Ashkeling 2005/6 trip - The Seychelles aboard the Sea Shell (part 2)     Last Updated: 26-Mar-06

The Sea Shell - a Dutch schooner built in 1920
Previously on the Sea Shell

10-Jan-2006 Seychelles - Sisters - Grande Soeur
Because of current, the morning dive location was not where Maylin wanted it to be. We (including Roswitha for her first and last dive from the Sea Shell) got dropped off in the lee of the granitic Grande Soeur Island (the big sister island of the two sisters). She then made us swim for quite a distance to what she called the corner, signaling that there was a shark. Once we got there, there was not one, but we'd used up a good amount of air finning our way over. There was a cool cave full of orange squirrel fish and lots of huge lobsters.



Squirrel fish!

Emperor Angelfish
When we got back and cleaned up, we were ferried over to the privately-owned Grande Soeur. Shaped somewhat like a figure eight, it has a beach on either side of the waist. The Eastern side had fine sand which was like walking on foam, and huge surf, so we played in the pounding waves for a while.

Walking across the waist of the island

Poorly drained, it is swampy

Nearing the rocks

Spongy, fine beach

East side beach

Tropical paradise

With pounding surf

Oliver gets overwhelmed


There's one sneaking up behind you

Christian and Natalie

Perfect beach

Heading back to the west side
The Island used to be a plantation for coconuts and various fruits, but it has not been used for that for some time, so it has gone wild. The only inhabitants now are a caretaker (who was off) and the Swiss owner who is rarely there. The island is only open from 10 to 3, and there is a per-person charge for its use (which is covered by the boat in our case). It is a lovely, relaxed place which is being mildly developed for tourism. It often gets up to 50 people a day, although there was only a small boat there in addition to us. After our swim, Roswitha and I wandered north to explore. The old road was quite overgrown, but still walkable. We found a harbor which had been closed off (because it was not permitted, and had been built incorrectly) and made a great protected swimming hole. Crabs watched from the rocks.

Guy tells us about the island

Nice stairs...

Remains of the plantation

Picking through overgrowth

Haven't I seen this in a movie?

Traipsing along the overgrown road
Scroll left/right with your cursor or arrow keys, [shft] zoom in, [ctrl] zoom out

Abandoned harbor

Perfect temperature for a swim

Crab par-tay!

Interesting geology
We came back to find the beach BBQ already in progress. Two grilled barracudas waited, along with sausages and chicken. This was accompanied by beet salad, squash salad, jacket potatoes, and a tuna and pasta salad. We added some Saudi dates as dessert.




Lunch alfresco
Guy is the substitute caretaker, as well as a contract naturalist, and he told us a bit about the island and the Seychelles in general. He confirmed that the fruitbats that we saw flying to the island the previous night were headed for ripening fruit and Indian almonds which were ready. He has had an interesting life so far. Born in the Seychelles, he also has a house in Australia, south of Adelaide, on Kangaroo Island. He was in the Australian army, assigned to UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda, Afghanistan, and several other places. He does conservation work in the Seychelles, Madagascar, and on boats. We chatted with him for a while, and then he took us over to feed bread to the bat fish.



Want some fresh coconut?

Katherina & skink


Guy teaches basket-making


Feeding batfish

Guy trained them

to eat from your hand
We dove in the afternoon with Saar starting at the "fist" rock formation around the corner of Grande Soeur, where Maylin had wanted to go. We saw the usual fish. I also looked under a large rock and saw a 2 m white-tipped shark on the other side, but it was gone once we went there. Saar is a more casual divemaster; he vaguely described a plan and did an informal sign check. But, he was very relaxed under the water.

