A tale of two Hiltons

Dis­cover the charm­ing con­trast be­tween the ar­chi­pel­ago’s si­b­ling Hil­ton es­capes

Destination of the World News - - NEWS -

FROM JET TO JETTY

“There’s noth­ing on this is­land that will kill you.” This wasn’t an an­swer to a ques­tion I’d asked, or even thought about, but now I was sud­denly cu­ri­ous. Surely a fall­ing co­conut could do some se­ri­ous da­m­age? My guided tour of Hil­ton Sey­chelles Labriz Re­sort & Spa had es­sen­tially been a leisurely spin around the fer­tile com­plex in a golf buggy, but this was an abrupt and dra­matic tan­gent. “Well, you might see a hairy cater­pil­lar… you don’t want to touch that.” On re­flec­tion, it wasn’t such a strange com­ment. This was Sil­hou­ette Is­land, a half- hour boat ride, 20km from Mahé, the fore­most is­land of the 115-mem­ber is­land clus­ter and the home of Sil­hou­ette Na­tional Park, span­ning 93 per­cent of the land­mass – a lump of earth so ver­dant that its 751-me­tre ceil­ing, Mont Dauban, is barely ac­ces­si­ble with­out a gang of chain­saws Save the fe­ro­cious cater­pil­lar, this might be the safest trop­i­cal is­land play­ground on of­fer. De­spite trekking to a few cor­ners of the is­land re­serve, and dis­cov­er­ing (among a mul­ti­tude of other things) se­cluded coves, shy lizards and won­der­fully serene path­ways, it turned out the prickly yel­low­ish crit­ter didn’t make

an ap­pear­ance dur­ing my stay – but the ad­vice soon came in handy when I en­coun­tered my first shark. Af­ter a lav­ish buf­fet break­fast at Café Dauban I was fully un­packed and strolling back out of the re­sort across the la­goon walk­way to catch a boat around the is­land and ex­plore the views be­low the sur­face. The 20km-square is­land is main­tained and mon­i­tored to a metic­u­lous de­gree. The lo­cal ecol­o­gists could read­ily list the num­ber of house cats and gi­ant tor­toises, with a clear idea of what feath­ered friends would be lurk­ing among the palms. But the In­dian Ocean is a dif­fer­ent beast. Plung­ing be­low, the near trans­par­ent wa­ters around Sil­hou­ette are home to mul­ti­tude of sea life so dense, var­ied and vivid that it’s like an au­di­tion day for the next Find­ing Nemo movie. Or like an aquatic ver­sion of Hitch­cock’s Birds, mi­nus the hor­ror. The two whitetip sharks were ut­terly non­cha­lant at my ar­rival, weav­ing their way around the to­po­graphic gran­ite floor be­low, though I made sure not to extend any dig­its in its gen­eral di­rec­tion. Be­cause you just can’t be too sure. Within two short hours, I’d been ac­quainted with shoals of dart­ing fish, trio of sea tur­tles, a bob­bing fam­ily of squid, I thought I’d seen it all. But a pair of ea­gle rays the size of some flat­tened out Mini Coop­ers glided past our boat as we am­bled back to the jetty.

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