Seychelles- Island Life in the Indian Ocean

SEYCHELLES-PRASLIN, LA DIGUE, MAHE, SILHOUETTE ISLAND

Overview

  • When: 28 May- 2 June, 2019
  • Where (accommodations): Mahe: Coral Strand Smart Choice Hotel, Silhouette Island: Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa
  • Transportation: Air Seychelles round trip from Johannesburg, South Africa to Mahe, Seychelles. Air Seychelles round trip from Mahe to Praslin. Inter Island  ferry from Praslin to La Digue through seychellesbookings.com
  • Sights/attractions: Praslin: Vallée de Mai Nature reserve, Anse Lazio beach; La Digue: Anse Source d’Argent beach; Mahe: Victoria, Beau Vallon Beach, Mirante la Misere view point, Mission Lodge View point; Silhouette Island: relax and enjoy the beaches and Hilton resort
  • Food/drinks: La Digue- Fish Trap, Bikini Bottoms juice stand, Silhouette Island:  Gran Kaz, Lo Brizan, Sakura, Portobello restaurants

Our first African adventure is coming to an end- we had a layover in London, spent a few days in South Africa, visited Victoria Falls from Zambia and Zimbabwe and squeezed in a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. That was a lot of travelling, so to relax before a long flight home we chose Seychelles– beautiful tropical archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa. You would think after so many flights we would pick one island and do nothing? Nope, not us. In the matter of five nights we chose to visit the four largest islands- Mahe, Praslin, Silhouette and La Digue.

No visas are needed to Seychelles and all international flights arrive to Mahe. From there you can connect to the other islands. Unfortunately there was only one Air Seychelles flight from Johannesburg a day and it put us in Mahe at 9pm. We were greeted with warm, humid, tropical air and a torrential downpour. Flight attendants were handing out umbrellas while exiting the plane, since we had to walk to the airport from the aircraft. Not the sunshine we expected, but we hoped it will clear up overnight. Early next morning we have a 15 minute flight to Praslin.

PRASLIN

There are a few ways to get to the second largest island in Seychelles. One of them is an hour long ferry ride from Mahe, second- 15 minute flight. Initially I booked the tickets for the ferry, but, the more I was reading about it, the less I wanted to go that route. There were so many comments about people getting seasick that when I told Sean about  it, he was : NO, we are not spending the short time we have in the islands throwing up. So I cancelled the ferry booking (luckily the tickets were fully refundable) and we bought a more expensive flight instead. I would not  change a thing. Yes, the flight was super early- at 7am, but it was so short and convenient.

The planes are tiny- about 10 passengers and we sat in the front, right behind the cockpit, which was very cool. We wanted to find a way to see Praslin and La Digue islands in the same day. Flying made it possible, because we saved a lot of time. By 7.15am we landed in Praslin. If we’d taken the ferry, it would not have arrived to Praslin until around 10am. We gained three extra hours before the tourists coming by boat started crowding the beaches 🙂 .

Two days before the trip I was reading the forums about Praslin and came across Antoine– the driver that works for Coconut Services Seychelles. There were multiple reviews about how great he was, so I decided to message him on WhatsApp (+248 2 535 694). Indeed, the service he provided was impeccable. Not only he basically planned out our day in Praslin, he also organized the driver for Mahe tour for the following day. There was no way we would have seen so much and experienced the islands if not for this local Seychellois. When we landed, Antoine was waiting for us in a comfortable air conditioned van, and the tour of Praslin began. The island is large, don’t fool yourselves that it’s easy to see it in a few hours. I was shocked how big it really is when we started driving.

We passed some white sand beaches and headed to Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. 19.5 ha area of palm forest remains largely unchanged since prehistoric times and is dominated by world’s largest population of endemic coco-de-mera species that produce the largest seed in the plant kingdom.

We did not have time to explore the park and it was not yet open for public, but still saw the plants and Antoine gave us a short summary of how this palm grows. The seed of the female plant is a shape of a butt, while the male one- well, it looks like a male organ 🙂 . It takes nine months for the plant to start growing into a palm tree and each year it sprouts one leaf. So unless it has been trimmed, you can tell how old the plant is by counting it’s leaves. At least that’s what our guide said, I am not a plant expert 🙂 . These trees only grow in Seychelles, so a must see if your are there already.

The next place was our absolute favorite in Praslin- Anse Lazio. Amazing white sand beach that we had pretty much to ourselves.

