Investing in Seychelles: an overview

Why Seychelles? Investing in ‘another world.’

Seychelles has long been fabled for the sublime beauty of her islands many of which continue to slumber the sleep of ages and remain wonderfully untouched since the dawn of time.

However, somewhat inevitably, in our mushrooming world of the internet, super-fast connectivity and seemingly endless platforms of social media, the secret about this archipelago of 115 sparkling islands, widely considered to be the most beautiful on the planet, is getting out.

Today, Seychelles is being recognised for far more than its world-beating sun, sea & sand and a combination of extremely favourable circumstances with which Seychelles has been blessed is conspiring to make these island jewels very interesting for international investments.

Perfectly located in the western Indian Ocean, between 4 and 10 degrees south of the equator and 1000 miles from the east coast of Africa, the principal islands of Seychelles are located well outside the cyclone belt. They offer a healthy, tranquil yet vibrant environment that is wonderfully disease free and home to a multi-ethnic, racially integrated and multi-cultural population of only 88,000 people for whom harmony is a way of life.

Once a French colony before being administrated by the British for 165 years, today Seychelles is a trilingual society (English, French and Creole) and predominantly French Catholic. Since its independence in 1976, Seychelles has been a republic within the Commonwealth with a record of many years of social harmony and political stability.

Especially beneficial to would-be investors is the fact that Seychelles is 4 hours ahead of GMT and with business hours which overlap with cities from London to as far as Tokyo. Further advantages lie in the presence of a workforce whose quality is expected to improve steadily thanks to the recent launch of the University of Seychelles, as well as in the necessary infrastructure: excellent air and sea connectivity, modern telecommunications, insurance, banking, utilities and road networks. In particular, the advent of broadband internet connectivity via undersea cable in mid-2012 is expected to revolutionise the business sector.

Having recently engaged in an extensive, macro reform programme under the IMF, Seychelles’ economy has proved its resilience and remains set to benefit from the government’s wish to see the private sector playing a prominent role in the business environment while the government focuses on facilitating and regulating for progress.

Constraints of remoteness and scale limitation continue to be mitigated by the enhanced airlift of recent years and by strategies for regional integration. An increase in the services of Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Ethiopian and Kenya Airways means that the islands are effectively one stop from anywhere on the planet while, as a member of SADC, COMESA and the IOC, Seychelles is in a position to be able to offer investors access to a collective population of 700 million or a collective GDP of 1.2 million dollars.

Backed by a fair taxation system and body of legislation designed to allow businesses to grow while affording investor protection, the Seychelles Investment Board, the one-stop-shop for promoting, attracting and retaining investment, sees lucrative opportunities for investment in tourism, industrial fisheries, oil exploration and renewable energy, telecommunications, construction & real estate, trading, financial services and agriculture.

 

 

 

Sez flag

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Fishing where time stands still

Fishing where Time stands still

By Glynn Burridge

As a brand, Seychelles resonates powerfully as a unique collection of islands blessed with surreal, natural beauty, a near-perfect climate and a tiny population (88,000) enjoying the quintessential island lifestyle in almost perfect harmony. And all this because some 150 million years ago the planet’s crust fractured and what we know today as the continents were formed, leaving a handful of island splinters to float freely across a universe of azure water to finally occupy a secluded corner of the western Indian Ocean, some 1000 miles off the east coast of Africa: the Seychelles Islands…another world.

On a planet sorely damaged by Man’s depredations, Seychelles’ 115 islands (41 granitic and 74 coral) have remained wonderfully untouched as, even now, they stir from their slumber of ages to provide us with a glimpse of Earth in its first innocence. Seychelles is fast earning a reputation for providing a range of extraordinary, authentic experiences to the discerning traveller in search of something special: eco-tourism; diving and snorkelling; sailing; golf; spa & wellness; honeymoons…and fishing!

Unfathomed, azure depths of open ocean; dappled sapphire and turquoise lagoons where few have still ventured; shimmering sand flats just made for the fly-fisherman; remote outer islands where the only mast in sight is yours and where the only footprints around  are your own…this is the stuff that fishing in Seychelles is made of. When you combine that with 1 million square miles of exclusive economic zone and the fact that Seychelles currently receives a mere 200,000 visitors, you start to get an idea of the extraordinary possibilities for year-round angling in this secret corner of the planet.

Increasingly, Seychelles is becoming a Mecca for sports fishermen the world over in search of a last frontier where one of the finest mixed-bag catches can be found: wahoo, sailfish, barracuda, trevally, dorado, tuna, swordfish, shortbill spearfish, amberjack, rainbow runner and such sought-after trophies as the mighty blue, black and striped marlin, all of which combine to propose the game fishing experience of a lifetime.

