Destination of the Week
Hello all and welcome to our second Relax DOTW. This week takes us to an island group where one can only relax big time, as there is not much else to do beyond relaxing (and diving perhaps).
Here is how Lonely Planet introduces our destination, Seychelles: "You’re planning a trip to the Seychelles? Lucky you! Mother Nature was very generous with these 115 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean and has spoiled them rotten. Undeniably, the beaches are the big attraction, and what beaches: exquisite ribbons of white sand lapped by topaz waters and backed by lush hills and big glacis boulders. And nary a crowd in sight. Which island should you go to? Don’t sweat the decision too much. Be it one of the three main islands of Praslin, La Digue or Mahé - its mountainous interior being home to Morne Seychellois National Park - or any outlying island, you’ll strike gold. With such a dreamlike setting, the Seychelles is, unsurprisingly, a choice place for a honeymoon. But there’s much more to do than simply cracking open a bottle of champagne with the loved one in a luxurious hotel. Having earned a reputation as a paradigm of ecotourism, the Seychelles is a top spot to watch birds and giant tortoises in their natural habitat. And a vast living world lies just below the turquoise waters, beckoning divers of all levels. When you tire of beaches you can venture inland on jungle trails, indulge in fine dining or enjoy the sublime laid-back tempo. And time has come to spread the word: yes, this paradise is accessible to us all. On top of ultra-luxurious options, the Seychelles has plenty of quaint, affordable self-catering facilities and guesthouses, often situated on some of the best land. Though it remains an expensive destination, its tourist authorities are now targeting non-millionaires, promoting these economy options. But fear not: mass tourism it will never be."
Which was about the main criterion for selecting Relax DOTW's: out of the ordinary, no mass tourism.
Seychelles, officially the Republic of Seychelles, is a 155-island country spanning an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, whose capital, Victoria, lies some 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) east of mainland Southeast Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar.
Other nearby island countries and territories include Zanzibar to the west, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agaléga and Réunion to the south, and Comoros and Mayotte to the southwest. Seychelles, with a population of 90,024, has the smallest population of any African state. It has the highest Human Development Index in Africa and the highest income inequality in the world, as measured by the Gini index. Seychelles is a member of the African Union.
Some scholars assume that Austronesian seafarers and later Maldivian and Arab traders were the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles. The earliest recorded sighting by Europeans took place in 1502 by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral). The earliest recorded landing was in January 1609, by the crew of the "Ascension" under Captain Sharpeigh during the fourth voyage of the English East India Company.
A transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, the islands were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control starting in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV's Minister of Finance. The British contested control over the islands between 1794 and 1810. Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy, French administrator of Seychelles during the years of war with the United Kingdom, declined to resist when armed enemy warships arrived. Instead, he successfully negotiated the status of capitulation to Britain which gave the settlers a privileged position of neutrality.
Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1810, formalised in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903. Elections were held in 1966 and 1970. Independence was granted in 1976 as a republic within the Commonwealth. In 1977, a coup d'état ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham, who was replaced by France Albert René. The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1991. The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the requisite 60% of voters in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.
In 1971, with the opening of the international airport, tourism became a significant industry, essentially dividing the economy into plantations and tourism. In recent years the government has encouraged foreign investment to upgrade hotels and other services. These incentives have given rise to an enormous amount of investment in real estate projects and new resort properties, such as project TIME, distributed by the World Bank, along with its predecessor project MAGIC. Despite its growth, the vulnerability of the tourist sector was illustrated by the sharp drop in 1991–1992 due largely to the Gulf War. Since then the government has moved to reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development of farming, fishing, small-scale manufacturing and most recently the offshore financial sector, through the establishment of the Seychelles International Business Authority (SIBA) and the enactment of several pieces of legislation (such as the International Corporate Service Providers Act, the International Business Companies Act, the Securities Act, the Mutual Funds and Hedge Fund Act, amongst others).
Seychelles is a living museum of natural history and a sanctuary for some of the rarest species of flora & fauna on earth. With almost 50% of its limited landmass set aside as national parks and reserves, Seychelles prides itself on its record for far sighted conservation policies that have resulted in an enviable degree of protection for the environment and the varied ecosystems it supports. Nowhere else on earth will you find unique endemic specimens such as the fabulous Coco-de-mer, the largest seed in the world, the jellyfish tree, with only eight surviving examples, the Seychelles’ paradise flycatcher and Seychelles warbler. Seychelles is also home to two U.N.E.S.C.O World Heritage Sites: Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll and Praslin’s Vallée de Mai, once believed to be the original site of the Garden of Eden. From the smallest frog to the heaviest land tortoise and the only flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, Seychelles nurtures an amazing array of endemic species within surrounds of exceptional natural beauty.
