the Disillusioned kid: Holidays in the Sun, Part 2.
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Monday, September 13, 2004

Holidays in the Sun, Part 2.

After posting yesterday on plans for a cruise to the Chagos Archipelago it occurred to me that it might be interesting to check out the website of the company organising the trip to see what they have to say.

As you'll see if you follow the link, the site appears quite exclusive, requiring registration to access much of the content, although there is a free section offering "more information". This led me to the obligatory "about" section, which explains,
WEXAS was founded in 1970 as a travel club for student and expeditionary travel (the name stands for World Expeditionary Association). Since then WEXAS has grown into a multinational travel association with over 35,000 leisure and business travel members in nearly 100 countries.

Today the emphasis is still very much on providing members with information and personal service backed by innovation and technological investment.

Members tell us that they join WEXAS as much for our travel publications and expert advice as for the significant discounts and benefits on scheduled airfares and other travel services - in effect a unique combination of service, information and benefits.
Which all sounds very nice.

They also pontificate about their "support and financial assistance to Friends of Conservation and also Earthwatch, two environmental charities, in recognition of the concerns of both our Honorary Presidents and our members." Then we come to the clincher: "We firmly believe that a love of travel must be combined with a positive interest in and responsibility towards the world in which we travel." Worthy words indeed, but not, I would suggest, entirely in line with reality, at least as far as the Chagos Archipelago trip is concerned.

The details of this trip were easy enough to find using the site's search function and are an exercise in the time honoured practice of burying your head in the sand. You will search in vain for any mention of the indigenous population forcibly evicted from their homes and prevented from returning by the British Government in order to make way for a US military base. Instead the reader is informed
Next spring WEXAS is running the first commercial cruise to this remote archipelago. It is a rare opportunity to explore these unspoilt islands and snorkel in some of the world's most untouched coral atolls. The cruise will be conducted by WEXAS chairman Dr Ian Wilson and Indian Ocean reef expert, Dr Mark Spalding who will provide a fascinating insight into the archipelago. Travel will be from the Seychelles on board the MS Indian Ocean Explorer, a 120ft boat similar to Jacques Cousteau's Calypso, with air conditioned cabins and a comfortable saloon. [Emphasis added.]
Quite apart from the ridiculous idea that one coral atoll can be more untouched than another (surely it's either untouched or it's not), the implicit suggestion that these islands have never seen human habitation is either a sign of serious ignorance on the part of the writer or an attempt to deliberately mislead.

WEXAS describe the trip as a "rare opportunity", as it indeed is. The Orders in Council passed earlier this year prevent anyone from setting foot on the islands without permission. It seems then that those on the trip will be have greater rights of access to the islands than those who used to live there. At £4,250 a head it's pretty obvious what WEXAS and their clientele have and the Chagossians don't: money, lots of it. Should anybody think this is a tad unfair (as if!) then you might perhaps be interested in getting "further details" from Simon McMahon as they helpfully suggest, you can even phone him on 0207 838 5830 if you feel so inclined.

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