With a legacy of artisanal fishing stretching back over more than 200 years, the fishing scene in Seychelles has evolved to accommodate world-class trolling, jigging, popping, bottom-fishing, fly-fishing and blue-water fly-fishing and the chance to challenge the record books in virgin waters which have already yielded world records for bonefish, bonito, dogtooth tuna, wahoo, rainbow runner, giant guitarfish, moustache grouper and trevally, barracuda and wrasse.

The traditional fishing method of bottom-fishing produces an equally impressive catch, rewarding you with some of the finest tasting fish on the planet: groupers weighing in excess of 30kg as well as massive trevally, kingfish, greater barracuda, snapper, coral tout, sea bass, emperor and bream.

More recently, Seychelles has also become renowned for its salt-water fly-fishing and casting your lines on the magnificent, little-visited flats of the Outer Islands will provide prizes of feisty silver bonefish,giant trevally, permit, triggerfish, milkfish and sailfish.Blue-water fly-fishing is also gaining popularity for the ultimate challenge of landing large pelagic fish on light tackle.

The Inner Islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue and their satellites, some with peaks rising nearly 1,000m high,  offer a wide variety of fishing grounds easily reached by Seychelles fleet of modern fishing craft whose crews each have their choice spots where to introduce both fishing aficionado and novice to the thrills of deep-sea and bottom-fishing. Interestingly, there are also two low-lying coral islands, namely Denis Island and Bird Island within the Inner Islands.

The Inner Islands are convenient for both full and half-day fishing excursions and offer exciting fishing opportunities for spectacular – and tasty – catches. Fishing grounds are some 24 miles from the main Island of Mahé with a sharp drop off from 50m to 2000m. Inner Island trips can take fishermen as far north as Bird and Denis Islands (100km), where the ocean floor also plummets to great depths.

Similarly, the islands of Frégate to the east, North Island and Mahés lofty neighbor, Silhouette, all possess fertile fishing grounds and offer the opportunity to catch a great range of fish.

Seychelles dazzling chain of Outer Islands and their seldom-visited fishing grounds present unique opportunities for the intrepid fisherman to do battle with the heavyweights. In particular, the resorts of Desroches Island in the Amirantes group and Alphonse Island offer convenient bases for forays into areas legendary for their great fishing where big-game, fly and bottom fishermen alike can test their skills to the limit.

Further afield, sparsely populated islands such as Providence, Farquhar and Cosmoledo, accessible only on long-range fishing expeditions, present the ultimate challenge to the fisherman in search of truly exceptional experiences.

Arguably, what has made the greatest difference in raising the profile and success of fishing in Seychelles is the fleet of new, state of the art fishing boats available from 30ft upwards most of which cruise in excess of 25 knots with a top speed of 35 knots and are equipped with the most modern fishing tackle and accessories. Today, these are in the hands of a new, adventurous breed of skipper and mate adept at employing the very latest technologies and joining forces with the older generation of experienced fishermen, they are proving to be a formidable combination. The fleet is further complemented by a number of excellent marinas (Eden Island, the Wharf and Angel Fish) that have sprung up over recent years to provide a full suite of first rate facilities to leisure boaters.

Several new, fishing tackle outlets now offer the latest equipment for trolling, jigging, bottom-fishing and popping and although each charter operator will cater for the needs of their individual fishing charter, anglers are still advised to bring along an adequate supply of favourite tackle and to check equipment availability with their fishing trip operator prior to booking.

Seychelles is proud of its long-standing, enlightened conservation policies, adopted to ensure protection of fish stocks through best practice in the fishing arena and the practice of ‘tag and release’ – when a fish is caught and then released alive back into the water – has been widely adopted in order to safeguard local fish stocks.

Seychelles’ Sports Fishing Club, started by local sports fishing enthusiasts, has now grown to over 400 members and has a Facebook page: Seychelles Sports Fishing Club, http://www.facebook.com/groups/seychellesfishing/ (Seychelles Sports Fishing Club, PO Box 1000, Mahé, Seychelles ssfcmail@gmail.com ) which is becoming a natural hub of the local Seychelles fishing scene. Further information is available on the Seychelles Tourism Board website: http://www.seychelles.travel/en/home/fishing.php

The islands even have their very own ‘SeaLife’ magazine launched in late 2011 and published bi-annually which gives great coverage of fishing in Seychelles.

