Seychelles might be a tiny dot on any map of the world, but in reality this idyllic nation of over 115 islands off the coast of East Africa best fits the definition of ” paradise on earth ”- a term commonly used incorrectly in travel catalogs. We discovered it, for our greatest pleasure.
Legend has it that the author of the James Bond novels Ian Fleming came to the Seychelles in the late 1950s to find inspiration for the next installment of Just for your eyes. By the way, one of his characters in the movie, Milton Krest, is named after a popular tonic and ginger drink on the island!
Reaching the Seychelles was much easier than expected, thanks to ignorant friends and deceptive travel agents who tried to sell us a plethora of ‘dream’ packages to predictable destinations like the Maldives, Mauritius and Madagascar. Currently, only fully vaccinated travelers are welcome in Seychelles.
We fell in love with the place the moment our plane began its descent through thick clouds before giving us a kaleidoscopic view of verdant mountain ranges, endless stretches of white rock-strewn beaches, lagoons glistening and coral reefs, as well as haunting flora and fauna.
A four hour flight from our port of embarkation, Bahrain, to Mumbai was followed by an equally smooth journey to our destination Mahé, the main island of Seychelles. A free 30 day visa (for Indians) was obtained without any problem.
Seychelles is a small archipelagic island country in the Indian Ocean. Mahé, home to the capital Victoria, Praslin and La Digue are the main islands. Seychelles culture and society is an eclectic and enigmatic mix of different influences, starting with French, British and African when the UK gained independence in 1976, and Chinese and Indian in recent times.
As we already had a busy itinerary, we wasted no time at the tourist counters or the hotel information desk.
First on the list, unsurprisingly, was the beaches. You are spoiled for choice here as the list is almost endless and, as our friend and local guide suggested, “one is better than the other”.
The Plage de Sable Rose (Anse Source D’Argent) in La Digue and Anse Lazio in Praslin are the delight of photographers. While its pink sands under azure blue waters are the center of attraction, Takamaka’s magnificent granite boulders and native trees form the perfect backdrop.
L’Anse Lazio is also perfect and, according to many travel websites, is the sixth best beach in the world. It is also a favorite spot for snorkelers as its abundant underwater life is unmatched.
The next day was reserved for visiting historic sites and nature reserves. Seychelles is not far in these areas either as it is one of the leading nations to protect land from endangered species, allocating 42pc of its territory for conservation, according to our guide and friend.
Aldabra and the Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Seychelles, virtually untouched by humans, and visitors need special permission to enter these remote places.
Aldabra, part of Le Morne National Park, is the second largest coral atoll in the world and is home to the largest population of giant tortoises. The sight of hundreds of turtles crawling all over the place is a rare sight to behold.
Next on the list was a visit to the wild Coco de Mer which produces some of the world’s largest coconuts (some weighing up to 20kg) and is infamous for its “resemblance to a perverted posterior”, according to the official document.
Another captivating nature reserve is Fond Peper in Praslin National Park. Seychelles’ national bird, the black parrot, can be seen here. But with only 200 of these rare species around, we had to walk over an hour to spot one.
In the end, it was worth it, as we not only spotted one of these most colorful creators on the planet, but we also heard his high-pitched whistle.
The Seychelles are also famous for their scuba diving sites, the most popular of which are Brissare Rocks, Fishermen’s Cove Reef, Shark Bank and Trompeuse Rocks. We chose the second because it was close to the other sites we had planned to visit that day, and it wasn’t a bad choice either as the breathtaking topography of coral reefs, drop offs, wrecks and canyons amidst a rich and diverse marine life were a feast for the senses.
The last day was devoted to discovering Victoria, the smallest capital in the world which can be, believe us, traveled on foot in less than a day.
Victoria boasts of a colonial-era clock tower, incredible British and French architecture, open-air markets, museums, and vibrant nightlife.
We ended our tour on a divine note by visiting Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple, the only Hindu temple in the Seychelles.