The cannonball tree -- a plant species that has fascinated writers and botanists -- can be found in Seychelles at the Botanical Gardens and a Hilton property. But beware: it has the name cannonball tree for a reason.
The fruits of the cannonball tree are large, round and heavy like their namesakes. When they fall they make a loud, explosive sound. This is why the species is not planted near footpaths or main roads, said Steen Hansen, a Denmark national living in Seychelles since 2005.
“Although it is an attraction, naturally these quirky trees are not planted near footpaths – as a falling one can cause serious injury to your head,” said Hansen, who has a master's degree in biology and a bachelor's degree in geography and geology.
Visitors to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, are also fascinated by the cannonball tree which can be found in the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens and at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme hotel.
“They take pictures of the flowers and they always ask if the fruit is edible,” said Clara Lesperance, the front office supervisor at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme, a resort in the north of the main island Mahe where the cannonball tree can be found.
|The cannonball tree is cultivated in many countries for its beautiful and scented flowers and interesting fruits. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
In the Botanical Gardens, the tree is not only an attraction for visitors but also provides food for the Seychelles fruit bats that feed on the petals of the red flowers with tentacles looking like sea anemones.
Another attractive trait of the species is that the fruits grow straight on the trunk instead of from branches.
The cannonball is a native to the rainforest of central and southern America and cultivated in many other countries for its beautiful and scented flowers and interesting fruits.
“The flowers themselves are strongly scented, especially at night and in the early morning,” said Hansen. He added that “the cannonball tree might take up to a year or more too mature, and impressively contains more than 550 seeds.”
Cannonball tree is not only ornamental but also has healing properties. Hansen, who has also written scientific and popular science-related articles, said that the tree has medicinal uses.
“Native Amazonians use extracts of several parts of the tree to treat hypertension, tumours, pain and inflammation. It has also been used to treat the common cold, stomachache, skin conditions and wounds, malaria and toothache by chewing the leaves,” said Hansen.
A new family hospital in Seychelles specialising in services for children and women officially opened on Thursday.
The facility is on Perseverance, a reclaimed island on the outskirts of the Seychelles’ capital Victoria, and is already receiving patients.
The Seychelles Family Hospital has 30 inpatient beds, four Intensive Care Unitbeds and four operating theatre beds. It also has modern equipment to cater for children with hearing difficulties. The hospital will handle all stages of maternity cases.
At the official opening, Minister of Health Jean-Paul Adam said, “This new hospital is a state-of-the art facility. It has been built using an innovative modular concept.”
|The Seychelles Family Hospital was officially opened by President Danny Faure. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
“We will be offering more services at the hospital, helping to decongest the main hospital at Mont Fleuri,” added the minister.
The new hospital is temporarily housing patients from the female medical ward at the Seychelles Hospitalwhich will soon be undergoing renovation. The ministry also plans on moving English River health centre’s family planning, ante-natal, post-natal and child health services to the new facility.
A doctor at the new hospital, Micky Monthy, told SNA that it is a big change and they have to adapt to the new facilities as patients are now being admitted into cubicles.
“We have good and modern equipment to help us professionals discharge our role. We also have an intensivist (person specialising in the care of critically ill patients) who will be stationed at the ICU in case of emergencies,” he added.
Speaking to SNA, Marline Lebon, who is a patient at the hospital, said that since they arrived they are being treated well.
|The hospital has already started taking in patients. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The hospital will be opened for other services in three weeks but the Ministry is advising patients to keep using other medical facilities available on Mahe the main island.
Construction on the facility sponsored by the Sheikh Kalifah Bin Zayed Al Nayan Foundation took 10 months. The family hospital was handed over to the Ministry of Health on August 9. Patients moved in end of October.
A representative of the Foundation, Ahmed Saeed Alneyadi, said that they are very happy and honoured to donate such modern facility to Seychelles.
He said that the Foundation has agreed to provide the hospital with specialist and help maintain the equipment.
Representatives from Al Salam Bank presented a check of over $37,000 (SCR 500,000) to President Danny Faure of Seychelles on Tuesday for a donation towards the children’s fund.
Al Salam Bank is an Arabic bank based in Bahrain that took over the former Bank of Muscat International Offshore, BMIO, in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, in May last year.