Never has there been a better time to enjoy the thrill and challenge of a lifetime fishing in Seychelles’ pristine waters where, in the words of a local author… ‘we still don’t have an inventory of exactly what lurks in the secret depths of these legendary isles.’

Today, with regular services by the national airline Air Seychelles and its equity partner Etihad Airways, Emirates Airlines, Qatar, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways, the Seychelles Islands are now serviced by a vast global network that makes them inaccessible as never before and virtually one stop from anywhere on the planet.

 

The Seychelles Islands…another world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Philos Edmond…A Seychelles icon

Philos and the Russians

 

One of my stand-out memories of Philos was the time in April 1989, when Rosemary sent him down to D’arros with me and on a strict diet, far from the temptations of home.

Things started off pretty well and we entered into a regime of healthy eating and sport; tennis in particular. On the court, Philos, despite his ample size, showed why he was once a squash champion, demonstrating great agility. Off the court he ate fruits, the odd biscuit for old time’s sake, and a frightening amount of black tea.

So far so good.

Little did we know but, even then, destiny was conspiring to put us to the test in the form of the sudden arrival of a Russian research vessel with the unfortunate name of the Professor Bugarov.

Having pounded our ears for several hours with a manic revving of diesel engines just offshore, some of the crew decided to pay us a visit in a flotilla of outsized lifeboats which appeared very much to us like the invasion of an alien race.

Philos and I met them on shore; we in our swimming trunks and they in military garb with epaulettes the size of ironing boards and peaks to their caps so large it looked as if they might trip over them.

At that hour on that day in that place, our world’s collided and things were never to be the same. We made friends among them who we are still in contact with today and the friendship we established was extraordinary. Philos with his naturally welcoming, gentle, heart, became a firm favourite, especially with some of the gold-toothed women, some of whom seemed to be sizing him up with wizened smiles, gold glinting in the sunlight.

Needless to say, the pace of life changed utterly as they brought a dizzying supply of alcohol to my house with more different types of vodka than you could shake a stick at. For nigh on two weeks, they stayed with us, awakening us at the crack of sparrows with neat vodka and pancakes. With them, even salt and pepper tasted of alcohol. Philos thought he had died and gone to heaven.

They even challenged our island-style team to a game of football; we bare-footed islanders against a bunch of Spetznaz wearing army boots. The result was unimportant because it was just an excuse for another party and the fact that we were bed-ridden for days with our injuries just gave them further opportunity to ‘minister to our needs’.

The piece de resistance came on the evening prior to their departure when they took us aboard their research vessel for a banquet. Even Philos’ eyes bulged at the sight of long tables from which anything vaguely resembling scientific equipment had been removed and replaced by gargantuan quantities of food.

I shot a glance at Philos, now a veritable Obelix, whose mouth hung open in visible shock.

Mon Dieu!‘ was all he could managed as his eyes took off on a culinary tour of lobsters, fish, shellfish, crabs, meat dishes fit for an Emperor, pastries, black and red caviar, pates from Siberia, sweatmeats from Khazakhstan, all stretching for as far as they eye could see before starting again on another row of tables on the far side of the room and heading back our way.

To cut a very long story short, the evening commenced with toasts to every member of the Politbureau, swelling to encompass the names of every English king since Ethelred and a whole range of Belgian potentates with unpronounceable names stretching back to the dawn of time.

Philos looked genuinely baffled by the sheer choice of opportunities to gorge himself as he had never done before, aided and abetted by the gold-toothed Russian women who looked, finally, set to pounce on their pray.

We ate until we could physically eat no more. Midnight found us reeling in the ship’s sauna where our session was crowned by being gently whipped with special brushwood which certainly brought tears to our eyes… but not us to our senses.

Three in the morning saw us trying to find the island in one of the ship’s giant lifeboats.  D’ arros was no more than 50 metres off and awash with moonlight but might just as well have been in Vladivostok for all the luck we were having in finding it.

We finally drilled another passage through the reef and arrived ashore with Philos bellowing like a lost calf, his considerable frame trapped squarely abreast of the gunwhale.

‘Mon Dieu, mon gren in reste o bord bateau,he continued yelling as I looked on, fumbling for some sense in what he was saying. Had he left his virginity back there among the gold-diggers? It was only when he was lifted free of his torture that I saw that, straddling the side of the boat, his crowned jewels had become trapped beneath his considerable weight. Not a pleasant thought.

Someone put us to bed…mercifully in separate rooms, utterly pole-axed as we both were and dead to the world and its wicked ways.

I awoke some hours later to a high pitched yelling from the other side of the house.

‘Ils sont tous des PILONS!!‘  (they are all queers!) a voice insisted into the night.

It was followed by ‘Hophayyyyyyyyyyyy…j’ai toutes les femmes qui m’amerdent!!  (I gotta whole bunch of women giving me a hard time) The vocal range was truly bewildering, I recall

Deliriously drunk, but so impressed by all of this, I managed to stumble to my office, load the tape-recorder and tape the cacophony of sounds now flooding from Philos’ room. Despite my very sorry state, I recall realising that I was experiencing something very special that needed to be recorded for posterity.

He kept it up for hours, with me drifting in and out of consciousness only to be suddenly yanked back to reality by yet another outburst of ‘Ils sont tous des PILONS!!!’

When it was all over we slept for days, unable to stir even to make a boiled egg. I sometimes heard vague rumblings from the other room but that was all.

Finally, after a good 24 hours we surfaced and discovered each other in the kitchen. There was no need to speak, much less recount what had happened. We just stared at each other, pencil line smiles forming on our lips.

“Il faut rien dire a Rose’, (don’t say anything to Rosemary!) Philos proposed, spilling his second egg in a row onto the floor.

 

 

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Running through Eden: Seychelles’ Eco-Friendly Marathon

 

Running through Eden

 

Sapphire seas, cobalt skies and a meandering road ahead, sandwiched between lush forests, largely untouched since the dawn of time and the lapping of the Indian Ocean against magnificent, silver sands. I adjust my sunglasses to fend off the bright morning sunlight of the place many call ‘the land of perpetual summer’ because the temperature of this magnificent archipelago of 115 islands is almost always somewhere in the 20’s Celsius range.

I am running the Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon, an annual event held over the last weekend of February and arranged in collaboration with the energetic Mr. Jeong, Seychelles’ Honorary Consul in South Korea and the Seychelles Tourist Office there. The event is made possible by sponsors and firm supporters such as the national carrier Air Seychelles who have given a number of  tickets to members of the international press travelling to the islands to cover the event.

My course snakes around the main island of Mahé which measures 18 miles by 5 miles and whose imposing granite peaks tower above virgin forests harbouring some of the rarest species of flora & fauna on the planet. I am in good company: the 2013 edition of the marathon boasts over 1000 competitors from all over the globe, greatly reinforcing Seychelles’ position on the international marathon circuit.

These isles, with their almost surreal, eye-watering beauty, were first sighted by the intrepid Arab sailors of the 8th century B.C, a fact attested to by lonely graves bearing Arab inscriptions dotted here and there among the islands. Thereafter, they were a favourite haunt of pirates trying to avoid their pursuers among the many shallow reefs and secluded bays before being colonised by the French in the mid-18th century, and then the by the British after the defeat of Napoleon when they continued their slumber of ages, scarcely noticed by the outside world.

The 2013 line-up for the various races which take place under the umbrella of the Seychelles Eco-friendly marathon is an especially impressive one that shows a big increase over previous years, pointing to the growing popularity of the Seychelles’ marathon.

Other than the full marathon, the event features the half-marathon (21.0975km) running, 10km running, 10km walking and 5.5km running. Contesting the men’s and women’s 42.195km marathon for the sixth Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon was German grandmother Sigrid Eichner, who has completed over 1600 marathons worldwide and compatriot Lutz Sproessig who was attempting his 100th race.

In this year’s event, altogether there were 1,066 runners – 585 males and 481 females – with Simon Labiche winning the men’s race in 3 hours 02 minutes 02 seconds (3h02:02).

The 2013 women’s title went to South African Monica Vorster who clocked 3h33:44 compounding her victory in last year’s race in 3h36:41.

These isles, with their almost surreal, eye-watering beauty, were first sighted by the intrepid Arab sailors of the 8th century B.C, a fact attested to by lonely graves bearing Arab inscriptions dotted here and there among the islands. Thereafter, they were a favourite haunt of pirates trying to avoid their pursuers among the many shallow reefs and secluded bays before being colonised by the French in the mid-18th century, and then the by the British after the defeat of Napoleon when they continued their slumber of ages, scarcely noticed by the outside world.

Seychelles only really ‘opened up’ to the outside world in the early 1970’s, when its international airport was completed and the islands became accessible to tourists, keen to discover the secrets of this ‘sleeping princess’ of the Indian ocean. As I look about me, signs of that are everywhere: in the rustic charm of roadside hamlets, the ‘provincial’ look and feel of the place and in the casual, happy-go-lucky demeanour of the Seychellois people.

I find myself adjusting my pace to escape the attentions of a small, household dog as I negotiate a road leading from the capital, Victoria, surely the tiniest on the planet, towards the north of the island with verdant mountains to my left and the ocean to my right. There is only one ‘highway’ in the entire country, with the rest of the road network little changed since colonial times. I find myself reflecting that in our modern world with its relentless, frantic tempo, I seem to have found one place which is truly ‘far from the madding crowd’ and with a pace of life very much its own.

Perhaps this is what makes marathon running in Seychelles so very pleasant: the fact that one’s effort in striding for the finish line takes place against the backdrop of such incredible tranquillity and breathtaking natural beauty. This Eco-Friendly Marathon is an eloquent epithet, echoing my sentiments that there is something innately holistic about running here and hugely energising as well, in a primeval kind of way.

A while back, a group of bystanders parted obligingly as I ran towards them and I was immediately struck by the great ethnic diversity of the population which stands at barely 90,000. I find myself seeking confirmation of it as I follow my route, noticing how people of obviously African origin blend harmoniously with their Chinese and Indian-looking countrymen. I have been told that Seychelles has remained a true melting-pot of cultures since the time it was first settled by a handful of French colonists with their retainers and black, African slaves. One does not have to look far to see that this grand diversity of ethnicity has given birth to a real sense of harmony which has become the bedrock – and way of life – of this tranquil, yet vibrant island nation.

This striking diversity is everywhere apparent. It is echoed in the architecture I see as I continue northwards along a road bordered by picturesque, Seychellois houses with their corrugated iron roofs, brightly-painted Indian Temple, buildings constructed in the British colonial style and Creole houses with their wide verandas and roofs specially designed to catch the island breezes.

The island cuisine that I have tasted in some of the many restaurants scattered about the islands has followed in the same vein: delicious Creole fare consisting of a rich variety of seafood prepared in a fusion of culinary styles ranging from Old French and Indian to Chinese. Perfectly in line with my train of thought, I run past a house from which the heady perfume of a dish being prepared with garlic, chillies and ginger rushes out to greet me.

Rounding North-East point, I briefly find myself facing that cluster of Inner Islands facing Victoria which comprise the Ste. Anne Marine Park, reminding me that even with its limited landmass of just over 400 sq. km, Seychelles has nonetheless reserved almost half of that for national parks and marine reserves. The islands’ conservation credentials are strong and have been so for many years and Seychelles boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Vallée de Mai, home to the legendary Coco-de-Mer, and Aldabra, the World’s largest, raised coral atoll.

I watch as triangles of brightly-coloured sail drift across the waters separating the islands, testament to the fact that the islands are a premier sailing destination which almost seems to have been created with the sailor in mind. Snorkelling, diving and fishing are popular pastimes here as well, along with walks & trails, spa & wellness holidays and golf.

As I head due north, along the scenic coast road I cannot help but reflect on the golden future of marathon running in this uniquely beautiful place with its laid-back lifestyle and refreshing, island-style ways.

This is indeed a place to live – and run – as Nature intended.

 

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Poem: Shanghai

Shanghai

Ample shade of elm-entwined boulevards

Pardons sprawling lines of cars

Flanked by Shaolin temples & Starbucks

In their steamy, modern marriage

Contours of grand buildings etched in penciled neon

Cause evening’s skyline to gently sizzle

Lighting the smiles of a patient people

Who know the future is theirs

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Go East, my son!

Fifteen members of both local and international press were invited aboard Air Seychelles’ inaugural flight to Hong Kong on 24th March 2013 to mark this historic moment in the continuing growth of Seychelles’ national carrier, Air Seychelles, now in partnership with Etihad Airways.

 

Only days before, Air Seychelles took delivery of the newest addition to its fleet, its 2nd Airbus 330-200, aptly named the Vallee de Mai, which together with its sister aircraft, Aldabra, will fly increased frequencies to Johannesburg, Mauritius, Abu Dhabi and now Hong Kong.

 

There was a distinct Chinese atmosphere to the airport prior to departure where a reception for all those invited on the flight was held at the CIP lounge where his Excellency the Chinese Ambassador made the opening address followed by Seychelles’ Minister for Internal Affairs and Transport, Joel Morgan; Alain St. Ange, Minister for Tourism and Culture and Cramer Ball, the CEO of Air Seychelles.

 

After the short flight to Abu Dhabi where the aircraft in its new Air Seychelles livery, was greeted by a water-cannon salute, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony between senior officials of Air Seychelles and Etihad Airways, HM86 took once more to the skies heading for its newest destination: Hong Kong

 

Some seven hours later, Air Seychelles’ inaugural flight to Hong Kong landed at its International Airport where it was greeted by yet another water-cannon salute, marking its historic arrival in the Chinese city.

