to Bird in the late 19th century to harvest bird eggs. They experienced a problem with their boat which broke down and they drifted to the shore of the Arabian Peninsula where they became separated, with one brother being enslaved for a time by the Bedouin. They both eventually made it back to Seychelles, one arriving shortly after the other.

By the mid-1950’s human activity on the island had greatly damaged the environment and caused the bird population to plummet from over a million to only 65000 pairs and it was only after the island was sold to its present owner in 1967 that the task of winning back the island was commenced, largely through a sensitive and broad conservation programme and by opening the island to ‘gentle’ tourism.

 Today, the island’s 26 chalets remain a firm favourite with tourists in search of a’ genuine ecotourism experience’ for which the island was named as 7th best destination in the world by the BBC Wildlife Magazine in 2006, alongside numerous, top, international awards.

Uniqueness remains at the very heart of Bird Island’s appeal. Against a backdrop of islands surrendering their timeless beauty, character and very identity to accommodate levels of development that can only be described as deforming, Bird has stuck to its guns and to a simple formula which, after 40 years, is still working. Its evolution into a soulful and much sought-after eco-tourism product has been guided by the same conservationist principle that was adopted at the very beginning of its journey: the requirements of the island and its nature come first. They are king here and everything else follows suit.

This is another unique facet of Bird: that there is a well-studied and very practical philosophy at work here that guides it and steers it clear of the temptation to succumb to the latest fad or trade in its very soul to appease some trending consumer expectation of what the island should offer its clientele.

Another great attribute of Bird is the continuity that it has been blessed with for nearly half a century. In a world where nothing seems to last for long, Guy Savy has been guiding Bird since he purchased the island in 1967 and remains very much at the wheel today, surrounded by a team several of whom have been with him since the very beginning. This continuity has provided the island with a very particular identity, most refreshing in this changeling world of ours, and one that is unmistakably Creole. Where so many other hotels have gone the route of employing the foreign worker, Bird employs only Seychellois and all aspects of life on Bird have a distinctly Creole flavour. Bird is the embodiment of Creole-ness and of the time-honoured traditions of the Ilois, or island settler, dating back to the earliest days of settlement. Sadly, today, it is arguably the last place where the Creole way of life in an old-time island community can still be experienced.

And yet the island is not content to live in the past and the management is even now tweaking its formula to cater for, but not be governed by, modernity. Ingenious, low-tech methods of waste disposal are being looked at the same time that the island farm is being revamped to supply the lodge with fresh produce. A major reorganisation of the kitchen is also underway to streamline food preparation and broaden its culinary traditions of offering the very best food harvested from nature. The island is even resuming the extraction of coconut oil in response to the rediscovery of the medicinal benefits of the coconut.

As its very name suggests, Bird Island’s wildlife remains one of its main attractions and one that is going from strength to strength with the Sooty Tern population rising from a mere 20,000 pairs in 1967 to almost a million today. The island is even pioneering the use of GPS locators on certain of the Sooty Terns and the data from this experiment will greatly assist in our understanding of the movements of this extraordinary species which lives its life almost entirely on the wing. There are also significant populations of Fairy Terns, Common and Lesser Noddies and Tropic Birds and recent years have seen the introduction of the magnificent Blue Pigeon and Sunbird, adding to Bird’s impressive kaleidoscope of bird life.

In the waters surrounding the island, turtles are everywhere and visitors are able to swim with both the Green and Hawksbill varieties inside the reef which was not the case 40 years ago, helped along by a conservation programme which identifies and secures turtle nests, so ensuring a greater survival rate among hatchlings.


Forty years on, Bird Island continues to evolve along its own special path that has already rescued its previously damaged ecosystem and set it on the road to full recovery. Today, the island enjoys a popular following among nature lovers the world over and an enviably high percentage of returning guests in search of one of the planet’s purest experiences of nature.

Yet Bird has preserved far more than just its ecology. Here at the world’s edge, where life is still governed by the rhythms of nature, an entire way of life has been preserved: that of the Seychellois Islander and the true soul of traditional, Seychellois island living.

Bird from the sea


作者:Glynn Burridge   译者:李欢欢








位于塞舌尔高地的最北端,这里大洋底落入到2000米深,鸟岛的历史同样地引人入胜。1771年首次被鹰巡洋舰主看到,他首先对大量的鸟、儒艮或海牛做出了评论,这些给了鸟岛如“牛岛”这样的早期名字。鸟岛接下来和外界的接触是在1808年,当时法国海盗 Hirondell 和从红海登船的100名乘客在岛屿的东北部海岸失事。幸存者在驶入马埃岛前在岛屿上住了22天,100英里远,在一个临时木筏上。在那个世纪末,鸟岛被用作咸鱼场和鸟场,也用作磷酸盐矿,一度,岛屿人口膨胀至100人。一个特别有趣的故事是两个萨维兄弟在19世纪晚期来到鸟岛采集鸟蛋。他们经历了船只发生故障的难题,然后漂流到阿拉伯半岛海岸,在此,他们分开,其中一个兄弟被贝多因人奴役了一段时间。最后,两人又回到了塞舌尔,其中一个在另一个到达不久后到达。











鸟岛的另一个伟大的特质是将近半个世纪赐予它的连续性。在一个没有什么似乎能够长久的世界,Guy Savy 从他在1967年购买下这个岛屿到今天,就和他的团队一直管理鸟岛,团队里的几个人从最初就跟随着他。这个持续性给予了岛屿特别的身份,这在我们现在这个世界令人振奋,其中之一就是克里奥。很多酒店都走上了雇佣外籍劳工的道路,鸟岛只雇佣塞舌尔人并且岛上生活的各个方面都有明显的克里奥味道。鸟岛是克里奥特质和古老传统的岛民生活的体现,或者说叫岛屿定居者,那种追溯到最早期的殖民。令人悲哀的是,今天,它是可论证的最后一个地方,一个古老的岛屿群落里的克里奥式生活仍然能够被体验到的地方。












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3rd Edition of Voices: short stories from the Seychelles Islands by Glynn Burridge now available as a kindle ebook

VNow in its 3rd edition, complete with fresh design and extra stories, the evergreen ‘Voices’ collection of Seychelles short stories by Glynn Burridge describes the strange secrets, realities and fantasies of life on Seychelles’ Outer Islands where the author lived for two decades.


