Friday, 26 October 2012

Guest Posting: Top Ten Reasons to Visit Seychelles

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the fortune, and the pleasure of visiting Mr Lau at his new home in Seychelles. Ever creative, it was his idea that instead of a visitor book, we could write up a guest post on this blog and although I'm not gifted in the writing department (hopefully the pictures make up for it), it is still exciting to make the first visitor contribution.

Working with Bruv, being mentored by him and becoming a close friend over the past few years has taught me many things: 1. Food should never be wasted, no matter how old it is (William was my partner in crime when eating food way past its expiry). 2. There's more to life than work (despite him being one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever met) 3. A wide assortment of London slang which I was previously unexposed to (see previous post) 4. Fonts matter. 5. Even spreadsheets and databases can be taught in fun ways when put in an amusing and relevant context (evidence). I could go on and on. But perhaps most inspiring is how China Man is never afraid to try something different, and thus I thought I'd try a different format to the initial diary-style post.

So here it is - MY TOP TEN REASONS TO VISIT SEYCHELLES (AKA The Highlights of my Trip)

1.    The beaches

 OK, this comes as no surprise, Seychelles has amazing beaches. Soft white sandy beaches, azure and crystal clear waters, palm forest and rocky granite mountain backdrops, brightly coloured marine life etc etc. You've seen many photos here before, so I'll only share a few.

Anse Intendance
Beau Vallon
Anse Lazio

2.    Spending quality time with Will I Am

 Shivani had barely met Will before, and yet she was comfortable and felt at home from Day 1. The Lauster's hospitality was incredible: 1. He had given me a gift voucher (valid despite being typed in comic sans) for a free stay with him, complete with print screens of the cheapest flights. 2. Before arriving, he had drawn up a detailed itinerary of planned activities, eating out etc and amended it as our travel plans changed. 3. Again, before we arrived he had already tried to stock-up on all the Jain vegetables and foods available in Praslin to cater for our strict and fussy diet. 4. He was more than happy to pick us up from the airport at 6am on a Sunday morning and take us around for an early morning tour of Praslin! Again, I won't go on and on - I've only taken you up to the first morning of our 4 day stay! But hospitality aside, it was nice to spend quality time with Willie (as fondly referred to only by his mother and our Ramesys technician friends). I'm sure you're missing him a little at least, otherwise you wouldn't be here. I'm not going to even mention that Seychelles hotels are really expensive (cue tight Gujarati comments...)

3.    Sunsets on the beach (beaches had to have a second mention!)

Furthermore, Anse Kerlan, where Font Man stays, is geographically the best location on the island from which to view sunsets over the sea from.

Beau Vallon

Anse La Reunion

Grande Anse
 4.    Birdlife (no, the type with wings)

A day trip to Cousin Island, a short boat ride (providing the waters aren't too choppy!) takes you to a stunning, nature abundant bird and conservation island. The birds are fearless - you can walk right up to nesting chicks and they won't bat an eyelid! Trees are full of nests on every branch and there is the highest density of lizards per hectare in the world (if you're like our Lau Wailap, don't let this put you off)!

White-tailed tropicbird chick

Brown Noddy

White terns, nicknamed love birds as they mate for life and stay in each other's company!
Lots of birds here...
...and lots of lizards too!

5.    Friendly Seychellois people

An anecdote: One evening we were walking briskly to the bus stop having visited the amazing Anse Lazio. A hotel driver, seeing us coming towards him, gave us a friendly wave. A few minutes later, after dropping his client off at the beach he past us again and asked us where we were headed. When he found out that we were trying to catch the last bus, he told us we just missed it by a few minutes. He then paused for a second and then told us to jump into his fancy new 4WD (Raffles is the best hotel is Praslin). Purely out of courtesy, he drove us half way around Praslin (about 10km) until we caught up to the bus! This is just one example, but in general Seychellois people seem friendly and very chilled out!

6.    Giant tortoises

How many other places are you going to get to see these slow giants - some weighing 150+ kg? If you're lucky, you may get to see them mating, and if you're unlucky you may hear them mating when you're trying to sleep (evidenced by Boatswain M)!

They start out small... tiny in fact. This cute fellas a few months old!
And they grow into these - this is the leg of George, Cousin Islands oldest inhabitant, a sprightly 175.

 7.    Seclusion

If you just want to get away from everyone and everything, you'll certainly find a good spot somewhere in Seychelles. Although most of Seychelles' 115 islands are uninhabited, you do not need to go so far - we found that any nice beach on a weekday feels like your own private one. Don't expect this on BBQ Sundays though.

8.    Micro safari and unusual wildlife

Coming from the Kenya, I wasn't quite expecting lions, giraffes and rhinos. But if you open your eyes to smaller creatures, there's lots of game to see, from palm spiders to huge crabs and geckos galore. The below photos were all taken between Sleepstar's house and the Anse Kerlan beach a hundred yards away.

9.    Vallee de Mai

Home of the enormous Coco de Mer seed, this rainforest of giant palms is certainly worth a visit. Erotic and exotic flora aside, the 20 foot leaves feel like plastic roofing keeping you dry in the national park, even if it rains.

10.    Being able to walk up to small islands (and dive off them)

WL, once again you impressed me - only months after learning to swim (at the grand old age of 27, soon you'll have grey hairs like me), you've been diving and then having the courage to jump off granite cliff islands, dodging the rocky parts below and plunging yourself into deep waters. There's nothing quite like it.

"Sir of Somalia" taking the plunge

Last of all, if you're coming from Africa, remember to bring your Yellow Fever certificates unless you want to spend some time at the local hospital (although the Victoria one is very pretty - add the "Red Roof Building" to your itinerary).

Hoping you all manage to make it down to visit Will I Am in Seychelles, for real.

"Dr Sangdizzle" signing out, with huge thanks to the incredible Williambhai who made this trip happen. It was a pleasure.

P.s. Some more Seychelles (and Kenya) photos and write-ups on the site.

Around the world in a week

For the last week of half-term, lessons were planned on the theme of "Around the world in a week". This involved students rotating around different countries each day (sometimes more than 1 a day). Here they would learn a bit about a country's culture and participate in some learning, be it in new languages, arts, crafts, cooking, maths or experiments. It was a huge success and this video shows some of the highlights. The week ended with a MUFTI day and a cake sale.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Guest Experience

When I was studying at Warwick, we had a few truly exceptional lecturers. These lecturers and (one really terrible, slightly racist and majorly overweight Year 7 ICT teacher) in turn inspired me to become a teacher. Martin Campbell-Kelly was one of the former. He inspired me to go deep into retro computing, I guess that's why I still play around with typewriters and Polaroids. This also in turn fed into some of Mrs Lau's research into things like the Memex and the World Brain.

As it's Sunday and we all love a bit of a History of Computing on the Holy Day, let me share a bit of the genious of HG Wells. In 1938, HG Wells conceived the idea of a "World Brain". It was a free, permanent library of books accessible to all. He hoped it would make signifcant contributions to world peace too! Well those of you with astute minds will recognise that his idea was pretty much the same as Wikipedia- he was just way ahead of his time.

A few years later in 1945, Vannevar Bush and JCR Lickleider (Both amazing names which you will never forget) came up with the concept of the Memex:

"Bush envisioned the memex as a device in which individuals would compress and store all of their books, records, and communications, 'mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.' The memex would provide an 'enlarged intimate supplement to one's memory'."

For non-geeks, he basically laid down the blueprint for the Internet back in 1945. Some of his ideas (like following paths and thought processes throughout documents) are so advanced, that even today they have not yet been implemented by Mozilla or Google.

Onto other great lecturers, I have to mention Bob Johnston and Alistair Brandon Jones.

Dr Alistair Brandon Jones

These two superstars lectured "Operations Management". Their lectures alone were worth the tuition fees we paid at Warwick. Granted, they had more-engaging material to start with comapred to say Statistics for Business or Accounting for Business. But even if you are working with a diamond, you still need to work hard for a polished final product. These two literally made their subject come alive with vivid case studies and they were masters in delivery. They taught me a lot, not just about business and teaching but also about life.

Take for example expectation theory. The theory goes that if customer expectations are too high, you can never meet them and you will dissapoint them. So your aim is to manage the perceived expectation and then you can meet and exceed these managed expectations and hopefully blow them away. Companies like Singapore International Airlines do this very well. They always deliver an amazing customer experience. For example, they will replace your suitcase if it is broken in transit with a shiny new one. Not just any suitcase, probably a samsonite or something similarly high-end. That's just the amazing service you get for your money. As another good teacher (Martin L) once said, "always under promise, then over-deliver. Never do the opposite."

We have friends who work at some of the top hotels out here. That means they're amongst the best hotels in the world in terms of setting and service. You would expect these standards though if some of your guests pay £5000 a night. One of our friends joked that he treats us well as friends because it's all about "the guest experience". As he said that, all of my Op's management memories came flooding back to me. Ever since finishing my degree in Computer Science and Business back in 200, I've never wanted to work in business, but right now whilst surrounded by high-performing businesses and service operations, I've suddenly caught the bug. I'll analyse how a waitress serves us, how receptionists greet you, how they respond to awkward queries. Not in a sadistic or patronising way, purely out of curiosity. Then I think, what would Bob or Alistair recommend to this business to improve their service op's.

Enough eduational chat. Time for some pictures to illustrate the guest experience. Jetski and Paddleboards come as standard.

WELL...the Internet upload isn't working as we're still on the satellite backup system, so there's no pictures. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the read!

Poolside king size bed. Complimentary Tattinger, well iced water...

Double infinity pool-for the Maths geeks.



Before the experience, it's all smiles. But I've got about as much balance as an Elephant on a Gym ball. Needless to say, at one point I fell off 5 times in 3 mins. Whey!

Schoolboy error. Never look down on a paddleboard, even if the sea is amazing. You have to look forward to balance apparently. I learnt this the hard way!

We got pretty far out on the paddle boards, then we clearly wussed out and came back into shore.

1.8litre engine means you can get to Mahe in 30mins...


Next week's guest experience will be drop fishing. Setting off at 5.30am for the drop off. As preparation for the experience, I decided to watch Finding Nemo tonight. Quite an educational film: