Paradise is not a heavenly place. It is to be found on this earth, at the edge of the Indian Ocean. Spread over about 115 islands, created from coral and granite: the Seychelles.
The capital, Victoria, on the main island of Mahé, is considered one of the smallest capitals in the world. Most of the time it is quiet here. In the harbor, sailing yachts and colorful fishing boats are anchored in turquoise water. The palm leaves rustle in the noontime wind, while the snack bars are just opening for the first customers of the day.
A clock commemorating the English Queen Victoria. A church reminiscent of the French colonial style. A Hindu temple to Ganesha. The modern world history of globalization summarized in one city. African slaves, European colonialists and Asian immigrants have mixed over the centuries. People of all skin colors now live together here.
White herons strut around the fish stands. Saleswomen sit among spices and mangoes, chatting with their customers across the rows of stalls. The Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market is the most important shopping market for meat, fish, fruit and vegetables on the island.
Despite a relatively good standard of living, even compared to Europe, the inhabitants of the Seychelles struggle with high food prices. Everything that is not grown here has to be brought to the islands by expensive airplanes or ships. Visiting a restaurant is hardly affordable for the Seychellois – we also did without this “luxury”. Those who have the opportunity, fish themselves and grow their own vegetables and fruit in the garden.
The real treasure of the islands can be found away from civilization. It is nature, the jungle with all its unique creatures and overflowing vegetation.
We are grateful to be here: to experience this verdancy, this spicy air, this rustling of waves and palm leaves. But our journey has emitted vast amounts of CO2, we produce garbage and consume water and energy. The irresolvable paradox of the tourist becomes particularly clear here: The tourist comes to see. In the meantime, he destroys what he wants to see. Or according to Hans Magnus Enzensberger: “The tourist destroys what he seeks by finding it.”
Lush opulence, bubbling life everywhere. Warm rain makes the jungle sprawl. Vanilla, nutmeg and pepper grow by the wayside. Mangoes, coconuts, papayas and bananas. Silk spiders have stretched their golden webs between the trees. At dusk, flying foxes circle the summit of Morne Seychellois.
Endemic wonders: orange songbirds, giant tortoises and the unique Coco de Mer. An island too beautiful to walk on. Too beautiful never to be admired.
At no point is the jungle so dense that you can’t hear or see the sea. Where immaculate golden sand meets the turquoise ocean, paradise must lie.
Between lonely idyll and peaceful emptiness lie luxury resorts with bungalows hidden under palm trees. In the evening there is barbecue on the beach of Beau Vallon: octopus and barracuda. Roasted breadfruit and curry. In the background the basses of overdriven music system of the cars of the locals hammer.
When the prehistoric continent of Gondwana broke up and Africa and India drifted apart, the Seychelles emerged as massive granite formations. Splinters, land remnants of the two giant continents.
The rock formations along the coast and inland bear witness to this origin. No god, but pure force of nature created this paradise.
A thunderstorm in the afternoon clears the sky, rinses dust and sweat from the bodies. The sunsets make wistful. Each day brings a different evening sky. Mountains of clouds and small fleecy clouds, dipped in the colors of the Seychelles flag.
We have eaten from the breadfruit, so one day we will come back to Seychelles – so they say here. That’s a comforting thought, because we may not find a more beautiful place like this again. Hardly any other beach will be able to compete with these.
A trip to the Seychelles, however, means destroying what you find. Climate change is destroying the unique underwater world off the islands, causing sea levels to rise and threatening fisheries – one of the most important sources of income for many Seychellois. The waste of resources – especially of luxury resorts and private flights – is enormous. For the round-trip flight to the Seychelles alone, 160 trees would have to grow to compensate for the CO2 emitted.
At the same time, tourism remains the island nation’s most important economic sector. Can this paradox be resolved?