“It is important for Al Salam Bank to serve the community. We chose the children fund as this investment will help in the development of young people in Seychelles,” said Shaikha Hessa Bint Khalifa Al Khalifa, the bank’s chair.
She also added that it is important for the name of Al Salam Bank to be recognised within the community as “community service is a very important part of being in the banking sector.”
During her courtesy call to Faure at State House in Victoria, the capital, the bank’s chair discussed the possibilities of investing in the residential sector of Seychelles.
|Shaikha Hessa Bint Khalifa Al Khalifa discussed the possibilities of investing in the residential sector of Seychelles in her meeting with the president. (Thomas Meriton, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
“We are hoping that this partnership develops so that we can make investments in Seychelles, especially in the housing sector,” she said.
Speaking to the press in Creole, which she learned from her family's Seychellois nanny, Shaikha Hessa Bint Khalifa Al Khalifa said the bank is ready to start investing immediately and “is waiting for the plans of the president on two projects.”
Further investments can be made in the tourism industry, the main pillar of the island nation’s economy. Commerce is another area of interest.
Talking about Al Salam Bank - Seychelles, Shaikha Hessa Bint Khalifa Al Khalifa said they “hope that the number of local clients will increase and more Seychellois will open an account with [the bank].”
“We are at the forefront of technology and when it comes to customer service, we offer all the products that are available in other banks, such as loans,” she said, adding that they look forward to working with the government and Seychellois.
In an effort to reduce energy use in Seychelles, the Energy Commission is setting energy efficiency standards for five types of electrical home appliances entering Seychelles as of next year.
The standards mean it will be mandatory for bulbs, freezers and refrigerators, air conditioners, electric water heaters and washing machines to meet the required minimum standard. The announcement was made by Minister of Finance Peter Larose in his budget address last week.
Larose said that “with this policy, consumers should be able to minimise their energy bills and save money, and should make the most of this wonderful saving opportunity.” The new category of purchases will qualify for a break on the Value Added Tax.
The long-term goal is to have only energy-efficient equipment in use in Seychelles.
The chief executive the Seychelles Energy Commission, Tony Imaduwa, said that these appliances were chosen as “they are the common types of equipment found in homes and they consume energy the most.”
|The long-term goal is to have only energy-efficient equipment in use in Seychelles. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
This was outlined in a baseline study held by the commission that involved 200 households.
“I would say that almost 95 percent [of the population] has access to all these five types of equipment at their place,” said Cynthia Alexander, the principal officer of the commission’s Renewable Energy and Energy Department.
Distributors importing energy efficient appliances are being encouraged to display the energy efficiency labels that show information about the product's efficiency. Customers can hence choose the best appliance for their budget.
Helping businesses make appliances more affordable
As an incentive, all imported electrical appliances certified energy efficient by the commission will be exempted from the Value Added Tax.
“A VAT exemption benefits the consumer directly as it makes the energy efficient products cheaper for the clients,” said Raja Ramani, Managing Director of Cellular Services – the authorised seller of Samsung in Seychelles.
He, however, stated that households that cannot afford to buy energy-efficient products, which are much more expensive, will not have the option of buying a cheaper product.
How residents can benefit
Already a subsidized loan scheme through the Seychelles Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programme (SEEREP) is in place to encourage residents to buy energy efficient and renewable technology appliances. Under the scheme, each household can benefit with up to $10,735 at a five percent rate of interest payable up to five years.
|It will be mandatory for bulbs, freezers and refrigerators, air conditioners, electric water heaters and washing machines to meet the required minimum standard. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
“The objective of SEEREP is to provide you with financial incentives for you to replace your old inefficient appliance and not to start adding more equipment, which will lead to more energy consumption,” said Imaduwa.
Ramani of Cellular Services said that if the right of giving loans were extended to the distributors rather than the bank, the customers will not have to pay the interest.
“[Some banks] are not comfortable to give out these loans at these rates especially if they are not getting any guarantee from the buyer themselves,” said Ramani.
He added that this has been discussed in the past with the relevant agencies and that they “are ready to put in place a scheme to do this if the government extends the same guarantee that they are extending to the bank under the SEEREP programme.”
