Seychelles: A tale of three islands
As I'm typing this, I can hear the waves crashing in the background. The sea breeze gently swaying against my balcony curtain is a reminder that I'm nowhere close to home. In fact I'm about 4 400km away from South Africa.
It's my last day on Mahé, one of the 115 islands within the Seychelles archipelago off the east coast of Africa. During my trip, I've had the pleasure of visiting three of them. Three islands, each unique in their own way, and yet they endear themselves to the Seychellois way of life which is a culture steeped in a rich tapestry of history. You see it in the architecture, their food and their colourful creole language.
While researching the Seychelles, I came across the quote "We are Seychellois. Paradise is born in us." And it doesn't really have an impact until you've been there. Yes, Seychelles is touted as the ultimate island paradise; and yes, it's been described as heaven on Earth. But there are many other places that could own the same mantle. The thing is with Seychelles, every single word of it is true. It's not just a marketing gimmick.
There's truth in the Seychelles brand. And even more so now as tourists are looking to tread lightly when booking overseas holidays. They're mindful of the environmental impact their holiday will have. And the Seychelles government has in the past few years put measures in place to ensure that the island archipelago still stands for many years to come. There are protected marine reserves, Unesco sites and species unique to the islands which are protected under law.
The home of the capital Victoria, Mahé (pronounced Ma-hee) is the most populous island and accommodates 86 percent of the country. Mahé could be described as the Wakanda of Seychelles with its beautiful colonial architecture siting alongside traditional wooden homes. The island is being developed at such a rate that soon its historical properties could give way to high-rise buildings.
Home to white sandy beaches, most tourists stop off here before heading to the other outlying islands.
I arrived the day before the 12th edition of the Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon and had the pleasure of meeting a family from Durban who were participating in the half and 10km races. The marathon is billed as one of the world's most scenic runs, and the route takes runners past some of the island's most beautiful beaches. But just because it's a fun run, it's still a marathon - something some of the contenders forget. Battling the excruciating heat and humidity, lots didn't make it to the finish line.
If you're looking to include a dose of history and culture into your trip, you should visit La Plaine St Andre. Home to Takamaka rum distillery, the plantation is a stark reminder of the island's colonial history. And even though the beauty of it is indescribable and would make a lit Instagram post, the irony is that it was built off blood, sweat and tears as slaves toiled away while their colonial masters lived in excess and opulence.
Another attraction worth mentioning is the Jardin du Roi spice garden. Situated atop a tree-lined hill, visit even if it's just for the view. Flanked by a lush, tropical forest, the spice garden is home to every single spice grown on the island, including medicinal herbs which the Seychellois swear by when it comes to their healing properties.
Most locals pronounce it as Pralee; get it wrong and you'll probably get the stink eye. Praslin is the epitome of a postcard perfect beach holiday. It ticks all the boxes, and tourists know this. That's why it's the most popular of all the Seychelles islands. Just an hour's ferry ride from Mahé, the island is where the rich come to play.
My home while based here was Le Duc de Praslin, a four-star hotel that can only be described as lush. Its contemporary design, combined with an island vibe, makes it one of the best places to stay at on the island. The villa-style rooms are large enough to make you feel like you're living the baller life. There's also a beach-front cocktail and tapas chill lounge that the hotel just opened - I'm told that it's the place to be when the weekend comes around.
If you're doing it for the Gram, you need to take yourself down to Anse Lazio beach. Known for its famous boulders and striking turquoise blue water, you'll probably end up staying the whole day. Just get there early so you can secure a shady spot on the beach. Be warned that you could be there during a passing rain shower which would probably come as some relief from the humidity.
La Digue Island
My favourite out of the islands, La Digue is a quaint little self-contained village where only a limited amount of cars are allowed. If you want to get around, rent a bike or buggy. My advice is to definitely take the bike route. The island is small enough to tour within a matter of hours. But believe me, you'll want to take your time as there is so much to see and do.
The best part about La Digue is that it's very family-centric. While going around the island on our buggy, many of the tourists were families staying over for a day or two. I found it be less touristy than Mahé and Praslin, and also more Seychellois in a cultural sense. Because the island is a protected reserve, it's virtually untouched by outside influences which makes it a bit more authentic.
If you're considering an overseas holiday, Seychelles should be a contender. Not only do South Africans not need a visa, the flight is a mere five hours from OR Tambo International. And there are options to suit any type of budget. But if you really want to immerse yourself in the experience, you should be prepared to dig deep. After all, paradise comes with a price (tag).
The writer was a guest of Seychelles Tourism Board
For the budget traveller:
Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort
Situated at Beau Vallon Bay on the northwest coast of Mahé Island, Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort & Casino has flexible rates and year-long specials.
Coral Strand Hotel
The Coral Strand hotel is located in the middle of the famous Beau Vallon Beach in Seychelles on Mahe Island. There are 160 rooms with six room types.
Prices start at €242 (about R4 100) per night for two ppl sharing.
Now we're balling:
Le Duc de Praslin
Le Duc de Praslin is often considered as the "Jewel of Cote D’Or". Set on Praslin’s outstanding Cote D’Or beach in the Seychelles, the boutique-style hotel offers the widest choice of luxury accommodation and exquisite dining options.
From €330 for single occupancy per night
For more info, visit: https://www.seychelles.travel/en/