The first day at sea after leaving Muscat, Oman, during the captain’s daily noonhour annoucements, he told us of some itinerary changes he had made to keep the ship out of range of the pirate activity that was active on the northeast coast of Africa at the time. (The Maersk ‘Alabama’ was pirated while we were in these waters – re: Tom Hanks movie “Captain Philllips.” ) Our two-day port of call in the Seychelles was moved up a day earlier and we would be three days at sea instead of the originally planned four (which meant we needed to travel at full speed of 22 knots) and we would take three days instead of two to reach Mombasa, Kenya so that the captain can sail further out at sea and further south down the African coast before turning north and hugging the coast up to Mombasa. These changes would allow the ship to get to Kenya without sailing in the vicinity of known pirate activity.
In order to ensure the ship and passengers were protected the entire time we sailed in the waters near Somalian pirates there was crew members with night vision binoculars and flak vests doing 4-hour shifts on watch on the promenade deck 24- hours a day. All of the promenade deck fire hoses had been charged and lashed to the railing and a sonic cannon was set up at each end of the deck and ready to break eardrums if necessary. There was never a dull moment on the open sea.
The Seychelles are a group of about 115 islands that lie 1600 kilometers (990 miles) off the coast of east Africa. The three central islands – Mahe, Praslin and La Digue – are granite, while the outlying islands are coral atolls. The capital, Victoria, Mahe is one of the smallest capital cities in the world and the only major port in the Seychelles. It is also the only town in the country; all the other communities are villages.
When the islands were discovered by a British East India ship in 1609 they quickly became a haven for pirates. They were claimed for France in 1754 and the first settlers and slaves arrived in 1770. Britain took charge of the Seychelle Islands after the Napoleonic Wars but the French language and customs remained. Today, most locals will conduct business in French, speak English to the tourists and talk Creole (a French dialect) at home.
Our tour the first day in the Seychelles – which was Palm Sunday – took us into Victoria to see the famous clock tower, the post office, several churches, the market, and a Hindu temple before we visited the Botanical Gardens. At the garden we saw the giant land tortoises and the coco de mer (double coconut), unique to the Seychelles.
We were driven to the highest point on the island for a photo stop before being taken to a restaurant at the south end of the island for lunch. There was time alloted for a swim after lunch but the surf was pretty high and strong so we just enjoyed a walk on the lovely beach. On the way back to the ship we stopped at a Craft Village where we saw demonstrations by traditional artisans; as we know one must ALWAYS have an opportunity to shop on each excursion.
Day two was a lovely sunny day and the water returned to its normal hues of bright blue and green. We went snorkeling near one of the small outer atolls, Cerf Island. It was fun to feed the fish. My little waterproof camera managed a couple of almost clear shots and a short video of the feeding frenzy over the chunk of bread. Despite the sun screen we both got burned when we were snorkeling.
We returned to the ship at noon, had a light lunch and caught the shuttle back to shore to explore Victoria on foot.
We really liked the Seychelles and, except for the horrendously long flight to get there, could see ourselves spending vacation time on one of the islands.
And just to end our visit at these lovely islands in the same vein as when we arrived, the Captain cancelled our stop in Madagascar due to political unrest; which now gives us a third day in Mombasa.