It is the 12th September 2021 and our 10th day of quarantining in the Courtyard Marriot hotel, Heathrow. Tomorrow we will be released from ‘prison’ and our daughter, Sal, is coming to fetch us to take us to her home in Bath. About 8 months ago, she persuaded us to relocate to England. She did not want us living alone in South Africa anymore, especially as Covid has put paid to us being able to visit each other every year.
Being imprisoned has led to contemplation on how precious freedom is and how much we take it for granted. I’ve had time to reminisce about all the wonderful experiences we, as a family, have had. One of the very best of these was a sail around islands close to Mahe in the Seychelles in March 2009.
Seychelles sailing at its best
“The hot sky whispers summer dreams and the sweet feet go out to sea together.” Sal’s beautifully expressed sentence sums up the ‘once in a lifetime’ sail we, five Feete, had in the Seychelles in March 2009.
If you don’t have your own yacht and you don’t know the waters around these 115 islands with their hidden granite rocks, it is certainly advisable to go with an reputable sailing company for an ‘around the islands’ sail. We ‘shopped around’ and Angel Fish Ltd. turned out to be the most helpful. The price had us gasping – Euros 2100 for two days and one night, is what we recall – but once taken to see the Laguna, the spectacular catamaran we would be sailing on, it was all over – we were sold… ‘Seychelles sailing at its best’ is the thought that came to mind. We simply couldn’t say no. I can’t find a website for them now, in 2021, but here is another company that offers private cruises: https://www.voileseychelles.com/cruises-catamaran-seychelles/seychelles-islands-catamaran.html
Skipper Ronnie and chef Danny welcomed us aboard.
One deluxe and two other double cabins (decorated with hibiscus in typically Seychellois fashion), all en suite (amazing!), comfortably accommodated us. Through ‘windows’ in the floor, the turquoise water beckoned, .
We had thought that Anse Lazio on Praslin might be a good place to moor for the night but our experienced skipper Ronnie suggested Anse Coco, La Digue instead, because it would be sheltered from the NW wind, that was blowing quite strongly. We set sail and chose our spots to tan, relax, read, snooze.
We all shifted around, but none of us was surprised to see Captain D at the wheel before long! Danny produced an excellent lunch of red snapper and salads, followed by fresh fruit.
Late in the afternoon we anchored in the beautiful Anse Coco cove.
We enjoyed a fantastic snorkel around the rocks on one side. (The snorkelling needs to tell its own fishy tale – see below.)
We also swam to the beach for a walk. Ronnie kindly took us quite close inshore with the rubber duck. There were only a couple of other people on the pristine white beach. By evening we had the whole gorgeous spot all to ourselves.
The full moon came up over the sea. Patchily tanned but feeling good after a day in the sun, we sat down to a delicious dinner of steak and salads.
Quite early the next morning, soon after the moon had set and the sun had risen, we snorkelled amongst the rocks on the opposite side of Anse Coco.
Sailing around the northern end of La Digue, Ronnie anchored quite near the jetty, so that Danny could go by rubber duck to get milk for our breakfast!
Our next stop was Ave Maria. There was a dive boat there initially but it soon left and what a pleasure it was to be the only people there once again.
Our last anchorage was off Round island.
And then it was time to head home, back to the main island of Mahe.
We enjoyed Danny’s superbly cooked carangue while sailing back home to Mahe. Ronnie docked expertly at 5 pm. Back in our beds on terre firma, five Feete, still rocking, slept soundly, under the nearly full moon, dreaming sweet sea dreams.
You don mask and flippers and slip off the steps, or dive into the crystal clear turquoise sea.
Cool water laps at your skin. You taste salt in your snorkel. You’re looking straight ahead at a very ordinary scene.
You put your face under and everything becomes extraordinary; the underwater world is totally magical. Schools of mullet shimmer just under the surface.
A barracuda or two come to check you out. Looking like miniature Dumbos, a squadron of small squid line up their defence.
Way down in the murky blue, a school of the huge strange Napoleon fish suddenly appear, and swim sedately by.
Surprise after surprise after surprise!
You reach the rocks. Through your mask, with your head up, you look at them jutting up out of the water; no surprises. Head in the water, look down and you thrill at the sight. Their hidden parts plunge dizzyingly down into the depths below. They’re split, cracked, tumbled or stacked, smooth or gritty, furry or spiky with algae or coral. Fish teem around them, chomping, or shelter in their crevasses and caves. In the sand at their feet, you might see rays or turtles.
The very common, but exquisitely beautiful blue-striped surgeon fish are everywhere. Also prolific are the gorgeous powder blue surgeons, with their bright blue bodies, yellow dorsal fin and black and white heads.
Even more striking, if you’re lucky enough to see one, are the magnificent palette surgeon fish, electric blue with bold black patterns – Ile de Coco, also off La Digue, teems with these. Google these for images – I thought I had some photos – but no…sadly.
We also saw the Oriental sweet-lips – as someone remarked; “Who said spots and stripes don’t go?” They do in this striking looking fish. Then there are the beautiful parrot fish, a huge variety of colours and sizes.
Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find the inquisitive spade fish sidling up and following you. It seems utterly appropriate to see plenty of angel fish, two in particular; emperor and semi-circle – adults – the juveniles are far less common. Semi-circular white and blue stripes on a black body of the juvenile give the fish its name .The adult is completely different; its body pale brown, speckled with black and outlined in the same powder blue as their fetching eye shadow. The juvenile emperor is similar in shape and colouring, but is patterned with concentric circles. The adult has striking yellow and purple stripes and a yellow tail. I also love the old woman angel fish – but I have no idea why it is called that!
Wherever you look, there are schools of fish.
Just a note about scuba diving in the Seychelles: Seychelles islands are not volcanic and so their sides do not plunge steeply into the sea as they do in Mauritius for example. So the bottom is comparatively shallow and you really can see an enormous number of fish just with snorkelling. Our daughter can attest to this as she did both.
Just get out there and enjoy! Here’s a last photo of our daughter rising up from the depths!
If you’d like to read another post about our experience in the Seychelles here is two: