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Seychelles: A slice of heaven

With its pristine waters, enormous opportunities for fishing, pleasant weather and amazing food, Seychelles has something to offer everyone. Vijaya Pratap discovers a place she would never want to come back from

The giant tortoise stared at me for what seemed like an eternity. And then, almost as if to tell me the show was over, it started chomping on some leaves. I couldn’t care less though, happily clicking pictures of this rare meeting with the giant. Indeed, Sychelles is full of such surprises.

Type: Leisure
USP: Marine life
You need: 4 days


Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove at Mahe Island is an open bar with an extended pontoon bridge and gazebo on the dazzling blue Indian Ocean. Pics/Vijaya Pratap

Here, the grass is green, the water so blue and the land peaceful. The aquamarine waters stretch towards an endless horizon. Here, there is more than sand, sea and sunshine. There is also the warmth of the Seychelles smile — making it a paradise one never wants to leave. Renowned for its unique landscape, spectacular granite and coral islands, the Seychelles are a cherished destination for discerning travellers. For those wishing to do and see it all, Seychelles offers superb sailing, diving and snorkelling experiences. There are varied opportunities to discover the island’s unique eco systems on mountain hikes and nature trails — all enjoyable in a climate of almost perpetual summer. You can island hop by plane, boat or helicopter to discover each island’s individual character, as well as a cuisine to seduce the most demanding pallete.


Tourists feeding Giant Turtles on La Digue Island

No wonder Seychelles is hailed as an ideal island holiday destination, for its unspoiled beaches, numerous nature reserves and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Rare species of flora and endangered tortoise thrive in this beautiful world.

There are two categories of islands — the granitic ‘inner’ that cluster around the principal islands of Mahe, Praslin and La digue whose verdant peaks climb skywards from virgin forests and immaculate beaches and the ‘outer’, a sparkling array of flat coralline islands extending westwards towards the coast of Africa that includes legendary Al dabra, the world’s largest coral atoll. ‘Inner’ islands are the cultural focal point of Seychelles where the majority of the population lives while the ‘outer’ islands remain miniature worlds, little touched by man, thus offering a unique and incomparable island experience.


The entrance to Vallee de Mai, a Unesco World Heritage Site on Praslin Island where the famous coco de mer grows under protection

Mahe
This fertile granite island with a verdant forest, soaring peaks and over 65 beaches, enjoys a rich diversity of flora and fauna to be discovered by organised excursions as well as on walks and trails through lush countryside. North Mahe, home to the famous Beau Vallon beach, tends to be more populous than other regions of the island and discreetly features a range of hotels of all sizes, guest houses and villas. South Mahe presents, in contrast, a wonderfully pastoral aspect and is home to some of the island’s prettiest beaches and villages too, all made accessible by an efficient network of roads.


A food stall at the Bazar Labrin, which is a cultural bazaar held along the famous Beau Vallon Beach every Wednesday evening where local food, beverages including coconut toddy and souvenirs are on sale

Victoria, one of the tiniest capitals in the world, has managed to retain much of its original charm and character with outstanding examples of traditional architecture, a busy market, shops, boutiques and service providers. Spending a day at Victoria, I get to see the lingering colonial past and its charming remnants spilled all over.

There are other smaller, and more remote islands that offer accommodation as well, like Bird Serf and Chauve Souris among others. Outside the cyclone belt and offering a year round sailing season, moderate swells and gentle tides, there is no better way to enjoy Seychelles than by cruising its pristine waters by catamaran, keel boat, bare boat or kayak to name but a few. I have my fill of kayaking in tranquil waters.


A souvenir shop in the Esplanade Craft Kiosque at Victoria. Shark’s mouth is a popular souvenir to take from Seychelles

Praslin
The second largest of the unspoilt Seychelles archipelago, Praslin lies 40 kms north east of Mahe — 15 minutes by plane or 45 minutes by catamaran ferry. I take a ferry and endure the stomach-churning journey on a choppy sea. But in the end I am rewarded with wonderful experiences. Praslin is filled with white sandy beaches. Some places enjoy the presence of protective, enormous granite boulders — making it private and secluded. Temperatures average around 28, with sunshine filled days and balmy nights. Praslin’s original name of ‘Isle de Palme’ bears eloquent testament to its reputation as home to the Vallee de Mai, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where the famous coco de mer grows wild and in abundance. Some believe that this could be the original site of the biblical Garden of Eden. Walking in the fully wooded Valle de Mai, is a wonderful
experience.

