Green tourism on the Seychelles
| Christian Selz |
LA DIGUE, Seychelles (dpa) – Just recently, the Seychelles installed its very first pedestrian crossing signal – and so doubled the number of traffic lights in the Indian Ocean island state.
Maybe it had something to do with the risky driving style of some local motorists – but otherwise, life in the Seychelles is usually quiet. Along with fishing, the 87,000 residents since the 1970s have lived primarily from tourism.
But you won’t find bothersome souvenir vendors, or hawkers trying to lure you into some restaurant. Not even the market women who sell fish, fruit and vegetables in the capital Victoria yell. Instead of huge hotel complexes, there are only small resorts. This is good for the environment.
Jules Radegonde is one who benefits, because the eco-system of his home island of La Digue is still largely intact. He sees it daily just before noon when his suppliers – skinny boys with metal spears and snorkelling gear – bring him squid for his seafood salads.
There’s a long scar on the back of his hands, which Radegonde drily describes as “a souvenir from my days as a fisherman, probably from a large wahoo or tuna fish”.
Now he operates a tropical fruit-juice bar together with his girlfriend. They serve cocktails made from mangos, bananas and passion fruit. Or else entire coconuts that they split apart with a machete.
The fruit comes from the island’s gardens. In a sense, the fruit-cocktail stands are the equivalent of petrol stations on the island, which is virtually car-free. Locals and tourists alike need the energy from juice to get around on rickety bicycles.
Whenever possible, the locals on La Digue like to show that nobody has any worries or problems. There aren’t even any locks for the bicycles. This can lead to considerable confusion for visitors, but never to any cases of theft.
A few hundred metres south of Radegonde’s bar, it’s the end of the road for the bicycle. Now, at ebb tide, the path leads through shallow waters to the virtually empty beaches of Anse Caiman and Anse Cocos. Beyond the breakers, snorkellers can find the greatest treasure of the Seychelles – the huge variety of fish.
Unicorn fish curiously pop up before your mask. Gigantic gropers in every colour and design are staring with huge eyes. Colourful parrot fish with beak-shaped mouths, evidently excited, are darting back and forth.
With luck, one might even discover a sea turtle hunting for a jellyfish.
On such excursions, since wading can be necessary, it is advisable to keep an eye on the tides, which can be strong on some days.
The poorly-marked trail through the jungle leads perilously close to a number of granite cliffs. Without climbing gear, your only alternative is to descend and wade through the water.
Or else, you have a literally breathtaking option of hiking through the hot and muggy mountain forests to the Grand Anse, and then to a concrete paved road taking you back to the village of La Passe.
La Digue, the smallest of the three inhabited Seychelles islands, will exact a certain amount of sweat from those out to explore it.
But with its small, affordable family-run inns and the many remote beaches, it also offers a lot of space to relax in peace and quiet.
Peace is what visitors who go clambering up the steep peak of North Island with Linda Vanherck are searching for. And in doing so they are helping the island to survive. The Belgian biologist heads a nature rehabilitation project and prefers to talk about her work while on the move.
The background story sounds horrifying. After the collapse of the coconut industry, the uninhabited former plantation island of 201 hectares, located north-west of the main island of Mahe, was abandoned. Conifer trees that had once been planted as wind-belts spread along with imported plants, squeezing out the natural vegetation.