Seychelles - October 2011

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Africa » Seychelles » Praslin
October 21st 2011
Published: January 15th 2012
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The Seychelles. A place name that conjures up pictures of paradise; and it didn’t disappoint. Of all our travels around the world and I believe this is our 80th (ish!) country... this is the most stunningly beautiful we’ve ever visited. The spectacular granitic islands that make up the Seychelles archipealogical area are simply awe-inspiring.

After an 11.5 hour journey from London via Milan we arrived on the island of Mahe on Saturday morning. Next up we entered the balmy tropical outside temperatures, walked across the tarmac and boarded a small plane for the first island of our visit – Praslin. When we say small, it was one of the smallest we’d been on excusing scenic flights across places like the Okavanga Delta or The Grand Canyon. It took us a little by surprise but was very cool, a small twin otter plane seating 21 people including the pilot and co-pilot. Dazed as we were after a night time flight across from London, what a way to start the trip! In seconds we were off the ground and flying towards Praslin; jaw dropping already at the inspiring view below us as we flew over stunning islands with pristine white sand beaches dotting the most perfect turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. It felt more like a sight-seeing option than a way of transport!

We touched down on the island of Praslin a bare 15 minutes later; then strolled across the tarmac to the tiny island airport, already loving the sunshine and tropical temperatures. We were met at the airport by the taxi driver we’d pre-arranged, Gereis (A lovely local guy who we ended up using for all other taxi journeys during our stay). It was a beautiful 25minute (ish) drive around the island to our resort, past small villages and through lush jungle to La Reserve. We drove past Vallee de Mai which the islanders say is the original Garden of Eden, though we didn’t visit during our stay. (Our holiday being meant as one of total relaxation and a whole lot of nothing ;-)) Our driver paused to show us waterfalls cascading beside the road and coco der mer trees with the nuts the island is famous for (they look like bums!) At this time when Gereis mentioned an international school on the island, I think Martin was already ready to jump out and run in with his CV. We’d been on the island half an hour. It’s amazing how fast the place takes a hold on you.

On arrival at La Reserve we were shown to our Deluxe Beachfront Room, which was absolutely beach front. It sported a bathroom about the size of three of our rooms in our London flat, joined together with an arresting view of the most dream like bay; from our French doors leading on to balcony. The resort was set in its own bay with private beach and it was just perfect. Jagged granite rocks decorate the jungle covered hills around us. Did we ever have to leave? The next three days were spent in pretty much the same way – relaxing around the pool, on our balcony admiring the view, drinking cocktails in the sun punctuated by trips into Cot D’or village/beach and Anse Lazio.

The first day we wandered down the road to Cote D’or which was about a 15-20 minute stroll.The village has several restaurants, small shops and boutiques and sits on a gorgeous stretch of white sand beach. We ate a late lunch at Le Goulue Restaurant which had been recommended to us and found the people there super friendly and had great food too. Martin went with a local dish of Fruit Bat curry (!?) and was quite impressed. Prices were good to; we’d expected the Seychelles to be extraordinarily expensive however we were really pleasantly surprised by everywhere we visited – the prices are actually pretty good! Drinks especially, even in the resort where you would expect prices to be the most expensive, cocktails were about 5 pounds (120 SCR). Breakfasts in the resort were served in a restaurant on a jetty over the water and a what perfect, stunning way to start the day.

The following day we got up and had breakfast and were SUPER excited about the All Blacks game in the World Cup Final set to start at 12 noon. We’d arranged for the right channel to be available in our room before we left the UK, we were that excited! As I’m sure it was for everyone, it was a nerve-wracking couple of hours but we emerged victorious!! Whoop Whoop AB’s!! We then spent the rest of the day relaxing – EXACTLY what we’d planned for this holiday. In the evening we decided to wander into Cote D’or for dinner and after a few minutes on the road jumped down on to a beach and discovered where Cote D’or Beach began.... so we could follow the perfect white sandy/palm tree lined beach right to the village itself. It was a lot shorter than following the road and pretty stunning as the sun was setting. What a great way to arrive at the village. We dined at the Berjaya Beach restaurant on more delicious creole food again for pretty cheap prices. Wandering back along the beach to our resort we saw a beautiful restaurant nestled in palm trees right on the beach called ‘Cafe Des Arts’... since we didn’t eat there it’s probably a bit weird to mention but we fell in love with it and tried to reserve a table for the following night, our last night on the island – unfortunately they were closed. The prices are a bit steeper but if you’re ever headed to the Seychelles I’d say it’s definitely a night out to plan for.

On Monday we arranged for Geris to drive us up to Anse Lazio, reputedly one of the best 5 beaches in the world. It’s pretty beautiful, but given the standard of beaches we’ve already seen on the island, doesn’t seem out of place with all the others we’ve seen. Mistakenly, Bunny fell asleep in the sunshine and turned a nice shade of beetroot! We wandered in balmy, knee-deep water, to watch a large ‘fever’ of sting rays, right in next to the beach and we also watched a few dumb tourists avoid the beach nets and swim in the sea, at risk of being eaten by the notorious shark currently on the attack around Praslin (sadly having attacked two tourists in the last couple of months, the first shark attacks seen in the islands in almost 50 years).

After a cool drink we headed back to our resort in the early afternoon, we walked up a fairly steep hill and then down into a small village at Anse Boudin where we caught a local bus to our resort. About 25p per person versus the 15 Euro for a taxi – bargain! The local buses, like everything else on the island, are clean, and in good order. A great way to travel, the only real con is that they don’t have a very frequent timetable and last ones are about 6.30pm. Later that afternoon, after compulsory chill out time on our balcony and happy hour at the pool bar, we headed into the closest ‘town’ of Baie St Anne for some souvenir shopping, a look around and dinner at another highly recommended local place – Coco Rouge. Well, we arrived not long after 4... and quickly realised there is not much in town at all! Doh! With Coco Rouge opening at 7pm, we killed three hours by souvenir shopping, then wandering a few kms in each direction around the town, finally finding a quirkly little place called Espandon for a much needed drink. Dinner was worth the wait though, the tiny Coco Rouge served up a ‘table buffet’ of 6 local dishes on our table so we could sample them all and they were all amazing, really, really awesome local dishes! Including sautéed breadfruit, sailfish, lentil puree, garlic prawns (Martin) and smoked fish salad (Bunny). Creole food is delicious – a real revelation for us, we knew the Seychelles were beautiful, but hadn’t really considered the cuisine... we were very impressed. Gereis kindly picked us up afterwards.

The following day we said a sad farewell to La Reserve, which we’d highly recommend for their outstanding location, service and rooms, and Gereis dropped us at the jetty in Baie St Ann for a short 15 minute ferry across to the island of La Digue. La Digue is said to not have changed much in the last 50 years, and at first impression we could see why. The island is only 5km by 3km and with only about 2000 residents, La Digue is a charming island with yet more idyllic scenery; and apart from the odd flash resort, it is very much still a remnant of a by-gone error with the main modes of transport being ox-carts and bicycle. Praslin was quiet, but this even more so, it’s very serene. There is said to be only 9 petrol vehicles on the island, we think there could be a few more now. Maybe 12 ;-)

We stayed at the island’s newest resort Domaine de L’orangeraie which was yet again, stunning, perched on the beach and a 5 minute walk from the jetty, with the accommodation being villa’s rather than hotel rooms. If only we could transplant our 2 storied charming villa, with all dark wood furnishings and decor, stone showers both indoors and out, terraces on both levels, full kitchen, tiled throughout and a view of beach or green jungle from every window into somewhere like ... Thailand – (A little easier to get to from NZ!) We’d buy it in a second ;-) It’s everything we’d love to have in a holiday home in South East Asia. It definitely feels like a holiday home, rather than a hotel and a superb quality one at that.

