Flora and Fauna

When you’re on the plane and coming in for a landing on the hot tarmac of Seychelles Airport, the first thing you might notice, besides the ocean is the lush green vegetation, covering a majority of the island like a thick carpet.

The Seychelles Islands are home to over 100 endemic plant species; 75 of them being on the granitic islands and the rest on the outer atolls. The most well known plant species of Seychelles, but not endemic to our islands, is the Coco De Mer; a rather suggestive looking nut, but valuable and beautiful none the less. We have also become a World Heritage Site for the species and have controlled trades and protections in place to ensure their longevity and safety. The main area of these nuts is the Vallee De Mai on Praslin.

The Jellyfish tree however is endemic to Seychelles. What makes this tree so special is that none of its seeds have been able to germinate in the wild, leaving it up to botanists to ensure their survival. Three known populations of this plant are protected by Morne Seychellois National Park in three different locations.

For the fauna part of Seychelles our main endemic species is that of birds. We have around 12 different species that inhabit our islands.

The Seychelles Kestrel is one of my favorite native birds. This bird happens to be one of the only day-flying birds of prey on our islands. Its diet consists of a variety of small animals and insects including lizards and mice. A pair of kestrels will defend a territory they reside in and keep other kestrels away, making it easier for them to hunt and not run out of space and food. Most people, like my grandmother, believe that kestrels are bad omens that bring about bad luck to those it visits. This has yet to be confirmed by me, seeing as kestrels live around my house and seek shelter from the rainy days! If you haven’t caught sight of this gorgeous bird in real life, have no fear! You can see a picture of it on our 500 Rupee bills.

Another fan favorite and endemic bird is the Seychelles Black Paradise Flycatcher.  The Flycatcher, or Vev in Creole, was once widespread on the island of Praslin and then moved to La Digue where they are quite common. Nearly 30 birds were transported to Denis Island in hopes of bringing their population up to 50, in 2008. The Vev is known to thrive in native trees such as Bodanmyen and Takamaka. Just like its name, this bird consumes insects by catching them in mid air. Its population is said to have gone up to nearly 300.

Animals such as dolphins, and turtles are also on a watch list of sorts, due to the fact that Seychelles culture had made it a possibility to consume these creatures. Dwindling numbers caused the government to place certain restrictions on the poaching of dolphins and turtles and now made them known as ‘Manze Rar’. Other creatures that are not quite endemic but famous in Seychelles, are the Land Tortoise and Fruit Bats.

Festival Kreol

Every year for the past twenty six years, the people of Seychelles come together to pay homage to their culture.

The Festival Kreol is held every end of October and always represents beautiful Creole culture through food, art, music and more.  The week long celebration from the 20th of October to the 30th, is bursting at the seems with fun events. Restaurants also participate with special deals and activities to commemorate this week.

Despite the festival taking place in Seychelles on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the week long celebration recognizes and welcomes all Creole cultures from across the globe.

The itinerary for this years Festival Kreol is as follows

 

A Brief History on Food and Dance

Two main things most people would associate with Seychelles could be argued as food and dance. These two things almost always go hand in hand and are incredibly popular among Seychellois and tourists alike. The traditional music and dance shows the culturally diverse background of our nation’s history.

Seychellois Dance

There happens to be a plethora of different traditional dances that are practiced in Seychelles but I will be writing about my three favorite.

The Moutia is a fan favorite with its percussion and string instruments. It contains foreign influences from when Seychelles had been colonized by the French in the 18th century followed by the British in the 19th. They brought about the guitar and violin which play a large part in Seychelles’ music today.

The Sega dance is the most popular of dance styles; the go to when learning Seychelles’ dances. With its characteristic hip-swaying movements, it is believe that it began with the slave population on the islands of Reunion and Mauritius. Sega music is traditionally performed with hand drums and rattles. while the feet remain planted on the floor in a rhythmic shuffle.

Kanmtole music is always fun to listen to. It bears a resemblance to the French Royal Court’s contredanse as well as Scottish square dancing. Accompanied by an accordion, violin and banjos, the contredanse was a French version of English country dances integrated with steps typical of the French court. Dating from the early 19th century, the kanmtole is a lively blend of all these dance styles.

Other musical styles in Seychelles include hip-hop, country, modern jazz, rock, ballads and choirs performing traditional popular, sacred, ancient and evangelical music. It’s thanks to Seychelles’ diverse past that these music and dance styles have evolved over the centuries to give the nation its rich musical heritage.

