Secrets of the Seychelles

Nearly a thousand miles of the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean lies paradise in the form of 115 islands: the Seychelles archipelago.
It’s perfectly possible to get an airport transfer to your luxury resort, not leave for a week and have an amazing time – but to do so would be to miss much of the charm of the islands. As a country seen by many travellers as prohibitively expensive a cruise around the must see islands in the archipelago and stay a few more days in one of the main islands, in my opinion is the best and cost effective way to visit and know this fantastic destination. Seychelles was always a big dream destination right on the top of my list and I started my Seychelles dream trip on a 7 nights cruise, followed by an adventurous 4 nights in Mahe.

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Get curious on Curiese island! Just 1km off the coast of Praslin lies Curiese island, a colony used to quarantine people with leprosy. Today this beautiful island is a Marine National Park and has several indigenous flora and fauna and presents abundant opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, snorkelling and swimming. As soon as we get ashore we are welcome by giant tortoises relaxing around the park rangers’ headquarters. And we could also feed them.

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After admiring those beautiful creatures we went on an hour-long guided trail passing by stunning granite boulders hewn by wind and water; and mangrove swamps populated with giant crabs, salamander and shellfish twirling in the tangle of submerged roots.
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We finished the trail at the Doctor’s House, a typical Creole colonial structure that once housed the doctor who treated leprosy patients on the island. The house has been converted into a national museum showcasing the island’s fascinating history.

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The Doctor’s House is located at a beautiful beach, where green and hawksbill turtles make their nests. Visitors who arrive in November to December may see the baby sea turtles. As I went in September, which is one the best months for snorkelling, I haven’t seen the baby sea turtles but when swimming keep your snorkelling masks on and keep an eye out for beautiful sting rays that will be swimming with you.

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Cousin Island Special Reserve is what it says on the label: Special. Very Special. It was purchased in 1968 by Birdlife International to save the last remaining population of the Seychelles warblers. You can also see the white-tailed nesting on the ground, the Seychelles magpie-robin and the Seychelles fody, which are only found on four other rat-free islands in the country.

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Looking around Cousin today, it is hard to believe that this vibrant and diverse island ecosystem was once a coconut plantation. When the island was first settled in the early 1900’s, the original vegetation on the plateau was cleared to make way for profitable coconut trees. Cousin has been successfully restored to its original vegetation, creating homes for five of the eleven endemic birds of the Seychelles and also there are seven species of seabirds that nest here, so definitely a must have for bird enthusiasts.

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We were ferried to the island in small boats. This is to prevent the accidental arrival of pests such as rats, into the reserve. There is no accommodation on the island for spending the night. The reserve is managed by local staff that lives in the island and will take you around explaining and showing things your eyes wouldn’t have seen.

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Praslin is the second largest island of the Seychelles, where life is slower and more laid back. If you’ve wondered what the biblical Garden of Eden looked like, Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, will make it come to life.

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The reserve is home to the endemic Coco de Mer. The coconut contains the world’s largest seed but it is actually quite light. Besides the fact that looks like hmmm… you know.

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After making Tom blush by holding the funny coconut for a picture we headed to Cote d’Or beach, which certainly belongs to the best Praslin has to offer. The beach is very impressive, with soft white sand, calm, shallow turquoise water and a palm-fringed background. You have to walk quite far out before it becomes deep enough to swim in (good stuff for the shorties like me). Côte d’Or Beach is a popular departure point for boat trips to other islands such as Curiese (to see the giant tortoises), St. Pierre (for snorkelling), Felicite (reputedly the best snorkelling spot in the whole country!)

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The cruise itinerary saved the best to last. As soon as you arrive you realize La Digue is an unique place. The 3rd largest island in the Seychelles offers a true taste of tradition. With just a few motorized vehicles, bicycles and walking are the main ways of getting around the island. There are plenty of places where you can rent cycles and some hotels even lend you a bike for the duration of your stay.

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Visit L’Union Estate for a peek into heritage bungalows and the process of cultivating vanilla in its sprawling plantation while you are on the way to the most beautiful and most photographed beach in the archipelago: Anse Source D’Argent. It’s turquoise waters, it’s unique shape made by rocks dotted with tall palm trees and coloured by beautiful birds create a magnificent landscape that really makes you not want to leave. I can’t believe I couldn’t stay forever.

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If you are into snorkelling or diving then the Seychelles “has” to be in your list! One of the best snorkelling/diving locations at the Seychelles are Anse Lazio, St. Piere, Baie St. Anne, Felicite and Moyenne island. In Mahe, Constance Ephelia and Port Launay Marine Reserve, are protected areas with abundant sea life offering some of the best snorkelling and diving on the island. Check out the Seychelles video to see some snorkelling in all of these destinations.

It is a safe and rewarding experience to swim or snorkel in the waters of the Seychelles. However, it is recommended that swimmers always wear aqua shoes to avoid sharp coral, stonefish, urchins, scorpion fish and rocks. With dive sites varying from 8 to 30 meters, the Seychelles is suitable for beginners and experienced divers. The waters are ideal from March to May and September to November. The astonishingly colourful fish swimming along the coral reef swarmed can keep one rapt for hours.

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We chose to spend our last 4 nights exploring the largest island of the Seychelles. With over 60 beautiful beaches, a densely forested interior with beautiful waterfalls, jungle, mountain walks and stunning viewpoints, Mahe has lots to explore.

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If you like to mix your beach break with exploration and adventure Mahe is a delight to drive around and find your own corner. The feeling of discovery as you round the coastal road and get the first glimpse of another beautiful bay, or spy a viewpoint from a mountain pass down to the sea below is unbeatable, and we’d recommend to devote at least a day of your stay in Mahe to exploring and beach hopping. Taxis can be fairly expensive, and not competitive when compared with the cost of a car hire for a day. Hiring your own car is our recommended way to enjoy Mahe.

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The entire island is amazing! But some will advocate towards the South of the Island and say that is the most beautiful part. The South is really beautiful and quieter, there are fewer tourists but most of the beaches are very rocky so you must have swim shoes to stay around that area. For beach hopping and seclusion I think the South is perfect, you are remote enough to get away from it all and find your own perfect corner. From Anse Royal in the southeast around to Anse Louis in the southwest is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with great coastal roads, hidden coves and delightful beaches to discover. While Anse Royal is a mid-sized town with a school, shops, market, the rest of the south coast is made up of small settlements with forest and twisting coastal roads, as well as some of the most spectacular beaches on the island – Anse Soleil, Intendance and Takamaka.

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I personally preferred the North. Beau Vallon may not be the most secluded area on the island, but it is still a lovely bay that is spread out enough that you’re not too aware of it being a major tourist area. This beach is a huge sweeping bay with calm shallow waters that are not rocky and it is closer to some of the best restaurants in the island.

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Also, to the west of Beau Vallon it is possible to reach the gorgeous secluded beach of Anse Major, the beach is part of the Baie Tarney Marine National Park and is overall part of the Morne Seychellois National Park. To get to the beach you must either hike the nature trail along steep granite slopes or hire a boat from Beau-Vallon Bay. We took the scenic route, and decided to walk from our hotel room, which took us 2 hours with lots of photo stops on the way. The result was well worth the effort.

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The walk is a welcoming long fairly easy track as compared to other hike trails. It is basically like a walk on the flanks of hills with some very narrow man-made paths a long the way, a little imbalance could mean a slip through granite rock facing down into the water. On the bright side, there is no climbing or ups and downs that need to be done.

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We found breath-taking viewpoints and an unexpected small pool of water making a stream going downhill

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Just before we started going downhill we found a wooden hut – kind of a resting place and viewpoint – with beautiful views of the beach we were about to explore.

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Swimming needs care as there are bulky rocks on the sea and the land is not very fine sand, so we regretted not having swim shoes with us, however It certainly didn’t spoil the fun for us.
On the way back we decide to have a different experience and we took the “water taxi” to Beau Vallon. Don’t worry, he will be there waiting to take you back at whatever time you want and you won’t miss it.

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Beau Vallon is the hub of choice for adventure seekers, who come here to sail, snorkel, dive, fish or parasail. It’s also a good base for exploring Victoria, taking boat trips or for access to the jetty for boats to Praslin and La Digue. If you are not seeking for snorkelling or any adventure but do want to see some fish… Beau Vallon beach is also the best place to stay as they will come to you and swim with you.

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And by the beach, sipping cocktails, we could witness spectacular sunsets.

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Lose yourself on the streets of Victoria, the capital city of the Seychelles. Victoria is a tiny capital city that we explored in a pleasant two-hour stroll. The city has a lively food market, gift shops abound, several churches, a colourful Hindu temple that look like it has been transplanted from a temple street in South India.

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And there is even a mini Big Ben in the city’s main roundabout. The only downside is that driving in Victoria is a bit chaotic, confusing and not well sign posted. Also, be careful with the locals when parking your car, they do not care if you were there first waiting for a car to get out of the parking space. They will find a space push it through and park exactly at the space you were politely waiting to park.

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Surrounded by a gigantic ocean teeming with aquatic life, Seychelles offers a generous platter of seafood. You can sample creole specialties at some restaurants like La Fontaine, which is located in Beau Vallon, serving a delicious octopus salad, one of the most famous creole specialties.
For honoured Creole recipes, there is no better place than Marie Antoinette restaurant at St. Louis Hill, 10 mins drive from Beau Vallon. Since 1972, this historic restaurant, which was declared a national monument in 2011, owned by Kathleen Fonseka, the grand lady of creole cuisine, have been serving delicious multi-course traditional creole meals that definitely worth a visit.

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The Seychelles is a fantastic beach destination with many world-ranking beaches with temperatures never below 23C, which makes this beautiful country an ideal combination of experiences that are magical and unforgettable.

Cami

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