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Click here for the 'First group circumnavigation of South Africa by Microlight'

Here is an article that appeared in a number of magazines regarding a micro light trip in the Seychelles a year or two back. I was asked weather I would like to spend a number of weeks flying around the Seychelles islands spotting whale sharks and doing flips for one of the local dive operators.

 

Being free at the time and finding an opportunity of alienating myself from the politics associated with micro lighting in our country I was on a plane a day later. Arriving in Mahe, the capital airport I found the plane had been standing unused for most part of the year (much of the time out side!). A day or two later having re- assembled most of what now looked like something that possibly could fly, it was launch time.
The main runway is built on re claimed land and extends fairly much out to sea. Clearance is given to line up and wait behind Russian Aeroflot and other passenger carriers, taking care at the same time to avoid the wicked vortices and turbulence that may linger around for a number of minutes after take off.
My job initially was to climb out to sea then either route around the island over a disused prison or the other direction over Wilber Smiths home on an outer island and eventually arriving on the other side of the tropical island where the dive resort at Beau Vallon is situated. An easier route is directly over the incredibly steep mountain peaks, often through the clouds, over the top and dropping back down onto the opposite side.
This route was more preferable, however bearing in mind that this island situated a few thousand miles out to sea; a head was usually blowing onto one of the sides. This moving air mass curls over the peaks and rolls in similar way water will move when falling over an obstacle. The end result is a sometimes-wild ride through this violent washing machine.
Being situated at fairly high latitudes and being surrounded with lots of water, means the air is usually fairly moist and saturated. As this air is forced to rise it cools and condensation occurs, resulting in low well developed cumulus clouds hovering over the mountain peaks. A lot of the time vertical and lateral development had ceased and one could fly in and amongst them (making sure that one is above the highest peak as directional disorientation becomes fairly common!).
Looking through this cloud at sometimes up to 8000` and viewing the turquoise water surrounding this island in the middle of the Indian Ocean was an incredible view. Whale sharks seem to migrate up and down the east African coast and finding these incredibly large creatures, contrary to speculation is not always easy. If lying on the surface they are easily identified, however just as easily as they are seen, they can disappears right in front of ones eyes.
Once I had spotted a whale shark the boat would be radioed and I would communicate with the dive boat and position them onto the quarry. It's also incredibly sad to think that these placid plankton-eating animals are voraciously hunted in the East. More often than not, because one may attain close distances to these creatures, they may be hunted by placing a large inflatable buoy into it's mouth to prevent it diving and then it apparently it is simply hacked up.
One other issue of concern is the gill net industry that seems to flourish around this island. Although supposedly banned, one just has to fly over the bays to see the vast number of nets hanging across the inlets. On closer examination up to eight turtles could be seen entrapped. Parts of the island are designated turtle breeding grounds. Nothing but nothing is sacred and anything that's partly edible is harvested.
Mahe is not particularly large with the interior consisting of jungle vegetation and as mentioned, rising straight out of the sea. Land reclamation has resulted in expansion out to sea and seems to be an on going phenomenon as much of the area is totally uninhabitable. As with any form of aviation, engine failure should be constantly lurking in the back of ones head. At especially high tide with the volcanic rock entering directly into the sea, there would have been no landing areas, and one certainly would be swimming back to land.
As it turned out on returning from a flight and examining the tike I found a completely snapped radiator bracket. With no locking wire I have no idea why it never entered the prop? Arriving back to land at mahe international is also potentially interesting. Priority is given to the commercial carriers which means one is sometimes kept traveling on the down wind leg (which remember projects out to sea) for some time while these great great beasts of burden arrive.
Often one is forgotton and by the time contact is made again you are way out to sea and traveling back into a head wind. What I use to do is simply circle or execute tight 360 degree circles either on the down wind leg providing no additional traffic was present. The co operation from the air traffic controllers was exceptional which certainly excenuated the -----
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