Seychelles

A business traveller trades his suit for a surfboard in the Seychelles.

Unless you’re Seychellois, coming to the Seychelles islands generally indicates you’re on honeymoon. I’m not. I’m here on business, which is great and frustrating at the same time. Dressed in trousers and a shirt and carrying a jacket, I’m surrounded by the beach and beauty of this place and frequently look up from my keyboard and mobile phone to what’s around me and think that I’ve got to pull a sickie and get some time outside…in beachwear.

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This was especially the case yesterday as I caught a boat from Belle Ombre for a series of meetings on Silhouette Island. The boat was full of typical honeymooners and a few families snapping pictures of everything and each other as we crossed in a 30 minute journey.

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The manager of the resort hosting me for the business event strode forward off the dock to welcome me; his arms outstretched, he did what is obviously a practiced pirouette so that I take in the grandeur in front of me and said: ‘Welcome to paradise!’ (This was as camp as it sounds, and not unlike the show that Mr. Roarke and his sidekick Tattoo would put on when their 80’s TV show would start with, ‘Welcoommmmeh to Fantasy Island,’ if you get me)

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Putting my cynicism to one side however (and I wish the formal attire), the Seychelles really, really is like a little tropical paradise. The flora and fauna leap out of the ground at incredible size and colour – everything is so lush that it demands amazement and awe from first-time viewers. The sea is truly the turquoise shade that you might have thought is manipulated in the brochure to look better than it really is. No, the sea is really all that you want. And then there is the wildlife – none of it poisonous or scary.

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The fruit bats that dominate the skies and forests are huge (bigger than seagulls) with orange heads and dog-like faces. Outside my room at dusk I can hear them crashing around as they jockey for night time perches on the trees, the Alpha bat eventually landing and send the roost into chaos until the pecking orders are restored. The first night I was here I was woken by what I thought was birdsong, until I checked outside (still night time, how come the birds are singing?) and hunted down a family of geckos on the wall chirping like hungry chicks in a nest.

Meanwhile on Silhouette Island I was ferried to the far side of the bay to see the giant tortoises grind their way nonchalantly from the shade of trees across the sand to the sea…just more evidence of how endemic species on these small remote island flourished and diversified.

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So finally, the uphill business.

Apart from the new residences built on reclaimed land on the east coast of the main island Mahe, the Seychellois live on the hills that dominate the coasts. The apartment I’m staying in is only 1km from the east coast highway but my GPS informs me that my elevation is 350m above sea level.

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The roads that snake in single lanes up these mountains are laid in concrete, not tarmac, and take some nerve (or bravado) to negotiate. Start your ascent in anything that isn’t 4WD and you’ll need to understand the how to get your hire car’s torque and traction in perfect sync with the final gear shift into 1st if you’re going to make the plateau before the next hill starts. Officially, the world’s steepest street has an incline of 28%, but I think the record writers need to come and reassess their list based on what the Seychellois count as a normal suburban lane…

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One word of advice for those record writers if they come here however: leave the suits at home.

Bonjour né, have a great day.

Images courtesy of Mike Left.