The islands of Seychelles in the western Indian Ocean are popular for their tropical beauty. While many visitors enjoy the sun and powder-white sandy beaches, the more adventurous prefer discovering the environment and wilder side of the islands.
There are around 15 nature trails in the island nation, but one is more distinct than the others -- the Morne Blanc Nature trail -- which starts from the highest peak of Morne Seychellois (905m) on the western side of Mahe, the main island.
If you are a fauna enthusiast, SNA recommends these five things to look out for while trekking up the trail.
Tiniest frog (Sooglossus gardinen)
This frog is smaller than an SCR25 cent coin and is considered the world’s tiniest at about 1 cm. It surprisingly gives a loud ‘peep’ sound and finding one means you have an eagle eye.
|(Seychelles National Parks Authority) Photo License: CC-BY|
Stick insect (Seval dibwa)
Twig-like in appearance, it is popularly known locally as a species which dance whenever it hears a clapping sound. It can be found anywhere along the trail. Hikers have to be paying close attention to see this insect, which is usually camouflaged with the tree that it rests upon.
|(Seychelles National Parks Authority) Photo License: CC-BY|
This land-snail is endangered by habitat loss due to invasive alien species such cinnamon tree and small-scale farming. In 2005 the total population was estimated at 8,000 adults. Hikers are advised to watch their step as they are small enough to be easily squashed under your feet.
|(Seychelles National Parks Authority) Photo License: CC-BY|
Seychelles sunbird (kolibri)
Named after the French explorer Jean-Jacques Dussumier, this bird is native to the Seychelles, where it is locally known as kolibri. Although the sunbird has a limited range, it is described as common and has a stable population, so the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has rated its conservation status as being of least concern.
|(Seychelles National Parks Authority) Photo License: CC-BY|
Seychelles bulbul (merl)
It is a common bird endemic to Seychelles, breeding on Mahé, Praslin, La Digue and Silhouette as well as some smaller islands. Through the mists of the trail, there are no difficulties finding this bird, as it can be seen swirling below and above you.
|(Seychelles National Parks Authority) Photo License: CC-BY|
Seychelles scops owl (syer)
The Seychelles scops owl, also known as bare-legged scops owl or syer in Creole is a rare species. It is a brown-chestnut coloured and nocturnal bird so not easily seen. The Seychelles scops owl can be spotted by its call which sounds like a rasping noise like a big saw with various "tok tok" which can be heard from a far distance and in particular in the darkness.
|(Jeff Watson) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
Seychelles for the first time is hosting the Conference of the Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC), bringing together the representatives of the national parliaments of the independent states of the organisation.
Seychelles’ President Danny Faure in his opening address on Tuesday at the Savoy Hotel said that as a Small Island State, Seychelles is proud to host this conference for the first time.
A total of 74 members from 52 nations are attending the conference, which Faure said “highlights both the diversity and the fundamental unity of the Commonwealth.”
The president said this shows that the participating states are all committed to the values inscribed in the Commonwealth Charter and dedicated to the development of free and democratic societies.
Faure added that the oversight role of Parliament and National Assembly is critical to a vibrant democracy.
“It is essential that the business of the Legislature is conducted to safeguard the security, prosperity, welfare, and dignity of our citizens. When we focus on the interests of our people, that is when a society succeeds,” he said.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is making history in its young democracy.
“As you are aware, we now have a cohabitation in Seychelles, where the Opposition is in the majority in the Seychelles National Assembly. The cohabitation is working for the greater good of our country and wellbeing of our people,” said Faure.
Following the September 2016 elections, the Seychelles legislative body -- the National Assembly -- has an opposition majority from the coalition of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS). The executive is led by the President’s Party ‘Lepep.’
On his side, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Patrick Pillay, said that such conference brings a lot benefits for Seychelles and its parliamentary institution.
|Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Patrick Pillay. (Louis Toussaint) Photo License: CC-BY|
“This conference has brought more parliamentary officials than previous ones organised. Of course for a small country like Seychelles it will bring a lot of visibility,” said Pillay.
