Seychelles is a dream come true for all — be it an adventure seeker or one doing some soul-searching.
Aaron wants to be happy in life. And it’s easy — everyone is happy in his community. How often do you hear such statements? Often, if you are in the Seychelles. A joyful paradise if there was one. Aaron ‘the wise’, all of 20, lives on the La Digue island, and I met him working in a juice bar at the Anse Source d’Argent (Anse means beach in Creole, the local language), rated as one of the best beaches in the world. That’s what I discovered for myself — a state of bliss in these islands in the Indian Ocean, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the world most of us come from. Clear blue skies, clean beaches, pristine waters, healthy air, temperate climate and a care for the environment — all this brings out a general goodness in people, where flora and fauna thrive.
BEING IN SEYCHELLES
The Seychelles are a group of islands, the biggest being Mahe with capital Victoria. Its 80,000 residents comprise all but a sixth of the country’s population — indicative of how the low density gives everyone ample room to stretch and breathe. From tiny to not-so-tiny, these islands have a hilly terrain, rich with forests, surrounded by the seas on all sides and a few freshwater bodies within. Surprisingly, almost no fruits and vegetables grow here and everything has to be imported — raising the prices a tad bit in the process. The country has a police force but with little to do — crime is almost unheard of. Houses are left unlocked, with doors ajar at times. And there are no madding tourist crowds — not only are the islands a bit out of the way for most airlines, but the country also conducts carrying capacities to ensure sustainable growth.
You can pick from a range of activities on these islands; my favourite bit was doing nothing. When I decided to stir a bit lest cobwebs grow around me, I walked the beaches. There were enough where I was the only one; I could have gone into the water in any state of dressing (or undressing) and no one would have been around to be bothered. Not that anyone cares — I spotted a few topless women and no one minded. Of course I did more than just that. The clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean in the Seychelles only want to seduce you into jumping right in. Take my advise — yield to such temptation.
I hired a boat to go snorkelling far into the Indian Ocean. I had thousands of fish and sea animals for company — and a few sea turtles too who weren’t too pleased when I took selfies with them. One of them bit me in the ear to express his displeasure — unless it was a she flirting with me. The corals were colourful and beautiful too, even though some have been killed by El Nino a few years back. Take your boat to islands like Coco Island, Felicite Island and Sister Island and build a barbecue on the beaches. You can even fish for your lunch. I hiked in the woods, for a dose of forest bathing (called shinrin-yoku in Japanese) and for spotting birds. And of course, I spent ample time on hilltops looking at clear blue skies and waters stretching far into the horizon. Sipping on the ample supply of ‘happy’ juices. As Aaron says, “Everything here is organic, so they don’t have to panic about nothing.”
10 TIPS TO PLAN YOUR TRIP BETTER
Getting There: Located in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are served by their national carrier and only a few other airlines. It may take an extra hop or two, but you get there.
Visa on Arrival — and it’s FREE: Finally a country has the sense to offer visa on arrival, and not charge any fee. I still can’t figure why countries charge high amounts for visas — the money saved is likely to be spent in the country anyway and would encourage more travellers.
Currency: The local currency is the Seychelles Rupee, and pegged at about 13 Rupees to a US dollar. The exchange rate is more or less the same no matter where you change money. However, US Dollars and Euros are widely accepted everywhere.
Getting Around: Getting around in the Seychelles is quaintly easy. Best and cheapest way to get around is to hire a car — taxis can be expensive but you can rent cars starting about 40 Euros a day. You can also rent a bicycle, a bullock cart, a motorcycle or a scooter. Get your hands on the limited supply of the legendary Mini Moke car — but it might not pack in enough horsepower to take you up steep terrains. Give it a push, sweat it and cool off with a drink after that. You can take a bus (at least in Mahe and Praslin), ferries between islands or just walk it. You will never lose your way — even if you do, you will not mind being away from civilisation for a while. On islands like La Digue, you can simply walk to every place. It is just 5 km X 3 km, has about 65 guest houses and hotels, a population of just under 3,000, around 35 motorised vehicles, an ox cart and innumerable bicycles and boats. You cannot rent a self-drive car there.
Accommodation: There is an option for all budgets — especially those looking at mid to luxury segments. Pick up a self-catering apartment or villa starting at a hundred dollars usually.
Itinerary and Activities: While there are lots more to explore, you can plan an itinerary with two days each in Mahe, La Digue and Praslin islands. There are a wide range of activities that you can book with local operators, even at the last minute. Prices are quite similar, and most offer a high quality of service. A package from a tour operator might work out cheaper overall though and you will be taken care of through your stay.
Pack for Summers: Temperatures range from 30-32 degrees Celsius all year round, so pack accordingly. It can be quite humid — you may want to shower more than once a day. Do carry sun protection, hats, shades etc. at all times.
Buy local SIM for data and calls: Pick one when you land to stay connected through your stay.
Don’t Worry About Safety: Crime and thefts are almost unknown in Seychelles — you will rarely see any cops around. You will always feel safe there.
Enjoy the Food: Seychelles are a delight for foodies — there is something for everyone. And usually with views of the seas and mountains while you eat.
The writer is a traveller, photo artist, writer, and founder of Kunzum Travel Cafe in New Delhi