The Seychelles is a group of islands off the east coast of Africa, just north of Madagascar. The country is comprised of around 115 islands, though the 3 largest ones - Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue - are the most popular for travelers, who journey over to relax on pristine white beaches and explore the crystal-clear waters. Most of the residents speak English and French, as well as a type of Creole called Seychellois.
We flew into Mahe, the largest of the three main islands, and stayed the first and last couple of nights at the Sunset Beach Hotel. It's a beautiful hotel beside a small, quiet beach with crystal clear water. We enjoyed our stay there so much that after 3 nights on Praslin and a day on La Digue, we decided to head back and relax there for the rest of the trip.
We arrived at the height of the bubonic plague outbreak in neighbouring Madagascar, and the Seychelles seemed to be taking extra precautions to protect the health of their people. Neither of us were very concerned, but while standing in line to have our documents checked at the airport I suddenly realized I had left my vaccination certificate with my work documents back home. Having just returned from a 24-hour layover in Brazil, I had been super jetlagged and packed for my vacation last minute. Clearly I hadn't packed very well.
I hoped they wouldn't ask to see my documents, but of course they did - I had marked on my landing card that I'd been in South America only days before. I was given a paper to take to the hospital and was told I had to get my yellow fever vaccine...again. Could you get it twice? I had no idea and even though we were in paradise, I spent the whole night trying not to worry.
The next day we called a driver some friends recommended at Discovery Agri Tours. He arranged to take us on a tour of the island, but first we explained our situation and he was happy to take us to the hospital. I had gone through some documents on my phone and found proof of my yellow fever vaccination from two years before and hoped that would be enough.
The driver, Alrick, took us to the local hospital, which looked just the way you'd expect in a developing country. The room I needed to go into allowed one person at a time, and when it was my turn, I went into the tiny room to see a girl standing at a counter behind a glass window. I showed her the piece of paper I had been given at the airport and my documentation. It wasn't my vaccination certificate, but it was enough and she stamped the paper, approving me to be in the country. Victory!
When that was all finished, Alrick took us around Victoria. It was now raining, a welcome change from Dubai's dusty skies. Victoria is a lovely town, one of the smallest capital cities in the world and home to about a third of the total Seychelles' population. Though the French and English colonial influence echoes through the town, it's where the Creole culture really seems to come to life.
We walked through the Victoria Market, where hundreds of large fish stared up at us, and our guide pointed out some of the biggest spiders we had ever seen weaving their webs just above our heads. We walked through the length of the market, then exited back into the streets of the town, away from the lively bustle, smell of fish and buzz of flies.
We passed tiny colourful shops, glimpsed the impossibly white Victoria Clocktower (aka 'little Big Ben'), and watched as Alrick waved hello to nearly every person he passed. This place was alive, and it was beautiful.
After walking through the town we returned to the car and continued our tour, the ocean on one side of us, and the island's lush forest on the other. The skies cleared gradually, and we slowly made our way up to Mission Lodge Lookout, stopping at several beaches on the way. As we took in the panoramic views, Alrick gave us a brief introduction to the local plants and herbs around us.
After exploring the island for a while, we decided to take a tour of the Takamaka Rum distillery. It was an interesting tour that highlighted the main points in the distilling process, and we were given a tasting of their different types of rum afterward (I highly recommend trying their dark rum).
After the tour, Alrick took us to one of the local beaches, where he told us to take a sip of the rum we had bought. "Now," he said, smiling proudly, "you're sitting on Takamaka Beach, under a Takamaka tree, drinking Takamaka rum!"
After a couple of days on Mahe, we took a ferry to Praslin, the second largest island, where one of Alrick's colleagues picked us up. We didn't book anything in advance so we were limited in our choices and during our time on the island we stayed in 3 different hotels.
Colibri Guesthouse was a lovely boutique resort with beautiful ocean views, and our favourite on Praslin.
Oasis Hotel was a more American-style hotel which had a large pool with a swim-up bar we enjoyed, though the beach across the road wasn't very nice.
Our final hotel, Iles Des Palmes, was an eco resort that was a bit rough for my liking, but the quiet pool area was nice and the food in their restaurant was the best we had during our entire stay on the island.
Praslin's main attraction is the Vallée de Mai nature reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the unique Coco de Mer, the largest seed in the world. We joined a tour that took us through the beautiful palm forests of the reserve, telling us about the amazing 30kg Coco de Mer seeds, the beautiful black parrots which are endemic to the island of Praslin, and the tall Coco de Mer palm trees, which have separate male and female plants.
We took another ferry from Praslin to La Digue, an island with a population of less than 3,000 people. La Digue has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with soft white sand and crystal clear water. There are only a handful of cars on the entire island, and most people use bicycles to get around. Bikes can be rented at the ferry terminal as well as several small shops along the main road.
Although the island is small, I highly recommend renting a bike when you arrive so you can see more and avoid sunstroke (I speak from experience - we went by foot).
There are a few places to eat and drink near the main port, and after getting severely sunburnt, we enjoyed a meal at the Fish Trap Restaurant. Their seafood platter was only alright, but their cocktails and waterfront patio were a wonderful end to a tiring day of walking around the island in the hot sun.
There are no airports in La Digue, so the ferry is the main way off the island. We took it back to Praslin, and then hopped on a plane to Mahe. It's a short flight, and we found it a far better alternative than the ferry back to the main island.
One final recommendation is a small pizza joint on Beau Vallon beach called Baobab Pizzeria. We only discovered this place on our second-to-last night, but enjoyed it so much we went back for our final dinner before flying back home.
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