EntertainmentTravel

A totally tropical adventure awaits in the Seychelles

TravelBy JP Thompson
JP hits the sand
JP hits the sand

There is one tiny island in the Seychelles that is my ultimate idea of paradise.

It’s a word overused in brochures to describe this scattered group of Indian Ocean islands, but little La Digue has crammed every superlative of beauty into its 5km length.

Once you step off the ferry you’re hit with its, I suppose, laziness. This is a proper ‘island’; a place for flip flops and shorts, snorkel hung on handlebars and laid-back locals casually touting for business at the pier as if they weren’t bothered if you rented their room or bicycle or not.

At the wooden tourist office – the first building you see on the island – even the staff had that Caribbean cool as they handed us photocopies of a hand-written map showing the best beaches and the single-track road that covered just half of the island.

Our minibus was the only vehicle we saw as we wound under a canopy of trees, past huge rocks hidden by verdant plants and the occasional guest house or collection of chalets, as we emerged at Grand Anse (anse is the local word for beach). It had huge rolling waves, a long stretch of white sand and came complete with a casual beach cafe.

But nothing prepared us for what was around the corner of the next beach.

The Source D’Argent features in all the famous photos of the Seychelles. It’s a walk from the car park through a forest of spectacular rotund granite rocks – rounded probably by the sea when these islands were under water, but now they rise like a prehistoric wall.

Along the path were two separate couples getting married under a flowery canopy. I asked one good-looking but guest-less pair if they were modelling for a wedding brochure.

“No, this is for real,” said the groom, with a wave of his hand from the sea to the photographer.

I could see why he chose this spot a few metres on as my jaw literally dropped as the beach scene unfolded, displaying the contrasting colours of a white beach, light blue sea, darker blue sky and lush green hills with palm trees dipping into the surf.

JP gets totally tropical

Dive in and luxuriate in me it called... and I did.

I towelled off under the palm trees where little beach huts served mango fruit salads and coconut milk in their shells, chopped by a dreadlocked local.

The sun was in full shine and it had been an idyllic day trip, but as we took our ferry back to the island of Praslin the storm clouds ominously started rolling again. For this trip had been unseasonably wet in the Seychelles. The tail end of two tropical storms from India and Madagascar had converged on the area a few days before we arrived, clouding out the blue skies and churning up the azure seas.

Normally the weather in June is so good they have water restrictions. The brochures say that between October and May it’s hot and humid, but that “short-lived tropical storms can occur at any time of the year.” 

This wasn’t short-lived; sometimes it came down in buckets for hours, with the grey clouds only breaking for a few brief hours.

So what do you do in paradise when the weather is bad? Well, not a lot is the answer.

Back in Praslin, the second largest island which is almost totally devoted to tourism, the choice was limited. At the Indian Ocean Lodge, a little cluster of individual villas, my canopied bed had been strewn with petals in a heart shape, but it doesn’t feel very romantic when the wind whips through the veranda and scatters them.

That night at dinner, the manager Richard Simon bemoaned the tourists who would normally lounge around the pool of his colonial style hotel.

“Go out and see around the island, especially the beach at Anse Lazio, which was voted sixth best in the world by TripAdvisor users,” he said.

We took him at his word and feasted on the half-kilometre of creamy coloured fine sand during a sunny gap.

The Seychelles even has rainbows!

Our arrival in the stunning Hilton Labriz resort on Silhouette Island was greeted with a thunderstorm which lasted until the morning.

This luxurious beach hideaway is sandwiched between a dazzling 2.5km-long white strand. It’s the only resort on the island which has been designated a nature reserve and the waters around it a national marine park, so we’d been champing at the bit to get in some top-class snorkelling and a hike through the mountainous forest.

Alas, the seas were just too rough for coral reef snorkelling, the paths too treacherous for hiking and even the ‘romantic cruise around the island’ hit the rocks.

All that was left to do was eat – and we indulged in that. The complex is a string of private villas; mine was facing the beach with an outdoor shower in the garden. Right in the middle of the resort is a cluster of sporting activities, kids clubs and many, many restaurants. Our buffet breakfast was on an open veranda facing the sea, with birds landing on the tables to nibble on the fresh fruit.

At night it was one delicate fresh fish course after another, finished off with a selection of infused rums – my favourites were the vanilla and coconut flavours. To round it all off we had a fourth meal one day when our cancelled activities were replaced with a hands-on cookery course, rustling up a local coconut milk curry we felt obliged to eat.

The sun, when it did come out, left the beach looking sumptuous, fulfilling the brochure promise of white sand, palm trees and a turquoise, but choppy, sea.

Back at the main bar in the evening all was quiet, just like in the restaurants where couples, and not all on honeymoon, sat quietly gazing at each other.

The main island of Mahe had a bit more life. We checked into the Eden Bleu Hotel built on the man-made Eden Island in the bay of the capital Victoria.

Our rooms overlooked the marina complex and with it came a boardwalk leading to several open-air bars and clubs which pumped out music for the yachties and the locals as they clinked their beer bottles. At last all seemed right with the world.

***FACTFILE:

Flying time is about 12 hours, not counting connection delay. English is the main language, although locals also speak Creole. No visa is required from Ireland, but a visitor’s pass is bought at the airport. The currency is the Seychelles rupee, with about 15 to the euro.

Temps range from 24° to 32° Celsius all year round – normally, that is.

Emirates have two daily flights from Dublin to Dubai with 12 weekly connections to the Seychelles. Prices inclusive of taxes and charges start from €667. See Emirates.ie

For info on the hotels check out

www.edenbleu.com                                 

www.indianoceanlodge.com                   

www.hiltonseychelleslabriz.com           

For more info contact the Seychelles Tourist Office (UK and Ireland) on +44 (0) 20 7730 0700 or [email protected], www.seychelles.travel

Tropical Sky has packages to a selection of resorts in the Seychelles, including the 4-star Cerf Island which is located at the entrance to Sainte Anne Marine National Park. It boasts white sandy beaches, two infinity pools and choice of fine restaurants. Seven nights half-board costs from €1,749pp including flights and transfer by water taxi departing Dublin in September 2015. See tropicalsky.ie