It wasn’t the palm fringed beaches and lapping turquoise crystal surf, nor even the lush wooded forests, we have much that’s similar in South Africa. No, it wasn’t what there is about the Seychelles. It’s about what there isn’t. There are no mega, ultra, hyper shopping malls or mega, ultra, hyper anything. No network of motorway clogged with road rage, that I witnessed anyway, no sky brown smudge of pollution, no street violence, and above all no sense of underlying tension and stress. Life is so much more simple.
It would be naive and touristique to think stress and tension don’t exist – living on an island inevitably puts you sort of on an edge – but there is a palpable niceness and gentility about the people living here which makes you want to revisit the causes of your own underlying anger level. The joyful striped dolphin is the official national animal, but the mature, amiable, shy and peaceful giant tortoise makes a good pair and must come a close second in terms of national psyche.
Tourism is the business (President James Michel is also the Minister of Tourism) – but it appears certainly to be handled with care. Approximately 50% of Mahe is protected parkland, the whole atoll is surrounded by marine reserve and a Russian hotel magnate who broke the building rules (nothing higher than a palm tree) had his permit stopped and his half-finished venture stands as testimony. Though the benevolent Shaikh Khalifa seems to have found a loophole with his sore-thumb palaces clearly visible in the mountains. For the most part architecture is sensitive, and the more showy resorts are tucked away.
What I like best, and again I may be just be getting one side of the story, is that a few years ago Seychelles was on its knees financially. Things had gone horribly wrong. But they bit the bullet, drew in their horns and made things work, bringing everyone on board. They are looking to attract investors now – the right sort, obviously. Because as their Minister of Investment, Natural Resources and Industry Peter Sinon says, ‘Nous avons stabilite.’
Stabilite and simplicty – what a happy combination. All this and a Carnaval too, but that’s another story. nx