The Speaker added that the Conference will bring more partnership with other parliaments and added that “tomorrow we are having bilateral discussions with representatives from India, which have played a role in the development of our parliament.”
The Conference of the Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth was established in 1969 as an initiative of the then Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada, Lucien Lamoureux. Since its inception, Canada has provided organisation with a secretariat to support its activities.
A conference is organised every two years and is overseen by a standing committee chaired by the speaker of the country hosting the next conference.
“I come from a parliamentary institution where I chair 60 members. The speaker is appointed and does not come from any political party,” said Luveni.The speaker of parliament of Fiji Islands, Jiko Luveni, told SNA that she expects to learn a lot from the conference and parliamentary institutions of Seychelles as they operate differently.
The conference will be spread across four days at the Savoy hotel, on the northern side of the main island, Mahe.
Visitor arrivals into the country for 2017 surpassed predictions made by the Seychelles Tourism Board, setting a new record of nearly 350,000 visitors.
An increased number of flights helped set the new record. Germany was at the top of the list with more than 50,000 visitors.
The chief executive of the board, Sherin Francis, told SNA that at the start of 2017, her team had predicted a five to eight percent increase in the number of foreigners visiting Seychelles.
Latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that 349,861 visitors set foot in Seychelles in 2017. This represents a 15 percent increase compared to 2016, which recorded 303,177 visitors.
“I believe that it is a very encouraging performance because it will definitely encourage all of us - not just the tourism board but our partners as well - to keep working hard and make 2018 an even better year,” said Francis.
She credited this increase in arrivals to a combination of factors.
“The increase in airlift that we had in 2017 provided us with more seats and the airlines themselves helped us in terms of marketing,” said Francis.
Last year, Seychelles - a 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean - saw the arrival of Austrian Airlines, which became the third direct non-stop air service between Europe and Seychelles after Paris and Frankfurt.
Another contributing factor mentioned by the chief executive was the collaboration between the board and their partners.
“Collaboration between STB and our partners placed us in a better position to organise more activities and projects. The synergy of 2017 helped us not to only maintain our position but also to grow,” said Francis.
The new record was set despite a drop off in visitor arrivals from China, the market with the largest drop in 2017. A total of 11,710 visitors from China entered the country compared to 14,194 in 2016, a drop of 18 percent.
|China was the market with the largest drop in 2017. (Patrick Joubert) Photo License: CC-BY|
Last year’s leading markets were Germany, France and the United Arab Emirates.
During the Seychelles Tourism Board’s end-of-year marketing meeting, the board’s director for Germany, Edith Hunzinger, said that “even if Air Seychelles has stopped its flights to Düsseldorf, I haven't noticed any difference in the market's figures as Condor has reintroduced it winter flights.”
Germany led statistics with 50,476 visitors and Hunzinger predicted a 10 percent increase for 2018. Overall visitor arrivals from Europe rose by 15 percent from last year’s figures. All the European markets, except France, recorded a positive increase.
SNA spoke to Barbara Fock-Tave owner of Surfers Cove, a newly opened self-catering apartment at Bel Ombre in the northwestern side of Mahe, the main island.
Fock-Tave said that since her establishment opened in May 2017 the demands have surpassed her expectations with full occupancy especially with clients from Germany.
“We have had bookings for all four apartments. Most of our clients are from Germany and a few from China, Russia, United Arabs Emirates and Turkey. “ Fock-Tave said that overall 2017 has been a very good year for her a newcomer in the hospitality industry.
“Traditionally, we always see that it is the traditional markets that contribute to the biggest picture, but this year, the growth is across all of our markets - not just the European markets,” said Francis.
For 2018, the tourism board is predicting an increase of between an eight to ten percent increase in visitor arrivals to the island nation which depends largely on tourism, the top pillar of its economy.
The Seychelles Registration Department has begun a review to identify the foreign-owned property in the island nation in preparation for the implementation of a new tax expected to take effect this year.
Wendy Pierre, the Registrar at the Department, recognises it will be a challenging excercise "as we will need to cover all owners including new ones as well.”
