Two days in the Seychelles. That was the great consolation prize we received because of the unrest in Madagascar. And not just any islands in the Seychelles - we went to two of the most remote: Assumption and Aldabra.
Our first port of call was Assumption, where Seychelles officials had specially flown to clear our ship into the nation. For reasons that are a bit murky, Assumption hosts a truly gigantic runway; you could land anything there, but few aircraft have any reason to. (Some speculate that one leader of the Seychelles wanted western countries to be able to send a large transport plane to evacuate him and his family in case of a coup.)
Assumption was super-duper hot. Many a traveler turned back before reaching the airstrip; we made it only by ducking into the shade of random Casuarina trees whenever possible. There's not much on the island today, either human or natural. It was once a thriving seabird colony, with rich soil (from the seabird guano) and lots of trees. Then guano mining took off, and much of the island was denuded. Mining ceased about 25 years ago, leaving behind rusty trucks and deteriorating buildings. The natural environment is rebounding, but only slowly.
Our bird species count for Assumption? Just four. Our new friend the Fody (this time the Aldabra Fody), Abbott's Sunbird, Red-whiskered Bulbul, and Greater Frigatebird.
The good news is that life still teems underwater. The patch reef is close, so we could snorkel off the beach. We again saw a host of colorful fish, plus a few larger predators like mackerel and trevally. We also were fortunate to be caught in a classic tropical downpour. The rain cooled us nicely and made a fascinating pattern on the surface of the ocean, but had no noticeable effect on the fish below. (We hope to have underwater pictures from our disposable camera once we are state-side.)
P.S. The idea of an economist being on Assumption Island which was once covered in guano does seem like rich material for an anti-economist joke. Take your best shot.