Ramani is also concerned with the service and disposal of appliances. Well-known brands provide after sales with spare parts in stock, he said and this will ensure that products not working properly can be repaired instead.
Imaduwa said that, together with the relevant ministry, the energy commission is reviewing the waste policy to come up with a mechanism that will deal with electrical and electronic waste.
“We have to look at the whole chain of the product which includes the disposal of the appliances,” said Imaduwa, adding that discussions are already ongoing.
The Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) has signed an agreement with British Airways, which is preparing to launch direct flights to Seychelles in March next year.
The two-year agreement establishes the framework to market and promote Seychelles as a destination and support British Airways’ non-stop, twice-weekly flights to the destination.
The signing took place on Monday November 6, 2017, on the sideline of the World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
The marketing agreement was inked by the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis and British Airways’ Head of Agency and Consumer Sales, Chris Rankin.
This was done at the Seychelles’ stand at WTM, in the presence of the Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Derick Ally.
STB’s Regional Director for Europe, Bernadette Willemin, Director for UK & Ireland, Christine Vel, Marketing Executives, Eloise Vidot and Myra Fanchette, as well Rajinder Johal, representing British Airways, also witnessed the signing.
Through this collaboration, STB and British Airways will undertake joint marketing initiatives aimed at promoting Seychelles and the British Airways flights to the destination; and this will be done through various means, including, but not limited to social media, promotional activities including FAM trips, among others.
British Airways will be resuming flights to Seychelles on March 24, 2018, after over a decade of not flying to the Indian Ocean island destination. It will operate non-stop, twice-weekly flights from its main hub, London Heathrow, using its newest fleet of aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The flights will depart London Heathrow airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays, returning on Thursdays and Sundays.
STB’s Chief Executive, Mrs. Sherin Francis said: “The British Airways’ return on the destination will be a big boost for our already buoyant UK and Ireland market and given it will fly out of London Heathrow it will provide further boost to our US market and other European markets. Joining BA’s already strong marketing team will definitely help strengthen our presence on these markets.”
Europe has long been and remains the Seychelles’ main tourism market. When it comes to UK, statistics show that the market has sent 19,330 visitors to Seychelles up to November 5 this year, representing a 19 percent growth when compared to the same period in 2016. The UK is currently the country’s fifth leading tourism market.
A Seychellois businesswoman has again been awarded for her pioneering role in shaping Seychelles’ tourism industry.
Daniella Payet-Alis recently was named Africa´s Most Influential Women in Business and Government and Titans Building Nations for her achievements in the tourism and leisure sector. The award was given by CEO Global, an organisation that leads business coaching opportunities for learning and development through peer group meetings led by experienced CEO Group Leaders.
Winning two awards in a year has underlined Payet-Alis’s beliefs in the need for women to remind themselves to believe in themselves.Earlier this year, Payet-Alis won a similar award from the Indian Ocean Commission.
“There is only one you and you are blessed with a mix of talents and qualities that no one else has, in building economies and creating a future for younger generations on the African continent,” she said.
Payet-Alis added that while it is fair to say that women face a number of unique challenges in the business world, it is also important to recognize that it is not only external challenges that can hold women back. She said that there is a need for women to question their own thinking before they can break through into new ventures and leadership roles.
The Seychellois businesswoman who has worked in the tourism industry for 13 years, dedicated the latest award to the hard-working woman in Seychelles and those in Africa.
CEO Global is a non-governmental platform that identifies women who are making a meaningful contribution to their country. The aim of the platform is to uplift and celebrate the achievements of women across Africa.
Seychelles was represented by a strong delegation at this year’s World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
The World Travel Market is one of the leading global event for the travel and tourism industry. The 2017 edition was held from November 6 to 8.
The country’s Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine, Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Derick Ally, were present at the Seychelles’ stand on the opening day.
The Seychelles’ delegation also consisted of representatives of the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) led by its Chief Executive, Sherin Francis. She was accompanied by the Regional Director for Europe, Bernadette Willemin, Director for UK & Ireland, Christine Vel, Marketing Executive at the UK office, Eloise Vidot and Marketing Executive from the head office, Myra Fanchette.
A total of 13 companies, including the national airline, hotels and Destination Management Companies (DMCs) graced the Seychelles stand at this year’s WTM.
