Pirates & Puppets
With golden sands, clear skies, palm trees and coral reefs, you would think you were stood on the original paradise island in the Seychelles. There is however, more to the Seychelles than meets the eye! Almost 1,000 miles off Southeast Africa, this cluster of 115 islands is extremely secluded – perfect for holidaymakers in the 21st Century, or pirates in the 17th Century!
Having sailed from the Caribbean, pirates arrived in the Indian Ocean and made a base in nearby Madagascar. The Persian Gulf and the Red Sea were important trade routes and ships would often be robbed or hijacked along the way. The Seychelles islands became a hideout for corsairs – pirates who were authorised by the French Crown to carry out raids on ships of enemy nations.
Born in Calais to an affluent bourgeois family at the end of the 17th Century, Olivier Levasseur certainly wasn’t expected to become a pirate, however, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Levasseur became a corsair and then, when the war finished and he was told to come home, he went rogue. He sailed across the globe, often joining forces with English pirates, and preyed on ships off the West African Coast and Madagascar. Levasseur became known as “Le Buse” (The Buzzard) because of the speed and precision with which he attacked. He survived being shipwrecked in the Mozambique Channel and after becoming blind in one eye, he began to wear an eye-patch.
Levasseur’s greatest achievement was successfully capturing the Portuguese great galleon, Our Lady of the Cape, during which not a single shot was fired. This incident was used in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and it was an ambitious move because Levasseur’s ship had no cannons and was undergoing repairs. The loot from this daring undertaking, in today’s money, was worth around $250,000,000. Levasseur settled in the Seychelles but he was soon captured in Madagascar. He was hanged for piracy at 5pm on 7th July 1730 in Saint-Denis, Réunion. Legend has it that moments before Olivier Levasseur’s death, he shouted “Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!” from the scaffold and threw a necklace containing a cryptogram of 17 lines into the crowd. No one knows who caught the necklace.
In 1923, the tides around the Seychelles were exceptionally low and as a result, a woman named Rose Savy, descendent from the family of a pirate named Le Butin found some rock carvings on Bel Ombre Beach at Mahé. A desperate search of archives ensued and two major discoveries were made. Firstly, a map of Bel Ombre Beach from 1735 was found which stated the owner of the land was “La Buse”. The second discovery was the last will of the pirate Le Butin which contained three cryptograms and two letters. One of the letters explained that he had come across some of Levasseur’s treasure.
It is thought that the treasure chamber is underground and must be approached from the north and with extreme caution to avoid flooding. The code in the cryptograms is incredibly hard to break and has been likened to other complex codes such as the Zodiac. The treasure is estimated to be worth around $160,000,000 and may contain the Flaming Cross of Goa – a solid gold cross encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The Seychelles is still a popular destination for treasure hunters and code breakers who are in search of the Levasseur treasure.
As well as playing host to pirates, the Seychelles has also been transformed into the futuristic base of International Rescue a.k.a. the Thunderbirds! The science fiction programme, originally created by Gerry Anderson in the sixties using charmingly brilliant puppetry, was later made into a movie and released in 2004. Having scoured the globe, the movie’s producers decided that the Seychelles was the only location for Tracy Island – the Thunderbirds’ top-secret oceanic lair. Producer Mark Huffam said “Tracy Island is the most idyllic island imaginable, with crystal clear waters, tropical jungle and mountainous peaks. It is fantastic that we have found all these essential elements in the Seychelles”.
The director Jonathan Frakes, more commonly known as Commander Ryker in Star Trek, stated: “In creating the feature film of Thunderbirds, I want it to appeal to both die-hard fans and those who have never heard of the original series so they all queue up and see and enjoy it together.” The shoot itself involved 200 people, 120 tonnes of equipment and the cooperation of five different government agencies. “Seychelles is paradise,” Jonathan added.
Whether you're pillaging ships or saving the world, South Point Villas offer a slice of paradise on Cerf Island. We have villas which are just steps from the sea, or even an elevated villa with panoramic views of the golden beaches and turquoise sea. All of our villas have their own private plunge pool, air conditioning, large verandas and rooms spacious enough to hide your treasure trove or your spaceship!