Did you know that we have already been in Southern Africa for almost 3 weeks? I’m still catching up on tales from India that are almost two months old! I will return to those stories, but am anxious to skip ahead and fill you in on a very special stop we had on our way to Africa. This was not a planned destination, but rather a fortuitous opportunity that landed in our laps. Several months ago, we were searching for the best tickets out of India to South Africa. There were no affordable non-stop options, and it was important to me to keep our flying time down and find a route that was as direct as possible. We did basic searches online and were only coming up with routes via the middle east (Abu Dhabi or Dubai) or through Eastern Africa (Nairobi or Addis Ababa). Neither of these seemed particularly appealing, as the only stop that was interesting to us was Ethiopia, and that would require $100 visas per person. Thanks to our old coworker and friend, we were reminded of the possibility of routes via the Indian Ocean. Specifically, Air Seychelles operates a flight from Bombay to Mahe to Johannesburg, on a couple days of the week. We couldn’t get it to price with the stopover at all on the airlines website, but were able to find fares for this route on EBooker’s website (a UK company who showed the identical flights under Etihad, a codeshare partner of Air Seychelles). This oneway ticket only cost $300 per person, with a free stopover in the Seychelles!
Now, here is where the hyperbole begins. We knew that the Seychelles were going to be beautiful, but were not prepared for how thoroughly our minds would be blown! “Garden of Eden”, “Paradise”, “Best beaches in the world”, “Wow”, were all phrases uttered by Dan and I multiple times. What insanely beautiful islands we had the pure joy of experiencing! And, let me tell you, we blew it by only spending 6 days in paradise. This country deserved two weeks – don’t make our mistake. We planned a ridiculously speedy itinerary in order to get a Baskins-and-Robbins taste. We first arrived into Mahe (the main island for international flights) at 8 AM after a 5 hour journey from Mumbai. We connected with a short hopper flight at 10 AM to the island Praslin, for under $75 a person. We spent three nights in Praslin, and then caught a 30 minute ferry journey to nearby La Digue, an island with limited vehicles, where we only spent one night. Wahhhh!!! What an error! From here, we had a very expensive catamaran journey back to the main island of Mahe (about $265 for the family), and spent our final two nights near Anse Royale.
I hope the following photos do it justice. I’ll let them do the bulk of the work, accompanied with a few of our stories and descriptions.
Highlight number one was visiting Georgette Beach, and experiencing a surprise encounter with baby sea turtles. We were swimming in the most delicious shade of daiquiri and teal waters at the same time a local ranger was releasing recently hatched baby hawksbill turtles into the ocean. We rushed over and got to join in the excitement, holding the little turtles and guiding them over the waves and out to sea. Stella and Gabriel were stoked.
Another stunning place to visit besides all the gorgeous beaches are the inland tropical forests. We went to the Valle de Mai forest and were introduced to some of the oldest and most prehistoric looking palm trees with ENORMOUS fanning leaves. The star of the show are the rare and endemic coco de mer palm trees which have the largest plant seed in the world. There are separate male and female parts, which have a distinct similarity to the appearance of genitalia. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves on that one. The fruit takes 6-7 years to mature and another two years to germinate, leaving you with a core “coconut” that looks like a naked woman’s backside bent over. Ooh la la, the sexual innuendos and spice of the island! This coco de mer shape is the symbol for the Seychelles, with many women proudly wearing silver and gold jewelry charms in the shape of this fruit, and men proudly displaying valuable and eye-catching nuts in business establishments. I loved the sensuality of it, which went well with the heat and the creole spirit of the islands. Of course, there were other amazing plants, birds, geckos and chameleons to appreciate, but I was drawn to the primordial, and all of the teasing stories about Praslin being the original Garden of Eden. With the plant-life as instructors, an abundance of seafood, and the temperature-raising heat and humidity, it all made sense.
Our Guesthouse, Anse Marie-Louise and other beach gems, plus more Praslin moments:
Occasionally (wink, wink), our kids can behave more like spoiled and entitled brats on our trip, rather than the grateful and humble souls we are trying to foster. Going to Anse Lazio was a perfect example of the latter. Before dragging them away from an average pool at our guesthouse, we read them many stories about this famous beach, which is featured on almost every “best beaches in the world” list, often scoring first place. At this stage, they had enjoyed quite a few stunning examples of the Seychelles coast, so that they were completely non-plussed when we finally made it to the top-rated Lazio Beach in Praslin. They proceeded to whine that there was nothing special about it, getting more enjoyment from the giant tortoises in a nearby garden. Spoiled brats for sure.