Participating partners include: Air Seychelles – Christine Ozouf, Alphonse Island Lodge Ltd. – Amanda Lang & Jordyn Mackenzie, Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort and Casino – Wendy Tan, Coco De Mer Hotel & Black Parrot Suites – Ash Behari, Creole Travel Services – Blaisila Hoffman, Guillaume Albert & Eric Renard, Eden Island Seychelles/Luxury Accommodation – Justin Arenhold, Hilton Seychelles – Britta Krug & Andre Borg, Kempinski Seychelles Resort – MarKo Dobrus, Masons Travel – Amy Michel & Lenny Alvis, Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa – Lauren Mills & Len Jackson, Raffles Seychelles – Joerg Roferberg & Alexa Sinzig-Mootoo, and 7° South – Anna Butler-Payette.
Over 4,500 exhibitors representing every sector in the global travel industry, including airlines, tourist boards, luxury resorts and technology specialists participated in the event. A mixture of businesses from large corporations to small entrepreneurs were represented. Aside of showcasing world travel and tourism, WTM London, provides the opportunity for industry professionals to network, build contact and discuss business opportunities. Now in its 38th year, this is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes business deals.
The Tourism Minister Ambassador Loustau-Lalanne and STB Chief Executive Mrs. Francis used the opportunity to conduct various meetings with travel trade professionals.
Both the Minister Loustau-Lalanne and Mrs. Francis were also interviewed by a number of high profile media organizations including the BBC, Sky news, Euronews among others.
Mrs. Francis said: “UK is a fast-growing market and so far, all signs are showing that the market will stay buoyant. A lot of efforts have been invested in getting the travel trade onboard and the figures have shown that the strategy has yielded positive results. WTM London has given us the chance to further strengthen existing relationships and to forge new ones for 2018.”
To note that the United Kingdom, which is currently the fifth leading market for Seychelles, is one that has witnessed remarkable progress and exponential growth in recent years.
The growth has been hugely supported by the UK travel trade.
STB’s Regional Director for Europe Bernadette Willemin said: “With such a delegation and support of the local trade partners being represented at WTM this year, it will hopefully entice growing confidence among the UK travel operators and agents to continue selling the destination and increase the UK sales figures. The outlook on the UK market currently looks positive and should this trend continue, it is hoped that it will emerge as a primary market the Seychelles.”
According to statistics, the UK has sent 19,330 visitors to Seychelles up to November 5 this year, representing a 19 percent growth when compared to the same period in 2016.
The Cistercian monks' community in Seychelles wants to expand its monastery on the main island of Mahe so as to offer more support to people in need.
Established in the island nation eight years ago, the monastery is located at L’Harmonie in the hills of La Misere -- an area isolated from the main road and other residences. It is around 10 minutes walk from the La Misere main road and 10 to 15 minutes drive from the Seychelles’ capital Victoria.
As the monks cannot work outside of their monastery, people needing their support must come to them, but the place right now cannot accommodate others.
“We need more infrastructures as we want to build dormitories so that people can come and stay for some time. For now, if we have a group, they have to camp outside,” said Father Chrysostome, the head of the community.
|Father Chrysostome -- the head of the Cistercian monks community in Seychelles. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Chrysostome said that even their chapel is too small. “As we celebrate mass every Sunday, more and more people are coming. We need the space to cater to more people.”
There are six monks from the Cistercian Order, a Roman Catholic religious order of monks and nuns, in the community in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. They are also called the Benedictinesor the Bernardines as they follow the rules of St. Benedict and St. Bernard.
The two groups are distinguished by the colour of their "cuccula" – a choir robe worn by the Cistercians over their habits. The Bernadines wear white hence the name white monks and Benedictines wear black.
The monks in Seychelles are all from Morombe, a coastal city in the Atsimo-Andrefana region of Madagascar, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. The community lives a simple life, comprising of prayers, meditation and farming.
|Agriculture is the way of life of the monks' community and it is how the group support itself. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The monks provide spiritual support to vulnerable members of the society including addicts and people living with mental illness. Apart from prayer sessions, people can also go to the monastery for meditation.
Agriculture is a way of life for the Cistercian monks and this is how the group support itself.
