A very belated Happy New Year everyone. Apologies for the delay - I've got a several exciting 2013 posts coming very soon!
Wanted to share some highlights of the year in an end-of-year collage.Actually, I've only included the second half of the year (1/2 / 2012 ?) since the blog was started in July. Looking through, I feel privileged to have had so many stunning opportunities to attempt to capture this variety of visual beauty. Click on the images to take you to the relevant posts from earlier this year. Unusually, photos are square-cropped here so not in original shape. Alternatively you can see the images in their normal form in the slideshow below.
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Slideshow of above photos. Hover over the photo and click "play".
A delayed flight back to Kenya (and kind lifts from Dilip Uncle) gave us the chance to spend a few hours in Victoria, the capital of Seychelles.
Technical details: Olympus ZD 12-60mm lens; all unedited and straight from the camera.
A few photos of out last dusks and dawns in Praslin, witnessing gorgeous sunsets and serious waves on fabulous beaches! A few photos have captions. Scenic flight moments (flying from Praslin back to Mahe) captured on the (slightly shaky) video below - but worth skipping through!
Technical details: Olympus ZD 12-60mm and 70-300mm lenses; all unedited and straight from the camera.
When we booked our taxi boat to Cousin, we were told it was only an 8 minute motorboat ride away. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the sea was a lot less calm a few mornings later and we had quite an adventure (and soaking) when boating our way through the rough choppy sea - luckily our boatman had a waterproof back and we'd brought extra large carrier bags for the camera bag! The journey actually took us about 45 minutes. To land on Cousin's fine beaches, you have to board a speedboat (in the sea) on which you are told to hold on tight - the boat is driven at full speed, cutting through the waves like a jet ski, onto the white sandy beach. Why? In order to reduce human imprint on the beach itself.
After disembarking, everyone is strongly advised to put insect repellent on, properly - there were dozens of Odomos tubes (indian insect repellent cream) provided. Will had also given us mosquito suits but we thought we'd brave it as Seychelles seemed moderately mosquito-free compared to the lake-town of Kisumu. In fact, I've never had to reapply the mosquito repellent every half hour like I did in Cousin's dense vegetation.
Cousin Island is a stunning bird island, designated as a special reserve and it was bought by Birdlife International while managed by Nature Seychelles. With no development and totally reserved for conservation, Cousin Island has the highest density of lizards per hectare in the world (although it didn't seem like this!); it is home to 300,000 nesting seabirds, the longest millipede in the world and an important nesting site for Hawksbill turtles. We had never seen such a place teeming with wildlife, and even more so, birdlife. With no natural predators and only conservationists and visitors, the birds are completely unafraid of humans - we could walk right up to nesting chicks at the base of trees and they would barely bat an eyelid - they felt so safe and secure! We were extremely lucky to see one of the first nesting Hawksbill turtles of the year - photos below capture some of the wildlife we witnessed.
Technical details: Olympus ZD 70-300mm lens; all unedited and straight from the camera.
A 30 minute ferry (catamaran) ride from Praslin took us to the picturesque, timeless oasis of La Digue - Seychelles' third largest inhabited island, home to 2000 people and less than 30 motor vehicles (mostly used for cargo / construction). A truly tropical Center Parcs, the main mode of transport are bicycles, widely available to rent. Interestingly, as we moved to the smaller islands, the locals found the larger islands "too busy"! Few people around the world would think Praslin, with its population of 5000, had too much hustle and bustle - but you'd find them in the sleepy island of La Digue, where ox-carts still operate!
Most photos have captions - click (or hover) to enlarge and read.
Technical details: Olympus ZD 12-60mm (mostly) and 70-300mm (tortoise, crab and hat photos) lenses; all unedited and straight from the camera.
It was great for Will to invite us to his school and we had an opportunity to interact with the locals when doing a bit of work and taking some staff photos. Compared to inner-city London, this international school seemed extremely informal and friendly, and it was pleasing to see children of all ages, from 5 to 15 playing together in one playground. The innocence of childhood endures several years longer than it does in London! A selection of the photos are below.