The night before we left for La Digue, Stella came down with a 103 degree fever. Our biggest fear is of malaria, but it didn’t seem to share some of the other symptoms. After trying to keep her fever down with tylenol, we stopped at the local hospital on our way to the ferry. We experienced our quickest doctor visit in under 15 minutes, including a stop in the pharmacy for meds, for under $10! Stella was a trooper despite her flu, and still joined us for all of our beach excursions and exploration. If there is anywhere to get sick, this seemed like a pretty good locale, as she could either lay on a towel in the shade, or soak in the cool waters of the ocean. This might explain some of the more meditative photos I took of her in La Digue.
La Digue is incredibly special. It has such a wonderfully laid back vibe, thanks to the fact that bicycles are the main form of transportation. There are only a few vehicles which are necessary for business, not personal use. Dan and Gabriel spent the day, trolling around the coast, while Stella and I stayed on foot, taking our time to window shop and trek to a highly touted beach, Anse Source d’Argent. Along the way, we admired old tin-roofed homes, watched the local fishermen bring in their colorful catch, and spent a lazy morning exploring an old cemetery. I became obsessed with reading the names on the graves, hunting for the most beautiful and unique monikers. I feel like there is a fictional book that needs to be written about this paradise, and the generations of families who have lived and died here (Winfrith, Nadine, Augustin, Zita, Jean Felix, Melchior, Madame Nell, Paulette, Therese, Camille, Jean Baptiste, Odette, Emilie, Elianne, Clementia, Augusta, Janette, Sylvester, Antoine, Marie, Balthazar, Marcel, Astrelien, Mina, Nella, Violita, Antonia, Zoe, Ephraine, Dolphin, Victorien, Aurelia, Virgilia, & Sera).
Gorgeous Anse Source d’Argent and surrounds:
We were bemoaning our brief stay in La Digue for many reasons other than the spectacular beaches, luscious greenery, and mellow vibes. First, Stella’s fever was not going away, and I spent my only night on this island sweating my own introduction to the virus. The two of us popped enough paracetomal to make the voyage back to Mahe Island, but by the evening, I knew I needed to get a prescription for something stronger. There was a hospital within walking distance from our apartment, and we all took a slow stroll there to see if antibiotics were necessary. My visit turned into a 3 hour stay, as I was found to have extremely low blood pressure and was promptly hooked up to an IV to restore my fluids. The doctor did not advise antibiotics, so only gave me medication to deal with my fever and cold symptoms. Another rough night ensued.
Other than the bummer of poor health, we did our best to drive a good share of the island, stopping for more beach dips, and to visit the Botanical Gardens in Victoria, the capital.
The people of the Seychelles are a mix of African, French and Indian, with a predominant creole expression. All shades of tan to brown skin are represented, as is every body type. It was freeing to be in a country where I did not question wearing a tank top or shorts, and felt free to be me in a bikini.
The only drawbacks to heaven on earth, were the expense of it all, and the food. The Seychelles are not cheap. We were staying at self-catering accommodations or B&B’s, and eating takeaway or cooking our meals and still averaged about $300 a day for our family. For being a country with a wealth of seafood, and having the climate that seems ideal for tropical fruits, we found dining out and grocery shopping for meager options a disappointment. Eating out is prohibitively expensive. If you “try” to do it on a budget, you will eat the poorest pasta and pizza at fine-dining prices. Take-away is the only affordable option, but consists of a lot of fried and greasy dishes, served in styrofoam cartons (gasp!). Chicken or fried fish reign king, with chips and coleslaw-like salads. Unfortunately, it sounds better than it actually tasted. I’m sure we did something wrong and could have had a spectacularly fresh and delicious culinary experience, but couldn’t open are wallets deep enough to do so.
Any complaints we have of our stay can be easily squelched, as the place is paradise on earth, the original garden of eden, with the best beaches in the world. WOW!