Reviewed by the BBC as ‘beautiful and powerful’, ‘Voices’ was also selected by journalist and author Anne Morgan as one of her preferred Seychelles books as she read her way around the world and will lead you on an unforgettably rich literary adventure into the twilight of the fast-disappearing world of the true Seychelles islander. Glynn Burridge is also the author of the dark Seychelles historical thriller, ‘Kolony’ as well as a contributor to the coffee table books: Carnaval International de Victoriathe Coco-de Mer, and Seychelles: State House and Seychelles: Unexpected Treasures

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Seychelles goes Carnival for fourth year running

Seychelles has just hosted the 4th edition of the carnival between 25th and 27th April 2014, an event to capture the imagination of an increasingly troubled and insecure planet for the way it showcases international goodwill and cooperation between a steadily increasing number of participants.

This year included not only old favourites Notting Hill, Brazil, Dusseldorf, Trinidad & Tobago and many others besides, but also newcomers from even further afield such as Sweden, Bhutan and Mozambique who made full use of this unique opportunity to demonstrate their cultural attributes on the international stage in front of 149 international members of the press, 34 international dignitaries including carnival co-hosts La Reunion island, Madagascar, Mayotte and South Africa KwaZulu-Natal, as well as a total of 26 international and 26 local float delegations. The 3-day spectacle has become a favourite with Seychellois who again turned out in huge numbers to enjoy the carnival extravaganza on offer: live music shows by a range of international artists; food stalls; the famous carnival procession itself and an opportunity to mingle and savour the carnival atmosphere, which this year even included a special Kiddies Carnival.

The carnival kicked off on the evening of Friday, 25th April with an official launch at Victoria’s Stad Popiler in the presence of President James Michel, foreign dignitaries, members of government, the local business community and members of the public. After addresses by Minister for Tourism & Culture, Alain St. Ange and the CEO of the Tourism Board, Sherin Naiken in which Seychelles was proudly announced to be in 5th position in the current international carnival rankings, the evening exploded into colour, sound and carnival spirit with lively performances by artists from China, La Reunion, Seychelles, USA, Kwazulu Natal and Sweden among others.

After a threatening start to the next day with storm clouds gathering on the horizon, the long-awaited carnival procession flooded the streets of central Victoria with a kaleidoscope of carnival colour in the form of 52 carnival floats, their members gyrating on the tarmac and returning the soul of the Carnaval International de Victoria to the capital arguably as never before. From Chinese giants on stilts, Alsatian dogs in phosphorescent sunglasses, Miss Seychelles contestants in Hawaiian grass skirts, and Germans parading in period costume to Bhutanese musicians, dazzling Brazilians and another amazing Notting Hill act, once again Seychelles’ carnival of carnivals told the world a story of diversity, harmony and international good will overcoming regional rivalry and blinkered self-interest. This time around Minister St. Ange used the immortal words of John Lennon to great effect in promoting the carnival and widening its appeal: “You may say I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one;  I hope one day you’ll join us and the world will be as one.’’ After the carnival procession in which China and Raffles won respectively the contest for the best international and local float, the crowds peeled off to enjoy the many carnival pleasures on offer throughout Victoria in the form of great music, food and entertainment.

On the last day, Sunday, the traditional Family Fun Day was replaced by the newly- conceived Kiddies Carnival under the stewardship of international soca queen Lima Calbio in which Bel Eau Primary School came out on top of a competition only slightly marred by the rain. After the festivities huge numbers of people convened in Freedom square to enjoy the twilight of the carnival ambiance and a feast of live performances.

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Ghosts Persian art (The eternal pain of Exile)

On the windswept plains of ancient Pars

Ghosts stir from half a century’s slumber:

Persian valleys,  blossom-heavy boughs

And Khayyam’s whispering, silver streams

Persian winds scent Seychelles nights with perfumes from another life

Long-forgotten faces, places, and the musky scents of spring

Ruffle the calm waters of my island exile

With a pining for home

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Lost and Never Found

The Lost and (Never) Found
by Glynn Burridge

Lost and FoundComes a time in most’ our lives
When bad luck does the rounds
Life no more’n a ruined house
With pieces all around
That’s when you gotta keep it real
Get yourself up off the ground
Or you might wake and find yourself
In the Lost and Never Found.

It’s really not a place at all,
Not one that you can find
More’n anything else, my friend
It’s an attitude of mind
The bottom line of your existence
From the point of ‘know’, returned
To the one place in the universe
Where your identity’ll burn

The burial ground of broken dreams
The quagmire of desires
The place ideals get crucified
Then melted down in fires
It’s a dead flat sea without a breeze,
A song without a sound
And, pilgrim, I pray you find your way
Outta’ the Lost and Never Found.

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It seems cinnamon has always been

Scented trees among the panoply

Lending the air sweet perfume

Rolling down green hillsides

Towards a sapphire sea


The treasure of another time

When spices, like gold,

Were sought throughout the world

And men climbed mountains to strip the bark

To garnish a cake…in England


Today cinnamon is still here

Straight trees among the panoply

Still a treasure, in new ways

With roots in old plantation days

When life was simple and Seychelles-slow

And cinnamon was all you had to grow















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