Travel diary : Seychelles

Hi everyone,

Here we are, the last step of our tour of the Indian Ocean : Seychelles islands. Apart from its image of a paradise for rich tourists only (which it is), we rarely know much more about this archipelago of more than 115 islands among which the main 3 are Mahé (the biggest, where the capital is), Praslin and La Digue.

Discovered by the Portugese and first colonized by the French in the 18th century (who were already in Mauritius from where the Seychelles were administered), the archipelago passed under the control of the English at the end of the 18th century until its independance in 1976 when it became a « Single party Republic » whose « president » remained in power until 2004 and whose party is still leading the country. A country which then faced difficult conditions and has remained really closed to the outside world until not long ago.

The cost of life here is much higher and less flexible than in the 3 previous countries, forcing us to reduce as much as possible the duration of our stay. The prices are not the same for foreigners and for locals, as in many other places, but at least in the other countries we had some choice while here everything starts at the 5 stars level. Fortunately we are hosted by really nice people, thanks a lot to our hosts !

We were hosted in an artist residency with a nice view (on the right) and a nice leitmotiv to wake up with a great mood (in the middle)

Just arrived on sunday, we start our animations on monday, going into one school per day. This time we had the time to investigate the local energy context before arriving. It’s actually quite simple, the energy mix providing the island in electricity relies on 3 sources of energy : sun, wind and petrol. Just like on the previous islands, the balance is not really in favour of the renewable energies as the solar and wind powers share a little 2% of this mix, with the objective to achieve 5% by 2025. The importations of petrol, which provides the remaining 98%, represent – depending the variations of the barrel’s price – between 15 and 25% of the country’s GDP, which is therefore highly dependent in terms of energy.

The 8 wind turbines of Seychelles, visible from many places on the east side of the island, contribute to 1.3% of the electricity produced, even if many children believe they provide all of their energy.

However, the vast majority of the petrol imported on the island is not used for the production of electricity but for the transport means (including planes). In fact, almost 70% of the importations of petrol are aimed at providing fuel for the transport, of which a good part are for planes and the majority for the other vehicles (car, bus). Quite impressive features which made our animations on the subject of transport and the images of our solar tandem even more interesting to the secondary school students. With the primary schools we started with the energy in general and how they work before being able to address this kind of subject.

Some solar panels are hiding in those photos, will you find them? ^^

Our first animations with primary schools, one school per day

The animations were really diverse in terms of attention from the students. We were really suprised to see how much the same animation could receive such diverse echos from the children depending on the school where we were. For the primary schools, it was all or nothing : either the kids were really interested and listening, or they were highly dispersed and all doing something else. For the secondary schools, it was harder than usual to keep them concentrated on the theoratical discussions but they were really interested in the solar bike and all the concrete questions around it. And above all it was the first time in Seychelles that teachers congratulated us for… simply being brave enough to come and make an activity with their class ! We were a bit surprised at the beginning but a few discussion with different persons along our stay now let us think that the secondary teachers are having real difficulties with their students. Is that due to the work environment ? To some cultural aspects ? Or to other problems we weren’t able to see ? Impossible to say for now after only our short stay.

Apart from our animations, coming to Seychelles also let us have a glimpse of a really welcoming and united country. Even with the gap of wealthiness between the locals and the tourists, there is no animosity anywhere. People here are friendly and smiling 🙂 They are also really passionate about football it seems ! About 1 out of 2 cars is wearing the colors of the country of their favorite team for the world cup ! The chance for us to remember that yes, the world cup is coming ^^.

We essentially move around the island by bus or by foot, like a lot of people, even if there are an increasing number of cars. The main island is still small and we can easily access any place there by bus, as long as you have time… Yes because even if buses go everywhere, you never know when. There are schedules but they are quite theoretical. We tried to plan our trips according to them in the beginning but we gave up, you just need to plan enough margin between the appointments. Generally speaking, the relation to time here is really flexible. The rhythm of life is peaceful and pleasant, the frenzy is absent from the life of the majority of the seychellois and they don’t complain about it. There may lack some activities sometimes but overall the country takes its time to develop at the rhythm it finds appropriate without rushing.

The trip to Praslin and La Digue by boat (which was not so restful)

The island of La Digue pushes that logic even farther, its small size helping. There are almost no car at all, everyone moves by bike and the atmosphere is incredibly soothing! Among the 3 main islands, it is the one leading many fields like electric mobility, waste management, etc.

The life in La Digue, calm and peacful. Our solar bike would have been perfect here !

The offical language here is english, as for their lessons. Schools follow the english model (just like in Mauritius) and lunch is not necessarily a moment of its own like it can be in France. Meals are almost all the time a take-away you find when you can and eat when you can if you have a moment, including at school. Everyone eats his or her take-away directly in the box, seating anywhere. Fortunately for the island, the waste management is much more developed here and starts to get into the habits. The take-away boxes are made out of cardboard, the plastic bags have been replaced by tissu bags given freely in most shops, the few plastic knives and … are hard enough to be re-usable,… So after the previous islands we are quite impressed and surprised ! However the plastic straws are still everywhere, but a local association is fighting against that and trying to replace them with biodegradable ones, as we often here on the radio 🙂 We even had the chance to attend a free session of a frightening documentary about the plastic in the ocean, offered the cinema of Victoria (the only one of the island)… In the entrance was a structure made out of recycled cardboard stating : « Can’t re-use it ? – Refuse it ! ». The room was full and every generation was present but there was not debate at the end. In any case, the movie, “A plastic Ocean” really did make you want to act against the big issue that our plastic waste’s production represent, which somehow end up back in our plates.

One of our take-away breaks on the left, a nice little restaurant on the right (in Praslin) where we talked a lot with the people !

That’s it, we will remember from this short stay a really beautiful island with an interesting context and welcoming people. A calm and peaceful place where it seems nice to live, sometimes a bit slowly (maybe because of the temperature, or maybe not?). A place that would deserve to be more accessible… or not ? Maybe luxuray tourism protects this little paradise more than anything else.

“Toto’s” place on the left, who owns an incredible hand-made museum, and the collecting of mangoes on the right

And finally, our material is supposed to arrive in Paris in the next few days hopefully. We hope to find it in a good state after its 4 months of lonely travel lost between the Indian Ocean and South Africa… We wait for it’s return in Paris and give ourselves some time to organise the next steps while closing the project with the IOC, gathering the different parts of the bike and planning the rest.

See you soon for some further news!


SolaR’hythm Team