Pic: Saw this beautiful deserted spot on one of our drives around the island!
Earlier this year I visited the gorgeous island nation of the Seychelles, located in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Africa. This being my first time to any part of the African continent, I was understandably excited to see what this diverse continent has to offer, and what better way than to start with its most famous islands.
I was expecting to get under the skin of the Seychelles, really get in with the locals like most of my other trips, but this proved to be somewhat difficult. The “Seychellois spirit” seemed to be attainable only superficially here, which was a tad on the disappointing side for me– someone who really likes to live as the locals do. But that was the only real downside to the trip as a whole. So I just decided to kick back, relax and soak up the sun, sea and sand instead!
Pic: Seychelles is also about dense green hills and a plethora of animal life that it hosts. This one was clicked standing right at the Anse Lazio beach in Praslin.
The tourist infrastructure on the islands seem to run almost as a unique, parallel economy, frequented only by those locals who are directly involved in the industry. There is an invisible line between the locals going about their everyday normal lives, and those who you will find in hotels and such. In fact, there are very few options for “off the resort” style bars and restaurants, making it difficult indeed to do any kind of cultural mixing or experiencing local life like you would in little side street bars and cafes.
I think I would like to return someday, with a more mature outlook and a lot more time on hand.
Pic: The world famous Anse Lazio beach at Praslin
There are very few options for local guest houses or even home stays. Even Airbnb rentals are mostly private villas or homes entirely to yourself, which makes it even harder to meet the locals. There is an obvious divide – the luxurious all-inclusive resort life on one side and the shy locals going about their lives on the other side. This may be a result of the larger draw that tourists come here for – privacy and solitude with access to pure white sandy beaches. But I think there is a real opportunity here to create a more vibrant ecosystem with more local options.
That said, I was happy to see that the locals – the ones I did get to encounter – appear very laid back, relaxed and welcoming. The relaxed pace of life on the islands here really adds to the atmosphere. The shops open around 10 in the morning and close by around 4, with a lunch break in between. Prosperity seemed common, no dirty or shady neighbourhoods, but instead it was plush and green with rolling hills, forests, and of course the idyllic beaches.
Pic: Every other turn in Seychelles bring you to spot like these!
If you’re looking to explore the island, one of the best ways is actually by car on Mahe and Praslin. The rental cost for a small hatchback is between $60 USD – $80 USD per day, which is a pretty good rate, especially considering one day is sufficient for exploring by car. There does not seem to be much in the way of scooters or motorbikes, so car is your best bet.
The local buses are extremely cheap, but rickety and somewhat unreliable if you are planning to use them to explore the islands in a day. But it does provide one of the few opportunities to mix with the locals, so is worth it if you aren’t concerned about the bumpy rides or running late to your destination(s).
Main ferry services are provided by Cat Cocos, and are bookable in advance. When I tried, their online service wasn’t working, so I just booked through the front desk at my hotel. Any hotel will be happy to do this for you – and you are able to pay on the day at the ferry terminal, prior to boarding. Don’t trust the private booking companies that show up when you search on Google for ferries between Mahe and Praslin as they are often overpriced. It’s best to book direct with Cat Cocos.
Pic: Amazing take-away food stall at Beau Vallon beach
Food in the Seychelles is varied and extremely delicious. Seafood is of course a huge presence here, but there is also a decent range of vegetarian options. Locals cook all sorts of food and sell from carts on popular beaches such as Beau Vallon. There are several take-away food joints serving creole cuisine, but they can prove difficult to find and are only operational for certain periods of the day. It may be best to ask your hotel/host where to find these joints to take advantage of these great dishes which are pocket friendly and have large portions without any compromise on quality.
In all, my first trip to the islands of Africa proved to be a fantastic vacation away from it all. With gorgeous beaches littered around the islands, and a really relaxed culture, it was easy to while away the days just soaking up the sun and enjoying the absolutely stunning landscapes. Yes, the culturally immersive experiences were missing or perhaps it was just me. I need to return someday and try harder to get a new perspective.
Richa Gupta is based in Mumbai, is an avid traveller and also passionate about writing and encouraging responsible and alternative travel ideas. After having worked in the fashion industry for over six years, she decided to quit and started with a little not-for-profit initiative to help people with travels which not only help support local culture, economy and environment but also offer life changing experiences. Her work and blog can be found at http://travels-and-stories.blogspot.in