Semi-Sub Seychelles: Offering a unique underwater experience |23 May 2020
Our newspaper recently met with Jenny Benoit, the owner of a new and unique business in Seychelles: Semi-submarine Seychelles. They give their clients a chance to experience an outdoor adventure without getting wet or breaking a sweat! For 45 minutes, once you are down under the water, you are able to discover corals of all shapes, colours and sizes; various marine life; granite rocks with colourful seaweed, sea grass meadows, sandy plains and maybe even a green turtle!
Seychelles NATION: Please describe your business to us
Jenny Benoit: In short, we offer underwater tours in a modern air-conditioned semi-submarine. What makes Semi-Sub Seychelles unique is that it offers a totally new service; hourly tours to view the underwater wonders of Seychelles. What’s new besides the concept of hourly tours is that it is an activity suited to all ages and people can easily incorporate it in their daily itinerary – no need to sacrifice a full or half day for an outing in the sea anymore. Also, passengers can go on board with their shoes and no special clothing required. It is an activity suited for all ages and physical abilities. We had countless pregnant ladies who came on board and several people in their 90s! The submarine is extremely safe with handrails everywhere and anti-slip flooring that makes it convenient and safe to all.
Also, many have described the experience as second only to scuba diving when it comes to experiencing the marine life – this makes it an experience not to miss for whoever cannot dive or is afraid of the water. It is also a much more affordable activity with prices for residents as follows:
- R300 for passengers above 12 years of age
- R250 for passengers below 12 years of age (free for infants)
Another interesting fact we learned “on the job”, is that claustrophobic passengers are ok when in the underwater cabin! Maybe is it the large windows surrounding them, or it could have been the soothing Creole music playing in the background. We are not sure, but we are happy to have provided them with the opportunity to enjoy the “submarine” experience when otherwise it would have been impossible.
Several of our clients who have been on submarine tours before, told us that the Semi-Sub was much more enjoyable given that the windows are large, it was more comfortable, and they could see more colours and abundant sea life (and is WAY cheaper!!!!!). Also, the unique design of our Semi-Sub makes people think they are on a real submarine which makes the experience very exciting – and you should see how the kids smile when they step on board!!! A dream come true to many if not all.
The tour is structured as follows: for 15 minutes the passengers stay on deck where they will enjoy the panorama and scenic views of Seychelles mountains and nature.
Once the semi-sub reaches the viewing spots, the clients will move to the underwater cabin where they stay for almost 20 minutes while we cruise along stretches of healthy coral reefs – here anything is possible! We had viewings of sea turtles, white tip sharks, manta rays, dolphins to name a few. Of course, these are not common sightings, but irrespective how the ocean is treating our passengers on that day, we always strive to provide our clients an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Once the 20 minutes are over, we head back to shore. Here the clients have the option to stay in the underwater cabin or go up to the deck. Totally up to them although most opt to enjoy the fresh air on the way back.
Seychelles NATION: Tell us more about the owners?
Jenny Benoit: The business is owned by myself, Jenny Benoit. I was born and raised in Seychelles. I started my career with the Seychelles Tourism Board where I got the chance to learn about the tourism sector of our beloved country and appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of Seychelles in what it has to offer to the world. Then I got an opportunity to work abroad and ended up living the expat life for 15 years.
Fast forward three kids later, my husband and I took the decision to move back to Seychelles and raise our children close to nature the same way I was brought up.
Of course, we needed to set up a business before making our move, so we decided to start Semi-Submarine Seychelles as we are passionate about the ocean and saw that there was a demand for such a product in Seychelles.
Seychelles NATION: How was business before COVID-19?
Jenny Benoit: We officially launched on 11/11/19 and things had just started to pick up before the COVID-19 calamity hit… We are proud to say that in less than 4 months of operation, we had gathered over 60 organic reviews between Trip Advisor, Google and Facebook – all 5 stars. Also, we have today over 3,000 followers on Facebook which we believe is an indication that we have a good product that promises to add value to the Seychelles experience of our tourists.
At the start of 2020, we were hoping for April to be a milestone in terms of profit and sales – and then COVID-19 happened! Today, cash-flow projection made before setting up our business don’t hold anymore – as such, we need to stay positive, get creative and keep moving forward till we overcome these bad times and the tourism sector picks up again.
Seychelles NATION: How has the pandemic affected your business?
Jenny Benoit: Our business depends on the tourism sector, and you can imagine, COVID-19 did not help in any way…. Although we do provide our services to Seychellois, the business cannot depend on them alone. The fact that Seychellois enjoy a reduced price and can only come on the weekend – and not all weekends are good in terms of weather – it is difficult to sustain the business depending solely on the local market.
Seychelles NATION: Now what are you proposing to the Seychellois?
Jenny Benoit: As per the directions from the department of health, we are authorised to take up to 12 passengers on a single trip as long as all are from the same household. Otherwise, we can take maximum 4 passengers per trip to adhere to the social distancing norms.
As such, we decided to offer a “SPECIAL FAMILY PROMO” for the month of MAY 2020; A private tour for you and your family for R1,600 only! It is a bargain especially for families of 7 people or more.
We started this on May 9 and it has been very well received. Already we had several trips on Saturday May 9 and Sunday May 10 and the feedback was great. I want to share the latest review we received from one of our passengers from that weekend, Mrs Preethi Sushil:
“Absolutely one of the MUST things to do in Seychelles – the Semi-Sub was such a fun outing. Beats seeing fish in an aquarium and for those not so confident swimmers it’s a great way to glimpse the underwater world.
Plus, the team were super delightful. Not an experience to be forgotten anytime soon and definitely one to keep revisiting.”
Also, we have been offering to Seychellois since December last year 20% discount for all school and day care trips. Our usual prices are R300 (for passengers above 12 years of age) and R250 (for passengers below 12 years of age) – all infants below 2 years of age don’t pay anything. Schools and day cares get automatically 20% discount on these prices when booking their trips.
We have provided several trips already and kids and grown-ups alike found it fun and super educational. Going on our Facebook page @semisubseychelles, one can see pictures they shared alongside their comments and reviews.
Seychelles NATION: What are your views about the help the government is providing to private businesses?
Jenny Benoit: COVID-19 has affected most if not all businesses. But I need to say that a distinction needs to be made by the government between Established Businesses and New Businesses when providing assistance, and this we haven’t seen practiced so far. As you know, any new business invests heavily in the first year of operation as it has numerous obstacles to overcome from staffing, technical issues, marketing etc..This is particularly challenging for businesses with new ideas and products as there is a steep learning curve during the first year of operation. That said, we believe that any company that has less than 1 year of operation under its belt, its potential value to the economy and prospect should be assessed by qualified people from different ministries and a special assistance package assigned to it. We believe this is a crucial fact that is overlooked by the government, especially for 100% local SMEs like us. Seychelles is a challenging market to start a new business in and encouragement needs to be provided to new companies risking a lot to introduce new products to the tourism sector, hence diversifying the pillar of the economy.
We wish the government would place the same trust in new enterprises as we have placed our trust in Seychelles when we relocated back here and directly invested in the economy.
Compiled by Vidya Gappy