Friday, March 2, 2012


Skating and playing on the ice in Holland was fun.  But for February break we were ready for some sun so we headed to the Seychelles.  If you're like I was and not exactly sure where that is, get out your atlas of Africa, go 900 miles east of Somalia and you'll find 150 islands that lie 4 degrees south of the equator.  That is the Republic of Seychelles.  We stayed on the largest island, Mahe.  Many of the islands, such as Mahe, are granite.  Other, smaller islands are coral based.

A couple of items in that first paragraph may have caught your attention  First, Somalia.  Yes, there have been some Somali pirate kidnappings of boats in The Seychelles.  But for the most part, the pirates have learned that the big money is in freighters and tankers, not small dive or excursion boats.  Second, 4 degrees south of the equator means the Indian Ocean was a balmy 82 degrees.  Great for diving and playing in the water.  

We flew to the Seychelles via Dubai, which is establishing itself as a key hub in Middle East travel.  The airport is huge and busy.  We arrived at midnight and you'd have thought it was O'Hare on Friday afternoon at 5:00 pm.  The new Terminal 3 opened in 2008 and is the second largest building in the world in terms of floor space -- almost 300 acres of it under roof!  As you can imagine, lots of that floorspace was dedicated to shopping.  We were thrilled to find a Cinnabon Store.    

What a great midnight snack

Our resort in the Seychelles was located on an isolated bay, with rooms built in the surrounding hills.  We arrived to glass-like seas with warm, sunny skies.  Unfortunately, that lasted about a day.  From that point on about half the days were windy and cloudy.  The other half brought sunshine.   The weather didn't significantly impact our diving.  We did two dives a day, every day.  Sometimes the seas were rough so we had to stay close to shore.  It also resulted in one day of very limited visibility under the water.  Not quite as murky as the Mississippi River or old quarry pits, but you had to pay attention so you didn't get separated from the leader.  

View of the resort from our room

Grant studied and did the required dives to get his advanced scuba diving certification during the week.  One of the requirements was to do some underwater photography, so we've got a few sample pictures.  He learned how tough it was to hold still in the water to be able to get a good shot.  

Photo by Grant.  A small crab tucked away in a coral structure.  
The diving student

Photo by Grant.  The sea cucumbers in the Seychelles were very interesting.    They almost look dangerous.  Luckily, they just lay on the floor and mostly get moved around by the current.   We used to have to eat these things in China.  

Photo by Grant.  A nudibranch -- small, colorful mollusks that are difficult to find.  

Photo NOT by Grant.  We saw a four foot long Gray Reef Shark the first day.  They don't bother divers, but your heart rate goes up a little when you see one swimming nearby.  We saw sharks (mostly smaller) on almost every dive.  

The seas on a sunny day

The resort's beach.  
On the way home, we went through Dubai Airport at 4:00 am.  It was just as busy as before.  And we stopped at Cinnabon like before.  It was difficult to arrive back to Holland's cool temperatures and permanently cloudy skies.  But there were signs of spring in the air.  My tulips are coming up.   And the local ice cream store re-opened after its normal winter break.

The tulips on the warm side of the house are well along.  

Luciano's --one of the best ice cream shops in Holland.

Flavors include Snickers, Caramel, Speculoos and many more.  

ICE UPDATE:  It was great fun to skate and curl on the Dutch ice, but there was a downside to the winter fun.  According to a local consumer safety group, there were 13,000 injuries to people ice skating in Holland this winter, of which 80% were broken bones.  The over 40 crowd accounted for half of the injuries.  People over 65 accounted for 10%.  I'm impressed that 1300 people aged 65 and older were skating.  

And while I was reading about the skating injuries, I also found this interesting bit of information.  Around 250 couples are expected to tie the knot on Wednesday, Leap Year day, according to the national statistics office CBS.  This is twice as many as on an ordinary Wednesday in February, which is not a popular month for weddings. Just 5% of weddings take place in February, says the agency.  The exception was February 2 2002 (02-02-02) which was chosen by prince Willem-Alexander and princess Máxima. 515 couples followed their example and also married on that day.  What would we do without helpful statistics like that.