Seychellois Cuisine

Fish is definitely a big player in Seychellois cuisine and fishing happens to play a large part in our Blue Economy. Fish can be prepared in several ways, including, but not limited to: steamed, grilled, baked, boiled, fried, salted, smoked and wrapped in banana leaves. However, fish isn’t the only sea dweller that locals enjoy to catch and eat.

Other big ‘fish’ that were consumed in most Seychellois homes back in the day, included dolphin and turtles which were known as manze rar; rare food. These meats have since been forbidden by local authorities and marine parks, but some still risk it for that old Creole feeling. Sharks however, are fair game. One thing Seychellois can pride themselves in is using every part of the animals they consume. For shark you can make soup, salads/chutneys, curries and more with different parts respectively. Shark chutney, a personal favorite, typically consists of boiled, finely mashed skinned shark, and cooked with lime and bilimbi juice. Fried onions and spices are mixed along with it and makes this a perfect side dish or samosa filling.

Another type of meat that is popular in Seychelles is bat meat. Bat curry is something that can be found in authentic creole restaurants who can gain access to these creatures and is a great delicacy. Other curries can be found in almost any crock pot on the island! These curries can vary from salty to spicy, coconut cream enriched to tangy. Rice is also available with any meal.

Growing up, my family would enjoy eating a dish called ‘ladob’. Depending on the ingredients, I always found it to have a strange smell and was never fond of it, whether it was in savory or dessert form. The savory version usually had salted fish along with plantain, cassava or breadfruit with salt and boiled with coconut milk until soft. Its dessert dish omitted the fish (thank goodness!) along with the salt. It could be cooked with plantain, bananas, corossol, sweet potatoes, cassava or breadfruit and was seasoned in coconut milk with sugar, nutmeg and vanilla pods.

A few delicacies and specialty dishes include:

Bouyon bred
Kari bernik
Cassava pudding
Satini reken
Kat-kat banan
Salad palmis
Tec tec soup
Kari sousouri

Find more information on Creole cooking here.

A Brief History Lesson on Folklore

The history of folklore in Seychelles, stems from fantastic storytellers and singers that pass on rich Seychellois culture through fables, proverbs and songs.

Since the first settlers, Seychelles has been responsible for its own history and culture that it puts out. Folklore plays a large part of that. Old sayings, riddles and stories were a way of explanation and entertainment for children and adults alike. Like most educational stories, these had morals to them that would teach children a proper way to live as they grew up.

Apart from theses fables, ghost stories were and still play a large part in Seychelles legends. Tales of superstition and spells were a means of Instilling fear in disobedient children, as most spooky stories do. Despite the fact that not all the tales of ghosts and ghouls might be real, the reactions that they would receive were enough for people to believe in.

Small innocuous superstitions that were told to children, including myself were that whistling in the house was bad luck as well as having your feet swept would make sure you never married. A majority of other superstitions can be found linked to money; if you happened to sweep money, you would lose what you earned or sweeping after 6 would result in sweeping your money away.

Other superstitions include:

– If a cockerel sings during the day, it announces a visitor
– Dropping a fork during dinner announces a male visitor, dropping a spoon announces a female visitor.
– If you eat from the pot, it will rain on your wedding day.
– Do not start a project on a Friday, you will surely fail.
– Do not play with fire, you will wet your bed.
– Do not give someone money through the window or you will be ruined.
– Do not allow a baby to stare into a mirror, he/she will not grow teeth.
– Do not lend your broom to anyone, it will rob you of your luck.
– Do not count stars, you will get warts.
– Pointing at vegetables will stop them from growing
– Staring at a pregnant woman will result in an eye infection
– If you get pimple around your mouth, someone likes you

If one thing is for certain, superstitions can be funny to read about and even make you cautious!

Paint Me A Picture

Art is one of the best ways to express yourself in the world, a way to make your mark and say “Hey world, look at me.”

In Seychelles we are home to a vast majority of artists who continue to grace our nation with gorgeous pieces of work. From sculptors to painters and poets to writers, we have it all.

There are an array of studios found all over Mahé which are open to the public to view. There you can catch a glimpse of the artists mind and see what they brought to fruition through pure determination.

Sculptors in Seychelles can almost be evenly divided in half by topic; sculptures of women and figures can claim some where others decide to reclaim waste and turn it into art instead.