Seychelles offers diverse and impressive diving opportunities. The Inner Islands, remains of a submerged mountain range, rest on a shallow plateau with prolific marine life and excellent PADI diving facilities available to access a multitude of dive sites. The Outer Islands to the south of the archipelago are all coralline or sand cays and mainly uninhabited, presenting the experienced diver with excellent opportunities to explore where few have gone before. With 43 Inner Islands to choose from, variety is the order of the day. All of these northerly islands offer impressive granite reef locations where the sculptured rocks can be covered with soft corals and sponges, and fish life is prolific, due to the archipelago's isolation and also strict conservation rules. Wreck dives are available in some areas but only the islands to the south have wall dives, drop-off dives and drift diving opportunities as well. Outer Island diving is rich and varied, featuring everything from mini-walls and canyons to migrating Manta Rays, numerous wreck sites and some of the finest Gorgonian fans in the Indian Ocean. Diving on Aldabra's terraced walls is dramatic and Green Turtles are common both in water and on their habitual pilgrimages up the beach to nest. The Cosmoledo atoll offers huge hard coral bommies with 3 metre Gorgonian fans and massive barrel sponges all under the watchful guard of inquisitive Potato Bass. Astoveâ's settlement reef presents another awe-inspiring wall dive whose reef top is incised with crevasses and caves and boasts a large resident Green Turtle population.
The Inner Islands’ marine life reveals an abundance of fish even on shallow inshore reefs and features different types of Butterfly fish and Angel fish, Soldier fish, Squirrel fish and Sweepers among many others. The island reefs are also havens for many invertebrates including Octopus, Spiny Lobster and a plethora of Nudibranchs, such as the Spanish Dancer. Sites with regular current flows support fan corals and colorful tree coral formations while more remote sites shelter the larger fish species, such as the Napoleon Wrasse, Giant Grouper, Reef Sharks and Ribbon-tailed Stingrays. Most spectacular are the plankton-eating Whale Sharks found all year around the Inner Islands, with peak sightings in August, and October through January. Marine life around the relatively isolated Outer Islands tends to be even more prolific, with frequent sightings of many of the larger grouper species, particularly the spotted Potato Bass as well as Grey Reef, Silver Tip, Nurse Sharks and the occasional Hammerhead Shark. A number of rare exotics have been identified from this area such as the African Pygmy Angelfish thought to exist only in small numbers at depth off Mauritius and now found regularly in easy diving depths off Astove.
Access to Seychelles is via Seychelles International Airport (FSIA) or Aéroport de la pointe Larue as it is known locally. The airport is 11 km southeast of the capital and is accessible by the Victoria-Providence Highway. There is frequent service from the bus station in Victoria, with taxi ranks outside the terminal available to all locations on Mahé Island and several tour operator's coach services that also link passengers to the ferry terminal at the Old Port (Vieux port) for inter-island ferry services and to the New Port (Nouveau port) for cruise holidays.
A domestic terminal is a short walking distance north of the international terminal and offers inter-island flights with a peak of a departure every 10–15 minutes at busy times which corresponds with international arrivals/departures and every 30 minutes at other times. There is plan to link the airport with a light railway/tram system which will run along the east coast of Mahé island due to the high transportation density of this area. Companies were invited to tender in 2007 by the government.
A cargo terminal is situated south of the international terminal and handles freight from all international and domestic movements; it is run by the national airline Air Seychelles. A military base of the Seychelles Public Defence Force (SPDF) exists at the southeastern end of runway 13 in the south on an island joined with Mahé at the construction of the airport.
The opening of the Seychelles International Airport took place on 20 March 1972 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Wilkenair of Kenya had, however, already started a ferry service between Mombasa and Mahé via Diego Suarez in Madagascar and Astove Island (Seychelles) using a twin engine Piper Navajo the previous year. It operated to the Seychelles once a week. It was followed by East African Airways in November 1971 and Luxair in December of the same year. A BOAC Super VC10 was the first jet aircraft to land at Seychelles International Airport on 4 July 1971. At the time of the opening it had a 2,987 m runway and a control tower. Ground handling and all other airport operations were carried out by the DCA (Directorate of Civil Aviation).
In 1972 John Faulkner Taylor founded the first local aircraft company called Air Mahé, which operated a Piper PA-34 Seneca between Praslin, Fregate and Mahé Islands. This was later replaced by a Britten Norman BN-2AIII. By 1974, over 30 airlines were flying to the Seychelles. Ground handling and all airport operations were being carried out by Aviation Seychelles Company, a company formed in 1973.
Construction works for the substantial expansion of the Seychelles International Airport started in July 1980. Due to the continuous increase in passenger traffic, a terminal building was built that could cater for 400 more arriving and 400 more departing passengers at any time. Parking bays for up to six aircraft were catered for as well as a light aircraft parking area capable of handling five aircraft. The years 2005-2006 brought further development to civil aviation in the Seychelles. Works started to upgrade and extend the terminal building, which has been further extended to handle at least five medium to large aircraft or six small size aircraft. Further parking areas were made available to the north-east of the airport to handle the parking of charter, business and long stay aircraft some: European flights arrive in the morning from 7am but do not depart until 10pm onwards. This reduces jet-lag as any flight that leaves Seychelles at night will get to most Western European cities in the early morning and vice-versa from the European cities to the Seychelles.
FSIA has a single runway:
13/31, 9,800 ft, 2,987 m
Live flight tracking is available here.
We can guide you to charts and scenery files.
And now our video selection. Let's start with a B767 approaching RWY13.
Next up is flightdeck action in a Twotter about to landing on RWY31.
Our third video shows one of the main potential issues at FSIA: crosswinds. Eventually, this Emirates A330 had to divert to Mauritius.
And we end with our usual take-off, this time from the cabin, and an A319 departing from RWY13.
That's all for this week, folks.