Of all the Islands in the Indian Ocean, I always found the Seychelles to be the most mysterious, out of reach and somewhere I’d never find myself – and that’s why I really wished I could go there! I sighed and shared this random thought with a couple of my colleagues over lunch one afternoon.
The same evening, I was on a global conference call, my usual distracted self; with multiple-windows, spreadsheets and presentations open, when I heard my name being called out. I had been given a global award (yay!), and most importantly, a VERY fat amount for a fully paid trip for two, anywhere I wanted to go!
Seychelles it was! I didn’t know where to start. It was all too exciting. How do I get there? Do I need a visa? Where do I stay? The excitement was killing me.
Living in India, the Seychelles is definitely not as easy to plan as the Maldives or maybe Mauritius. It’s not a direct flight, options to stay are tough to choose, and you definitely cannot find as much ‘non-sponsored’ information on the web as you’d like. So I did have to research quite a bit to make sure I wasn’t paying too much, and I was going to places of interest rather than what was advertised.
The Seychelles is fairly huge, and as you descend into the capital island, you will see its breadth of vastness in the multiple islands, green hills full of tropical vegetation, and the glittering blue-green ocean. And so many rocks! The entire island is very rocky which is what I feel lends it a different character.
Giant Tortoises and the Coco de Mer
There’s a lot to do in the Seychelles. I was most fascinated with the unique Endemics of the island – the Coco de Mer – a coconut like fruit which has a ‘male’ and ‘female’ version, the Blue pigeon, the Pitcher plant and so much more! And a very special mention for the centuries old, massive, tortoises. They are HUGE! You might even mistake one of them for a mini rock. Found on the island in abundance, you will see them either wooing other tortoises, mating or sleeping. You might witness a fight if you catch them in the wooing phase. The entire tortoise-fight sequence moves in slow motion 🙂
We spent a lot of time driving around, stopping at different beaches, which were so isolated and un-spoilt that I almost felt guilty for sitting there. Snorkeling however was a bit of a dampener because of the rocky surfaces.
Dancing with the locals
For a view of the local life, there’s a popular night market in the Beau Vallon beach area. The food is great, typical creole fare with curries, kebabs, rotis, fresh fruit and the local milky-white potent alcoholic brew. We joined the locals singing, dancing and just celebrating life!
One with the Underworld
The highlight of our trip was the PADI Scuba diving course. V & I met Kate, a Texan girl who had given up her desk job and life, to come and live in the Seychelles, exploring the beautiful Indian Ocean every day. Kate didn’t take us out into the ocean immediately. She first schooled us at the Mahe swimming complex where we went through a theory session, and later in the pool, we learnt to sign and manage our equipment.
What you don’t learn in the pool is how to manage the salt water and wave currents! The next day, the waters were fairly choppy as we headed to the “Coral Garden” – I was queasy and nauseous and every jump in the boat made it worse.
V was like a fish in the water. He dove into the coral garden and glided away pretty quickly, going down 15-20 meters, managing his equipment like a pro.
Deep sea diving is really not as romantic and beautiful as it seems; it’s a lot of hard work and coordination.
I get into the ocean, start descending, breathe in and out, signal thumbs up to Kate, down five meters and then swallow salt water, spitting, gasping and coughing I come back up holding on to the anchor rope for my life. Clear my oxygen pipe. This goes on for a bit, until I finally get into the ocean to a comfortable level when it’s all finally calm. I am up close with the fish, a turtle passes by, and there’s colorful coral all around – orange, red , blue and green!
Was the Seychelles as beautiful and remote as I imaged it to be? Definitely, Yes.
Would I go back there again? That’s a tough one to answer, because while Seychelles tried it’s best to seduce me, the Maldives stole my heart many years ago 😉
- Although it’s really a part of the African continent, it feels set up to exclusively cater to European tourists. The prices are high, and everything is in Euros. You have the choice to stay in resort-like properties such as the Hilton, or in vacation rentals. If it’s a short stay (upto 5 days), spend that money to get a resort, it makes your life easier. Anything longer than a week, there are vacation rentals to stay in (100 euros/night), with limited facilities.
- From India, I found the best way to get there was via Dubai. Until sometime ago, the Seychelles was connected by its official national carrier directly from Mumbai. I read somewhere recently, that there are plans to restart that connection.
- For those with Indian passports, the Seychelles offers visa on arrival. Carry your hotel confirmation, air tickets and passport size pics and you should be okay.
- Staying in a resort, we did need to rent a taxi every time we stepped out. Realizing this wasn’t as efficient, we decided to rent an all-day car (comes with driver). This was a good decision, since the hilly roads need some skill to drive through and you need a driver to guide you as you zig-zag across key spots on the island.
- The Botanical Gardens are a nice place to spend an afternoon. You will get to see all of the endemics here including the tortoises. The gardens are well manicured and made for tourists so don’t expect hikes etc.
- Don’t spend more than 2-3 hours in the capital – there is a clock tower which is a replica of the Big Ben and a few restaurants/shops but that’s about it.
- Spend most of your time on the beaches – the pristine white sands and generous waves. Do the day-long island hopping trips to La Digue and Praslin islands. There are several tour operators who can help fix that for you.