The first afternoon we just chilled out in the beautiful villa and wandered the resort areas like the stunning art deco bar and pool areas and infinity pool. Then we wandered about 1km down from our resort to the next most famous resort on the island, La Digue Island Lodge. Basically we got our bearings and stopped off for dinner at Chez Marston where we were again pleasantly surprised by both food standard and the really good prices. We’re eating cheaper than London – on a tiny speck of an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean ;-)

The next day we grabbed some bicycles and headed off to a supermarket we’d seen the day before to pick up some supplies. With the full kitchen it’s possible to self-cater here, though there isn’t a huge range to buy and with the prices so good so we ended up eating out most meals anyway. It was nice to cycle around the island though, a lovely way to explore the island. We stopped for lunch at a cute little place, which operated on serious ‘island time’, however as we were in no hurry it was perfect – more time to enjoy the drinks! The afternoon we whiled away on the ocean front by the pool and just enjoyed being here. Bunny had a massage in the L'Orangeraie Resort Spa which she says is now her favourite ever, it was simply devine. The rooms were built into the granite cliffs above the resort (a private golf buggy gave you a ride up there) and the rooms all faced over the island to the ocean, with no walls or even glass to separate you from the awe-inspiring view. Simply heaven!! On recommendation from some locals we got takeaways for dinner – seriously cheap, huge portions and lovely food. Magic.

We got up relatively early and headed down to the jetty to catch our boat for a day touring the islands and snorkelling. The day was a little overcast, our first in the Seychelles, which may have been a blessing as I suspect we would have gotten seriously sunburnt otherwise!! We visited 2 lovely spots among the islands just off La Digue and enjoyed some beautiful coral and fish life; although not the best snorkelling we have ever done it was still pretty awesome. The highlights being when we found a small shark lurking between two large rocks and when one of the local guides found a sea turtle, which we played with for a while. The turtles are curious and relatively unconcerned with humans – a shame as this makes them easy targets for poachers. The people of the Seychelles take the protection of these awesome creatures very seriously, they are tagged and their location logged anytime they are seen. The one we met was just a wee fellow but his strength was amazing, he could easily have towed us along! Bunny lifted him up for a photo and was amazed at how much he weighed!!! After our return from our trip we had a chilled afternoon and then had another fantastic dinner along at the Island Resort Lodge, where they have a Creole buffet in their thatched restaurant with sand between your toes.

We were scheduled to leave quite late the next day so we had another full day to enjoy the island. After stashing our gear at the resort we grabbed some bikes and headed off to so some beach hopping. We had a relaxed ride along hilly mountains roads, encased in dense rain forest and towering granite monoliths, it was just magnificent. One of the best beaches we found was Grand Anse, a magnificent wild ocean beach, with lethal rip tides, huge waves, golden white sand and crystal clear water, all encased by epic granite chunks spreading from the forest right into the water. As kiwis, I think we appreciate a beach with a bit of character, rather than just ‘a nice place to swim’ and Grand Anse certainly had that! It was just incredible. After some drinks at a delightful, quirky bar (Loutier Coco) beside the beach; sand between our toes, chilled owner, no electricity, but a place out of the sun and luke-warm drink which was surprisingly good!.... we meandered back to the hotel, stopping for drinks along the way, determined to soak up our last few hours in the Seychelles. Bunny had another massage at the spa, some excuse about having to take a photo of the spa room ;-)

To sum up, we don’t think we can explain the awe-inspiring beauty of the Seychelles. The people of the Seychelles are astoundingly friendly and welcoming. The weather amazing (tropical rainstorms were predicted every day and never appeared). Local food is amazing, the prices are far better than expected. There are not a lot of tourists, October - said to be one of the best months to visit, appeared to be quite quiet and we really enjoyed this. The Seychelles feels like a hidden gem and we’d recommend anyone a completely rejuvenating holiday in the islands.

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