Ashkeling 2005/6 trip - The Seychelles aboard the Sea Shell     Last Updated: 26-Mar-06


The Sea Shell - a Dutch schooner built in 1920
6-Jan-2006 Seychelles - The Sea Shell Sails
All of our luggage barely fit into the Moke, and we were curious to see if it would make it over the hill to Victoria. It did, but it was a bit iffy at times. We were the first to arrive at the dock (right next to the Cat Cocos, the inter-island ferry to Praslin & La Digue) to board the Sea Shell, a Dutch Schooner built in 1920. We'll be on it for a week cruising the inner islands and hopefully doing some diving as well. Its sister ship, the Sea Pearl (built in 1915), was at dock next to us.


In the Moke - it was so hot & humid that the camera fogged up

Will we make it up the hill?

Up and over, to a view of Victoria and the Harbor

Waiting at the Meat Corner

Just around the block from the Meat Unit

Packed with luggage

The Cat Cocos fast ferry
The captain (Tal) and first mate (Saar) are Israeli, the dive master (Maylin) is Swiss, the dinghy driver (Derek) is from Bahrain, and the rest of the eight-person crew is Seychellois. The boat can hold 18 guests, we will be 14 the first day and 13 the rest of the week. Most of the rest of the passengers turned out to be German (8), with two or three French tossed in. There are four of us diving. The deck has three main areas, a foredeck, the wheel house & galley, and what has become the covered aft smoking deck. The saloon is in the middle, and the passenger quarters are below that. There is air conditioning, which is great since the weather is so hot and humid, although it does not work so well. There are three bathroom/showers near the passenger cabins. The two-masted schooner is long and somewhat narrow, which makes it rock in the water quite a bit. Although I usually do just fine on boats, I had eaten something the previous day (I suspect Baobab's salad) which was slightly upsetting my stomach, and giving me a slight queasy edge. Roswitha has had boat issues in the past, but is doing just fine.


A sister ship - the Sea Pearl

The crew ferries our luggage - don't swamp the dinghy

The galley

A neat ship

The aft (smoking) deck

A view forward to the sun deck

What the hell does this say? (Answered in the text)

Jib and fore stay-sail

The most sails we ever saw up

Captain Tal gives the welcome briefing in the main cabin
They served us a lunch of fried chicken breast and carrot salad, which was just OK. It seems that all drinks are to be paid for, including bottled water. This is surprising, since the cabins are not cheap, running over 400 Euros (US$480) a night for a double. They are comparable to the prices of a four-star resort, which, at minimum provides water. The jib was put up nominally to call it a sailing ship, it seems. We relaxed as they motored the 45 km across to Praslin. To my inexperienced sailing eye, there did seem to be more than enough wind to put up the main sail (which, technically is the foresail; the rear mast seems slightly taller) and head across. (The aft sail (which is probably the main sail) looks like it is unhoistable due to frayed ropes and a sun cover over the smoking deck.)


Lunch
The boat was anchored off Praslin and Round Island, and tea was served. Once we had watched the spectacular sunset over Praslin, they served a dinner of fish with a tomato sauce, potatoes au gratin, and a carrot salad. A lovely Seychellois couple was celebrating their 27th anniversary with a weekend cruise, so dessert was their anniversary cake.


Sunset over Praslin

Happy Anniversary!

8-Jan-2006 Seychelles - Vallée de Mai
A coral reef connects Round Island to Praslin; this was the site of the morning's dive. Only three of us (the French couple and me) were diving, plus the divemaster. The equipment is tired, yet barely adequate. The dinghy took us the few hundred meters over to the reef and dropped us off. I discovered that my main second-stage regulator was bad, so I had to use my back-up octopus. The dive was just OK. Most of the coral was dead (bleached by El Niño in 1998), but there were hopeful signs of it coming back. There were still a fair number of fish. Maylin was an OK dive guide. She is very good about treating the realm well; as she said, "We are guests down there." She is also very cautious and focused on safety, maybe a little overly so with experienced divers. She did describe a dive plan and reviewed signs before the dive.


Checking the equipment

I really need to get new booties

Maylin

Scott

Scott, Natalie, Christian, and Maylin head out

Hanging around

Hard coral

Coral

Big-eyed fish
The ship motored a bit closer to Praslin, and we had a lunch of spaghetti Bolognese and salad. Then the dinghy ferried us (in three trips) to Praslin for a tour to Praslin's main attraction, the Vallée de Mai and the rare Coco de Mer.

Spaghetti Bolognese and salad

A typical lunch

Anything odd here?