Pierre said a new system was being designed "to capture information about foreigners who are buying properties in Seychelles. With this, we will be able to distinguish foreigners from citizens when properties are acquired.”
The property tax will apply to foreigners, be it individual or companies, who already own residential and tourist establishments as well as businesses in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean. It will also apply to any future purchase of property by foreigners.
The idea for a new property tax was raised in the 2017 budget address by Peter Larose, the minister of finance, after concerns from members of the National Assembly.
Property tax is a tax assessed on real estate and it is usually based on the value of the property. The property can be classified as land, buildings or other immovable improvements to the land which increase the value of the real estate.
The tax rate will be 0.25 percent of the value of the property.
The revenue collected will be invested in the education, health, and transport sectors as well as for the building of houses. The government expects to build 25 houses in 25 districts every year.
Marcus Elizabeth from the Ministry of Finance, Trade and Economic Planning said: “The Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Habitat is still in the working progress of drafting the relevant legislation alongside the Department of Legal for the implementation of the new tax system.”
Elizabeth adds that “the modalities to finalise this law requires utmost attention in view of the magnitude and complexity, therefore we want to ensure that we have a good piece of legislation in place.”
The tax on foreign-owned properties is expected to be collected by the Seychelles Revenue Commissionfrom October to December of each year.
Sixteen new species of lichens have been discovered in Seychelles, and three have been named after Seychellois conservationists.
This rich finding in an island nation with unique biodiversity and ecosystems comes after research by Paul Diederich from Luxembourg. Diederich is a lichenologist, specialising in the studies of this moss type organism.
“I was able to collect a total of 323 specimens, amongst which 16 species collected were described as new. Three - Coenogonium beaverae, Graphis lindsayana and Porina morelii - are named after Seychellois Katy Beaver, Lindsay Chong Seng, and Charles Morel respectively," Diederich said.
A lichen is actually two organisms functioning as a single, stable unit. Lichens comprise of a fungus living in a mutual relationship with an alga. There are about 17,000 species of lichen worldwide.
|Two other newly discovered species of lichens. (Plant Conservation Action group Newsletter) Photo License: CC-BY|
These species grow on plants, rocks, soil and other surfaces, and in the case of Seychelles - a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – they are commonly found on coconut trees.
“An additional 49 species were new records for Seychelles, of which 29 were even new to Africa. All in all, this brings the Seychelles lichen flora to over 500 recorded species,” said Diederich after the findings were published recently.
The researcher said that the study of lichens in Seychelles is relatively recent compared with many taxonomic groups. There are many new things to be learned about this important but often neglected group.
“Seychelles is still poorly known, and that the help of foreign taxonomists is required until there is a trained Seychellois lichenologist. Therefore it is important that visiting lichenologists share their knowledge with local biologists.”
Diederich did his field research in 2015 and his researchers were done on the three main islands of Mahe, Praslin, La Digue as well as on Thérèse island. The lichen samples were collected at the Jardin du Roi at Anse Royale, at Morne Blanc, at Glacis Noir on Praslin and in the Veuve Reserve on La Digue. All samples can be found at the Seychelles National Herbarium.
Diederich said that more research is needed as he feels that there may be other specimens not yet discovered. He adds that this is something that locals should venture into.
“What is urgently needed in Seychelles is for young people to get interested in lichens, youth who will learn to know the different species and build up a much larger reference collection in their national herbarium.”
The Seychellois lichen namesakes -- Katy Beaver and Lindsay Chong-Seng -- are members of the Plant Conservation Action Group with Charles Morel also the curator of the Seychelles National Herbarium.
|Three lichens have bee named after Katy Beaver (top photo), Lindsay Chong-Seng (Middle photo--far right) and Charles Morel (above photo). (Patrick Joubert, SIF, Salifa Karapetyan) Photo License: CC-BY|
All three have long been associated with management and protection of biodiversity of the islands. All three have said that they are honoured with such recognition of their hard work, dedication, and commitment.
Charles Morel said “I feel very happy and honoured to have a plant species named after me. After having worked with plants for almost 25 years in different related aspects, species and habitat survey, plant collection, training people in plant identification, habitat restoration and plant conservation, this is just reward. I also wish there were more young people showing interests in the natural sciences.”
