Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner
Superlatives today are not lacking. Everything is amazing, incredible, awesome, special or very unique, the latter actually impossible. But how about “paradise” as perfection, a place against which all other places on earth are measured ...? Check your world map, and travel 900 miles east of Zanzibar and 600 miles northeast of Madagascar to the Seychelles, a collection of islands in the Indian Ocean. Admittedly, this journey will be wallet-challenging. The reward: a place truly like no other. Of 115 islands, you need only visit three to discover what Europeans have long known: heaven on earth exists.
One lands in Victoria, on Mahe, the largest island. Time ratchets down. Palm trees, light winds and fresh tropical air hint at another world. Islanders, once English, then French, and now independent (1976), are a polyglot with a Creole culture. Religion defines no one, however Seychellois are 96 percent Christian, the balance, Hindu and Muslim.
The Seychelles population is 100,000, all but 8,000 living on Mahe and demographically young (32 years old on average). Mandatory public education ensures a literacy rate exceeding 90 percent. Limited industry includes fishing for export and small-scale agriculture producing cinnamon and vanilla. Tourism is the cash crop.
Visitors typically adjust briefly on Mahe, then scatter to outer isles. Mahe offers many first class resorts but severely limited first class seaside experiences. Finding unfettered paradise requires ferrying to Praslin and La Digue. Between the two islands, consider spending your remaining time 35 percent in La Digue and 65 percent on Praslin.
One of the many personal coves of Source d’ Argent Beach. Nothing lacking (note palm tree shadow).
Praslin bristles with incomprehensibly beautiful beaches. Absorbing her full measure requires a car and accommodations in the northern Anse Volbert area. Making this area “base camp” provides the broadest selection of hotels, gourmet restaurants, beaches, activities and ambiance. I used www.hotels.com for anchor hotels and cancellable reservations, making final plans based on visual inspection after arrival.
Anse Lazio, Takamaka Beach at Raffles Resort and the shallow shores of Cote d’ Or offer swimming and snorkeling opportunities galore. The balance of Praslin can be “Whitman's-sampled” via day trips by car. Don’t miss Kerlan Beach, Anse Georgette and Grand Anse.
La Digue, often slighted due to size, prohibits rental cars. For us, this was opportunity knocking. Lack of traffic allows safe pedestrian and/or bicycle exploration. We walked the entire island in five days, experiencing places seen only by mortals via the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. La Digue beaches are among the most photographed in the world.
The UNESCO protected Aldabra giant tortoise is ubiquitous in the Seychelles. Some can weigh more than 600 pounds.
A magical hike from the village leads you to the piece de resistance, Source d’ Argent Beach, likely the world’s finest were such judgments to be rendered. The serpentine trail, weaves among pinkish gray boulder formations. Brought alive, the rocks would be Disney animation characters. At each twist, one finds small private palm-shaded beaches (see photo), talcum white sand and crystal clear seas. And these mini-coves are legion; get there early to select your own.
As bucket lists go, the Seychelles experience is epic. Google it! Then make your own plans for a month. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip! Okay let’s just overlook the cost a bit ...