Saar's briefing

Christian is ready

Got that military look

Pipefish - seahorse cousin

Blue damsels & coral


Shy moorish idols

Juvenile emperor angelfish

Juvenile sea urchin



Natalie & Christian through camera fog
One of the crew members was running a high fever, so they decided to take her to the hospital on Praslin. To make speed, the ship hoisted the main sail and the jib and fore stay-sail. We got to see the main sail, which had a word fragment - something, e, p, p - but it made no sense. We learned that they had gotten the sail on sale; it used to be used for a ship which sailed for Schweppes. The detour also caused a change in itinerary, so they moored in Praslin bay, among 3 other large boats, including a modern 3-master.

Dinner was a beef stew, accompanied by carrots (again), cauliflower, and green beans. Dessert was bananas flambé, without the flambé (at least part of the ship IS wood).

An approximation of a boat

Smoked fish & salad appetizers

Beef stew

Bananas flambé

11-Jan-2006 Seychelles - Cocos & Ste. Pierre Islands
The boat moved before breakfast to tiny Cocos Island, which appears to be heavy with fruitbats. I was the only one diving (other than Katherina's class), so Saar and I circumnavigated half of the island. It was a relaxed dive without much excitement, other than more fogging of the fucking camera. The rock was made of upthrust shelves, so we swam through some cool canyons. I found a medium-sized green moray. Roswitha and most everyone else went snorkeling on the other end of the island where they saw turtles and a shark.





It's a moray
For lunch we had spaghetti with sautéed chicken, and a corn salad. I'm turning more people on to the habanero powder.

Spaghetti with sautéed chicken, corn salad
Saint Pierre Island was the next stop. It is a classic tiny tropical island, with an even tinier beach. Most people snorkeled. Roswitha, Natalie, Nicki, and Christian saw two or three eagle rays which hung out right at the beach and could be sighted repeatedly, turtles, sharks and fish that were outside the water on the rocks. I dove with Saar. It was a great dive, mostly staying near the surface. There is a cave which usually has a shark in it, but we did not see it. (Maylin, with student Katerina, did see it, along with two more.) We did encounter a small hawksbill turtle, numerous porcupine fish, and a cluster of bat fish. The best part was one huge octopus, which did not run away. We suddenly realized that he was courting a female right nearby - two within a foot or so.

St. Pierre (Glad you are NOT here, Johnnie!)


Hawksbill turtle

Run away!

Smiling porcupine

Oriental sweetlips (grunt)




Old porcupine

Sergeant major & cleaner wrasse

Tiny (~2 cm) with strange movement

Huge male octopus

Female octopus (in a hole)



Harder than just taking out
the regulator

This is how Saar waits
Dinner was a yummy vegetable soup, sweet & sour fish (boring beef stew for me) with cauliflower, rice, and Brussel sprouts, and a chocolate trifle for desert.

Halfway through the bananas

Another sunset over Praslin


Fish (above), BBS (below)


12-Jan-2006 Seychelles - Curieuse
A person we'd met on a prior dive said that when she did her 100th dive, she was told that she had to do something special, so she wore a Spiderman costume. I did not have a Spiderman costume for today's dive, my 100th, so I decided to do it naked. It's all I brought.

Oddly, I was the only one diving, and Saar was the dive master; Maylin was doing training. We headed out around the end of Curieuse Island.

In the meantime, Roswitha snorkeled with Nicki, Natalie, and Christian. They saw a turtle, octopus, giant clam, very different vegetation, and differently colored fish. Andrea and Oliver saw a 1.5 m white tipped shark while they snorkeled, but no one else saw it.

My naked dive was great. Saar was surprised that I actually went through with it. The water was very warm, and the dive was, um, liberating. (If you put your mouse over my image, you can see...more.) My only concerns were brushing up against coral, or that some fish would see a chance for a meal. No such things happened, but we did see a ray, an octopus, numerous morays ("get back!"), and several lion fish, along with all the other normal fish. We swam around the point of the island, but when we surfaced, Derek and the dinghy were not there. We waited a while, and considered that we might need to start swimming the few miles back to the ship. But, he was ferrying snorkelers, so he was just a bit late getting back. As I was getting dressed in the dinghy, I lost my balance and fell back into the water, much to the amusement of everyone.