“We spend five hours farming each day. We grow mainly root crops as well as some vegetables and fruits,” said Chrysostome adding that the goods are also sold to other Catholic's foyer.
The community is in need of support to better serve the Seychellois society and is exploring how best to secure funds to extend the monastery.
An exhibition showcasing architectural models last week gave visitors an opportunity to explore the sustainability aspect of architecture.
The ‘Immersive Exhibition’ showcased maquettes -- small preliminary models of architectural projects -- created by students for their sustainable schools. Participating schools were eligible to win a sustainable school award for 2017.
Last week's event was conceived by Raymus Laurence, a young Seychellois architectural draftsman, to see how people envision sustainability in architecture and inspire others to consider ways of incorporating it into their designs.
|Raymus Laurence conceived the 'Immersive Exhibition' so viewers could explore sustainability in architecture. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Laurence said that his work involves not only accommodating the client’s architectural vision but also takes into account the footprint left behind in the world. Innovating building spaces to incorporate nature’s wonders into the design is Laurence’s foremost aim.
“I believe that my contribution is not just about design but also using my professional skills to shape a better quality of life and ensure that it lasts for future generations, by reducing the footprint we leave behind,” he said.
The exhibition was also used to raise the level of engagement among youth about various Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This is in line with the SDG 9 -- innovation and infrastructure and SDG 11 -- sustainable cities and communities.
“Everyone deserves the right to live in safe, resilient and sustainable communities, I just wanted to find an innovative way to display this for everyone to see and appreciate,” added the young architectural draftsman.
|The ‘Immersive Exhibition’ showcased maquettes created by students for their sustainable schools. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The Immersive Exhibition will be done annually and target several Sustainable Development Goals along the way. The theme will change according to the targeted SDGs.
Laurence hopes that his project will educate secondary schools, professional centres, the University of Seychelles and not for profit organisations on the Sustainable Development Goals 9 and 11. He also hopes to encourage the private sectors and government to take into consideration the ideas and talents of youth in implementing those ideas into their school and other ways to construct school more effectively.
There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by countries on September 25, 2015. The goals aim at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.
|SNA presents a collection of photos from the exhibition. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
New patterns of rainfall distribution are emerging in Seychelles compared to two decades ago, the Meteorological Services says.
With the island nation now in its rainy season -- October to February -- Chief Executive Vincent Amelie said that 20 years ago it was normal to experience two to three days of continuous rainfall.
“Whereas now there are heavy but short rainfalls usually lasting 30 minutes,” said Amelie.
The chief executive explained that the short and heavy rainfall is not helpful for water conservation.
“The rainfall often does not have time to be absorbed into the soil and reach the rivers; instead they can create flash floods,” he said.
A climate change scenario conducted by the local Meteorological Services in 2009 had predicted that in the next 20 years, rainfall will continue to be short and heavy. The research had also shown that the dry season will be longer and drier.
Amelie said that although the Meteorological Services had predicted that the dry season would be drier and longer, “We have noticed that in the past five years, the dry season has actually gotten wetter.”
He said that although this is good news, the slight increase in rain is still not considered significant.
“This is why we are going to conduct a review of our 2009 climate change scenario to gain a better understanding of what is happening,” said the chief executive.
Seychelles’ geographical location ensures that there will always be rainfall in the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
“Because we are near the equator, we know that although there is less rainfall than before, we will still always have rainfall. We simply need to find new ways to adapt to climate change.”
Amelie said that the ways in which Seychelles can adapt to climate change are vast and need to be tapped into.
“This includes exploiting the cash months of heavy rainfall, investing in new technology to maximise water collection, creating more desalination plants and much more,” he added.
In line with that, the Public Utilities Corporation is starting construction work this month to raise Seychelles' main reservoir -- La Gogue Dam -- to increase its water storage capacity. Once completed in 2019, the reservoir’s capacity will increase by 600,000 cubic metres, making its total storage capacity 1.6 million cubic metres.
So far there has not been a partial study of rainfall distribution in Seychelles to determine in which areas rainfall is heaviest or lightest. This is because automatic weather stations in areas other than at the airport are much more recent, and the study requires a minimum of at least 30 years before it can effectively analyse the climate.