As I dip my feet in the warm waters of the Grand Anse beach in Seychelles, I am reminded for the millionth time how versatile the country has become for avid travellers like myself. Gone are the days when one only visits Seychelles for honeymoon. In fact, I was surprised at how many families are now choosing the destination for their holidays. I have learned that Seychelles can be explored in just three days, five if you add in flights. It's paradise, something that a person should experience at least once I their lifetime.Its history is pretty informative and insightful, and it's more than sun, sea and sand.Here is how I spent my three days in Seychelles:
Thanks to the new Air Seychelles route to Durban, Seychelles is now only a 5-hour flight away. The airline is currently running a special to celebrate their launch. For an economy ticket, one will pay around R5000 while business class will set you back for around R16 000. The special ends on May 12 for travel up to December 5.
Day 1:Getting familiar with the largest Island in Seychelles: Mahe
Rosemarie Uzice owns a stall at Victoria Market.
Fish is quite popular at the markets and can be sold for 25 Seychelles rupees.
The only Hindu Temple in Seychelles. Named the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple in Victoria.
I am awoken by the sound of soft crashing of waves at Beau Vallon, one of the many beaches situated in Mahe. I open my hotel room and am met with the gorgeous clear blue pool. Not so far lies the beach, the sea sounding happy. It's a clear day in Seychelles, approximately 29 degrees Celsius and humid.
After a filling breakfast, we check out of our hotel. Our driver, Christopher, takes us around Mahe for the day. Gretel from Seychelles Tourism Board tells us as we pass the clean and lush green streets filled with small shops and vendors that the northern part of Seychelles, including Mahe, has become a tourist attraction.
Many hotels and self catering venues have now emerged, leaving hope for anyone who wants to visit this idyllic county on a budget. The southern part of Seychelles attracts those who want a quiet relaxing holiday. Mountain slopes similar to Signal Hill in Cape Town pave the way.
Quaint houses with banana trees are along the route.
“Seychelles and Mauritius are different”, says Gretel, as Christopher pumps up Creole music.
Some of us in the car can't help but stomp our feet and tap to the beat.
Our first stop was Mission Lodge, situated below the summit of San Soucis. It is known as the most famous vantage point in Seychelles. The site was once a place for a farm and boarding school for liberated slave children. Opened in 1876, it was previously known as Venn's Town. The ruins where the buildings stood are still visible. While watching the mountain and sea views, I notice Marie Valmont, a small shop owner who travels an hour by bus every day to sell snacks to arriving tourists. Her smile is warm and she has been running the shop for four years.
Also on our itinerary was the colourful Victoria Market. A visit to the market gives a glimpse of Seychelles living and its inhabitants. You have to see the liberation movement monument of a man breaking the chains. It is along the route to the market. The market was built in 1840 and renovated in 1999.
The streets are busy, school children in their brown shorts and crisp white shirts parade along the streets. Some are seen wearing flops. Immediately I am met with a smile from one of the local vendors. Rosemarie Uzice is an upcoming businesswomen who visits Thailand and South Africa regularly to stock up on clothes for her stall. She sells scarves, dresses and t-shirts.
A few meters away lies the fish and vegetable market. There is a demand for fish in Seychelles. Mackerel sells for 25 rupees for a dozen. Flies surround the packed fish tables and there is a strong floating about. Coconuts and other green fruit are on display.
Stall owners are excited to see us. They do not force us to buy their products, but a little support puts a smile on their faces.
Opposite the car park of the market is the only Hindu Temple in Seychelles. Named the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple, it was built in1992. It's beautiful bright colours makes it stands out, attracting visitors from all walks of life. On our trip to Eden Island, a manmade island in Mahe, we are told that it is cheaper to hire a car than take a taxi. Locals usually travel by bus that costs five Seychelles rupees per a trip.
Tonight, we spend our time at the Eden Bleu Hotel. We were treated to a three course dinner of octopus salad, red snapper and a dreamy coconut dessert. All meals were prepared by Chef Ricky Madeleine. When I asked about where he drew his inspiration for the dish, he said he learned the techniques from a French pastry chef back in 2002.
Earlier, for lunch, we tried out some Creole cuisine to get familiar with its food and tastes. Curries are big in Seychelles, but not as spicy as what you would find in India or Durban.
The red snapper and prawn curry was beautifully prepared with enough spice to help me finish it all. There are also specialty curries in Seychelles like octopus or bat. Speaking of food, there is a legend that if one tries the breadfruit, one will visit again.
Day 2: Early flight to Praslin
A fisherman on Long Beach in Praslin.
A woman lazes around with a good book.
Cycling is the Khanna family from Punjab is Deepa, Manish and Dhruv.
The sunset on Long Beach.
The next day we get up early and head to the airport for Praslin. It is home to Anse Lazio, one of the top five beaches in the world. For around 200 Seychelle rupees, one can take a 15 minute flight from the island of Mahe.
At the airport, a group of school children are all excitement as they prepare for an overnight excursion. Other foreigners filled the seats. Being so early, we get to see the sunrise.The plane itself feels like a private jet, just with more people.
Once at Praslin, pronounced Pralin, we went straight into the exploring. One thing Seychelles is proud of is the coco de mer. The coco de mer has a female and male tree, which can live up to 200 to 400 years. They can only be found at Vallee DE Mai Nature Reserve.
According to our guide at the reserve, it can take up to 25 years to develop. Getting a coco de mer can be hard as a permit is required. Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve is a nature park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Birding is quite popular for tourists. At the reserve is species of six endemic birds, including the Seychelles Bulbul, blue pigeon and black parrot.
We meet many locals, including Phillip Dorby, a labourer who has grown his hair for the past 30 years and wears them in dreadlocks. He is often seen walking the beach after doing some hard manual labour. Elsewhere on Grand Anse in La Digue is Louis Gillert, who has a food and beverage stall on the beach front. His specialty is coconut drinks.
La Digue is a very laid back part of the country where thousands of day visitors flock to every month. It is the fourth biggest island in Seychelles and can be accessed by boat or ferry. Among the popular activities are watersport, cycling and some just come to enjoy lazing on its beaches. The very tropical town exudes elegance with a string of hotels and self catering joints at every corner. There are only 2900 people living on the island
Dania Morel, information officer for La Digue, said it is the only island to use ox carts and bicycles as their mode of transportation.
"We get day trips and returning guests. Some love it so much, they rent a house for three months We are a small community, everyone knows each other, and we encourage tourists to walk, hike and go out, " she said.
Most of our day was spent at La Digue having to chart back by boat.
The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the sunset and taking pictures to capture the moment. By night, after dinner, we decided to watch the stars while on a beach walk on Grand Anse. Crabs were on their way, snipping past us as we were looking towards the sky.
Day 3: Out at sea
Everyone jumped into the ocean to snorkel during the marine excursion.
Russian family, father Oleg Ermolev with wife Yana and kids, Sophia, Evan and Micheal feed a turtle at Moyenne Island.
Conrad, Emma and Daniel Williams from Dubai take a selfie during the Marine Park excursion. Pictures: Clinton Moodley.
It was another early morning, departing from Praslin to Mahe. Today we spend a full day at the Marine Park, consisting of six islands. On board the Odezir catamaran, we blended in with French and Dubai tourists. We were the only South Africans on board, and it showed as the French kept looking at us strangely when some of the group members spoke in IsiZulu.
Before we explored the islands, we anchored at a famous fishing spot to feed fish. Our tour guide Jacqueline gave us some bread and in seconds the fish battled with each other to get their breakfast. Their agility intrigued me.
Moyenne Islands was one of the stops of the tour. The excursion gave new meaning to the word "out at sea" as we took a speedboat to watch the ocean life through a submarine. Afterwards, we enjoyed a hike in Moyenne where we fed turtles. A Russian couple with their three children caught my eye. Their friendliness made talking to them easy. They were on holiday for 10 days.
Some of us dipped our feet in the warm ocean, washing off the white sand off our feet. The tour itself is fascinating as one peers through islands and hear of their rich history. Those who wanted to snorkel had the opportunity to do so, while others chose to tan on board. Prepared on the boat is a fine buffet of Creole food, so rich in taste you want seconds. Despite the long haul on the catamaran, its luxury and comfort helped make it much more easier.
-Clinton Moodley was hosted by Air Seychelles and Seychelles Tourism Board.