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Our layover in Oman during 2009 / 2010   provided new opportunities for land travel.

With Dubai, the Middle East aviation hub  so close – I was spoilt for choice.

Deciding where to go for my last visa run (before continuing up the Red Sea) wasn’t dfficult.  It was always on our ‘wish list’ to vist the Seychelles by Yacht but the escalation of piracy in the Indian Ocean prevented that so this was my chance to go by air  from Oman.

Seychelles has over 115 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean. I arrived in the Seychelles mid January 2010.  It was the time of the Northwest tradewinds. These are warmer wetter airstreams but fortunately during my stay I got some nice fine days.

I landed at the largest and most developed island of the archipelago – Mahe.  Mahe has the country’s  capital Victoria, and home to about 90% of the Seychelles population. Originally settled by the French in 1778, Port Victoria is situated on the northeastern side of Mahé Island.  The island is surrounded by glorious bays and beaches, clear blue water and to the northeast , a range of granite peaks (Morne Seychellois) which all made  this idyllic.

Victoria viewed from the hills.

Replica of the clock tower on London’s Vauxhall Bridge

Downtown Victoria. Peak hour here lasts for almost five minutes !!  It is a pleasantly attractive town with a number of old colonial buildings sidling up along side the modern shopping plazas.

 The Old Courthouse – Supreme Court.

Market in Victoria.

In the middle of town there is the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market. A bustling market with some good dining options – killer smoked fish salad is highly recommended,  and a good place to grab your tourist souvenir gifts …..

Fishmongers displaying a variety of seafood.  (fresh from the Indian Ocean).

Capuchin House, beside the Immaculée cathedral – once a seminary for priests.

Temple, Victoria

After so long living in the Omani desert a vist to the manicured botanical gardens was a treat. Full of rainforest, blue streams and birdsongs – things I had missed for some time. Star attractions at the gardens were the coco de mer palms …..



Coco de mer palm.

Known as the sexiest fruit on earth. The fruit looks like (ahem) buttocks with a female sex, exciting 17th century sailors who stumbled on them after months at sea !!!

But there was more excitment to be had in the Gardens. They have a large pen of Aldabra Giant Tortoises.

The only remaining natural poulation survives at Aldabra Atoll. About 100,000  tortoises live there. The average weight of a male is around 250 kilograms, with the female weighing in at about 150kg.

These guys were out to increase the gardens Mahe population.

Once the seasonal southwest monsoon’s  for the Northern Indian Ocean finished in 2009,  the pirate attacks around the Seychelle islands increased. In October 2009 the pirates seized the Chandler yacht and several commercial ships. It was during this time that several big motor yachts were leaving Dubai, heading down the Persian Gulf into the Arabian Sea bound for the Seychelles. Before crossing the Indian Ocean they stopped in Salalah, Oman for refueling. I chatted to them on the way through, naturally their crew had became increasingly concerned about the pirate attacks. Several crew refused to carry on and new crew were flown in to complete the delivery. Fortunately all the boats made it safely and it was good to see them berthed in the Marina, off the Yacht Club at Eden Island.

Eden Island Marina

The local Yacht Club was very popular with the yachties and local expats.

The Piracy activities had affected not only tourism, commercial shipping and fishing operations , but private yacht travel in the entire region. Sunsail charters were not doing so well with most of their fleet in the marina.  To combat the problem, the Seychelles government has asked the  U.S. military to patrol the area off Somalia’s coast with surveillance drones.

Also the Cruiseship business in the Seychelles has been hit hard as a result of the piracy. The locals complained that this was a big loss to their business.  A few are still arriving, always leaving after dark with armed guards. Most days I was there a new ship arrived bringing smiles to the local’s faces .

Beside watching the giant tortoises, listening to the birds singing and walking the jungle trails the beaches are the big attraction. White sand lapped by topaz waters, backed by lush hills with very few people in sight.

The Seychelles is an expensive destination for accommodation. In addition to the ultraluxurious Hiltons and Four Seasons, it does have some quaint, affordable guesthouses. I was lucky enough to stay in a nice chalet with a birds-eye view of Beau Vallon Beach.

Beau Vallon is a long beach laced by palms and takamaka trees. Only 3km away from Victoria it was an easy 10 minute bus ride to and from town. It was very low key, when compared to other tropical destinations, with local fisherman selling fish late in the afternoon in the shade of the takamaka trees.

While the coastline is the main attraction, Mahe does have a mountainous interior. I hired a car for a day and drove around the Island. The road over the mountains from Victoria to Port Glaud, which cuts through the Morne Seychellois National Park, is a stunning scenic drive.

View from Mahe Coast Road

I struck gold !!!    A welcome  break from the desert.

Mother nature was very generous with these islands and I was lucky to have picked the Seychelles for my visa run.

Our misfortune had led me to paradise.

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