Painting on canvas however usually always has the same theme. The beautiful landscape of Seychelles can always be depicted with broad brushstrokes and bright colors. When the lush nature isn’t being captured, the people of Seychelles are seen in various day to day poses that enrapture the realness of Seychellois culture.

Art has proven to be a great way for people to express themselves and be seen or heard. Chatterbox has begun hosting an open mic night known as “Word Up” where people of all ages can speak their minds through slam poetry or smaller poems. Based on certain topics, these stories can shed light on what people are feeling at the time about the subject and open people up to new opinions and views.

This is the power of art; it connects people through various mediums and topics and either starts a conversation or continues it. It’s supposed to make you wonder and ask questions and evoke emotions that you might not have been aware were there.

The artists of Seychelles also wish to do this with their work and so far seem to be succeeding in such.

Find a list of galleries and information, here.

Read All About It

Extra! Extra! Find out all about the beautiful Seychelles archipelago through a myriad of books; from art to local stories to scientific finds in bookstores in Victoria.

There is no friend as loyal as a book, said Ernest Hemingway and he is definitely not wrong. Books give a deeper insight into a topic that helps you to understand it better. On Mahé you can find novels and art that give you that edge. William McAteer has written a series of novels based on the rich and interesting history of Seychelles, starting with the first bout of settlers and the slaves they brought with them. His books bring about a new found knowledge in how the Seychellois culture was cultivated and made unique to its islands.
Find books by McAteer here for purchase online or at the Chanterelle and Antigone bookshops in Victoria.

Books that focus on art are also a big deal in Seychelles. Besides descriptive words, pictures play a powerful part in our lives. A famous artist on Mahé by the name of Michael Adams is responsible for a gorgeous book based on sketches of Seychellois’ he had been drawing since he arrived in Seychelles in 1972. ‘Island Souls‘ is a beautiful representation of Adams’ initial thoughts and views of the island when he first arrived and can be found at Chanterelle for purchase.

If you are more invested in the flora and fauna of the islands then perhaps a guidebook or scientific finds is what you need. There is a large accumulation of these types at the bookstores and even more at the one located at the airport.

Seychelles books are a great addition to your holiday and even your coffee table where they can be a proper conversation starter. One of the things we pride ourselves on as a nation is our beauty and culture and it is our honor to share them with everyone.

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
― Ernest Hemingway

 

Full Stomach

The staples of any Seychellois dinner can be from grilled fish and spinach, to spicy curries and lentils.

Grilled fish may not be unique to the Seychelles Islands but its flavoring and preparation just might be. Here on the islands, tourists can find grilled fish in almost every restaurant or evening bazar. They can see it being prepared in banana leaves on an open fire or on a small grill. To top off this delicious meal is a mixture of tomatoes and onions and even the occasional bilimbi.

If you don’t like your fish grilled then you can have it stewed with some “bouyon bred”; a spinach dish that is definitely a fan favorite in creole homes.

Curry is the way to go when you want to spice things up; my personal favorite is a hot beef curry. Armed with some local spices and a strong masala, you can make this tasty meal. On special occasions you can find bat curry (kari sousouri) heating up in the pot. It may sound unappealing but it is definitely a cultural meal to most locals. Curry can be made with a variety of different meat ranging from fish to lamb to pork, chicken or octopus. When it comes to this dinner, anything is possible as long as you have the right ingredients.

One of my favorite dishes growing up, when I barely reached my mother’s hip, was Rougay Sosis. A simple yet savory dish made with local sausage and tomatoes served over rice. The perfect addition to any meal, though, has to be a chutney (satini) or a salad. Each dish has a specific accompaniment that goes better with it. For example the Rougay Sosis could be paired up with a pumpkin chutney whereas a beef curry goes well with a cucumber salad. But this could be different for everyone!

Lentils are a must have for most meals. They go perfect with almost everything thing. Add some local sausage or pork cracklings for an extra flavor. Pour it on top of some safran rice and fill up your stomach with pure yummy-ness.

But for the true Seychellois food experience, one must always try the chili. There are different versions of the “piman” from blended with onions to chopped in oil, but the result is almost the same. The spiciness brings out the flavor of the entire dish and makes it even more heavenly. But don’t take it from me! Try it out at a variety of restaurants, hotels and bars that our beautiful islands have to offer!

Check out a full list of restaurants and bars here and more info on the local market here.

 

La Digue Lounging

Get your luggage ready for some great activities to keep you busy while vacationing in the Seychelles Islands, specifically La Digue.

In this post I will be splitting up itineraries between three different holiday lengths on La Digue as well as appealing to people of all tastes.

4 DAYS LONG

Take it easy for your short holiday with these small suggestions.

  1. Beaches: Like every itinerary before, beaches are at the forefront of every trip to the islands. The pride of La Digue is Anse Source D’Argent and it’s not difficult to see why. This beach is an ideal spot for weddings and honeymooners. The clear turquoise water is relatively calm and perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
  2. Hiking: Get your hiking shoes on and head on over to the highest point on La Digue called Nid d’Aigle. You’ll be spending an average time of 3 hours on this trail, to and from, depending on how fast or slow you walk. Capture the most spectacular views of La Digue and neighboring islands from this point.
  3. Art: A definite must see on La Digue is the art gallery of George Camille, a famous artist here in the Seychelles Islands.

1 week vacation

One weeks seems like enough time to do some more activities and delve into the deep rich history of the island.

  1. Beaches: Go and relax on one of La Digue’s many secluded beaches for prime tanning and privacy.
  2. L’Union Estate: This piece of land covers over a third of La Digue and is a big tourist attraction. Here you can find an accumulation of local life activities and places of interest. The coconut farm which is found here shows demonstrations of extracting oil which is a staple in most Seychellois homes. Another tourist favorite is the tortoise park where you can take pictures with the giant land tortoises.
  3. La Digue Cemetery: Another small tourist attraction is the cemetery. This plot of land isn’t relatively spooky but it is home to many of the first settlers on the island.
  4. Ox Ride: Ride in style on carts pulled by large oxen, something that was very common for newly weds leaving the church back in the day. It may be a slow mode of transport but it is an experience, once you reach your destination you can carry on by foot or the preferred transport: bicycles.
  5. Eustache Sarde’s House: This beautiful house is one of the last remaining homes made out of timber in the whole of Seychelles.

2 weeks stay

Try different things while you extend your stay.

  1. Beaches: Lengthen your summer tan on the various beaches La Digue has to offer.
  2. Veuve Reserve: Find out more about La Digue’s endemic animals and plants at this small but beautiful nature reserve in the forest.
  3. Island Hopping: Find yourself a boat charter and check out the other islands that surround La Digue. Find out about their specific history and facts!
  4. Restaurants and Bars: Entice your taste buds with delicious creole cooking from a large variety of restaurants and bars.
  5. Helicopter Rides: See the island from a birds eye view with a lovely helicopter ride that takes off from La Digue.
  6. Lafet La Digue: This event more commonly known as the Feast of Assumption in English, is a major event that is marked in every Seychellois’ calendar from every island. On the 15th of August everyone comes down to celebrate the Virgin Mary and partake in the open-air mass and procession. The festivities continue with street parties, live music shows and food-stalls for both locals and visitors alike.

Find a full list of beaches here.

Find the Mahé itinerary here and the Praslin itinerary here.

Not so sunny

Not so sunny in Seychelles?

Here’s a list of fun things to do when the weather gets a little gloomy.

  1. HISTORICAL EXPLORATIONS
    Seychelles is extremely rich in history and culture so why not visit some of the best historical sites the islands have to offer?
    The National History Museum is home to many stories of the discovery of Seychelles, as well as the flora and fauna that use to and still inhabits the Islands. History of Praslin and La Digue can be found on their respective islands as well.
    Check out more history sites here.


  2. SPA TREATS
    What’s a better way to enjoy a rainy day than in the spa? Treat yourself to one of the many spa’s Seychelles has to offer, no matter where you are on the island.
    If you’re staying at a hotel, be sure to check out their own services or step out and mix it up elsewhere. Relaxation is key on not so sunny days.
    Check out more spas here.


  3. ART FIX
    The many artists of Seychelles are diverse in both style and nationalities. Explore the different ways they express themselves at their studios found all over the island. You can begin by checking out Carrefour Des Arts located behind the National Cultural Center in Victoria, for a little taste.
    Check out more studios here.


  4. NIGHTLIFE
    Want to watch a movie? Feel like dancing? Or do you just want to have a good warm meal? The town of Victoria has several options to cater to your desires.
    Whenever it’s slightly cold on Mahé, I like to get warm and watch movies; Deepam Cinema has a new selection of films every weekend. But it’s even better to dance the night – and rain away – at a nightclub. For example, the Boardwalk Bar and Grill has food and music to offer it’s patrons and plenty of shelter from the rain.
    Check out more entertainment here.