Technical details: Olympus ZD 70-300mm lens; all unedited and straight from the camera (square crops become full when clicked).
According to UNESCO, Vallée de Mai is a palm forest that has been largely unchanged since prehistoric times. But what makes it a national landmark is that it is home to the largest population of Coco de Mer trees, which produces (and obviously germinates from) the largest seed in the plant kingdom. Seeds can weigh up to 17kg and fruit up to a whopping 40kg, and a quick google search will reveal the male and female plant's mythology! Another point of interest were the giant leaves, up to 20 feet long and the sturdiest I've ever felt (a bit like plastic panelling) - roofs thatched from them can last about 20 years! Apparently you can walk through the forest during periods of heavy rain and remain relatively dry as these huge leaves channel the water towards the trunks of the tall palms. The video is shown just to give a feel of the breeze experienced when walking through the palm forest: the sway and crunching sound of the giant leaves in particular.
Following Vallée de Mai, we were lucky to make a short visit to Anse Lazio - renowned as one of the best beaches in the world. We could not disagree! "Anze Lazio feels like a hidden oasis, thanks to the giant granite boulders that shelter its white sandy beach and bright turquoise sea. The shoreline remains largely untouched... and a coral reef that keeps the waters calm also makes for an ideal snorkeling and swimming spot" (Smarter Travel).
Technical details: Olympus ZD 12-60mm; all unedited and straight from the camera.
Flying to Praslin - what an experience! Although the weather wasn't ideal, we thoroughly enjoyed the 15 minute flight from Mahe to Praslin in a De Havilland Twin Otter 16-seater, with hand luggage in our laps and a clear view into the cockpit. Ours was the only checked-in baggage, yet they still put it on the belt in Praslin!
Staying and spending time with Will was an absolute pleasure. He had no reservation about picking us up at 6am on a Sunday morning and giving us a morning tour of the island. But the highlight of our day was Anse Government. After lunch and swimming at L'Archipel, we drifted down the coast to an area we could almost walk out onto small rocky islands. Jumping off the 10 feet cliffs (and avoiding the rocks below) was inspired by daring local teenagers - not a small feat considering Will had only learnt to swim a few months ago! Luckily he also had his waterproof camera to capture some of the moments.
Before reaching, Will had told me that he doesn't bother checking the weather here due to the micro climates - today it must have rained on and off at least 15 times in the day! Many more photos from Praslin will follow in later posts.
For interesting travel reading on Seychelles, especially if you're from the UK, I recommend a visit to Will's blog - Will I Am in Seychelles. Entertaining, humourous yet informative.
Technical details (first 3 photos): Olympus ZD 12-60mm and 70-300mm lenses; unedited and straight from the camera. Last two photos: Panasonic Lumix FT3, colours slightly edited to counter the cloudy day.
The excitement kicked in when flying into Seychelles - breathtaking granite islands surrounded by stunning white sandy beaches, palm trees and lush rainforests all viewable form the window as we landed onto a runway that felt like it was in the water. A dreamy paradise like nothing we'd ever seen before!
We were lucky to stay with Dilip Uncle and Bharti Aunty, whose warm hospitality made us feel right at home. Driving around the Seychelles was an absolute joy with a variety of vistas every few minutes. The pictures paint the picture of the glorious natural beauty and exotic nature - click on an image to read captions.
A little background to Mahe - 60 sq miles and the largest island with 90% of the population of Seychelles - a whopping 80,000. It is home to possibly the smallest capital city in the world, Victoria, with a population of 23,000. It is approximately 1000 miles off the East African coast.
Technical details (for all except bat photo): Olympus ZD 12-60mm; all unedited and straight from the camera except ant photo which was cropped.
Bat photo: Olympus ZD 70-300mm; cropped.