Ahoy there! I have some fascinating tales of real-life piracy and hidden treasure in the tropical paradise of Seychelles. Even more intriguing is the belief that treasure worth millions of dollars has yet to be found… shiver me timbers!
Sailing back in time to the 18th century, trade vessels traversing the Indian Ocean were fair game for pirates. Terrorising ships' crews, the pirates would plunder the cargo before making their getaway on the high seas.
One particularly cut throat pirate, Olivier Levasseur - known as La Buse (the Buzzard) - was notorious in the region for relieving ships of their cargoes. Born in 1689 in France, he received his nickname because of the speed and ruthlessness of his attacks. This real-life Captain Jack Sparrow epitomised the image of the classic pirate; with his booty of diamonds, pearls, gold and silver and hidden caves and pirates' hideouts where the haul was hidden.
Legend has it that he hid treasure - estimated to be worth around $4.7 billion in today's terms - somewhere on the islands and treasure-hunters and researchers have been trying to find his mysterious hoard for centuries. The search continues today, more than 280 years after it was hidden.
At the age of 27, Levasseur began life at sea as a privateer in 1716. The captain of an armed vessel owned and crewed by government-commissioned private individuals, he was authorised in times of war to capture merchant shipping vessels. However, at some point he became a "gentleman" pirate, as there were rich pickings in the Indian Ocean thanks to the booming maritime trade routes. He was joined by English pirate, John Taylor and the duo raided many merchant ships, amassing a great fortune between 1720 and 1730.
Seychelles was a notorious pirate hideaway and legend has it that much of Levasseur's loot was hidden around the 115 islands. Most notably, his crew pillaged the storm damaged Portuguese vessel, Nossa Senhora do Cabo. Anchored off Réunion for repairs, the ship was dripping with treasures belonging to the Bishop of Goa - gold and silver bars, golden guineas, pearls, silk, diamonds and artwork. Bejewelled with rubies, diamonds and emeralds there was also a priceless religious artefact from Goa Cathedral, the pure gold Flaming Cross of Goa.
Levasseur never had the chance to spend his ill-gotten gains - the authorities captured him near Fort Dauphin and he was taken to Saint-Denis on Réunion, where he was hanged for piracy on 7th July 1730.
The hidden treasures have attracted people to Seychelles for hundreds of years but no-one has ever found his hoard of spoils, although there have been some small finds. It was reported that a pirates' chest was unearthed on Praslin in 1971 but the property-owner at the time didn't reveal the contents and he reportedly left the country later that year. Since 1991, Christopher Gill has owned the property and he says his family have found some remnants of pirates including a pistol, a cannon ball, a bottle of ancient rum and even an 18th century outdoor oven made from melted coral, which he believes was used by the pirates. With the help of Seychelles Heritage Foundation, Gill has opened a heritage trail and the area has become a National Heritage Site of Seychelles that attracts many visitors.
Arrr! If you want to visit Seychelles' treasure trail and heritage sites, you’ll know you’ve struck gold when you stay at the luxurious 5-star Savoy Resort and Spa. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!