7 December 2014.......Malé, Maldives
8 December................Gan Island, Maldives
9-11 December...........At sea
12 December..............Port Victoria, Mahé Island, Seychelles
13 December..............Praslin, Seychelles
14 December..............La Digue, Seychelles
15-16 December.........At sea
17-18 December.........Port Louis, Mauritius
19 December..............Saint-Denis, Réunion
20 December..............At sea
Two pages of photos to keep you interested...
This trip was the first two weeks of a month-long sailing of the western Indian Ocean. I was aboard the M/S Discovery, run by Voyages of Discovery, a British line associated with Swan Hellenic. A small ship, with about 550 passengers, it's the size I prefer and I was looking forward to a pleasant and relaxing voyage. Not to be. My cabin had a narrow, hard bed and was as attractive as a ferryboat cabin; in addition, there was the constant mechanical noise from at least three sources that I never did figure out. The funnel above the pool deck was very loud, making conversation difficult; the elevators had minds of their own; and the food was uninspired and boring. Service was slow and the staff was often rudely inattentive. Excursions were overpriced and poorly managed...let's just say I was VERY ready to disembark at the end. But affordable cruises in the Indian Ocean are few and far between, and in total, I did enjoy the ports we visited.
The Republic of Maldives is an island nation consisting of an archipelago of 26 atolls atop a submerged mountain range, and it lies southwest of southern India and Sri Lanka. It is the smallest Asian country, both in size and population, and is also the world's lowest country with an average elevation of 5 ft (1.5 m) above sea level. The earliest settlers arrived about 2400 years ago, probably fishermen from the Subcontinent; Buddhism was carried to the islands during Emperor Ashoka's reign (304-232 BCE) and remained strong until the 12th century. Arab traders brought Islam and the population converted peacefully; from 1887 to 1965, the islands were a British Protectorate. Today, the Maldives is an Islamic Republic with a relatively open society and the economy is dominated by tourism and fishing. The coral atolls provide wide, sandy beaches and incomparable diving opportunities; nearly 100 private resorts attract over 9 million tourists each year, mostly from Europe. We visited the capital, Malé, which completely covers its island, and Gan Island, an undeveloped atoll which had been a British military outpost and has little to recommend it.
The Republic of Seychelles is also an island nation, with about 150 islands in 4 groups. 45 of the islands, the Granitic Seychelles, are remnants of Gondwana, the previous supercontinent, and are made of the world's oldest and hardest granite. Millions of years of weathering has softened the edges and surfaces of the rocks and boulders and entire islands have the appearance of Henry Moore-like sculptures, topped with dense tropical forests and fringed with fine white sandy beaches. These islands come closest to paradise of anyplace I've seen. We visited three of the islands, Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue, and sailed past many more. A fair number of islands are environmental preserves and numerous unique species of flora and fauna are protected, including the Aldabra Giant Tortoise. The islands were uninhabited before immigrants from Africa, France, England, India, and China populated them during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today the Seychelles is an independent republic with over 75% Christian majority.
Mauritius, another island nation, is an extinct volcanic seamount lying some 2000 miles east of southern Africa. It was uninhabited until the Dutch planted a colony in 1638; it passed to the French in 1715 and then to the British in 1810. Mauritius became independent in 1968. Due to its isolation, the island has many unique biological species, and was the home of the now-extinct Dodo bird, which apparently made very good eating as it was wiped out by 1662. The colonial economy was based on sugar cane, which still grows in abundance, but today the island is a top luxury tourist destination—it has to be luxury because it's so far off the beaten track! The population is multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual; casinos and shopping centers are everywhere in the cities. Though I spent one day at a beach resort, it is not high up on my 'return to' list.
Réunion is an isolated island between Mauritius and Madagascar; it was formed over a volcanic 'hot spot' which is still actively spilling lava. It was uninhabited until the arrival of immigrants from France, Africa, and Madagascar, and today is an overseas department of France and part of the European Union using the Euro as its currency. Its main claim to fame is as the birthplace of Roland Garros, an early French aviator and pilot in World War I, and more recently, as the place where a chunk of the disappeared Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was found. I chose to spend the day riding around the countryside looking for lava with 40 of my closest friends—nice place to visit, but etc., etc., etc.
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