Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Seychelles

The Seychelles are what dreams and postcards are made of.

Located off the East African coast, the Seychelles have been uninhabited for most of their history.  This is quite amazing considering many of the remote island nations of the South Pacific have been inhabited since 2000 BC. But, the Seychelles did not host a permanent human settlement until the French colonized the islands in 1756. The British later overthrew the French and ruled the island nation from 1794 to 1976. Because of this mixed history the natives of the Seychelles speak a mixed dialect of French and English that they call Creole.

The first leg of our Spring break trip to the Seychelles started with some bad luck. The day we departed from Dubai the city was hit by the worst sandstorm that we’ve seen since moving here.

Here’s a video that I found on YouTube:

We were only delayed by an hour in Dubai, but the sandstorm was only the first of our troubles. En-route our flight had to change course so that we could avoid the fighting in Yemen. This course correction added an additional 30 minutes to our flight time. By the time we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, our connecting flight had already departed. Many of the passengers in the airport ended up scrambling to arrange connections to their final destinations.

A huge wedding party going to the Seychelles stormed the ticketing office and overran the clerks trying to help issue new tickets. There were about 40 people screaming and yelling at the airport officials and we were convinced a riot was about to break out. The group threatened the officials and even stole a cart of water from some poor staff member who was just trying to deliver it to some other part of the airport. Fortunately, tempers cooled, and after about two hours of waiting and negotiating with the airline we were able to schedule a flight to the Seychelles the following day.

We spent the night at a hotel in Addis Ababa and departed for Mahe the next day.

Ethiopian Rift Valley
Nairobi cloud city
Leaving the Kenyan coast
Arriving in Mahe

We arrived in Mahe with enough time to spend the late afternoon at the beach.

Mahe is beautiful, but, to get to the real gems of the Seychelles, you have to board the ferry. The next morning we taxied to the jetty and boarded the ferry to La Digue. Though the fourth largest island in the Seychelles, La Digue is still so small that few cars are present on the island. Residents and tourists the same commute around the island on the single paver stone road by bicycle.

On our way to the beach, we stopped by to see the giant tortoises. The tortoises used to roam the islands freely, but they've since been captured and placed in captivity for their own safety.

Like all of the islands in the Seychelles, La Digue is covered by huge granite boulders. The geography of the islands is one of the things that make them so spectacular. Unlike many quartz-based sand beaches, the talcum beaches of the Seychelles primarily consist of eroded coral. This mixture of powdery white beaches, contrasting with dark granitic boulders, create some of the most stunning beaches anywhere on the planet. 

The beach below is consistently ranked as the most photographed  beach in the world. In my opinion, it's also the most properly named beach in the world, Anse Source d'Argent. For those of you who need a primer in French, this means "The Source of the Money"!

We spent three days biking around La Digue and enjoying the beaches. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the beauty of the island is simply staggering. Every turn yielded a new breathtaking sight, and a new incredible beach. Amy's favorite beach is Anse Source d'Argent, but mine is the Petite Anse, located a ridge over from the Grand Anse. I really like these two beaches because they have that classic half-moon curve to them and sandy bottoms so you can just run and jump in without worrying about cutting up your feet on the coral.

Though not the Maldives, the Seychelles have good snorkeling right from the beach. We had fun snorkeling in a tidal area that felt like the wave pool at Water Country, USA!

La Digue differed from just about every other beach destination that we've visited in one sense. There is virtually no nightlife on the island. I actually think this is a good thing. There are no clubs and very few restaurants. They've embraced the concept of "self-catering", so many of the rooms on the island have an attached kitchenette, and the expectation is that you will go to the grocery store for groceries so you can cook your own meals. This, of course, does not mean there aren't awesome lunch spots right on the beach...

I call this one 'Beach Dog Album Cover'

In addition to the beautiful beaches, we were able to enjoy a few remarkable sunsets.

Before leaving La Digue, we took an early morning ride to Anse Source d'Argent. It was fun to be out before the crowds had a chance to invade the beachfront.

We also discovered this fun little reminder that every slice of paradise has it's own reminder of danger... (by the way, if the scale of the picture is obscuring the size of these palm spiders, each spider is probably about 4 inches across!)

After our time in La Digue was up, we ferried across to the neighboring island of Praslin. Praslin is much bigger than La Digue and feels much more like a beach destination. There are resorts and restaurants and day cruises and such. We decided to skip a lot of this so that we could explore the island on our own. We rented a car and hit the road to find Praslin's best beach.

As we explored the island we found our way to the Vallee de Mai, the home of the Coco de Mer Palm. This palm is only found in the Seychelles and its coconuts lay claim to world's largest seed. However, it's the seeds shape that they are most well know for.

After two hours in the palm forest, we decided to head to Anse Lazio, another beach considered to be one of the best in the world.

We finished the day by driving to the top of Zimbabwe Peak to watch the sunset. Our little Kia rental car chugged up and down hills so steep that at times I thought the car was just going to fall over backward. But, alas, we made it to the top, and the sunset was amazing.


The Seychelles are truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. If they are not on your bucket list, you should add them now! 

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