“It is an honour to have a new species named after oneself; but especially because it sometimes feels that, as plant conservationists, we have difficulty getting Seychellois to take sufficient interest in the smaller plant species, even though they pay such an important role in our environment,” said Katy Beaver.
Lindsay Chong Seng said that he was not expecting such recognition. “This is totally not expected. I am surprised as I do not know why people think that I deserve such, I have done what I could for the environment, nothing innovative but I am honoured.”
In the meantime more research is being done on a new lichen – a salmon coloured Opegrapha salmonea - which has been described from La Digue, Mahé, and Praslin.
Diederich explained that freshly collected specimens will be needed for DNA sequencing, allowing deeper analyses to place the species in the right group. “To our knowledge, this beautiful and eye-catching species has never been collected in other countries and might be endemic to Seychelles.”
The breeding season of the endemic black parrot of Seychelles has started, and as is customary every year, the Seychelles Islands Foundation research team has begun its monitoring exercise.
The black parrot, which is really grayish brown in colour, is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list due to its small population. According to a 2013 estimate, there are 520-900 black parrots on Praslin.
Every year, the species is monitored closely during its breeding and hatchings season, usually December to April, by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), a public trust which manages the unique endemic palm forest reserve of the Vallée de Mai on Praslin Island.
The SIF research team painstakingly searches for black parrot nests and monitors them on a weekly basis throughout the season to count the number of eggs produced and monitor the hatching and fledgling stages.
|With only a few hundred of these birds left in the wild, the black parrot is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. (Seychelles Islands Foundation) Photo License: CC-BY|
At the start of the season, the team is busy checking all potential nest sites in the known core breeding areas of Praslin Nature Reserve, Fond Ferdinand and Vallee de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the second-most populated island of Praslin.
Speaking to SNA, Julia Kovacs, a member of the black parrot team said this year a total of 73 cavities in tree where nesting is done have been checked and one breeding call has been heard so far.
“It was heard at Fond Pepper and later at the same location the team spotted a female parrot inside a cavity in an albizia tree, observing her going in and out of the cavity, which suggests that she is prospecting the nest,” said Kovacs.
During the breeding season, the female birds attract the males to their nesting cavity by their breeding. The black parrots also change their plumage and beak colour, and females have their own individual calls.
Explaining the method of monitoring, the research team said the nesting cavities are accessed by using ladders attached with four ropes to neighbouring live trees. This prevents damage to the cavities as they can easily collapse.
“A camera is attached to a telescopic pole. The camera is lowered into the nest to observe and monitor any activity,” said Terance Payet, the black parrot team leader.
Threatened by invasive bird species such as the Indian Mynah, black parrot chicks are in constant danger from other aggressive birds, feral cats, rats and even invasive ants.
With the new Inva’Ziles project taking place in tandem with the black parrot breeding season, the team members hope this will give them a greater understanding of the threats to black parrots, and can, therefore, explore new methods to mitigate them.
During the monitoring, the white-black parrot has also been spotted again and the team was able to observe the bird close-up perched on a cable and then in a papaya tree.
“We still hope to catch the white-black parrot for genetic analysis. An unusual black parrot was also spotted on Praslin that appeared to have some brown feathers, the team are on the lookout for the bird, nicknamed Caramel,” said Kovacs.
The Seychelles Regatta sailing competition returns to the island nation’s shores next year after a five-year break, a top tourism official said on Monday.
The event, which is organised by a France-based company -- Publi Voile -- in collaboration with local authorities, will take place from May 27 to June 3. This is the time of the southeast trade winds, which provide winds of between 15 to 20 knots.
Minister for Tourism Maurice Loustau-Lalanne said that the 4th edition of the Seychelles Regatta sailing competition will be different compared to the previous ones.
“This time the event will uphold international standards and will see foreign sailors who have participated in competitions around the world,” said Loustau-Lalanne.