Naked dive


Giant nudibranch - somehow appropriate

Not what you think - it's a white moray eel

White moray

Moray and pincushion star


Grouper & shrimp

Ray and camera fog

Saar in the fog
Upon our return to the ship, Roswitha and the crew met us with a bottle of champagne, much of which was sprayed on me. I'm surprised and relieved that they did not steal my swimsuit which I'd left in the dinghy.

Roswitha hands over the bubbly

Falling, or escape?

Drinking from my mask

The next stop was Curieuse Island, which was an old leper colony (1863 - 1965), but is now a preserve. Some of the old buildings remain, as well as other attempts to make the island productive. Someone had the idea to create a sea turtle farm; they built a sea wall across the bay, but it never did well. Much of the wall was destroyed in the 2004 Tsunami. Like many other places, they have a successful Aldabra tortoise breeding project. We were told that about two hours before the tsunami hit, the tortoises all headed for high ground.


You like that?

He stood up to get more scratching

Sharing a meal

Don't stop

Now these are pushups!

Watch out - he's catching up!

Broken sea wall
We walked, in the rain, from the south side to the north side, where the ship waited with a beach BBQ. Along the way, we passed some Coco de Mer trees (Praslin is the only other place that they are endemic), and a huge field of land crabs. The crabs burrowed at the edge of a mangrove swamp, and some of them approached the size of basketballs. Two of them were even acting as bridge trolls. The crabs were quite territorial, and did not really back away from us - they must know that they are protected.

Boardwalk through the mangroves

Roots and crabs

Big red one


My territory

Back off!

Seriously - back off!

...or I'll take that camera

Bridge trolls

Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin (wait! Is that the right fairy tale?)

This is a bridge?

Over the island's saddle

Huge land snails

Remains of the leper colony
The BBQ (tuna, sausages, beet salad, tuna pasta salad, potatoes) was at the site of the leper colony, right next to the old doctor's house. The area is set up for day trippers from the nearby Praslin, with grill pits and covered tables right next to a perfect beach. In fact, the beach is so perfect that there is even one of those classic coconut trees swooping down onto the beach and clear blue water. After lunch we went for a stroll and found some fish (mudskippers) that were crawling around on the rocks in the inter-tidal zone, out of the water.

Setting up for lunch (by the old leper colony)

Nice table settings

Marinading fish

With lots of smoke


Men's & women's WCs


Rita & Derek

Visitor - Madagascar Fody

I'll take that!


Bathing beauty fatty

Gorgeous landscape

Chitons, crabs, and walking fish
When we came back, the crew was setting up for a beach volleyball game.

Beach volleyball

...and Scott gets into it

Afternoon tea

While the Sea Shell waits offshore
Saar and I went for a night dive, clothed, at a place called Poison Valley. It is a small coral head which has a high concentration of poisonous scorpion fish and lion fish. While they are both inactive during the day, they go hunting at night, so we had to watch out for them, as well as the morays and porcupine fish. A group of Platax followed us around, drawn by the light. We watched as some species came out, while others bedded down for the night. Fish that sleep are vulnerable, so they find places to hide or wedge themselves into tight spaces.

Yea, though I boat off to the Valley of Poison

Down we go


Lionfish on the hunt

Another lionfish

White moray

Shy idols

Regal blue tang - hiding in hole for the night

Yet another poisonous lionfish

Surgeonfish beds down for the night
When we came back, dinner was waiting. Everyone but me got octopus salad and grilled sailfish w/garlic sauce. I got a boring salad and even more boring chicken. Sides were squash and kohlrabi.

The cook cracks some coconuts for dinner

Octopus salad, non-octopus salad

Grilled sailfish w/garlic sauce, boring chicken

Vanilla ice cream slab

Island sunset

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