 

Immediately after arrival, we members of the press were invited to a special press conference held by Air Seychelles and its partner Etihad Airways where Air Seychelles CEO Cramer Ball and Etihad Airways commercial executive Peter Baumgartner made opening remarks and Seychelles Ministers Joel Morgan and Alain St Ange gave speeches highlighting the significance of the flight as well as Seychelles’ attractiveness as a tourism destination.

 

There was then an opportunity to ask the panel questions from the floor and the additional attraction of a cocktail reception that same evening at the Ritz Carlton’s spectacular Ozone Club where we of the 70-strong Seychelles delegation had the chance to mingle and network in a refined atmosphere, serenaded by the moody, island-style tones of our very own Creole-to-the-bone Seychellois band.

 

The following morning, we were treated to a tour of Hong Kong especially organised by Air Seychelles in collaboration with the Hong Kong Tourist Board which took us first on a cross-harbour tour by traditional Star ferry and the oldest form of transportation in the city before introducing us to the delights of spectacular Victoria Peak by olde worlde tram and then to one of the bustling open-air food markets of Hong Kong for a spot of sight-seeing.

 

Camera shutters clicked furiously as we tried to keep pace with all we were witnessing in the kaleidoscope of sights, colours, sounds -and smiles – that is Hong Kong. The Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation crew were also on hand to record these special moments, to be eventually woven into a documentary for the people back home, no doubt eager to learn all they can about this fascinating Chinese city, until fairly recently a British Colony for well over a century.

 

After still more sight-seeing we were hosted to a special halal lunch at the Habibi restaurant near the city centre to be seduced the flavours and wonderful middle-eastern kitchen. Personally, I can’t avoid noticing that my ancestors were once here and for a rather long time at that. Names like Bude and Granger Streets jump off the walls at me to remind me that Hong Kong was very much ‘that corner of a foreign field that is forever England’. You will be forgiven for harbouring the impression that some streets are actually a carbon copy of those in central London!

 

The guide from the Hong Kong Tourist Office was always on hand to expertly lay bare every nuance of Hong Kong life, from the respective property prices per square metre of the various suburbs, to the intricacies of the local gambling scene; the challenge of haggling with vendors at the various open-air markets and the price of a good guesthouse in Kowloon. Her knowledge of her city was just as prodigious as her English was polished and faultless.

 

She chaperoned us with the lightest of touches like a true pro as, after lunch, she once again set off on a tour of yet another market, always allowing her flock a little personal time before once again directing us almost imperceptibly towards yet another experience of this extraordinary island, once so western and now so eastern with its 8000 double-decker buses, efficient metro and imminent connection to the rest of China’s high-speed rail network.

 

It was a day trip that left us wanting to learn more about this bustling metropolis, parts of which boast the densest human population on the planet but through which the masses move in a fluid, effortless way as if choreographed by the Creator himself.

 

Here, they are always ready with a smile which, refreshingly, seems to acquire almost the status of a currency in this wonderful, exotic place full of history, legends, charm and spectacle.

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Tempest: a poem by Glynn Burridge

 

Tempest

Our old sailing beauty

Yaws dizzily in her century-old duel with a drunken sea

Tossed again between spiteful, wind-tormented waves and a leaden sky

Ancient planks hewn from a long-forgotten forest shriek out in pained falsetto

Drowned by the roar of a pitiless ocean

Above, frigate birds streak like Stukas on unfolded wings

Dark phantoms wheeling between clouds darker still

In riotous rendez-vous with the storm

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Green Gold: Medicinal Plants of Seychelles

Green Gold – Medicinal Plants of Seychelles

                                                            by Glynn Burridge

 

Today, we largely take our health for granted with the access many of us enjoy to clinics, hospitals and to a wide range of medications, all designed to keep us in good health. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements, health alerts, suggestions of our medical practitioners and by all manner of self-help books and alternative therapies to look after ourselves better. Just a brief trip to the local pharmacy will reveal the plethora of cures on hand to minister to our every ill.

It was not always so, however. Even in the relatively recent past, most people did not have access to medication which was not only expensive but also, in many cases, experimental. Instead, they relied as their forefathers had since the dawn of time, on knowledge of plants and their respective healing properties and uses as well as other treasures of the natural world.

