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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seychelles: Island Hopping

by Farzanah Amod
I’ve always viewed picture perfect cards or utopia beaches and think to myself, could this actually be real? Preparing for my Seychelles trip, I’ve browsed through numerous brochures and convinced myself that these were photo shopped pictures. Well, needless to say I was wrong! The days to follow was a brilliant eye opener for me and this is my story..

“Ladies and gentlemen this is your Captain, we will be landing in Mahe shortly, please make sure your seats belts are fastened and your seats are in the upright position for landing, Thank you for flying on Air Seychelles”

We landed in Seychelles on an over cast morning in October, my over active nerves thinking the worst as all around me I can only see water. As we touch down, I closed my eyes and prayed we make the landing. Thoughts run through my mind “what were the safety tips again? Oh my god, what if we crash land? Would I survive this? Would I be able to swim to shore?” Yes! You guessed right! I am a very paranoid passenger!
Now that I can finally feel the ground under my feet I’m ecstatic to start this exploration. I’m finally on Mahe Island; again I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have been given this opportunity. Seychelles comprises of 115 islands made up of 42 granite islands and 113 coral islands in the western Indian Ocean. The granitic islands are the oldest oceanic islands on earth. Seychelles is also home to the world’s largest raised atoll, Aldabra Island. The whole of Mahe could fit inside its lagoon.
Immigration on Mahe runs smoothly before we know it, we are whisked off by our ground handler to our hotel where a scrumptious breakfast awaits us. For South African passport holders visas get issued free of charge on arrival. 
Proceeding to our hotel we are already awe struck by the natural beauty that surrounds us. Lush mountains fill in the backdrop, lapping water with the colors turquoise, blue and green confusing us, small coves of secluded beaches teases us, promising us a an enchanted Island experience, never to forget.

We visited Seychelles in October and during this time we experienced allot of rain which according to the locals was very unusual. Weather patterns are constantly changing; the locals were actually looking forward to all this rain as they were going into a drought period. 

The” Seychellois” as they like referring to themselves are warm friendly people that go out of their way to make you feel right at home. They are a blend of Creole, French, Indian, Chinese and British. Their local language is Creole and French, however English is spoken widely. Their local cuisine is mainly fish, Curries and rice and anything with Bananas. Don’t leave Seychelles without trying their breadfruit, legend has it if you eat breadfruit in Seychelles you will definitely return.

Accommodation on Seychelles Islands varies from Guesthouses, 3 star lodges to 5 star hotels. The Guesthouses and 3 star places are generally smaller and offer a more intimate feel where the owners or managers get to really know their guest and interact more than the bigger resorts.
If you would like to splurge and really spoil yourself the 4 and 5 star options are definitely worth every cent, as they offer exclusive facilities which accommodates to all your luxurious needs.

Mahe, homes one of the tinniest Capitals in the world, Victoria. What a quaint little town. You can explore Victoria on foot in less than a day. The Capital was a surprise for me as I was expecting a very under developed town and while driving through it, it was a pleasant surprise to come across their local markets and proper shops which made my day as I shopped till I almost dropped. The joys of being a woman!

While on Mahe Island you can see a few scattered islands that look a stone’s throw away. We had the privilege to stay on St Annes and Cerf Island which are both within the Marine National park. All I can say is wow! You can also visit the marine park on day trips, where you can go snorkeling and enjoy the exquisite beaches.

Braving a 15 minute flight from Mahe to Praslin Island was certainly worth it! As we drove through Praslin, which is the second largest island, you can already feel the slow pace of life compared to Mahe. The beauty that surrounds you is once again breath taking. Praslin is generally visited for the Valle de Mai, which is a World Heritage site preserving the famous Coco de mer palms. When we visited, it was like stepping into our very own paradise; you take in the fresh air, listen to the birds call and just feel at one with nature. We were very lucky to spot the famous black parrot bird while strolling through some of the endemic palms to Praslin and Curieuse Islands in the Seychelles. The mature fruit from the coco de mer can weigh up to 15-30 kg and holds the largest seed in the plant kingdom.

A short boat trip from Praslin and we found ourselves in a timeless oasis hidden in the vast Indian Ocean. La DigueIsland lures guest with its ageless splendor, beautiful beaches and warm people. Some people consider La Digue, the most beautiful island because of its palm lined beaches, crystal clear waters and enormous granite boulders. Ox and Cart is still used as the main mode of transport, however tourist can rent bicycles which is a great way to explore the fourth largest island.  This island is quite unspoiled, and reminds one of what Seychelles looked like before becoming a tourist haven. 

Seychelles is not an island where you book a trip and stay in your resort. You have to go out and explore the island, go island hopping and be adventurous. You are bound to come across secluded unspoiled beaches and picture perfect hideaways which can only be discovered through exploring. The local people encourage tourist to go out and explore as there is so much to see with so little time. Seychelles have many unique endemic bird and animal species due to its remote Location.  Aldabra Island is home to the largest population of giant tortoises in the world.

I will definitely be visiting Seychelles again in the near future, not only did I eat allot of Breadfruit to make sure that happens, but an island that holds so much beauty has to be truly discovered. In the 7 nights I spent on the islands I only discovered 5 out of 115 islands. I know Seychelles can be a bit expensive for the average South African, but my advice is.. Save up.. it’s worth every cent. Until next time, Au Revoir Seychelles.

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