The sailing competition, which is also open to local sailors, is targeting around 10 international skippers and already five have confirmed their participation. Sailors have until January to register and more information is available on the Seychelles Regatta website: www.theseychellesregatta.com
The chair of the Seychelles Yachting Association, Alain Alcindor, said that timely registration is important for logistical purposes.
The Seychelles Regatta started in 2009 and took place for three consecutive years until 2011.
Minister Loustau-Lanne said it was discontinued for various reasons but now the event is back and “is very important for us, as it goes well with the Seychelles image and we need to try and do this annually.”
The aim of the regatta is to offer a balance of a rigorous sailing competition and tourism by encouraging a discovery of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.
For the 2018 edition, the participants will set sail from the Eden Island Marina on the eastern coast of the main island Mahe. Other islands such as Praslin, the second-most populated island, Silhouette and Fregate are among those included on the itinerary.
The chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis, said that the competition is another way to boost tourism as there will be international press covering the event.
“Our aim is also to push Seychelles as a watersport destination. Other than other means of travelling, the sailing competition is another way for visitors to discover the beauty of our distinct islands,” added Francis.
CaranaBeach Hotel in Seychelles walked away with three awards at this year’s World Luxury Hotel Awards held in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
The annual award ceremony recognises the achievements of luxury hotels worldwide across 99 different categories, through the votes of guests, travelers and industry players.
CaranaBeach Hotel won the ‘Best Luxury Boutique Hotel’, ‘Best Luxury Romantic Hotel’ and ‘Best Luxury Contemporary Hotel’ awards, topping other nominees in the Indian Ocean.
In 2016, during the 10th edition of World Luxury Hotel Awards, Carana beach won only the ‘Best Luxury Contemporary Hotel’ title.
“Winning three prestigious awards this year, compared to one last year shows us that a hotel is about so much more than a great location, architecture and design,” said the public relations, branding and communications manager of CaranaBeach Hotel, Nicole St. Ange.
|The public relations, branding and communications manager said the hotel is so much more than a great location, architecture and design. (CaranaBeach) Photo License: CC-BY|
She added that “the vision for our hotel from the outset was to create a unique atmosphere with a style of service that was authentic to our size and our destination, and these awards are a great encouragement toward fulfilling that promise to our clients.”
CaranaBeach Hotel, located in Anse Etoile, a northern district on Mahe, the main island, consists of 40 chalets overlooking the beach after which the hotel got its name. The hotel, which was reopened in April last year after closing for 12 years, belongs to the Mason family, who also owns two other tourism establishments -- Denis Private Island and Island Lodge on Praslin.
According to a press release from the boutique hotel, St. Ange credited the hard work of CaranaBeach General Manager Cyrille Carofano and his team, along with the hiring of a dedicated training manager, for the hotel’s strong showing at the awards.
|With a four-star status, Carana is ideal for clients with a taste for a small hotel with high-level service. (CaranaBeach) Photo License: CC-BY|
“[Winning in three categories] is proof that with the right vision and the right people in place, even an independent, locally owned hotel can deliver hospitality in the class of the best international chains, said Carofano.
With a four-star status, Carana is ideal for clients with a taste for a small hotel with high-level service and this is in Seychelles which relies largely on tourism, the top contributor to its economy.
The awards are voted online over several months based on several criteria including the standard of service voters received, during their stay in the different hotels nominated in each category. Over 300,000 international voters take part in the elimination process each year.
The executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a three-year Policy Coordination Instrument for Seychelles to help monitor a reform agenda, a press release from the organisation said earlier this week.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is the first IMF member country to request the Instrument to consolidate its macroeconomic stabilisation.
The Policy Coordination Instrument is the IMF’s new non-financing fund instrument that supports countries seeking assistance to develop and help monitor a reform agenda. It is available to all member countries.
According to the press release, the Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair of the IMF Executive Board, Tao Zhang, said that Seychelles' “economic program supported by the Policy Coordination Instrument aims at locking in economic stability while fostering sustained and inclusive growth.”
The Instrument will help the island nation build on the lessons from the previous programmes supported by the IMF. While the Policy Coordination Instrument involves no use of IMF resources, successful completion of programme reviews would help signal Seychelles’ commitment to continued strong economic policies and structural reforms.
