Seychelles the Result of a Recipe for Paradise
Take a handful of tiny tropical islands, and scatter them across the Indian Ocean a thousand miles off the coast of Africa. Mix with a pinch of Rasta, and stir in some tropical spice and fruits. Surround in heaps of warm, blue water and finish with a dusting of travellers steeped in paradise. That’s my recipe for Seychelles.
Rarely visited by Canadians, Seychelles is home to some of the world’s most photographed beaches. It also had a moment of fame when Kate & William went there for their royal honeymoon. Feeling regal myself, I had to add it on after my Tanzanian safari.
Travelling to the Seychelles
To be frank, there are not many flights to Seychelles. You can get there primarily from East Africa (Addis Ababa, Nairobi) and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi), Johannesburg and Hong Kong. I flew via Nairobi one-way, and Addis Ababa the other – each flight was about 3 hours.
I travelled as an independent traveller, which is easy enough to do. But take note, you are required to show proof of accommodation for your entire stay on Seychelles, in addition to a flight out. So make arrangements in advance with a travel professional.
I had often heard Seychelles was a tropical playground restricted to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. While it is true, there are resorts on the islands that can easily start off at €500 a night, there are also a number of self-cater and family run pension options that can be had for under €100 a night. And on that note, bring Euros here or access the island’s abundant ATMs for the local currency – Seychellois Rupee. Both currencies can be used with equal ease.
In Seychelles, the climate is always welcoming – warm, balmy days with a daily brief shower. There are three islands that the traveller will probably want to concern themselves with: Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
Mahé (pop. 80,000) is the main island, home to the capital of Victoria, and where all international flights land. From there, it is either a 10-minute flight, or 45-minute ferry, to the island of Praslin (pop. 8000). There are up to 20 flights a day, and up to 2 ferries daily. From Praslin, it is a short 15-minute ferry to La Digue (pop. 800). I visited all three islands in just 6 days, but certainly I would easily recommend a bit more time.
Landing in Mahé, I transited by flight to Praslin on Air Seychelles. It flies at only 2,000 feet so you’ll get remarkable views over the Indian Ocean and the stunning islands.
Praslin is where I did the more luxurious side of my vacation, staying at the 5-star Raffles Praslin. However, as on all islands, a range of accommodations is available. No matter where you end up staying, this island will immediately win you with its earthy scenery, friendly locals, and carefree way of life.
At 38 square kilometers, Praslin is compact, with one main U-shaped road ringing the island. Anse Lazio is the beach on this island, but there are many others. I have never laid eyes on such jewel like coloured waters before. It was so warm, with the finest, alabaster-white sand. Best of all, with such few visitors and small local population, you can feel like you have found a private paradise. There are no crowded beaches here!
The interior of Praslin takes you from the beaches and into a mythical rainforest, where palm trees are the skyscrapers and the only noise is wind in the palms and a symphony of bird sounds. At the Vallée de Mai palm forest you can explore a wide network of trails and hikes. You will be rewarded with seeing the coco de mer. This coconut is a symbol of the Seychelles – it is even the passport stamp on your way into the country. Coco de mer is known for being highly erotic, the female cultivar is shaped like a round derrière, and the male cultivar is phallic. Even the flora and fauna is under a romantic spell in Seychelles!
I visited La Digue as a day trip from Praslin, although longer stays can be possible. It is home to the well-lauded world’s most photographed beach, Anse Source d’Argent. The tiny island has a few kilometers of road, and when disembarking from the 10-minute ferry from Praslin, most people rent a bike to get around. My day bike cost €15 and had a basket on the back for carrying my backpack.
I peddled for Anse Source d’Argent for some beach time, but en route I got delayed with the sights. Union Estate is a historical plantation where you can watch oxen process copra in the traditional manner, and you can interact with a large pen of Aldabra tortoises. I could have stayed there for hours watching these ancient creatures simply do their thing. Peddling on to the beach took me through a vanilla planation – imagine the whiff of vanilla in the salty warm air! When I was done at one beach I simply got on my bike and went to another, and another, and another.
My final two evenings were spent back on Mahé, I took the ferry on my return. Rather than stay in the capital – which boasts the claim to fame as the world’s smallest capital (it’s true!) – I went to the small hamlet of Beau Vallon, known for having one of the best beaches on that island. Here I was on a more down to earth budget, staying in a family run bungalow, private room with en suite and fresh breakfast daily, for €85 a night. Best of all, the beach way only 50 meters from my patio!
I rounded out my final days exploring Mahé’s beaches, walking around the itsy bitsy capital of Victoria, and simply relaxing. The island does seem busier than Praslin, but is still relaxed, with a strong Creole vibe. Everywhere you go, you’ll hear reggae music blaring out of cars and in the local stores.
Seychelles was one of the most sublime destinations I have ever experienced. Doing Seychelles and Tanzania on one trip was like having two totally different experiences on one vacation. And while you could spend a royal sum here, it can also be done on a more reasonable budget.
September 25, 2013