Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 06:26:10 AM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

The Land of the Black Parrot

photo by

By
25th-Aug-2017       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Bijoy Venugopal :
Islands top my bucket list. Remote ocean islands, cut away from the mainland for millennia, unique ecosystems with extraordinary plants and animals: Charles Darwin unwrapped the peculiar natural history of the Galapagos; Socotra, 340 km off the coast of Yemen, harbours otherworldly Dragon trees; Australia’s egg-laying mammals are as intriguing as New Zealand’s flightless parrots; and a far-flung Indonesian island produced a gigantic flesh-eating lizard - the Komodo Dragon.
The Seychelles, whose 115 islands lie scattered in the Indian Ocean, 1,600 km east of mainland Africa, possessed my childhood imagination after I chanced upon a clothbound Life photobook in my school library. I read of coral atolls inhabited by elderly giant tortoises, of explorers who snorkelled with dolphins and turtles, gigantic coconuts and ‘The Widow,’ a mysterious black bird that sat mournfully on its nest. Fact and imagination made love and spawned fantasy after fantasy about the Seychelles.
But it would be three decades until I could finally separate fable from fact. My job as travel editor with an internet portal was under threat as the company was downsizing, but I threw caution to the winds. Drifting towards Africa aboard the Air Seychelles red-eye from Mumbai, I watched dawn break over the ocean. Soon, the jade-green hilltops of Mahe, the largest island in the Seychelles, poked their sleepy crowns out of the clouds.
Victoria, the capital city, was more upscale than I had imagined, with an international airport and tony residential neighbourhoods. Behind Victoria, the hills of Morne Seychellois National Park, cloaked in verdant cloud forests interspersed with plantation villas and tea gardens, rise to 900m. In less than 40 minutes, we drove from coast to coast through breathtaking scenery and descended from foggy heights to sunny, postcard-perfect beaches.
Vasco da Gama, en route to India in 1502, observed a cluster of coral islands he named (after himself) as the Amirantes - the Admiral’s Islands. However, the Seychelles were not permanently settled until 1770 when the French established a colony on Mahe. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814, the Seychelles ceded to the British, who administered it until 1976, when the islands became independent.
In the 17th century, the islands were the playground of pirates. The most celebrated of them was a Frenchman, Olivier Levasseur, nicknamed La Buse (The Buzzard) for his stealth and swiftness. La Buse led a picturesque life until his luck ran out and he was captured and executed.
Moments before the noose tightened, he flung into the crowd a necklace bearing a seven-line cryptogram, claiming that it held clues to the location of his hidden treasure. The cipher has never been cracked entirely. Governments, navies and bounty hunters are still on the hunt for the cache, valued at over a billion dollars.
There are no terrestrial mammals native to the Seychelles, except for bats. One species - the Seychelles fruit bat - is numerous enough for locals to eat. At La Plaine St Andre, a restaurant housed in a distillery that produces the sought-after Takamaka Bay rum, I ordered delicious fruit bat ravioli. The meat was sparse, dark and bony, with a flavour somewhere between tuna and beef.
Despite such creature comforts, I longed to see the birds and trees that had enthralled my boyhood. In Mahe, I met the common Seychelles Blue Pigeon, Seychelles Sunbird and the Seychelles Bulbul. To find the rare Seychelles Black Parrot and uncover the mystery of The Widow, I had to island-hop. Travelling between islands isn't cheap, but the high-speed catamaran ferries that link Mahe with nearby Praslin and La Digue, are comfortable and convenient.
On La Digue, I cracked the mystery of ‘The Widow’ - the male Seychelles black paradise flycatcher, resplendent in mourning black, had earned itself the unfortunate moniker of La Veuve, French for widow. Fewer than 200 such birds survive on the small island now. On Praslin, the second-largest island, I visited the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, a Unesco World Heritage Site. This benign forest shelters an endangered palm that produces the 20-kg Coco de Mer, the world's largest fruit. Its shape, reminiscent of the female pelvis, is (pun intended) the butt of dirty jokes. The Seychellois, though, celebrate it as a symbol of fertility.
Geckos ran up the palm and a trio of sooty-grey birds alighted on the crown to feed on the flowers. ‘Black parrot,’ our guide exclaimed, “You’re in luck!” Standing there, my dreams began to come true. I was looking at the national bird of the Seychelles, on its national tree, cradling in my arms for a photo-op its national symbol - the fruit of the Coco de Mer.
Giddy with excitement, I returned to the hotel to find an urgent message from work: I had lost my job. Wading into the comforting waves of the Indian Ocean, I relaxed. I felt unyoked, unburdened. In this tranquil Eden, I had found something else, something more precious than La Buse's treasure. n

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Editorial »

Our inactive diplomacy is deplorable : We shall need armed support


IT'S almost a month since Myanmar has started to push Rohingya Muslims illegally into Bangladesh; creating a burden for an economically weaker country like ours. Our government waiting eagerly for the international power houses to act quickly and solve the problem for us. But all our so-called proven friends like ...

Entertainment »

Antora Azim`s web series Basic Ali


Sheikh Arif Bulbon :Few years ago, Antora Azim started her acting career through Adnan Al Rajib’s a play titled Middle Class Sentiment. Under his direction Antora also performed as a model in a TV commercial of Banglalink. Later she took break from media for her study. She again started shooting ...

Entertainment »

Bhoomi item song by Sunny Leone faces Censor scissors - fans to face disappointment


The Censor Board always has a last laugh because of the immense powers vested with it. And with power comes responsibility. The Central Board of Film Certification is a statutory censorship and classification body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. Bhoomi has been at the receiving ...

City »

BNP Standing Committee Member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, among others, at a discussion on `Bangladesh`s Position in Rohingya Crises` organised by Bangladesh Youth Forum at the Jatiya Press Club on Tuesday.


International »

Trump expresses his hopes for peaceful settlement to ME crisis


AFP, United Nations :US President Donald Trump again expressed his hopes for a peaceful settlement to the Middle East crisis Monday as he met Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Netanyahu was the first leader to have a one-on-one with Trump at the US president's first United Nations General Assembly, an annual ...

International »

Hong Kong leader demands end of independence talk


Reuters, Hong Kong  :Hong Kong's leader urged an immediate end to independence debates in the Chinese-ruled global financial hub on Tuesday, warning that the issue was harming the city's relationship with Beijing's Communist Party leaders.Insisting that the government did not want to intervene on university campuses, Chief Executive Carrie Lam ...

Sports »

Canada`s Brayden Schnur (right) and India`s Yuki Bhambri shake hands after the match during Davis Cup singles tennis tournament action in Edmonton, Alberta on Sunday.


Editorial »

Rice crisis must be resolved — police action not enough


THE government on day before yesterday directed the law enforcement agencies and Deputy Commissioners (DC) to arrest illegal rice hoarders in the country. The directive comes in the wake of introducing open market sales (OMS) of coarse rice at Tk. 30 per kg, double the previous year's price, across the ...

City »

Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh brought out a procession in the city protesting persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was intercepted by police at Shantinagar intersection on Monday.


Entertainment »

Waluscha De Sousa sets the ramp on fire in an Anj Kreations lehenga


A fashion favourite & Bollywood actress Waluscha De Sousa who made her debut in Shah Rukh Khan starrer Fan was seen walking the ramp at a preview show for an upcoming exhibition named Joya. This exhibition organised by the Moranis of Cineyug held a preview of top 8 designers participating ...

International »

US may stay in Paris climate accord : Tillerson


Reuters, Washington :The United States could remain in the Paris climate accord under the right conditions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday, signaling a shift in tone from the Trump administration, which angered allies with its decision to pull out of the agreement.President Donald Trump is willing to ...

Editorial »

N. Korea`s mad rush for nuclear status


NORTH Korea said it was seeking military "equilibrium" with the United States as leader Kim Jong-Un vowed to complete Pyongyang's nuclear programme. North Korea successfully fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, responding to a new round of UN sanctions over its sixth nuclear test with its ...

Sports »

Saida Akter Mou (right) of Bangladesh Ansar & VDP and Rifad Ahmed Sabbir of BKSP pose with their trophies of the girls' singles and boys' singles of the South Bangla Agriculture & Commerce Bank 4th National Junior Table Tennis Championship at the Shaheed Tajuddin Wooden Floor Gymnasium on Sunday.


Entertainment »

Kriti Sanon marks Nat`l Engineers Day


It is a known fact that Kriti Sanon who is today known to be one of the top young actresses in the industry has a background of being an Engineer. The Bareilly Ki Barfi actress came to Mumbai a few years back from Delhi where she was studying engineering with a ...

City »

Jatiyatabadi Projanma `71, organized a discussion titled `Election-time Government: Role of Election Commission and future of democracy at the Jatiya Press Club on Sunday. Among others, BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi took part in the discussion.


 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news