Divided by a ridge of hills intersected by a road that leads through the Vallee de Mai, Praslin possesses some of Seychelles’ most striking beaches such as Anse Lazio, widely acclaimed to be the most beautiful beach on earth. Featuring the only 18-hole championship golf course in Seychelles and a luxurious casino, Praslin also has a rich assortment of hotels and guest houses steeped in creole hospitality. The island is ideally situated for holiday makers wishing to island hop to La Digue, Chauve Souris etc.

La Digue
La Digue, lying 45 kms from Mahe and seven kms from Praslin is the fourth largest island in Seychelles, celebrated for its granite boulders that seem to have been sculptured by a divine hand to adorn beaches of breathtaking beauty such as Anse and Source D’s Argent. The island where more traditional modes of transport such as bicycles and oxcarts still hold sway, it offers authentic island-style accommodation, mainly situated on the west coast while the east remains more or less untouched. La Digue serves as an ideal stepping stone to nearby islands of Grande Soeur and Petite Soeur, Felicita, Coco and Marianne.

Since that distant time when Seychelles’ 115 granite and coral islands became scattered over a secluded corner of the Indian Ocean, they have remained sanctuaries for much more than some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on the earth.

The giant turtles I mentioned in the beginning, are huge with human like eyes. On La Digue Island, they have a huge enclosure, where they spend days and nights lingering in their slow and steady world. People feed them leaves and they eat and get friendly. Though the island once belonged to them, now they have only a marked space. They shared storms and summers, sunshine and rain with those boulders on the beach and together they form a silent union, resigned to their fate.

The sea and its surprises
Over 1.4 million square kms of fishing grounds offering catches of Marlin, Giant Barracuda, Shark and other prized game fish. Whether salt water fly fishing, blue water fly fishing or deep sea fishing, the rewards are some of the finest fishing in the ocean. Protected fishing areas are marked out, keeping the ecosystem in mind. For thrills on the ocean, Beau Vallon is the place. One can enjoy a selection of water sports that includes water skiing, parachute rides, jet skis banana rides, sailing and so much more.

Non-motorised water sports are widely available at some resorts. Seychelles is a sanctuary for diverse species of flora and fauna. The islands are home to an exciting diversity of bird life that can be discovered in the wild or in specifically designated reserves. One can see the treasures of this living natural history museum along its nature trails, through its breathtaking landscape, several national parks and other reserves and its increasing number of exciting eco-tourism ventures.

Indulgence galore
From the signature treatments of dedicated spas offering relaxing massages with exotic herbal oils, scrubs, detox baths and invigorating wet treatments, to a full range of beauty and grooming services, Seychelles spas pamper me, resulting in a complete renewal of mind, body and soul.

Food is a sheer temptation, and the pleasure lingers on my lips. I am enticed to explore new flavours and the French-Creole style of cooking. I feast on mangoes every day, mostly at breakfast. They are not as luscious and sweet as ours. Though they look exotic, they don’t offer instant nirvana, like our mangoes do. But one can boast of eating fresh mangoes off-season, because they are available throughout the year. I do that precisely, loading pictures on social media, making people jealous back home.

The white coral sands tempt me to bare my feet, the sand underfoot is all the elegance I need. I give in to the heaven sent cocktails, especially as the sun sets to the mesmerising performance of traditional island music and the Sega Dancers. Who can resist?

Getting there

Emirates, Etihad and Sri Lankan Airlines connect India to Seychelles via Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Colombo respectively.  
Documents required

No visa requirements to enter Seychelles. Documents required for immigration clearance are a valid passport, return or onward ticket, proof of accommodation and sufficient funds for the duration of stay.

Accommodation
Sixteen of Seychelles' 115 islands currently offer accommodation. Some are
>>  Mahe island — Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort & Casino, Kempinski Seychelles Resort , Le Meridien Fisherman's Cove and Banyan Tree
>> Praslin island  — Berjaya Praslin Beach Hotel, Le Domaine De La Reserve Hotel, Paradise Sun
>> La Digue island — Le Domaine de L’Orangeraie hotel
>> Silhouette island — Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa

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