We saw the giant tortoises (one of the largest in the world!)  and then spent about 1.5 hours enjoying the warm blue water. It was the best part of Praslin tour and I only wish we had more time…

If we had to do it over again, I’d skip the rest of the drive and would just stay at this beach. If you’re there, make sure to go past the rocks, all the way down to the left- after the main beach you will find smaller, basically private little beaches with amazing views and privacy. We absolutely loved it and were sad to leave…Then something (most likely a sand crab) bit by foot, which swelled up and was not fully healed for the rest of the trip. Even the crab was mad we were leaving so soon 🙂 .

We had a ferry to La Digue at 12.30 pm, so it was time to be dropped off at the jetty. One last pat of the tortoise, a few more stops to take pics of some other nice beaches and we are ready to board the boat.

None of the other beaches looked as beautiful as Anse Lazio, so if you can, get there early and enjoy it.  The ferry ride was only 15 minutes long and we did not feel seasick at all. Another tropical island to explore!

LA DIGUE

Fourth largest island in Seychelles and we have about four hours to enjoy it. Very different from Praslin- laid back, less busy, only a few cars on the whole island- total island life/island time paradise. As soon as we got off the boat we were greeted with one of the locals renting bicycles. The prices are set – they are 150 Seychelles Rupees (around 10 USD)  for the day, but the bikes are not all the same. We almost went with the first guy, but then saw that his bikes were old, so decided to wait and look at the other place.

Well, we were in luck- the other renter gave them away for 100 rupees, since it was already afternoon and the bikes were in a lot better condition. It’s now lunch time, so with Antoine’s recommendation we went to the place to the right of the jetty- Fish Trap.

Located right on the water’s edge, it had a nice view and a fresh meal. It was not cheap, but nothing is in Seychelles. At least we were happy with the good lunch and ready to bike around the island. As soon as we left the restaurant we took a left and drove along the water.

Gorgeous views along the way, another giant tortoise slowly walking on the same path- now that’s what I call a real island experience! It took us about 30 minutes biking until the path ended and we could not go any further. We worked up a sweat, so on the way back stopped at the local juice stand- Bikini Bottoms.

We got their special smoothie- mix of guava, passion fruit, banana and a bunch of other locally grown fruits – perfect for a hot sunny day. We have one more beach to check of the list- the gem of the Seychelles islands- Anse Source d’Argent.

Once you get off the ferry and facing the island, take a right to get to Anse Source d’Argent. You will need to pedal the bike a bit and enter through the L’Union Estate– former coconut and vanilla plantation, where you pay the park fee (115 Seychelles Rupees or around 8 USD), then can access the famous beach.

It’s really breathtaking- the rock formations seem like something out of a movie set-it’s straight up a fantastic backdrop.

Reluctantly we took a 5.45pm boat back to Praslin, where Antoine picked us up and brought us to the airport for the flight back to Mahe. Just in time for dinner at the local Wednesday market happening right near our hotel. Very long day, but oh so spectacular!

MAHÉ

Mahe is the largest of the islands with the population of around 77 000 (total of all 115 islands is only around 95 000) and home to the charming capital Victoria.

We booked a two night stay at Coral Strand Smart Choice hotel located in the north western coast of the island.

Hotel had big buffet breakfast, nice looking pool and was right on the beach.

Travel tip: When looking at the accommodations in Mahe, do your research about the weather that is specific for the time of the year. Even though the island is relatively small, it has very different weather in the south compared to the north. During Mahe tour we circled the island and you could tell that the southern part was a lot more rainy (stormy ocean, huge puddles everywhere) compared to where we were staying.

We spent two nights in Mahe, but because we arrived late and sightseed Praslin and La Digue the following day, we only had one full day to explore it. IMG_2711We considered renting a car, but I am very glad we got a driver instead. First and foremost, it saved us time. Michael, who gave us a tour around the biggest island in Seychelles, knew his way to the hard to find beaches, was comfortable on the steep and winding roads and stopped every time I asked to take a picture. Unless you have a lot of time, I would not recommend driving on your own. The driver picked us up from our hotel at 10am (we needed to sleep in and have breakfast at a reasonable hour for once) and we finished the tour at 4.30 pm- full day with multiple stops, but definitely not enough time to see it all. If you have the time, I would recommend at least 2-3 full days in this island. There are numerous beaches, hikes you can take- we did not have time for that at all. Highlights not to miss-  Beau Vallon Beach, Victoria townMirante la Misere view point, Tea factoryMission Lodge View point.

Our hotel was right on Beau Vallon Beach, but we did not even swim there! I went out, took some photos and we got into the car for the island tour. IMG_2494 It’s big, wide and has a white sand. Also-the water was completely calm unlike the beaches in the southern part of the island. I would say it’s a very family friendly beach. On the way to the capital we passed some other incredible looking beaches on the northern side of the island, unfortunately I don’t know the names for reference.