“Seychelles has made considerable progress toward external viability and fiscal sustainability since the crisis in 2008 under three successive Fund arrangements,” said Zhang.
Seychelles embarked on a macroeconomic reform programme in November 2008 to address external debt difficulties. The island nation requested the assistance of the International Monetary Fund to put the domestic economy on a sustainable path.
The IMF approved another three-year loan of $17.6 million in June 2014 to support the island nation’s economic reform programme. The first five-year IMF backed programme expired in December 2013.
Zhang said the strong ownership of Seychelles’ authorities has played an important role in the success of the Fund-supported programs.
“However, the country remains vulnerable to external shocks and further efforts are needed to address challenges in maintaining fiscal discipline,” said Zhang.
Zhang said that it is important for Seychelles to maintain the flexible exchange rate policy and limit foreign exchange intervention to preserve the international reserve buffers at around the current level.
He welcomed the authorities’ continued efforts to ensure a successful transition to the recently introduced monetary policy framework in which interest rates play a prominent role.
Zhang said that Seychelles structural reform agenda is ambitious and targeted. Among measures being taken are the strengthening of the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism framework, a critical step in maintaining correspondent banking relationships, and state-owned enterprise action plans to minimise potential fiscal risks arising from the sector.
“These efforts will help shore up fiscal sustainability and boost growth prospects. Continued efforts to diversify the economy under the “Blue Economy” initiatives will go a long way toward promoting shared prosperity,” he said.
Next year will be exactly 10 years since Seychelles started its macroeconomic reform programme with the assistance of IMF.
Seychelles has made the list of coolest destinations for National Geographic Traveller magazine.
The UK edition of the travel magazine published by the National Geographic Society in the United States has listed Seychelles as number 14 on the ‘Cool List.’ The magazine also highlighted the upcoming launch of British Airways’ direct flights to the island nation in March of 2018.
The chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis, said, “British Airways’ direct flight as of March 2018 has indeed created quite a buzz in the UK.”
Francis added that the listing is yet another testament that “Seychelles is not only seen as this aspiring faraway and must-see destination, but it will soon be only one stop away from this market, which will certainly redefine how British holidaymakers view Seychelles as a destination.”
The National Geographic Traveller describes the 18 destinations as “the coolest haunts, the hippest hangouts, the bucket list breaks and the enthralling escapes.”
According to the magazine, the 18 destinations which are set to make it big in 2018 range from the cities of Bristol in the United Kingdom and Buenos Aires in Argentina to countries like Sri Lanka and Singapore.
The destinations have been carefully selected by the National Geographic Traveller’s team of editors and writers.
“It’s a tempting route — a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, flying twice weekly, with a 10-hour flight and four-hour time difference prompting tour operator Scott Dunn to talk of long weekends in the Indian Ocean,” wrote the National Geographic Traveller, which is recommending a longer stay to its readers.
It also highlighted Seychelles’ warm clear azure waters, dreamy white sandy beaches like Anse Source d’Argent recently named one of the World’s 50 Best Beaches, lush tropical vegetation, otherworldly rock formations and excursion ranging from jungle zip lines to an up-close encounter giant land tortoises.
The Seychelles Tourism Board office in the UK said that although it is unlikely that many people will choose Seychelles for long weekend trips, the direct flights from the UK and the buzz it has created will undoubtedly encourage more British visitors to consider the island destination when planning their 2018 holidays.
According to the figures of the National Bureau of Statistics, the UK & Northern Ireland market has sent 20,634 visitors to the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean up to December 3 this year. Around 17,649 visited Seychelles for the same period in 2016.
The ‘Cool List 2018’ is also featured in the January/February 2018 issue of the travel magazine, which went on sale on Thursday, December 7, 2017.
National Geographic Traveller was launched in the UK in December 2010. It is now well established as a major player in consumer travel publications, emerging as the winner of the Best Consumer Holiday Magazine category, at the British Travel Awards, for two consecutive years -- 2014 and 2015.