It is perfectly natural that practitioners of this ancient art who all too often held the life or death of patients in their hands were considered as the most important persons in the community, much respected – and even feared – for the powers they possessed. The medicine man of the North American Indian, the shaman of the Steppes, the African tribal witch-doctor and even Seychelles’ very own Bonnom di bwa,  among others, devoted their lives to gaining experience of Nature and using that knowledge for the benefit of their peoples. Today, as our civilization again turns to the phenomenal powers and cures of the natural world for our salvation, all across the globe we are piecing together the ancient fragments of Mother Nature’s amazing ability to heal the sick.

When Seychelles was firstly settled in the mid-18th century, high on the list of items necessary for a successful settlement would have been those that would secure its health. Sources claim that the first settlers would have found somewhere between 300 and 400 plants with medicinal properties to assist them in treating sickness within the colony. Sadly, a great many of these plants no longer exist, having been destroyed either by the fires, forest cleaning or building which inevitably run parallel to a swelling population. However, certain important plants have nonetheless survived and are still in use today.

Mr. Ferdinand Vidot of Val D’Endor, Baie Lazare, Mahé, a leading local herbalist, believes that among the peoples responsible for the introduction of the use of medicinal plants in Seychelles, the most prominent were those French, Portuguese and African herbalists who brought their knowledge with them from their respective homelands. Given their separate origins and particular use of plants in their quite different cultures, this would account for the very diverse, but sometimes overlapping, knowledge-base of plants which persists throughout the islands down to the present day.

This diversity is clearly revealed by the way that plants are harvested according to cultural influence: either at random, according to the time of day (7 feuilles soleil leve), or by day of the week, with each day being influenced by the unique humours of the various planets – fiery Tuesday, equitable Thursday, and Saturday, which is much favoured by sorcerers as being particularly auspicious for the accomplishment of dark deeds. It is generally agreed that another propitious time for harvesting is at the full moon when plant sap courses vigorously and when its powers are at their zenith.

Various parts of medicinal plants are used for different purposes: the bark and leaves for making infusions; leaves for use in preparing baths; the roots and, finally, the sap with certain parts employed in conjunction with others, and sometimes separately. Even the indentation of the leaf at the base of its stem is taken into account when being used in preparations. If the leaf commences with an indentation on its right side, then that leaf is used to treat ailments on the right side of the body whereas an indentation on the left is used to treat the left side of the body. A leaf with no indentation, (where the left and right sides start at exactly the same point on the stem), is used to treat conditions existing in the middle part of the patient’s body.

One of Seychelles’ most highly-prized medicinal plants is bwa koulev (Psychotria dupontiae) with its distinct clusters of berries which are almost ceramic in appearance. This is a plant reputed to cure no less than 15 different conditions, including headaches, hyper-tension, unclean blood, menopause and nosebleeds. It is joined in popular acclaim by bwa dou (Craterispermum microdon) and bwa-d-renet (Dodonaea viscosa) whose root, bark and leaves provide valuable tonics and sleeping aids.

For an ailing liver, a tonic is prepared from the bark of a guava tree and the patient is then required to eat its fruit. A tea infused from tender, young guava leaves is also very efficient in treating diarrhoea. Hangovers are treated by crushing the leaves of korsol (Annona muricata) and placing them on the face. A handful of plants are associated with the cure of hyper-tension including zambrovat, (Cajanus cajan) bwa koulev, bwa zoliker, (Pittosporum senacia) bwa-d-renet, and korsol, where an infusion of its leaves is said to reduce the effects of the condition.

Skin conditions are fought using katrepeng (Cassia alata). The bark is boiled as a blood cleanser followed a bath in the leaves and also by kaspyant, (Cassia occidentalis) kastik, (Phyllanthus casticum) lendigo and kenkanz.

The author has personal experience that an effective way of treating a sprain is to apply a poultice of pat-d-poul (Eleusine indica) and common salt which greatly reduces the pain arising from inflammation.

Nearly all plants may be used as tonics, from the ros anmer or periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) which grows in many gardens and which has even been found to be useful in the treatment of leukaemia, particularly in children, to the common cedar tree. Cedar sap is used as a quick energy source and even as a plant form of Viagra and seven conical tips of young leaf-growth boiled in one litre of water for 15 minutes is said to make a powerful energy drink.

However, not all plants are so benign and their uses so beneficial. The Seychelles landscape contains several specimens such as tanghin (Cerbera tanghin) and a variety of zasmin, or jasmine, (Brunfelsia hopeana) the milk of which, or so it is claimed, can induce leprosy. Then there is fler pwason (Datura metel), also known as the Devil’s trumpet or Jimson-weed which is a powerful opiate which, if misused, can cause madness. This became the case with an entire cavalry troupe during the American Civil War which experimented with the plant at a place called Jamestown (shortened to Jimson) and then went insane down to the last man, riding off naked to engage the enemy – and to their death.