Seychelles capital Victoria was our next stop.

Charming, a bit busy, but also that’s what made it lively- you could spend an afternoon here visiting the market, shopping, enjoying the architecture. 

We walked around, got some colorful cash from the ATM, bought a few souvenirs, ice cream and got back on the road. You can’t miss one of the most iconic historical features of Seychelles, the Victoria Clock Tower.

Located in the heart of the city this landmark was erected in memory of Queen Victoria over a hundred years ago.

We continued down the north eastern side of the island and went up a steep hill to Mirante la Misere View Point.

Luckily it was not raining and we got to enjoy the beautiful panorama of the blue water and the island below us.

Continuing the tour we saw multiple beaches, some were absolutely gorgeous white sand, but VERY big waves and strong currents. We were too scared to jump in and did not have time to risk drowning 🙂 .

The island does not look so big on the map, but the roads are winding and it takes a lot longer to go from one point to another- keep that in mind when planning the trip. We passed a calm bay with the Lazare Picault Monument, known as the “Anchor“.

Then drove up another steep hill to the Tea Factory. There was no tasting,  but we bought some nice local tea to bring home. It grows right on the mountain sides, in the the fresh island air and is watered by the tropical rain.

The tour of Mahe is going towards an end, but there is one more stop- Mission Lodge View Point. Close to the highest point you can reach on Mahé by road, Mission Lodge has an incredible lookout with sweeping views of central Mahé, the west coast, and  stone ruins near the forest (a school was built here by the London Missionary Society in the 19th century to care for slave children who had been brought to the island after the abolition of slavery).

Queen Elizabeth II took tea in the small pavilion in 1972. If not for the history, you must come here for this view!IMG_2768Before I end the overview of Mahe, I must mention a Wednesday night market that was happening right near Beau Vallon Beach. I am not sure if it’s seasonal, but if you happen to be there when it’s on- check it out.

We had some tasty food from the vendors and it was nice to walk around with the locals. 5EFC2CBD-FEB1-447B-AFB1-138913812F4EOur driver brought us to the Hilton jetty for our 6pm boat to Silhouette Island– our last stop in The Seychelles.

SILHOUETTE ISLAND

Last three nights in paradise, where WiFi is weak and relaxing mode is strong 🙂 . Silhouette is the third largest island of the Seychelles, but there are not many residents- just around 200 and they are mainly workers. The largest settlement is La Passe, where Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa is located. Over 90% of the island has been designated a protected area and the island has been a marine national park since 1987.

I am not ashamed to admit- we did not leave the resort. This trip has been so intense, that we physically needed rest. 45 minute ferry from Mahe got us to the island past sunset- it was VERY dark.

Hotel provides flashlights and I recommend to carry them around if you decide to walk the grounds. There are quite large crabs and you don’t want to step on one 🙂 . There is no night life, so it was a calm, relaxing dinner and then sleep. There are a few restaurants, reservations recommended, especially during the busy season. To get to them you can either walk or call the front desk and order a ‘buggy’ to come pick you up. It’s essentially an extended golf cart and this service is complimentary. Order one in advance, especially around dinner time when they are in the most demand. For our first night dinner we chose Gran Kaz– a restaurant set in a plantation house.

The place was restored home of the Dauban family, the former owners of the island. You can walk around the little museum and the food was tasty- we like this island so far!

Next two days were spent riding bikes (you get two hours complimentary bike rentals), swimming in the ocean, relaxing by the spa, getting massages and of course eating 🙂 .

It was raining on and off- a lot more rain than typical for this time of the year, but it was still warm and we made the best out of it.

It seemed like there were a lot of people at breakfast or dinner time at the restaurant, but when it came to beaches- we had them all to ourselves most of the time.

Our favorite was the beach that was just after the SPA- long, white sanded and with a perfect palm tree leaning towards the ocean. We even went skinny dipping- there was nobody around as far as we could see 🙂 .

For lunch we tried Lo Brizan poolside restaurant. For dinner the second night we craved sushi, so tried Sakura and last night was Italian- Portobello.

We liked them all, prices were not the most wallet friendly, but we realize that we are in the middle of the ocean and it is expensive to import everything. At least it was high quality food- we were very happy with the restaurants and the overall experience at this resort.

CONCLUSION

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Our Seychelles adventure was quick version of relaxation- I would recommend at least a week, maybe two to get a better feel of the islands and have time to unwind. It was not possible for us to take more time off from work, but we were happy to have seen these beautiful islands even for a very short visit.

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