There are few forums that have achieved as much in sensitising visitors and locals alike to the wonders of Seychelles’ unique ocean environment as has SUBIOS, Seychelles’ Underwater Image and Film Festival which, from its inauguration in 1989, has continued to fascinate audiences over the years with a tantalising suite of marine-oriented activities, presentations, film-shows, school projects and, of course, image & film competitions.
SUBIOS was the brainchild of Mr. Philippe Blanchard and a handful of local divers who, in 1989, together with Mrs. Maryse Eichler, Mr. David Rowat, Mr. Maurice Loustau-Lalanne and a special committee, put together a festival that would highlight Seychelles’ extraordinary marine world, showcase the islands as an ideal diving destination and also sensitise the local population to the beauty beneath the waves.
Diving in Seychelles at that point in time was still in its infancy as was awareness of the Seychelles Islands as a diving destination and what it had to offer to aficionados and amateurs alike. From the outset, SUBIOS has done much to change perceptions both among visitors and the local population alike and to raise the profile of the marvellous treasures of Seychelles’ unique and remarkable marine heritage.
Over the intervening years SUBIOS’ special guests have included such names as Kurt Amsler, recognised as the „Grand Master“ of underwater photography, Pierre Coton – one of the organisers of the Festival Mondial de l’image Sous-Marine in Antibes, David Doubilet, a National Geographic magazine underwater photographer; John Boyle, Mark Shelley, Lawson Wood, Norbert Wu, who used to film with Howard Hall, as well as Piet & Karen Van ZyI from South Africa.
The twin-pronged approach of educating visitors to the islands as well as the local Seychellois population has been especially successful. Presentations, talks and film shows conducted throughout Seychelles’ schools have ensured that the nation’s youth have become increasingly aware of their marine environment while their participation in successive, dedicated SUBIOS writing and painting competitions has also heightened their sensitivity to the challenges facing the surrounding ocean and its inhabitants. Each year, the organizers choose a specific theme that focuses attention on a particular marine domain and which showcases its potential as well as the challenges facing it. Recent themes have included ‘Cetaceans: Our Ocean Cousins’, ‘The Gardens Below’, ‘Wrecks as Ocean Habitats’ and this year’s theme, ‘Diving the Granite Isles of Gondwanaland’.
Reinforcing each year’s theme are the guest speakers who enrich the festival with their expertise and whose various films and presentations serve to provoke discussion and so enhance public knowledge of Seychelles’ marine worlds.
The Film & Image Competition itself, an ever-popular component of the SUBIOS Festival, assembles well-known film makers and photographers from abroad such as John Boyle, Dr. Andreas Fichtner, Dr. Pedro Vieyra, Leandro Blanco, Edward Snidjers and Neville Coleman together with local diving experts and speakers such as Dr. David Rowat, Leo Hoevers and Mrs. Elizabeth Fideria, to provide a vibrant ambiance and, of course, an interesting film and image contest whose winners are decided by public vote.
SUBIOS also traditionally enlivens the islands’ hotels with an array of dedicated SUBIOS evenings in which guest speakers, foreign and local alike, talk and present on a wide range of topics while local bands play and models strut their stuff on the catwalk. Highly decorated school floats have also been known to wind their way through the streets of the capital, each one resonating with a particular marine theme and outdoor film shows have long captivated audiences on a moonlit Beau Vallon Bay.
Special intro-dives organised by the islands’ dive centres, glass-bottom boat rides into Ste. Anne Marine National Park, an annual Cyber Treasure Hunt and a SUBIOS Man & Woman triathlon event complete an array of activities that continue to make SUBIOS a true celebration of Seychelles marine heritage and one that, after two decades, is still going strong.
Photo: Seychelles Tourism Board