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SUBIOS III - Seychelles

by Lawson Wood

Reproduced from in focus 45 August, 1992


The Seychelles islands are a diverse group - the name alone is exotic and romantic and conjures up images of palm trees, white sandy beaches, crystal clear warm waters, coral fringed atolls and tropical fish. The images prove to be a reality when you fly into the archipelago just 40 south of the Equator.

Nestled as they are in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles escaped human habitation until the early l8th century. Their oceanic isolation has also accounted for a vast number of rare species of plants amidst a lush vegetation. Many exotic birds also thrive under the protection offered in the islands. General Gordon (of Khartoum fame) described the Valles de Mai on the island of Pralin as 'the original Garden of Eden' with the Coco de Mar as 'the forbidden fruit'. The islands have been visited over the centuries by Arab traders who used them for revictualling, and by several pirates, who made the islands their base for attacking the rich merchant ships which plied the Indian Ocean and East African routes. It wasn't until 1770 when the first French colonists arrived with their African slaves, that man started to make his impression on the islands. The French were succeeded by the British who made the Seychelles a separate Crown colony in 1903. The Seychelles finally became and autonomous nation in 1977, following a coup by France Albert Rene. Today the Republic of Seychelles is an independent, non-aligned nation with a unique combination of ethic affinities that have unmistakably created a culture that is recognisable only as Seychelles.

The islands are friendly and inviting, as are the locals themselves, and the whole ethos is one of relaxed contentment. The coral reefs are fresh and of good structure - testimony to the work of the local dive shops in organising anchorages at specific sites to stem anchor damage. The submarine environment is dominated in shallower water by sea grasses, soft and hard corals and sandy bays. Most of the diving tends to be on submarine granite and coral outcrops which are profuse with life. There are some forty five varieties of coral and over 900 species of fish. Many of the fish are typically Indo-Pacific, which can be found from the Red Sea to Hawaii and all points between These are squirrel fish, soldier fish and clown fish. The Seychelles has three species of clown fish. The usual pelagics, such as barracuda, tuna and jacks, are fairly common. Whale sharks are seen regularly, and turtles are forever cruising amongst the coral heads. The Seychelles are an ideal location for a film festival and offer a wide range of photographic sites for all levels of divers. Between 27 April and I May this year, the third annual underwater film festival was held in the Republic of Seychelles. SUBIOS, as it is known, is now internationally recognised as being a major staging post for presentations of film, video, audio-visuals and photographs. The guest speakers at SUBIOS III were PIERRE COTON - one of the organisers of the Festival Mondial de de l'image Sous-Marine in Antibes - who presented the Indian Ocean Premiere of Luc Besson's new film 'Atlantis'; David Doubilet, a National Geographic magazine underwater photographer, who gave illustrated lectures on his travels; Mark Shelley, who's video company excels in the underwater world; Lawson Wood, who presented four audio-visuals on the Red Sea, Bermuda, and the St. Abbe and Eyemouth Marine Reserve; Norbert Wu, who has filmed with Howard Hall, gave a glimpse of the fantastic creatures which inhabit the abyss; and Piet and Karen Van ZyI from South Africa, who presented the underwater wonders of Fiji. ll of the guest speakers also held continuous afternoon seminars on various aspects of underwater photography for basic beginners all the way through to using models, advanced techniques and 'pro tips'. All lectures and presentations were held to enable as much diving as possible so that all participants could make the most of the idyllic setting of the Seychelles.

The Coral Strand Hotel provided an excellent backdrop for the staging of many of the film presentations and also hosted the opening ceremony, The Seychelles Underwater Centre is adjacent to the Coral Strand, where most of the diving trips were coordinated. The seminars and lectures were held in the Coral Strand Hotel and Beu Vallon Bay Hotel, as well as the island of Pralin. The premiere of Luc Besson's 'Atlantis' was presented in the newly opened Maison du Peuple, in the capital of Victoria. This new conference centre hosts simultaneous translations to all individual seats, 35 mm projection facilities and surround sound PA system. s well as the various presentations there was also an underwater photography competition and with the top prize of a return trip, all expenses paid, to SUBIOS W. It was keenly contested.Photographs were shot on Fujichrome 100 ASA over a three day period and each contestant was allowed two rolls of film from which to choose five entries. There was also a video shootout competition. Apart from the 'splash-in' type of competition there was also the chance to enter slides and video taken in the Seychelles and these were judged separately. full programme of dives was organised by the Seychelles Underwater Centre, so that all contestants would all be on the same dives at some time during the festival, and to allow for a as varied a selection of sites and photographs as possible.

The open video competition was won by Karl-Heinz Sittlinger; second was Werner Schutz; third was Leo Howers; and a special prize went to Ray Gates. The open pre-shoot 35 mm slide contest was won by BSoUP member Pam Kemp. BSoUP members ANTHONY HOLLEY and JANET RIDDLESTONE came second and third respectively. The Festival shoot-out 35 mm slide contest had fourteen entrants and was won by Anthony Holley. Anthony also took second place and was a particularly popular winner. Anthony won a round trip, all expenses paid, to SUBIOS IV. Third place went to Dianne Beveridge of Canada and fourth place to Stephen Smithson from the U.K. The next SUBIOS Festival is scheduled for 28 - 30 April 1993. Once again the Festival will feature the works of many of the world's leading underwater film makers and hosts of special seminars and workshops for those interested in the marine environment. Special guests will include Kurt Amsler, called the 'Grand Master' of underwater photography.

For details of tour packages, programmes and any other enquiries regarding the festival, please contact:- SUBIOS IV, Ministry of Tourism and Transport, P.O. Box 92, Victoria, Mahe, Republic of Seychelles.

Reproduced from in focus 45 August, 1992

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