More than 150 islands form the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles, 1500km from the coast of Africa. Most of them are granitic: mountaintops poking out from a long-flooded plain. Granite boulders add sculptural elegance to beaches of white sand and turquoise sea. No wonder tourism accounts for 70 per cent of this tiny nation’s income. Several small islands, such as North, Cousine and Frégate, are only accessible to those staying at exclusive luxury resorts with private plunge pools.
The beach at Anse Source D’Argent on the island of La Digue is graced with especially picturesque rocks and palm trees. This beach, with its pink sand, is one of the most photographed beaches in the world and is accessible to everyone who visits the island. La Digue, the third largest population centre after Mahé and Praslin, also has some charming locally owned guest houses, bars and restaurants, and is the best destination for travellers wanting to make sure that they contribute to the local economy. It is a laid-back island with few motor vehicles. Most people travel around by foot, bicycle or – if you have heavy luggage – bullock cart.
The Seychelles has an amazing variety of plants and animals, some of them only found on the islands, such as the jellyfish tree, a strange and ancient tree that has resisted all efforts to propagate it. Due to very strict environmental legislation, the Seychelles is a success story in protecting flora and fauna on the islands, with half of its land area under conservation. The island of Cousine, for example, is working hard to conserve and restore ecosystems by reintroducing endangered species. The Seychelles is also a world leader in sustainable tourism because the government realized that more expensive holidays reduce the overall number of visitors.
The islands were a French colony from 1710 until 1811, when the British took over; but they remain emphatically French in many people’s opinion. They became independent in 1970 and, after turbulent years featuring invasion by mercenaries and various coups, it is now a stable and prosperous country with unconditional social care for orphans, disabled people and the old.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.