Over the years, certain other plants have become linked with gris-gris, the local form of black magic and these are bwa sagay (Maba seychellarum), kastik, piyondenn, (Jatropha curcas) kolofont (Grisollea thomasettii) and a certain variety of cactus. Some of the uses to which they have been put involve grinding plants parts and mixing them with human urine and bones, then boiling the concoction and adding soap to make it froth before placing the noxious potion in the way of a sorry victim who, once they come into physical contact with it, soon erupt in boils and with all sorts of nasty ailments.

Over recent decades our societies may have evolved in many ways, often bringing cheap medicines within reach of a large number of people and so diminishing their reliance on these traditional medicines so popular with our ancestors. However, there has been also been a certain resistance to new medications and treatments which are seen by some as too synthetic and superficial and with too many side-effects. Today, we are turning once more to our gentler, ancient remedies and their holistic approach to health which seems more in tune with the rhythms of Nature.

Rich veins of ‘green gold’ still run in our virgin forests and often in our backyards, too. Given the way they continue to soothe our rising number of aches, pains and ills, we can anticipate them playing a significant, if not increasingly important, role in our health for many years to come.

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Time’s a River – a poem by Glynn Burridge

                                                               Time’s a River

Time’s a river

Coursing past banks of mud

‘Pon which we stand, rooted,

Helpless to slow its flood

On those banks, we may tread at will,

From toddler’s lunge to elder’s spill

But, grasping at its waters,

They elude us, still.

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Diving the Dream Seychelles Islands

Diving the Dream Islands of the Seychelles Archipelago

by Glynn Burridge

Two divers slice the pristine, crystal waters off the north-west coast of Mahé, principal island of the jewel of the Indian Ocean: the stunningly beautiful Seychelles Archipelago. What they are seeking lies some 40 metres beneath the ocean – the hull of an old fishing trawler, deliberately scuppered to provide a diving site in what is arguably one of the best kept secrets among the international diving fraternity: the amazing Seychelles diving experience.

One diver is Imran Ahmad, renowned Singapore-based, renowned Nikon professional photographer and educator and he is amazed by the world class diving he has found around these islands long celebrated for their world-beating beaches, warm, dappled, sapphire waters and the final word in laid-back island lifestyle but with all the trimmings.

‘At 40 metres she is fully intact and teeming with marine life and coral growth’, he enthuses, ‘and with visibility for as far as the eye can see, this is a definite ‘must’ dive for wreck lovers.

Imran is one of an increasing number of divers all making the same discovery – the magnificent Seychelles Islands. Secluded from the world since the dawn of time, Seychelles is only now awakening to its true potential as a dream tourism destination and much of what you will find here is still wonderfully untouched, thanks to Seychelles’ strong conservation laws.

With 115 granite and coral islands and an exclusive economic zone of 1 million square miles, this cyclone-free cluster of island gems offers year-round diving in a land of perpetual summer. Together, the islands offer awesome diversity for diving aficionado and novice alike on both granite and coral reefs which can be nothing less than living aquariums for diverse and spectacular forms of coral and marine life. Myriad, dazzling coral reef fish, shark, moray eels, turtles, lobster, giant rays and even the odd migrating whale shark propose a kaleidoscope of diving entertainment in a host of unspoiled venues. On one dive alone, near Aride, no less than 800 species of marine life were spotted!

Seychelles boasts a number of world-recognised dive sites, such as the famous Ennerdale Wreck and Brissare rocks as well as the lesser known, more remote but even more spectacular sites around Marianne, the Sisters, Aride, Trompeuse and several other islands. Some of the more remote locations are only accessible by live-aboard charter dive boats

Diving in Seychelles is refreshingly unprocessed as well, with un-crowded dive boats and unhurried dive schedules, in keeping with the leisurely pace of life. Local dive centres and a range of live-aboards will provide access to great diving while offering a taste of the unique Seychellois lifestyle with beach BBQ’s and other island-style entertainment. All diver training is conducted by internationally qualified instructors, most of whom are members of PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the world’s largest sport diver training organization.

Now, more than ever, is the time to visit Seychelles and discover just how extraordinary – and affordable! – diving can be in one of the very last natural aquariums on our planet where pristine waters, leisurely diving schedules and an astonishing variety of marine life all conspire to offer one of the finest dive vacations on the planet.

For more information about diving in Seychelles, please visit: www.seychelles.travel and www.subios.com.

 

 

 

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