An unforgettable trip to paradise – by Theo Kleinhans
I went to a Seychelles Road Show in August 2017 and as always at these Road Shows, there is a lucky draw at the end, so I dropped my business card in the jar at registration and hoped for the best!
Needless to say, I was lucky enough to win a trip to the Seychelles – a 7 nights cruise on Variety Cruises including flights on Air Seychelles.
Our trip was planned for April 2018 and as South African passport holders do not require a visa to visit the Seychelles, it’s nice and easy to hop on a plane and just 5 hours later you are in paradise – and when I say paradise, it really and truly is just that!
The flight from Johannesburg to the Seychelles leaves at around 13h45 (SA time) and with the time difference arrives in the Seychelles at 20h40 (Seychelles time). Arriving at that time of night, we decided it would be best to stay at a hotel close to the airport. We chose to stay at the Eden Bleu Hotel on Eden Island, which is an incredible hotel with the perfect location, and only 20 minutes from the airport. You can take a short stroll to the small mall next door to the hotel, where you will find bars and restaurants for a drink and a bite to eat – they even have a craft brewery, 1770 Brewery that sells decent locally crafted beer.
This being our first visit to the Seychelles (and arriving in the dark), we had no idea what awaited us the next day, and as we opened the hotel curtains the most amazingly beautiful sight greeted us! Even though the hotel is in a harbour, the mountain backdrop with the turquoise waters is just breath-taking!
We went back to the mall and popped into the pharmacy for some sunscreen and to have a look at the small curio shops, and then decided to take a taxi to Victoria Town. About R200 and 15 minutes later, you will find yourself inside the hustle and bustle of this town, which is not complete without a visit to the Victoria Market where there is enticing fresh produce all around and of course a few little stalls selling souvenirs. Here you will see the Seychellois people going about their normal daily lives and will feel a part of their amazing lifestyle. Pop into a local restaurant to get out of the sweltering heat and for a well-deserved beer!
Now that you have stocked up on some last minute island hopping supplies, the best thing to do is relax next to the hotel pool and take a dip, even though the tepid water doesn’t really help to cool you down… There is no cooling down for the next week – it is hot and humid and whether you are in a pool or in the ocean, it feels like a lukewarm bath, so if you don’t like cold water then this is the place to be!
After lunch our transfer picked us up to take us to the Victoria harbour where a new adventure awaited. We boarded the Pegasus Cruise Ship that afternoon at 15h00 and were met by a welcome cocktail and the crew. After the welcome cocktail and safety drill, we left Port Victoria and sailed to nearby St. Anne for a refreshing swim stop, off the back of the ship.
“Curieuse – The island is home to giant tortoises!“
The following day we visited Curieuse Island, a small granitic island in the Seychelles close to the North Coast of Praslin Island, which is uninhabited and was once a leper colony. The island is home to giant tortoises and is a sight to behold, here we had the opportunity to take a picture with the tortoises but were advised not to sit on their backs or scratch on their shells as they are very sensitive. We had a guided tour through the mangrove forests and experienced numerous interesting things like various crab species and tasted a fruit that literally has no taste – if you can believe that something can have no taste. We ended the day with a delicious barbeque on the beach under the trees and plenty of time to relax and swim.
The next morning we sailed for Cousin Island, a small granitic island of the Seychelles, lying 2kms west of Praslin. It is a nature reserve protected under Seychelles law as a Special Reserve. Here we went on an excursion to the bird sanctuary that is home to around 250,000 birds. The island also has several nesting beaches for turtles – but beware as there are millions of mosquitoes on the island, so be sure to cover yourself with copious amounts of insect repellent and wear light coloured clothing, as the mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours.
In the afternoon we sailed onto Anse Lazio, located on the island of Praslin. Anse Lazio is a beach situated in the North West of Praslin Island and is considered by Lonely Planet to be the best beach on Praslin, and one of the best in the archipelago. Crystal clear warm waters, clean white beach sand and palm trees everywhere you look – exactly how you imagine a tropical island! At Anse Lazio we swam and snorkelled in the azure waters and saw numerous brightly coloured and unusual sea creatures.