Casting off
A tour guide and bus took us to the Vallée de Mai (2) Nature Reserve to see the protected Coco de Mer palm. The male has an elongated catkin which carries flowers which smell like buttered popcorn. The female Coco de Mer palm produces a large nut shaped (after your remove its husk, of course) like a female human hips and butt; the nut can weigh up to 30 kilos. The palm is endemic to Praslin, and is protected. Although it is possible to eat the young nut, it is not especially tasty, and it is also illegal. The only thing the Seychellois do is sell the nuts to tourists for about $200, with a certificate of authenticity. There is a bit of a black market for them, with the Chinese buying them as an aphrodisiac, which is not surprising given the human form. The name stems from the time when the nuts were found washed up at beaches far away from the Seychelles, and it was assumed that they must have grown under the sea. The tree itself was discovered much later. It grows naturally only on Praslin and Cousin. When the palm grows, it produces something like a ball and socket at the ground. The socket is very hard, and provides the ground anchor with holes for roots.


Tourists!

Off into the rainforest

Male Coco de Mer flower - smells like popcorn

Male Coco de Mer catkin

Coco de Mer nut

Tall female palm

Explanation & demo

Size comparison

More nuts

Size comparison

Root socket
The park also has many other types of palms and trees. The Palmis has a furry purse which splits to release spaghetti-like flowers. When they dry, they look like dreadlocks (= the "traditional Rasta"). Vanilla orchids were brought to the Seychelles, but have escaped into the wild. Since the proper pollinating insect is not present, the plants spread as vines. One tree smells and tastes like cinnamon and nutmeg; its leaves are used in curry. A rat-like spiny rodent, the Tenrec, is also indigenous, and we saw a bold one rooting around. White slugs and green geckoes are present, and the valley has the rare black parrot. We did not see one, but we certainly heard them.


Palmis purse (on the right)

Rasta-like Palmis flowers

Frond

Latest fashion accessory

Bee catcher

Roots lift the trunk up

Frond
 

Scott shows walking palm
how to do it

Leaf

Spiny trunks keep rats off

Skink

Climbing Wild vanilla

Big spiders!

Palms

Tenrec

Breadfruit
The bus then took us to Cote d'Or for a bit of shopping at the local kick-back shop, which happens to sell the Coco de Mer nuts. The beach is also quite nice, but there was not enough time to enjoy it until we mutinied and got the time extended. We even had time to get some ice cream.


Tropical fruit ice cream on a hot day

Nuts for sale

Madagascar Fodies - the male is red in breeding season

Fodies

Footprints on the beach
Back on board, we had afternoon tea, and then dinner, which was beef soup (from a mix), smoked salmon with passionfruit sauce (I got a salad), and fried fish with veggies (I got Creole sausage), with flan for dessert.


Another day ends

Salmon & salad

Fish & sausage

Flan

9-Jan-2006 Seychelles - La Digue
We started with an early dive at Roche Poquete, a small cluster of rocks off Praslin. The dive was uneventful, but my BC leaked.


Maylin ready to go down

Derek mans the boat in the rain

Coral

Fusiliers

Worm

Shrimp
La Digue is the fourth largest island, and a unique place. There are only a handful of cars; most transportation is on bicycles. For a complete change of pace, one can also find ox-carts (handy for larger groups if you don't mind the flies).


Capt. Tal bids us adieu

Sail-less Sea Shell

Off we go!

Should we take a slow, smelly, fly-ridden cart...

...or bicycles?

Church

Green gecko

Flowers everywhere!

Coconut spider

She's a biggie!
We visited the Union Plantation with the copra production, giant tortoises (that one can feed, and children can ride on), vanilla plantation, location for Emmanuelle, and Takamaka ship repair site.


Plantation

Drying coconuts...

...for Copra

Vanilla plantation

Vanilla vine

Aldabra tortoises ahead

Even bigger than the spiders

Cemetery




The house where part of Emmanuelle was filmed

SEYPIRATE at the Takamaka boat yard

Boatyard rails
We took lunch at a small restaurant just before Anse Source d'Argent with beef curry, grilled fish, fried breadfruit and rice.


Fish & curry

Beautiful and tasty

Bathroom attendant
At Anse Source d'Argent (or Bacardi Beach) we saw tons of giant crabs which we thought were coconut crabs, until we learned later that those are even larger. The beach was wonderful with its white sand and granite boulders, and we totally lost track of time.


Anse Source d'Argent

Huge land crab

Running for its hole

I'm not even cooked yet!

Teensy-weensy crab (look carefully)




We still wanted to at least check out part of the east side of the island (where many fruit bats supposedly roost in the trees), but were caught by heavy rain on our way there at the Northern tip. So we waited it out over some fruit juices at the delightful Ocean Hotel (hocean@seychelles.net). Just a little further we watched fruit bats flying low, and then headed back to the Sea Shell.


An escape from the rain

The rain did let up for a little bit

Fruitbats at dusk
Dinner: vegetable soup with chicken stock, octopus salad (I got roasted chicken), rice, golden apple salad, fried aubergines, fruit cocktail


Vegetable soup

Octopus salad, chicken, rice, golden apple salad, fried aubergines

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