Seychelles – a magical paradise on earth
Tales of treasures and pirates loom in the air the moment I land in Mahe, the largest island in the archipelago of Seychelles. The streets are silent and everyone is enjoying their siesta. I head to the Beau Vallon Beach one of Seychelles tourist attractions with its pristine white sands and turquoise blue waters where the islanders are busy swimming or snorkelling, which is one of the top things to do in Seychelles.
I can spend an eternity here, just gazing at the waters and watching the oceans change colours. But there is more to Mahe than just beaches. I am off to stroll across the capital city, Victoria, soaking in a bit of culture, shopping for corals and wolfing down tasty Creole food. The main city centre is just a ten minute walk and the city bursts into a torrent of colour-filled with souvenir shops and markets.The Clock Tower, a replica of the Big Ben rubs shoulders with the Navashakti Vinayaka Temple, a shrine set up by the Tamil community here. I then visit the National History Museum, one of the places to visit in Seychelles and shop around at Kenwyn House, but it is the Sir Selwyn Clarke Market , one of Seychelles tourist attractions that grabs my attention. Victoria is a melange of cultures and it shows on its monuments. It is probably one of the smallest capital cities that I have ever seen.
But, I am in Mahe on just transit and the island hopping begins. Seychelles has over 115 islands, but our agenda is to visit just a handful of them – Mahe, Praslin and La Digue with an excursion to Cocos and Sister Islands. I begin my day at the jetty waiting to catch the ferry to Praslin, the second largest island in the country.
The flying fish hop up to say hello before darting right back into the sea as we sail away. In the distance, windmills that are built along the sea shore rotate furiously as the winds get choppy. The Indian Ocean changes colours and shows me the many shades of blue.
I stand at the deck of the ferry, trying to hold my balance, feeling the breeze right on to my face. Little islands of green float in and out of view as birds fly all around me. The weather is just perfect for an island holiday.
In about an hour, I am at Praslin. There are many treasures hidden in this emerald island. The first one is probably lost somewhere, hidden by the pirate La Buse. We do not find the treasure, but we find his hideout, in a little hollow, amidst the rocks – probably a small little cave tucked away inside a rainforest, one of the places to visit in Seychelles.
I am now amidst a nature trail in Des Palms , one of the places to visit in Seychelles and the giant tortoises come calling. I can hear the Seychelles bulbul cackle away as I look for the endemic birds and animals of this island, found only here. I am distracted by green geckos on the barks of the tree, while the Blue Pigeon looks down at me from its perch. Looking at these treasures, I forget all about La Buse and his loot.
But, Praslin has something far more valuable hidden amidst its verdant greenery- the Biblical Garden of Eden, which is a primeval patch of land filled with virgin tracts of palm trees that goes by the name of Vallee De Mai. If there is a paradise on earth, then it has to be in this nature reserve, one of the world’s smallest UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Seychelles tourist attractions.
I am surrounded by massive palm fronds as we look out for the world’s largest seed, the coco de mer, shaped like a large woman’s pelvis. Perhaps, it is the erotic shape of the seed and the legends surrounding this palm that soars over 100 feet that lends the name, Garden of Eden to Vallee De Mai, one of the places to see in Seychelles
Suddenly, I hear a whistle and I crane my neck to look at a canopy of green overhead. And then we sight a black wing. In a jiffy, the elusive Seychelles Black Parrot dashes into the folds of the palms and vanishes out of sight. Locals believe that a large mythical bird lived in the coco de mer trees but the black parrot is just as mysterious as the legendary bird, with barely 100 birds living here today.
It is time for the beaches and the jetty again. The sun is barely up as we head out in the wee hours of the morning. As the first rays of dawn sparkles in the ocean, a lion fish floats out of the debris. It barely takes fifteen minutes to reach La Digue, which seems to be in a deep stupor as we land.
Large granite rocks in various forms loom large amidst the oceans. There are no cars, just bicycles. Looking around, I barely see anyone. Just, a couple of oxen carts and open trucks waiting to take people around the tiny island. We head to the one of the most photographed beach, Anse Source D’ Argent, one of Seychelles tourist attractions where the granite rocks and the formations take our breath away.
It is a cloudy day and I can barely see a tinge of blue in the oceans. I walk around aimlessly, watching kids build sand castles while sun bathers look for a secluded spot.
But it is time to jump into a speed boat again and go island hopping – this time to Cocos and Sister islands on a snorkelling expedition, which is one of the top things to do in Seychelles
The gentle seas turn all choppy as we sit inside our speed boat. In a moment, we are tossed around by the waves. I cling on to the rod of the boat, lest I lose my balance. The islands come calling and so do the turtles that swim along with the divers. I am tempted to snorkel but am reluctant to jump into the waters all by myself.
But Hyacinth, the loud, energetic captain puts a reassuring arm around me as I plunge into the waters. In a moment, I forget the world above. Below I witness a kaleidoscope of colours with corals as the marine life comes alive. The parrot fish, the lion fish, the turtles, the octopus. I can barely remember the names as multi hued fins swish past me. At Cocos Island, one of the places to visit in Seychelles we stop at a beach and snorkel again in the ocean. I do not know which is more fascinating – the white sands with large rock formations where snooty terns hide or the turquoise blue waters or the palate of colours under the ocean.
Morning dawns and we are back on the ferry to Mahe to lose ourselves in the arms of nature. I can sense a lazy day coming up, sipping cocktails by the beach and watching sunrises and sunsets, talking to locals and shopping along the markets around the beach.
And the best way to end the trip is a visit to the Takamaka Bay Rum Distillery, one of Seychelles tourist attractions located by the coast inside a 200 year old plantation homestead. Sipping the dark spice rum, I raise a toast to the beauty of Seychelles, while the giant tortoises, Taka and Maka give me company.
Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands, most of which are granitic while some are coral islands. Nestled in the Indian Ocean it lies 1500 kms east of mainland Southeast Africa. The capital is Victoria, located in Mahe, the largest island. Praslin is 45 kms from Mahe and La Digue is 11 kms from Praslin. Ferries connect you to these islands .
In Mahe, there are many options to stay – from the luxurious Avani Seychelles Resort to Savoy Resort and Spa to the economical Coral Strand Smart Choice. In Praslin you can stay at Le Relax or Iles Des Palms while in La Digue, you can stay at the charming Chateau St Cloud.
Air Seychelles flies to Mahe from Mumbai five times a week. If you are planning a visit to Seychelles, then do check out this fantastic offer from Yatra
This post is written in collaboration with Seychelles Tourism Board and Yatra.com