The following morning we set sail for Aride Island, which is a nature reserve that is leased and managed by the Island Conservation Society of Seychelles. The excursion took us all the way to the top of the island for an amazing view of the island. The rare Wright’s Gardenia is found on this island and grows nowhere else on Earth, as well as bird species like the Seychelles Warbler. After a tasty lunch on the ship we were off to the small island of St. Pierre. St. Pierre Island is a raised reef island West of Providence Atoll and part of Farquhar Group, which belongs to the Outer Islands of the Seychelles.
We stopped for an afternoon of swimming and snorkelling, once again taking in the wonderful underwater scenes and fish species that swim all around you. This evening was our first evening in dock at Baie St Anne, after being at anchor on the previous nights, we took the opportunity to take a short walk to the little town and found a quaint little restaurant where you can get a bite to eat as well as something cold and refreshing to drink.
An optional tour to the Vallée de Mai was available the following morning. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is so remarkable that it was once believed to be the original site of the Garden of Eden. It is here that the legendary Coco De Mer, the world’s heaviest nut, grows high on ancient palms. The Vallée boasts six endemic palm species and several other indigenous trees and is the last habitat of the endangered Black Parrot.
After the excursion there was time for a swim stop at Cote D’Or beach. The beach of Cote D’Or is a stunning 2.5km stretch of pristine white sand wrapping around the bay of Anse Volbert. Spread along the length of the beach are a number of accommodation options, from large luxury resorts like the Paradise Sun Hotel or the boutique hotel Duc De Praslin, through to simple self-catering bungalows and guesthouses.
It may be one of the more touristy areas of the island, being more of a ‘resort’ than a village (like Grande Anse or Baie Sainte Anne), but as resorts go Cote D’Or is low density and sleepy. The beach is long and the hotels spread thinly, with a handful of shops and restaurants clustered towards the middle to West end of the bay. The vast majority of buildings are set back from the beach and obscured by trees, with just a handful of resorts opening onto the beach front, keeping the beach looking beautiful and empty, and in the evenings and weekends you are likely to see just as many local families as tourists wandering the beaches or the shops.
There are a number of boats moored on the bay, and from the beach you can look out onto the islands of Curieuse, St. Pierre and Chauve Souris. Chauve Souris is the closest, and it’s possible to walk or swim out to the island and enjoy great snorkelling around the rocks, again in beautiful blue waters.
That afternoon we sailed to Félicité Island for more snorkelling and swimming. This is a small heavy forested granitic island 4kms east of La Digue Island and is the fifth largest island in the Seychelles archipelago, measuring 2.68 square kilometres.
The following morning we went to what was without doubt our favourite of all the Seychelles Islands – La Digue. La Digue is known for its beaches, like Anse Source d’Argent, dotted with granite boulders, on the west coast. To the south, isolated Anse Bonnet Carré Beach, with calm, shallow water, is accessible only on foot, as is Anse Cocos Beach, in a protected bay on the east coast. La Digue’s diverse wildlife can be seen in the Veuve Nature Reserve. This picturesque island is one of the most photographed in the world. The island is fairly flat and bicycles by far outnumber motorised vehicles. We hired bikes at a very reasonable rate and took our time to explore parts of the island. Due to time constraints we couldn’t explore as much as we would have liked but it was enough to whet our appetite. Later we relaxed on the beach and enjoyed freshly squeezed fruit juice from one of the vendors on the beach, and we also found out that the original Emmanuelle erotic films featuring Sylvia Kristel were filmed in an old plantation house on the island.
The next day we headed back to Mahé however not before a stop at Moyenne Island which is within view of Mahé. Moyenne Island is a small island in the St. Anne Marine National Park, just off the north coast of Mahé. Since the 1970s it has been a flora and fauna reserve and has had various eccentric owners over the years, one of the most interesting was undoubtedly an English lady, Miss Emma Best and her menagerie of stray dogs and other animals. Old relics provide a hint of what the island’s Robinson Crusoe lifestyle must have been like more than a century ago. We spent the last night of our cruise in dock in Mahé where we enjoyed the Captains farewell dinner with live music and dancing.
The next morning we bid farewell to our fellow cruise travellers who were heading back home. We on the other hand were fortunate enough to have booked one extra night in Mahé and stayed at the very pleasant Avani Barbarons Resort & Spa. This establishment had all the amenities one would expect and was located right on the beach were we relaxed and made the most of our final hours in paradise.
Our flight back to Johannesburg departed at 09h20 the next morning, and as some would say “You have to go back home to be able to come again”, but I could have easily stayed in paradise…
Things to remember:
Take photos – plenty of them!
Try the local drinks – Takamaka Rum & SeyBrew Lager
Remember your snorkelling gear & water shoes
Caps or hats
Things to do in MAHE:
A visit to Mahe’s busy and colourful market is the way to get a feel of the Seychellois and their way of life. Built in 1840 and renovated in 1999, it remains the bustling heart of the capital and definitely the best place to buy fresh fruits, fish, vegetables and spices. An attractive array of boutiques and shops selling a variety of souvenirs, clothing and local works of art further complement the lively atmosphere that is especially vibrant on Saturday mornings.
The Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple is the only Hindu temple in the Seychelles. Built in 1992, the temple was named after Lord Vinayagar, the Hindu God of Safety and Prosperity.
Built in 1855, Kenwyn House, an elegant example of French colonial architecture, is one of Seychelles’ most visited monuments and a must-see for visitors exploring the Seychelles capital, Victoria. Home of JOUEL- the premier luxury retail company in Seychelles – Kenwyn House offers visitors a chance to explore an historical site while browsing through a world-class jewellery selection comprising of six JOUEL collections. The collections: Allure, Splash, Mystique, White fire, Tanzanite and Tropical, are inspired by the Seychelles Islands, made from diamonds, pearls, tanzanite, and other precious gemstones set in gold, silver and platinum.
The top floor of Kenwyn House showcases a range of locally made KREOLOR jewellery and craft items made from shells, timber, seeds and 18k gold.
Esplanade Souvenir Kiosk
SENPA is an organisation which promotes and develops small and medium sized enterprises and craft work in Seychelles. The Fiennes Esplanade Artisanal Kiosks epitomise the colourful blend of cultures and traditions which characterises the Seychellois society. The style is a marriage between traditional and modern architecture, which is reflected in the products on sale. The shady surroundings provide a cool ambience for browsing at leisure while choosing a souvenir.
Situated just below the summit of Sans Soucis The Mission Lodge is perhaps the most famous vantage point in all of Seychelles, offering spectacular sea and mountain views looking southward across Mahé, from the shaded and peaceful confines of a gazebo where Queen Elizabeth II once sat for tea. Once the site of a farm and boarding school for liberated slave children that opened in March 1876, it was first known as ‘Venn’s Town’ and then renamed ‘Capucin’. In 1889, the number of pupils stood at 79 just before the project began to flounder. Today, ruins of ‘Venn’s Town’ can still be seen at the beginning of an avenue that leads to the viewing lodge that commands a breathtaking view of verdant mountainsides, and the vast azure ocean above which majestic tropic birds glide. Here, tranquillity and stunning natural beauty will conspire to win your heart.
General pointers when travelling to the seychelles:
Seychelles enjoys a pleasant tropical climate all year long: The islands lie outside the cyclone belt and there are no extremes of weather. The temperature seldom drops below 24 degrees or rises above 33 degrees Celsius. During the north-west trade winds that blow between the months of October and May the sea is generally calm and the weather hot and humid. This is the best time of the year for diving and other water sports. When the south-east trade winds blow, the weather is generally drier and cooler, with rougher seas, particularly on South-Eastern coasts. However short-lived tropical downpours can occur at any time of the year.
Seychelles is 4 hours ahead of GMT.
Seychelles is proud to be a disease-free environment: there is NO risk of contracting malaria or yellow fever.
There are no visa requirements for South African passport holders to enter the Seychelles. Documents required for immigration clearance: A passport valid for more than 6 months; Return or onward ticket; Proof of accommodation; sufficient funds for the duration of your stay.