With two thirds of Earth covered by water, it would be fair to question why we are called ‘Earth’ as opposed some other Aquarius name. This connection between land and water conjures up all sorts of beautiful images for me; from coral reefs to waves gently lapping sandy, golden beaches with palm trees fringed along the coastline. I also love the geographical isolation of islands as the water hugs the coastlines; it’s part of their charm. In connection with World Ocean Day (8 June), this blog post is dedicated to my memories of visiting archipelago islands including Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives and Zanzibar.
The archipelagic country of the Maldives is striking to view from the air – like marbles sprinkled throughout the Indian Ocean. There are over 1000 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls lying across the equator. The Maldives is an island nation of Southern Asia, lying approximately 750 kilometres southwest from Sri Lanka. Coral reefs and sand bars live in the atolls and are often no higher than 2 metres above sea level. I could only but admire from an aerial view.
In my brief visit to the Maldives, I didn’t get the opportunity to explore the underwater world, but I did get the thrill of travelling in a seaplane to various islands. Being a low-lying country with the elevation no higher than 5 metres, I do wonder about the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. The other worry is the rubbish I saw accumulating in the waters surrounding fishing boats and on the beaches.
The Republic of Mauritius is a group of islands and archipelagos in the Indian Ocean. I’ve been fortunate to visit the island of Mauritius several times due to my previous work in aviation. I love the misty mountains as clouds and rain scudded through Black Rivers Gorge. No far from there was the painted landscape of Charmarel, the seven colours of earth formed by ancient volcanic flows. At lower elevations I also enjoyed seeing the oversized water lily pond at the botanical gardens, sugar cane plantations and of course the golden beaches.
Zanzibar Archipelago’s consists of several islands lying off the coast of East Africa, also famously known as the Spice Islands. Located on the east coast of Zanzibar, Paje Beach was coloured with turquoise waters and moody thunderous skies when I first arrived. The rain soon cleared revealing shimmering white sand, sparkling waters and green palm trees that fringed the coastline. I was keen to explore the seaweed farms, knowing this is a growing area in aquaculture sector. Unfortunately on this occasion I could not see due to the high tide.
Seychelles is an archipelago spread over a vast area off the African east coast in the Indian Ocean. There are approximately 115 islands of which I’ve had the privilege of seeing four. On first impressions, Seychelles appeared relaxed and the locals were friendly as I first explored the beaches on Praslin Island. I went for a swim at Anse St Sauveur beach; the water was a beautiful temperature to swim in. An outdoor supermarket surrounded me as locals collected fruits from the jungle and fish from the sea. The meals were tasty and fresh with coconut salads, breadfruit and rice, barbequed fish that melted in your mouth and an array of fruit salads for dessert. Jungle juice was a special treat if you fancied an authentic alcoholic beverage.
Taking the ferry to visit La Digue Island was a real treat; what was more of a treat was biking around the island to check out all the wonderful beaches. I first biked to Grand Anse and Petite Anse beach on the south east coast of the island. Grand Anse had a strong surf and I enjoyed being tossed about in the ocean. I next biked to Anse Source d’Argent beach famous for its striking granite boulders, laced with palm trees along the shoreline. It was stunning. I then cycled past the L’Union Estate coconut plantation and saw a number of giant tortoises. These creatures were incredible. They move slowly with those heavy bodies and shells weighing up to 300 kg.
I had a wonderful entrance stepping onto Curieuse Island when I saw more Giant Tortoises roaming about. They wandered around scratching their necks and munching on vegetation. I walked over to the nursery where I saw tortoises ranging from nine months to 30 years. They were only babies where you consider they can live up to 300 years. These tortoises were rummaging everywhere, from the beach to the jungle. I had an entertaining walk through the mangroves dodging giant crabs. Even better was snorkeling at St. Pierre seeing all the colourful fish of all shapes and sizes.
The last island to explore was Mahe Island, where I spent most of the day walking around the capital, Victoria and hiking through the rainforests of Seychellois National Park. I walked up Trois Frere’s walk to capture a fantastic view of Victoria and the surrounding islands (Cerf, Round, Long, Mayne and Ste Anne Islands). Anse Royale (Fairyland Beach) not far from the capital was the last beach I tipped my toes into. It was a final reminder just how deliciously warm these beach waters were.