|Seychelles: Life in Slow Motion|
By Amna Khalique
Date: May 25 2010
Visiting Seychelles is like stepping back in time into another realm. Calm, serene, phenomenally gorgeous beaches, so many species of wildlife – you will definitely be tempted to visit each year. With a population of approximately 90,000 in the entire archipelago consisting of 115 islands, Seychelles is natural, untouched beauty at its best.
The dream to visit Seychelles started when I was in high school and I heard about fishing in glass-bottomed boats. I was told the water so clear that you could almost see down to the coral reefs and that the sand was so white it looked like snow. True enough, Seychelles lived up to its reputation.
As our cab driver drove us from the airport to our resort, I finally understood how Seychelles’ unparalleled beauty makes it one of the world’s top destinations for honeymooners. As the car drove further uphill, the view from the top got better with each turn; the outer islands – some tiny islands that are uninhabited and some larger ones – were visible from everywhere. The islands were lush green, contrasting sharply with the deep blue ocean and the bright blue sky. Photographs cannot do them justice.
What makes these islands unique is their untouched, natural beauty and the fact that they are not densely populated. The Seychellois likely have made little effort in making their nation a tourist destination. However, tourists do not throng to Seychelles because it is an expensive place. Here you can relax, unwind, be one with nature, read–all without bumping into groups of fellow tourists. Even the public beaches here resemble private ones. On Mahe alone there are dozens of beaches where you can soak up the sun. The views are stunning. I remember how we could see the ocean, just a few feet away, as soon as we walked into the hotel lobby. The rhythmic sound of the waves is hypnotic.
The Seychellois have a sweet, island charm about them. Extremely friendly and hospitable, they are also very laid-back, which sometimes results in slow service at restaurants. Maybe the Seychellois are this way so they can take a step back, not rush through their day but, instead, take in all of the sights and sounds that their country has to offer.
The food here is delicious. My favorite restaurants in Mahe are Kraz Kroel-recommended by our cab driver-where we ate delicious crab, and Chez Plume, which is only a few minutes from our hotel on foot. Chez Plume served lovely Creole food in a small, cozy outdoor setting at comparatively reasonable prices.
Seychelles has a tropical climate and during January it rains incessantly. But the rain did not prevent us from making our trip a memorable one. The highest point in Mahe is Morne Seychellois (905m), atop which the view is spectacular. The opportunity to see small islands surrounding Mahe from so high was a great experience, despite the fog and rain. On the way to the top we stopped for tea at the tea factory, where we were given a guided tour. The best part of the tour was the portion where we sampled fragrant local teas, including vanilla (grown in Seychelles), lemon grass, and orange. Needless to say, we returned home with various sizes and flavors!
Just a short hike from our hotel (about 20 minutes) was the Grand Anse beach – a little frightening for anyone who doesn’t know how to swim. Since there is no reef by the beach, the ocean here can be very rough, especially during the monsoon season. The tides were extremely high, but you could see miles into the horizon. Even more fascinating were the several tidal pools we crossed on our hike. Small but extremely deceptive, the pools filled up as it started to rain, making it almost impossible to get back to the shore.
I was extremely scared of the rough sea so I missed out on snorkeling in Seychelles, which I later developed the nerve to do in the middle of the Andaman Sea. Determined to see some of the pretty fish, I climbed onto the rocks by our beach and, as I stood watching, hundreds of different colored fish swam by – pink, orange, orange and white stripes, black … too many colors to count – I was absolutely dumbstruck. Hundreds of thoughts raced through my mind, the primary one being how I was still missing out on the corals and the real underwater world by not opting to snorkel. I still regret that I never took pictures of that moment when I could just reach out and touch the fish.
During our week-long stay we took a day trip to two popular islands, La Digue and Praslin, well over an hour away by boat. I thought the beaches in Mahe were gorgeous, but I was in for a surprise. La Digue was something else, characterized by huge (about 30 feet high) granite boulders towering above the white sandy beaches. Here the main forms of transport are bicycles and oxcarts. Stepping back in time, it seemed as though everyone around me had forsaken their worries and tensions. People rented bright colored bikes and cycled their way around the small island. The Black Paradise Flycatcher, a bird native to Seychelles and found exclusively in this part of the world, flew a few feet above us and settled on a coconut tree. But it isn’t just the Black Paradise that is native to this archipelago – here you will also find the Giant Tortoise lazily feeding on grass. One of the more famous islands for ecotourism in Seychelles is Bird Island, which has overnight accommodation for individuals who wish to observe various species of birds in their natural habitat.
Praslin is hilly like Mahe and home to the famous Vallee di Mai, a forest unexplored by humans until the 1930s. Spread over eighteen hectares, it is now a UNESCO heritage site because of the six types of palm trees unique to Praslin, its diverse flora and fauna, and the famous fruit native to Seychelles, the Coco de Mer. The fruit bears the largest seed in the plant kingdom, weighing well over fifteen kilograms. It is also believed that these palm trees date back thousands of years and belonged to the ancestors of current plant types.
My only complaint about my trip to Seychelles? It was expensive. If you’re looking to splurge, relax, get close to nature and witness beauty at its best, then this is the right destination for you. However, you shouldn’t be deterred solely by the cost: some travel agents are now offering budget accommodation packages to open Seychelles up to the world.
Seychelles offers much to travelers who want to explore and discover new places. You can go deep sea diving with PADI instructors, fishing on glass-bottomed boats, or just sail out in the open sea and go island hopping. Whatever you choose to do, you will not tire of this gorgeous country and its people.
My last night in Seychelles beckoned me to return again. The midnight blue sky was lit up with millions of stars, literally illuminating the sky and outshining the moon. As I sat on the grass observing the stars, I felt like I was in another world.
Yes, I am definitely going back.