Seychelles: It’s Not the Caribbean!

”Where’s that?”  Was the common question asked when I mentioned to a few of my travel plans.  Not known as a travel destination for North Americans to escape winter, it is well known amongst the Europeans and Britain’s.

Made up of 115 islands, Seychelles is a mixture of Africans, Europeans, and Indians who are lucky enough to live in what I thought was truly paradise.

Mahe

beachone

Mahe, one of the most popular of the Seychelles islands, has it all.  Gorgeous beaches, a range of granite peaks, hotels & restaurants, and it doesn’t have the busy Caribbean feeling.  Well, at least not just yet.

With the help of Lonely Planet Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles, I chose Georgina’s Cottage in Beau Vallon for 55 Euros including breakfast was just fine for me.  But with renovations that was scheduled to begin March 2010, I asked Eddy the owner if the price will rise.

“I don’t know,” he replied.  “I don’t want to go too high.  I have repeat customers and want to keep them.”

There are other bed & breakfast establishments plus self-catering budget style he has to compete with.  Staying at hotels in Seychelles is not cheap.    Coral Strands, a 10-minute walk, has a rate for one night 180 Euros breakfast only.  Eating and drinking is not cheap especially at this hotel as well.  One evening I decided to treat myself to a glass of wine (10 Euros) and be entertained by a stunning sunset.

With mountainous scenery, long sandy beach, turquoise water, Beau Vallon is a popular beach.  Takamaka trees provide a cool shade.  Sitting on the beach, I can see Silhouette Island in the horizon.

Just down the street from me is Big Blue Divers (www.bigbluedivers.net) for information for snorkelling and diving.

There are a few places to choose from to eat.

  1. Baobab Pizzeria is maybe the cheapest place but only serves pizza and pasta.  The view of the beach is fantastic if you sit in the very front.  I enjoyed as the sun went down and the lights of the town down by the beach began to shine.
  2. Boat House.  You better have a least 30 Euros worth of appetite for this schmorgazboard.  The restaurant opens at 7:30.
  3. Inside the coral Strands is a restaurant by the pool.  Also when you enter the lobby to the right is the only Indian restaurant on the island.
  4. Al Mare.  Great view.  Rude workers.  Expensive.

Though visiting Seychelles is good any time of the year, my visit, in January, is the rainy season.  It wasn’t all just passing showers.  A couple of afternoons and evenings were steady and heavy rains, which dampened my stay.

For a day I hired Eddy.  Our first stop as Morne Seychellois National Park, established in 1979.  We went up high overlooking the thick forest.  Eddy says brings wife and child here as often as he can for picnics.

We stopped at a tea factory.  I tasted a delicious Citronelle tea good for the digestive system.  No kidding!  My stomached started to grumble half an hour later.  I bought some of the loose tea.  Not longer after I came home I made some tea for an upset stomach and it worked for me!

Mahe is absolutely beautiful.  The beaches are gorgeous not to mention the magnificent but expensive hotels that grace the beach.  The ultra expensive Maia Luxury Resort is located on Anse Louise.  Banyan Tree is high above the beautiful Anse Intendance where I soaked my feet in the warm Indian Ocean.  The Four Seasons overlooks Petit Anse.

As Eddy drove he mentioned how Russians own half of this island and the Arabs own the other.  As we passed the lush green, forested area, Eddy pointed out how all that land is earmarked for a fancy hotel.  We passed by the billboard displaying the picture of the fancy hotel.   I can only imagine Mahe will be like a Caribbean hot spot.  Maybe my timing was right to visit.

Victoria, Mahe

I took a 20-minute local bus ride for seven rupees to the smallest capital of the world, Victoria.   How small is it? Rush hour traffic lasts five minutes.  The city can be seen in a day.

Like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the CN tower is to Toronto, the Clock Tower is the symbol and focal point of Victoria.  It’s a replica of Vauxhall Clock Tower in London England.

There are many good choices of restaurants.  The cold glass of Seybrew beers on the top floor of Le Rendez Vous restaurant went down nice on a hot day.  I sat back to enjoy the view of the Clock tower and people strolling around.  I also liked the Pirate Arms on Independence Ave.  I sat in the middle of the restaurant to watch the people pass by on the streets and then every once in a while turned to watched the Australian tennis on the big screen TV.

Victoria has sites that can be easily reached by foot.

  1. National Museum of History displays artefacts relating to cultural and natural history of the islands.
  2. National History Museum features bones of extinct crocodiles, a shipwreck and other curiosities of the natural world.
  3. National Botanical Gardens provides a nice shade on a hot day while walking around admiring the exotic trees and unique “coco-de-mer” palms.
  4. Sri Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple is located on Quincy Street.  I loved the colour outside and inside of this temple.
  5. The colourful Selwyn-Selwyn Clark Market located on Market Street is fun to see.  Besides strolling along the fresh fruits, vegetables, raw fish and clothing stores located above, it’s fun to strike up a conversation with a local here and there.

There are a few good Internet providers in Victoria.

  1. Double Click located on Palm St.
  2. Cyberware located on Albert St.
  3. Yew Internet is situated next to the Indian temple on Quincy Street.

beachtwo

I took a day out to visit to two other most popular islands visit by tourists.  The day trip is not cheap.  It’s the ferry ride that drives the cost up.  From Mahe by Cat Coco ferry service, it takes an hour then another half hour by smaller boat to La Digue.

If I ever return to these islands, I would like to linger longer in La Digue, the fourth largest island of the Seychelles.  You can really get away from it all with the traditional Seychellois way of life.

The main transportation is bicycles, feet and ox-carts.  There are very few vehicles.

We were taken to L’Union & Copra Factory by Ox-carts.  Coconut farming was once the main industry of the island.  Now this theme park demonstrates how oil is extracted from copra (dried coconut flesh) using a cow with a bar to its body walked around to grind the crops.

The beaches are gorgeous.  Anse Source d’Argent is featured in the travel brochures.  The calming turquoise water, the silver white sandy beach and huge granite boulders of different shapes make this beach an ideal spot to lazy around for quite a while.  I was disappointed the tour company only made it a half hour stay.

Our next beach stop with a buffet lunch was Grande Anse.  The barbecue fish, chicken with rice, veggies salad was tasty.  But our stay on the beach with one lone tree as shade and rough water was one hour too long, I would have preferred Anse Source d’Argent.

Our brief stop at Praslin before catching the ferry was just that.  Brief.  It was an hour, even less, to our visit at Valee de Mai one of the only two places in the world where rare coco-de-mer palms grow in their natural state.

Seychelles.  Paradise.  I hope to return one day and to find that it remains as quaint as what I saw.  But I have my doubts.

Photos by: rachel thecat, socca

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