Finally, for the second phase of this post, let’s move on to my experience with Mason’s Reef Safari. This is the second of two day-excursions I did with Mason’s as part of a press trip covering the islands of Seychelles, the other being the Escape to La Digue trip [Read: Why La Digue Is Truly ‘Paradise on Earth’]. The one thing I was most pleasantly impressed about was the punctuality and genuine warmth of their pick-up drivers. For the second time in a week, I was picked up at the exact moment I was told I’d be and delivered to my drop-off point as promised. Both drivers were extremely warm & hospitable, happy to talk to me and learn more about the part of the world I come from and share anecdotes from an average Seychellois’ lives. Unlike the last trip, our group was significantly larger. Mostly European couples, with a small representation from the far East and a solitary Indian family. I could tell, by far I was the only one-man wolf-pack aboard. Sigh! One of the perils of solo-travel, I suppose! LOL!
Our vessel for the day was the dainty Anahita – a contemporary catamaran awaited us in the harbour, and before long, we were all aboard the 80-odd seater vessel. At my best, I’m a noob at sailing jargon, but as far as I understand, the Anahita is a small-sized motorised catamaran. Although it maintains the trademark multi-hulled variation of typical catamaran’s, at least during our voyage, we didn’t use the wind and sail combination but banked mostly on its powerful motorised engine. While many stayed in-doors for the short trip that would take us to the middle of the marine national park, some of my co-travellers took this opportunity to shed their clothes and sun-bathe in their swimming gear on the spacious deck outside. The women in my life, none more important than my own mother will be found frowning with severe disapproval in exactly about 5 seconds time, when they learn of my decision to shed my t-shirt and join my pale-skinned companions. The indignation is understandable; my not-so-white skin already carries a deep tan from my time in South India earlier in the year. I received a couple of friendly, approving chuckles from my companions as I settled on the deck – the only dark-skinned kid amongst white and yellow couples – what can I say, I love breaking stereotypes. Around us loungers, another cultural stereotype was unfolding in the form of my Asian friends, deeply engrossed in putting their hi-tech photographic equipment to use with a million whirrs and clicks per second.
Within half an hour, we were all summoned by one of our guides, Francis. He announced that we’d arrived, even as we gathered around him and he gave us a brief overview of the marine park. Soon after, we found ourselves peering over the railings, looking at massive shoals of fish swimming alongside our ship. We threw pieces of bread overboard, and watched in glee you can only relate with a toddler, as the fish devoured each bit in no time.
Next up was something I’d been looking forward to a quite a bit – a ride in a glass-bottomed boat for a closer look at the rich coral life below the surface. The next half hour or so is one of those rare experiences in life that even my pompously exploited vocabulary can find challenging to find adjectives for. Mesmeric, enchanting, breath-taking, all seem incomplete in some way or the other, and hence I reckon this is one of those sights you simply have to see for yourself to truly understand. The different kind of coral, the brilliantly coloured and varied species of fish and their spectacular closeness to us was quite amazing to watch. It could have been even better had the glass been a little cleaner, but I’m not one to complain and take the sheen of a spectacle that is still with me 15 days later.
As soon as we got back on-board the Anahita, I was posed with the one part of this trip that simultaneously most excited and scared me the most – the hour-long snorkelling session in the middle of the ocean. If you’ve been on my blog before, you know I can’t swim to save my life. I mean I try, but with about as much success as a foundering ship. So when I tentatively made my way towards Francis to collect my gear, I was almost pissing my pants. I asked him gingerly if I could do this without being able to swim too well. In typical Seychellois style, punctuated by unintended nonchalance, he told me I could, but to take great care – because the water was deep here and I wouldn’t be able to stand. Thanks! That really helped Francis :/
I managed to put on my gear, slipped in my fins on the deck itself, clung to the anchor of the ship like my life (literally) depended upon it and then finally managed to muster enough courage to give it a shot – but that makes for a different story altogether; one that I intend to write about sometime soon, for first-time snorkelers like Yours Beloved. Point is, there’s a whole new world down there – just below the surface. I’ve always been in love with the ocean, but I haven’t felt it with as much conviction as I did during those 40 minutes under the water. If you get the chance to experience this, don’t pass on it. Not for the fear of water, not if you can’t swim, not for anything. Find a way past it, and do it 🙂
The swimming/snorkelling session was followed by a traditional Seychellois BBQ lunch on the deck. Francis was the star of the moment again, prancing about with his guitar and singing some wonderful melodies while we sat and devoured the sumptuous food.
Soon after, we took an inflated speed-boat and made our way to Moyenne Island, and while most of my co-travellers settled to enjoy the sun and the water, I made my way to the walking trails, feeling oddly optimistic about discovering a thing or two about the elusive treasure.
I was joined by a European couple, who were on a honeymoon – a Romanian girl from Vienna, and an Austrian boy from Innsbruck. We poked and pandered about the graveyard for a while, but eventually it became too hot to mess around in the gravel, and we decided to leave the riches behind for a more fortunate man to find.
We found a patch of sand no more than 5 metres in length and I decided to sit down and roast my skin to a deeper shade of brown, while one of my newly made friends took a fancy to busting open a coconut using nothing but his bare hands and the granite rocks as tools. I watched him with some amusement as he opened the first one with considerable ease. Things became real funny when he got a little carried away and picked up a much larger one next. After watching him toil in vain for a few minutes, I offered to help out. Now picture this scene in your head, two scrawny young men – one white, one brown, on a tranquil, paradise beach, trying to bust open a coconut, the size of a rugby ball using nothing but their bare hands and a granite rock. Needless to say, we didn’t have a whole lot of success at first, but like the spider who wouldn’t give up, we finally scaled a wall and broke open the coconut after a good 30 minutes or so.
Soon, we were back aboard the Anahita, where Francis and crew were waiting for us with cocktails prepared with local Seychellois rum and fruit juices. We sat down and reflected upon a tiring, but exciting day, sipping on the sweetish concoction and munching on the pieces of tender coconut, which we benevolently distributed to everybody within an earshot.
As the inviting shores of Victoria started taking shape, I couldn’t help but feel a mix of emotions – pride & happiness at having successfully completed my first overseas press trip; and borderline-violent envy, for Brendan Grimshaw and every other Seychellois, that were gifted with such unparalleled beauty. I could easily live here for a decade or two, or would I? My friends claim I can never stay in one place for too long – I’ve a restless mind and an aching heart; who knows? Maybe they are right, or maybe I simply haven’t found a reason strong enough to tie me down to a place. I know I was certainly tempted for a while by the tranquil beauty of Ste. Anne Marine Park, and in particular Moyenne Island, but I guess I’ll never know if I could have ever really called this place home 🙂
Note: This post is a part of 2 piece Press Trip with Mason’s Travels (Seychelles). The opinions detailed in this series are my own and honest to the best of my understanding. If you find yourself in Seychelles and are looking for exciting activities to participate in, I’d whole-heartedly recommend Mason’s, who offer a bunch of options throughout the island group. As a parting shot, here’s an official trailer of the Mason’s Reef Safari Experience: