Sunday, October 30, 2011


Marianne, off the planet and happy!

29 October 2011...

Even though I would love to the reality is just that there is not enough time in the day; time to write, time to go through photographs, time to share and time to reminisce. Once again I am of sitting at the airport cafeteria and despite not having had a single drop of coffee for two weeks now, I am completely at ease. (The coffee bit has been far easier than I thought – seems like I am lucky – no addictive gene in my bones!).

The last few days have proved to be somewhat disappointing from a whale shark point of view. We have been able to get up and fly for much of the last days but the sharks have just not been forth coming. Today is Saturday and since I only managed a very short flight this morning – Marianne and I could not get around to the west side of the island where the sharks hang out – the bout trip for the afternoon has been cancelled. It means just a normal survey flight and a bit of a reprieve for me at the airport cafeteria.

Hey! Would you believe, David has just joined me sporting a doughnut and coffee, (Yes, I looked at the coffee – it did nothing for me :) David is of course the man behind the MCSS. Founder, chairman and maker of the MCSS, his passion and enthusiasm of late have become highly contagious. He has come to collect Georgia who has been at a Marine seminar in the Maldives. (Georgia lives in the flat down stairs – David calls her the scary one, which is very amusing to all of us – other than a few extra studs in her ears, very short hair that changes colour every now and then, she is of course anything but scary. Georgia is part of the permanent staff of the MCSS and because she has two surfboards in her room, I think she is way more than cool. :)
David and I have a light and very pleasant conversation before he heads off to meet her.

Marianne and I after her flight.

As it turned out (A fortunate turn of events you can call it) Niki, Marianne's daughter, accompanied me on the afternoon flight. We did not see any whale sharks but managed a few fish traps, a couple of schools of fish and of course, the beauty and perspective the view from the air brings. The whole island is cast out before you as if by magic – hours by car is captured in a single glance and dots are finally joined, even for those you did not even know existed. I allowed Niki to pilot the wing for a while – she turned out to be a natural pilot, flying the wing with ease within just a few minutes, no doubt I am sure, bringing new insight to her own abilities as all new experiences seems to lend itself to.

There was a large line of rain moving in from the south bringing a slight sense of urgency to our flight, often so typical of Seychelles. Even so we managed to get to the north and have a quick look for those very shy spotty creatures. On the way back we took a different route. Instead of moving right around the island we flew back up the west coast and dived through some cloudy layers over Anse Royal. It was pretty spectacular to say the least and seeing the endless smile on Niki’s face made me realise that true perspective does not come from being able to look down on our world but rather it comes from within.

These are the moments that define us.

Wish you were here!

Niki high over Conception island...

Niki - a definitive moment...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Emma's clouds...

28th October...

It rained hard and continuous during the early hours of the morning. Of course, being a pilot our minds have an eternal connection with the weather – inevitably sleep was restless. I kept wondering about the odds of flying, the unreliable met reports, staring at break-dancing wind socks, fighting strong winds and then rain in a little dacron and tubing aircraft. Interestingly too, the company of a lovely lady does wonders for a man’s soul and sometimes even succeeds to improve the weather. Whether Emma was empowered with some mystical magic or just plain good luck, we had a great day. For the first time in a while the weather held for a complete flight around the island. The wind was light so we could remain low level for the whole trip. It is a whole different ball game when one needs to climb to 6000ft just in order to clear turbulence. In this case we cruised around Beau Vallon bay at 2000ft. Then, we found a spot of convergence and climbed in the mild lift. A few bits of cumulous clouds had formed here.

“Have you ever touched a cloud?” I asked.
“Never!” She half shouted while I could not help but hear there was excitement in her voice. As we passed through the edge of the wisps I reached out and without saying a word noticed the outstretched arm and reaching fingers behind me. It was warm, slightly clammy but real.
“Wow…” Emma said while I echoed that no matter how many times I have done it, this is so cool. She mentioned that she has a thing for clouds and when I looked back I could see this was definitely a moment for her.

And that of course makes a moment for me.

Wish you were here!

Just after Emma's moment!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In one piece...

Sam and I getting a little bit wet!

Dirk has just arrived back, desponded but in one piece. He said it was his most stressful days flying he has ever had – and he didn’t fly! :) Welcome to the club Dirk! We know those days very well, “Should I fly? Yes! No! It’s definitely not good. Oh, wait. It’s looking better. Yes, it’s definitely better. Let’s go! No! That’s no good. Ah dang!” and on it goes for as long as you want to torture yourself. If you are inexperienced it lasts the whole day and you get back totally exhausted even though your feet did not even leave the ground. There are many days in Seychelles with that possibility which is why you need to be a pretty clued up pilot to make it work.

For holiday makers the weather is absolutely perfect – warm sunny, just a light breeze and they can’t understand why the pilot does not want to fly. Of course if we could take off on that side of the island it would be another story entirely. At the end of the day I support Dirks decision for not flying. It was definitely a pushing the limits kind of day.

The day before yesterday, Sam was my co-pilot. She is a beautiful brunette from Australia, a marine biologists and one of the MCSS interns. We had two flights in the morning – the first we were cut off by rain and on the second the turbulence (and rain!) was too severe. On that day I fell into an old trap – when you look at the windsock long enough and hard enough it will always look better than what it is.

Wish you were here!

Up date...

Season change with rain too!

Every year we enter a time when the seasons change. Here in Seychelles it is marked by change of the trade winds that swing from south-east to north-west. During this change over period the winds can be light and variable and when it is the flying is as good as it gets. Ironically, it is also during this change over period that the winds can swing to the south- west and bring with it turbulence that make flying as bad as it can be. This year, we seem to have skipped the calm bit and jumped straight into the as-wild-as-can-be bit. Not only is it unpleasantly turbulent but there comes a time when it is just down-right dangerous. The trick is to know when to draw that line.

I know that back home I would not fly in these conditions. It should be an easy decision then but when it comes to work and knowing what is involved – all the bookings of people wanting to dive with whale sharks and the bit of money the MCSS makes during this time of the year to help with conservation projects – it becomes a bit more difficult to say no. This of course is the wrong way of looking at it. It should be easy to make the decision not to fly because the real issue at stake is not the people wanting to dive on whale sharks but it is the life of the pilots.

Dirk is getting his fire baptism so to speak – it is his turn at flying and he has to make all the decisions. Of course I have been getting a lot of phone calls from him – what do I think? This morning was too strong for this wind direction and rightly he decided not to fly. This afternoon he has decided to ‘give it a go’ while I am not convinced. This dice can role so many ways…

Wish you were here!


Saturday, October 22, 2011


Dirk is flying today. A large rain storm has just passed by, so I tried to call him. He did not answer his phone which might mean he is still in the air. Hhhmm.

He got a whale shark this morning and the boat went out for the afternoon.

I had a hard time the whole of this week. Dirk was off to the Island of Ladigue with his new wife to be - they got engaged on the islands - very cool Dirk and Jana! :) I generously agreed to fly for the week while he tried to dust off - perhaps tried to find is more appropriate! a romantic bone in his body. (Jana said he did OK, which for Dirk is amazing! ;) So, the fact that he was off gallivanting the islands with his soon to be bride and that the whale sharks are scarce and the weather was particularly bothersome made for a bit of a tough week. I am glad he is up there flying and having to make the thousands of calculations while I can up my legs a bit - catch up on the blog and so on.

Last week we got just three sharks. Luckily the Aqua-firma group managed to dive on two of them.

This was what I had to contend with while Dirk was sunning his butt! Spectacular out flow cloud from a large CB cell. To fly or live to fly another day?

Wish you were here!


Which way..?

“Honey, why don’t you just ask for directions?”

It is human to err.., get lost should I say and if science is to be believed then there are more people that suffer from topographical disorders than we care to believe or admit – which kind of explains a lot of things, I mean what man dares to say, “I am lost!”!? (Perhaps that is why so many resources are being thrown at the problem of navigation – so no man needs to say, “I am lost”! :)

Of course I have no problem in admitting I was lost, once. Thankfully just momentarily and I have to add, it was at 18000ft in my hang glider, high above a very flat landscape with no identifying features and I must have been suffering from hypoxia too – for a brief moment I couldn’t figure out why the sun was now on my right instead of the left before I realised that it probably means I am flying in the wrong direction! Many of my hang glider friends concentrate so much on circling in the rising updrafts that by the time they are high they have lost all sense of cognitive features. (I admit. That must be the most ambiguous sentence I have ever written! :)

Of course for aviators, getting lost it is not a new thing and the seriousness cannot be overestimated – it is no coincidence that billions of dollars have been spent on aviation navigational equipment. The industry is high tech probably second to none. In the hangar that we operate from there are two coast guard survey aircraft with survey and navigational equipment on board that are more than the value of the aircraft alone. (Using sophisticated infrared radar they can read the name on the side of a ship from 10 000ft at ten miles at night!). Around airports you will find even more high tech navigational stuff, VOR’s, Secondary Radar’s, Tracking beacons, transponders etc. But every now and then I get surprised with the ingenuity of man.

Wish you were here!

PS: A friend said, because our little orange plane lacked navigational equipment they did that especially for us.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Driving over the hill towards Victoria and the airport, the sky towards the east becomes visible. Living on the North of the island does not afford that luxury and even though this is the hip and happening part of the island it often has very little bearing on my world of flying. For me it is the sky to the south and east that counts. It is from there that all our weather systems come from – bar a few exceptions of course and being able to see what’s coming helps in making our local short term weather forecasts. After the change of heart from the weather reports (from dismal to good) I was quite cheery driving to the airport. The ocean on the north showed signs of light winds with flat and calm water making the prospect of flying even more enjoyable. Of course as I came over the hill the dark clouds to the east put paid to the happy ideas of flying. The forecasts have got it wrong, again.

The weather coming in...

Writing this makes me even crankier – I am sitting at the airport cafeteria and have made a pledge not to have one cup of coffee until I am back in SA. It is a kind of experiment, to test my resolve (of course I believe if I put my mind to it I have plenty resolve, so do I really have to prove it? Come on take that coffee, just one! ;), and also just to see what happens. The idea is to find out if my coffee habit is detrimental to my health and overall wellbeing – I am healthy but can I be healthier? And I know one can dig up many arguments about that lot but for now I have decided to head my gut. And even though my gut is wrong at times, l have been around long enough to know it is right most of the times. So it is no coffee for me.

Cranky! (It’s harder than I thought..!)

It has stopped raining. I am going to head down to the hangar again to see what the sky looks like toward the south. As we have become used to saying, “fingers crossed!”

Wish you were here!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quick up date...

Would you believe the weather has changed? What!? No..! Yes. and for the better mind you. There is no rain for casted for today but for a bit of wind. We are heading out to the airport in a few minutes. The whole intern team is out turtle hunting this morning. Perhaps I can give them some support from the air in a while. They are trying to get hold of Carol, the turtle and she is actually a very interesting story. But I am off now to go fly. Will tell all later on!

Wish you where here!


Dreams do come true...

After todays hectic flying I thought I would get up a few pics from the nicer days. Just to kind of make me feel better... ;)

Here is a pic of Ali and I having fun over Beau Vallon bay. Ali is part of the Aqua-firma group and on her first day had a great whale shark encounter. The very next day she booked a flight in our little orange plane. Of course she loved every minute of it and I recommended that she takes up flying. She was very keen on that idea. I won’t be too surprised if I see Ali in the sky pretty soon.

The funny thing is that out of the whole group (I think they are twelve) she is the only one that wanted to go flying. The rest are just into diving! I just don’t get it. Who would not want to do this?

What do you think? One of my favourite pics. On one of those perfect days when you can flirt with the clouds…

Yep, you should have been here!

Up date...

Shoe! Just a short note - today I flew in some of the strongest wind I have ever flown in. It was blowing up to 50km/h in places and the sea looked angry. Of course the problem really was just in take offs and landing and at lower altitudes - it was very turbulent low down. Higher up it was actually quite pleasant, apart from the rain which slowly got worse. Yes, it was all from the outflow of a very large CB cell that covered the horizon. I know, I know, I should have known better but...

After spotting one whale shark in the morning this afternoon was disappointing. We did not get anything...

Wish you were here...


Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Sometimes it is good to wear masks. It can protect you from the sun, from the cold, from harmful gas or as in its most common use, just plainly hide your identity. Take for example the day Jana spotted a whale shark.

Now Jana is Dirks better half. She has flown over to visit for the week, which has been good for all of us. Dirk is not cranky anymore and of course Janna provides new and fresh conversation. Inevitably soon she was sitting in the back seat of the little orange plane with Dirk at the helm. He had to show her the ins and outs of the island from the air but also just to be the man – you know, the guy we don’t always see but Janna knows all too well.

Soon, Dirk had shown her the local fish-traps, the turtles that hang out in the coves and those that like the deep water, seemingly just hanging out in the middle of nowhere. And the large schools of fish that adorn the turquoise waters like Christmas lights a city.

“Daars n haai!” (Theres a shark!) OK, I am taking some poetic licence here. Jana actually said, “Wats daai?” (What’s that?) But the gist was exactly the same – could that be a whale shark?
Dirk could see it too and put the little plane into a downward spiral.
“Ooooh..!” Jana shouted from the back seat. (OK, I’m taking more poetic liberties here :) But soon the large brown object became clearer.
“It’s a Manta!” shouted Dirk and the large wide winged creature took flight. They could see its flatness and tip movement and got all excited. Jana was.., OK I will stop adding colour to the story here – Jana is living in our flat and I fear some retribution…
“Ag, dis a palm tak!” Shouted Dirk. (It’s a palm leave) and the two made known their disappointment while they flew on and left the palm leave to its own devices.

Of course later on when Dirk retold the story to me he could not help harping on the size of the leave, “It was not just long but so wide…” his arms went as far as they could while his fingers pointed even further. And that’s what gave it away. You see I know that in order to hide their identity it is not uncommon for the Seychelles whale sharks to hide behind large palm leaves. And let me tell you, they are very, very good at it too…

Wish you were here!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Up date..

On Sunday afternoon I stumbled upon a lone whale shark. OK, they are loners anyway but this was our first shark in more than a week. Of course the boat was very happy. The sharks proved to be a tame one and kind of hanged around for a while. The Aqua-firma group loved it. It was their first day (Last week’s group left Sat and did not have one encounter for the week…) But this was a good start.

Of course today we tried the same thing in hope. For almost three hours I scoured the ocean surface for anything resembling the likes of a spotty creature but allas. It was not to be. So we are tired but on the way back I managed to get this pic for you. Base leg just before turning on finals. Not bad hey?

Wish you were here!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Dirk got back at 8:30 this morning. It is pouring outside and there will be no flying this morning. The met office says the rain is wide spread and only the southern islands have sunny weather. We have just on two weeks left for the official whale shark season. Bar a miracle I doubt there is enough time to recover from the dismal season.

Yep. Still wish you were here! :)

PS: Here are two pics as a reminder of what the norm is for this time of the year. Two whale sharks and two manta rays in the one and just lots of whale sharks. From last years season.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Climate change...

South Point is on the right. Police Point is in the foreground. A rare gap in the weather allows me to explore the south...

O the irony. For almost a week we have been plagued by a large cell of CB’s hanging about in the south even if the north of the island was having fine weather. That’s where the MCSS office is – in the north and of course when all the marine biologists looked out the window they see fine weather. I can imagine they probably question why the pilots aren’t flying, once again! Of course the danger aspect of flying to the north where it is clear is that these CB cells can at any time move just a tad to the north and cover the airport, cutting us off from being able to get back and land safely. And it has happened a few times too – thankfully we were still safely on the ground (and happy at having made the right decision!)

Then yesterday we decide that the chance of finding sharks in the north is better since there have been higher plankton counts in that area. We set a plan of action and lo and behold, the large rain cells decide to migrate to, you guessed it, the north! So we sat at the airport with bright sunny weather to the south and rain in the north. I kid you not. What is it with the weather this time round? This has to be the worst season we have ever had. We are all frustrated – marine biologists, pilots, interns and tourists alike.

Climate change is real and if what we hear is correct then it is only going to get worse. I was listening to a program on BBC that mentioned climate disasters are up by three times as many as in the 80’s. Even scientists are working on coping measures rather than preventative ones. On the bright side, you might be living in an area that is going to get better weather in the future. Either way, change is upon us and for those businesses affected by the weather these are very trying times. The big question now is how does one set about a strategic plan of action for the weather? Get into a business that is not affected by the weather? Every time I sip a coffee I think along those lines… I have been for some time now. :)

Wish you where here!


Ten love...

The fact that it was not raining was encouraging. Of course at the airport the stiff windsock and the met office report confirmed that it was too strong. Simon, one of the Aqua-firma tourists handled the news just fine. He understood my explanation with the clarity becoming of a haematologist. Simon was from the UK and worked for the NHS. Inevitably we explored the state of health systems in our respective countries, but soon the weather dominated our conversation again. Coffee at the airport cafeteria was on the agenda and for the first time this year I found some chocolate ├ęclairs that made my mouth water. They were as good as they looked. (Yes, later on I had another! ;)

We agreed that we would try again tomorrow and I dropped Simon off at the taxi. Of course due to the pressures of the program I willed the wind to slack off, which it did – perhaps only in my mind – and at lunch time I made a run for the south to look for sharks. The wind was howling. There were no sharks and I was stretching my abilities.
Must be ten love to the weather by now…

Wish you were here!

Monday, October 10, 2011


Racing from the approaching storm. I had just squeezed through a tiny gap between the clouds and the mountain in the background.

I am sitting in the open hangar of the Seychelles Military training academy. It is right at the very end of the runway and offers a great view down towards the south, the direction that most of our weather systems come from. From here I can make better assessments to predict the chance of flying. At the moment it is drizzling and towards the south it is gloomy and grey. For now the prospect of flying is slim to none – at least for the next half hour or so, which is how long it will take given favourable conditions for the system to clear up. Of course it looks more like these systems are taking their time to dissipate.

Normally by 11:30 I have already surveyed the whole island, located the sharks and informed David so that boat crews and passengers can be briefed. Today it is not going to be that easy.

The drizzle has just increased to light rain.

As if the weather is anything to go by, I have just heard on the news that SA lost to Oz in the quarter finals of the rugby world cup. A final score 11-9. It sounds like it was a close game. In a way I am glad I missed it. I am far too much of a Springbok fan to have been able to watch that game without getting worked up. No, it was much better sitting in the car waiting for the rain to clear up so we could go flying. Now what could be better than that? Yes, you are quite right – to be flying!

Later on I managed to get into the air and what an interesting flight it turned out to be. It had all the elements of excitement one could hope for – from a flying point of view: Lots of stormy weather, rain fronts, low clouds, mountains, turbulence. It gets really exciting when you have to calculate all these variables to make sure you can get through a gap between the clouds and a low valley in the mountains before it all turns pear shaped. As it turned out I could not quite get to the boat to offer air support and just to tease them even more, they spotted a whale shark but then lost it. If I had been in the air at that time it would have been a simple matter to get the research team onto the shark. Of course at that time I was sneaking through a low gap between the mountains and cloud with my tail between my legs, before it started to rain all over the show. Perhaps some other time I will bore you with the details but for now, let’s just say I am happy to be on the ground.

Wish you were here!

Saturday, October 8, 2011


This was the rain that moved in at lunch time from the SE.
After the dismal forecast the day actually started not too bad. There were signs of rain but not the kind of down pour predicted. Andy and I made our way to the Airport with light conversation. He is an interesting man, working in the security business concerning CCTV monitoring – no doubt with todays’ technological advances an exciting industry to be in. He had also done a hang gliding tandem flight in Rio some years back. “My friends said everyone took of straight but when we launched we just dropped and disappeared off the end of the ramp.” It was by no means Andy’s most memorable moment. “Well, Andy, this is much more relaxing. No need to run and hurl yourself off any cliffs…” Andy liked that idea.

In the end we had a great flight. Smooth air with very light winds – all the time I was monitoring the CB cells which seemed to be all around us, as if we were flying inside a large horse shoe. The storms where slow moving so we snuck around the whole island without getting wet. Unfortunately we did not see any sharks.

Just before lunchtime, one of the large CB cells to our north east moves in and it starts to rain over the whole island. David and I have a hard time to decide if it is worth heading out or not. We are just so desperate to run trips especially since Dirk had such a spectacular afternoon the other day, even though he only got one shark in the morning.

The rain seems relentless. We cancel the day. The storm collapses and its clear all around. Eish… (The last bit are for all my South African friends;)

The whole gang goes for an eat-out at one of the islands more interesting restaurants, the Hot Rock but I decide to give a survey around the island another go. I manage the whole island and only run into a few drops of rain near the north. Still no sharks. Perhaps then we did not miss anything…

Wish you were here!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Weather to or not...

If the weather is bad, this is what you miss out on....

We are all guilty of underestimating the magnitude of the role the weather has on our lives. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we are often aware of the effect on our moods but sometimes miss the affects the weather has on our daily physical living – from the threads of clothing we wear to the real threat of living or dying. Even more fascinating are the emotions stirred once we realise the inextricable connection between these two idioms. Rather ironically, if you believe like I do, you can have the one exist without the other but you cannot have the other exist without the one. Be that as it may, I have created a new gadget – a link to “the weather where I am at”, for those that are interested in that sort of thing but also because it is so relevant to my life for the moment. Here in Seychelles our project is so dependent on the weather. Perhaps I should rephrase that to ‘at the mercy’ of the weather, which gives a better description of our current predicament.

Over the years, with the help of the MCSS, Seychelles has developed a reputation as a reliable whale shark ecotourism destination. During the months of September and October daily trips are run with a very high rate of success, probably of more than 95%. The majority of these are multiple encounters with tourists diving with a number of whale sharks in a matter of just an hour or two. The result of this has been repeat bookings for tour operators on an annual basis. This year however, the weather has been so dismal that the Aquafirma tour group, who have booked a whole week of whale sharking, seemed as if they were not going to head out to sea on a whale shark trip even once. They arrived on Saturday and by Wednesday the rain had not let up yet and the forecast for the remainder of the week was bleak. Unexpectedly Thursday offered a reprieve and the boat went out. Of course Seychelles lived up to its reputation and the tour group had a great time (multiple whale shark encounters). However, today (Friday) the rain seemed to have returned with a vengeance. Of course, the forecast for the rest of the weekend looks pretty dismal too.

Earlier this morning, Dirk and I both were woken up by the sharp crack of thunder that rumbled on into the distance. The flash was evident even through my closed eyelids and in my dreamy state I counted the seconds. “One and ‘bang!’ ” – the lightning was less than 600m away! Lying in bed in the dark I knew the odds of Dirk getting into the air today was slim to none. Rain is one thing but lightening quite another, especially if you are flying a tiny, little micro-light.


Wish you were here!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rain and rain and more rain.

Tim and I racing from the approaching rain after studying a whale shark.

Tim and I were unperturbed. Like brave little warriors we headed to the airport even if we were completely outnumbered. The odds were stacked against flying but the pressure was on – so much depended upon us getting into the air. Of course safety does come first – always – but after many days of not being able to get into the air one starts to consider that which is not possible. Perhaps it is possible to make the impossible possible. We spotted a small gap between the rain and agreed to have a go. We were not complete fools – if it was bad we could always come back. Of course the fact that sky was filled with large billowing clouds and rain was falling from almost every one of them perhaps there was still something foolish about our efforts…

By the time we taxied out to the runway even the gap we had hoped for down to the south had disappeared. By then, we were hot and bothered. Double sleeved flight suits, gloves and balaclavas were not the best of combinations for the tropics. Of course up in the sky it was essential.
“Approach we will fly to South Point and then report on our intentions depending upon the weather.”
“Roger, on line clear for take of one three with a right turn”
At that stage all that mattered was to get into the air and get the air-conditioning going.

We climbed to 3500ft in a gap in the clouds and from there could make a better assessment of the approaching weather. Some rain was moving in but we could easily fly around it. The question of course was what lied in wait for us behind it. It did not look too bad so we kept going. Cloud base was at 1300ft and the lack of sunlight made spotting conditions very difficult. We found nothing on our first search but on the way back Tim spotted a nice 7m shark. We did an observational report on it and then tried our hand at a couple of interference transect runs. The idea being to find out at what height the shark responds to the micro-light. Of course it is all official and we record every move. It is actually very interesting and for a few minutes we got totally absorbed in what we were doing.

Hhhmm… A large rain cell snuck in and was almost upon us.

“OK, Tim. Time to leave for the airport.”
“I agree!” he said. We still need to fly around South Point to beat the rain but managed not to get wet.
“Approach, this is Echo Pappa Echo, ready for re-joining…”

All in a day’s work.

Wish you were here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Slim to none…

I got this rainbow pic from our balcony the other day...

Outside the airport cafeteria it was pouring with rain. Tim and I had been chatting all morning about various conservation projects, from the Rodrigues Island in the north to the east coast of Africa. Many of these entailed shark conservation projects and that is so my cup of tea. Sharks have really been getting a raw deal with modern man – many large well known species are on the brink of extinction. Of course, in some areas the influence of man has been kept at bay and very healthy shark populations are encountered. We speculated about ones chances of survival when swimming in these oceans – slim to none were probably not far off the mark.

It was lunch time and Dirk joined us after he bravely cycled all the way from home. Of course he was sopping wet.
“If I am not wet from perspiration I am wet from rain but I am always wet!” he says while we tuck into lunch.

Our conversation was laced with the advantages of aerial surveys and what a great tool that was for conservationists. It was well known in African National parks and used even in combating pouching but very few people, including pilots and scientists alike, know about its uses for marine applications. Tim and I dreamed for a while about the possibilities the future might hold, something so typical of pilots and marine conservationists alike.

Three cups of coffee and some cool drinks later Dirk greets us and heads out somewhere on his bicycle in the rain. For a while Tim and I admire his commitment to staying fit. Then we start to feel bad ourselves and stop.
“To be honest Tim, the chance of us flying this afternoon is slim to none.”

He leaves for the bus station while I am left staring at the rain and contemplating the reasons for hanging out at the airport. Even though we have canned the boat trip for the afternoon, the idea is for me to use any clearing to get out to the shark area and see what conditions are like – is the water rough, is the water visibility good and most important are the sharks still there. The rain of the past two days has caused a lot of flooding and there is every chance that most of our target dive areas are covered in brown rivers of fresh water making diving and whale shark trips a complete waste of time. I watch as the water pours from the roof ignoring the gutter. Slim to none I think again before ordering another cup of coffee.

Wish you were here!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Certifiable depressions...

This is the lenticular cloud we watched above Beau Vallon Bay....

I have been thinking about the word depression. It’s quite ironic that the meaning of the word swings into the same direction in both humanistic wellbeing and weather terms. Their cyclic nature is so representative of life too, the ups and downs, the highs and lows. And to make this relationship even more interesting, you will find the two are inexorably linked with one another. In fact, we are experiencing that very thing. Let me put it this way.

There is a depression over the inner islands and it is raining cats and dogs. Our crew and tourists are suffering from depression that seems to range from mild to bordering on the certifiable.

The truth is that it has been raining for two days already and the forecasts are not looking any better for the coming week. One can only hope that the forecasts are wrong.

Just before the rain started, for the clued up, we were treated to a spectacular sight. If you are a weather buff or a pilot used to using Mother Nature as your power source, the beautiful lenticular cloud forming above Beau Vallon bay would not have escaped your notice. These types of clouds are extremely rare in Seychelles; occurring perhaps less than a handful of times per year. Dirk and I watched with joy (we were happy to be on the ground!) at the fast forming cigar shaped cloud. It was a beaut! The bottom had cumuli tendrils, swirling and curling in random fashion while the tops were ironed smooth in its familiar and predictable lens shape. The winds were gusting to 40knots on the water below the wave cloud – the white streaks of foam were reminiscent of Cape Town’s bays during a storm strength southeaster. To see such ferocious weather action from the usual tropical bliss brought with it a pleasurable awareness. After all, variety is the spice of life.

Wish you were here!