Ahhh. Air conditioning is delicious. We’ve moved to our last stop in the Seychelles, on the Island of Praslin. The heat on the boat was tiring. Coming from a different latitude, we’d expected that the thermal mass of the ocean would be cooler than the air on land, rather than the other way around. Sleeping in the still heat of our cabin was difficult. The shady outdoor space behind the salon on the catamaran was also the end of the boat that would spin away from any cooling wind, swiveling around the anchor line. In the breeze on the bow the sun was unrelenting. Escape from the heat meant swimming or snorkeling. Although we enjoyed the experience of seeing the Seychelles from a boat, we are loving the air conditioning in the bedrooms of the cottage we’ve rented. I had thought it was so cool to be almost on the equator for the equinox. Maybe a solstice would be the better time; when the sun is over the tropic of Cancer or Capricorn, rather than at its closest point. In reality, this is not the only part that has been not exactly what we’d expected.
The Seychelles Islands have been a mixed experience for us. I had heard of this place and dreamt of coming here for quite a while. We did find the stunning white sand beaches lined with palm trees and strewn with huge granite boulders we’d expected. We also found some things we did not, and sometimes did not find what we thought we might. Because so many of our friends have asked what we think of the Seychelles, I’m laying out our impressions, good and bad.
We’d been told it was very expensive. Although there are some outrageously costly options, there are also a number of much more affordable ones as well. We spent about the same here as we did for accommodations in Africa. The boat being the most expensive, it was comparable to a game lodge when including meals, excursions, and game drives.
After the open warmth of the Batswana (I know, right? I’d have thought the people of Botswana would be called Botswani or Botswanan, not Batswana…) many of the Seychellios (the “ois” being like French, making a “wa” sound: Seychellewa) were unwelcoming. Several were wonderful, including many people on the Island of La Digue and the crew of our boat. On the other hand, a large percentage of the people we came across on the Island of Mahe lived up to the undeserved nasty reputation of the Parisians. From the scowling woman who sold us snorkeling equipment in Victoria, to the “do not touch” signs and on everything in a beach t-shirt shop backed up with suspicious frowns of the sales people in Beau Vallon, to the locals who elbowed past me to the counter in the Indian mini market in Anse Royal: we often felt unwanted. We even found a notation in the Seychelles Air in flight magazine saying that the Seychellios are not particularly friendly, but warm up once you get to know them. Tourism?! Interesting.
We did not come across the same diversity of water sports we’d expected. We did not see any surfing or wind surfing or kite boarding to speak of. There is lots of snorkeling, and a few dive shops. We didn’t snorkel anywhere that I found myself wishing I had a tank so I could dive deeper to see what was too far down to reach in one breath. Likely there are some other cool diving spots, but we did not see a lot of activity compared with other tropical places we’ve stayed. We spotted one guy on a stand up paddle board, and a place to rent jet skis or go for a parasail behind a boat. Kayaking is fun, and the calm water is great for paddling around, but the boogie board Marlie bought from the crabby lady only made it into the water once, and the lack of waves big enough to ride has kept it dry since.
Fishing is “deep sea,” unless you make it out to Alphonse Island where there is fly fishing on the salt flats. Sadly, this small, high end facility was out of the price range for all four of us to go, and they did not answer any of our e-mails inquiring about a stay for John without us. We did have fresh fish on the boat, which was delicious, but not really a sport: drag a lure while underway, catch a fish, reel him in like he’s attached to a cable. Dinner.
There are a number of species of birds that are only found here in the Seychelles, so those who love bird watching will dig that. Unfortunately, our birding experience on Cousin Island, a reserve set aside for the birds, was tainted by the clouds of mosquitoes. Even so, Marlie loved it, as she does anything ocean (many of the resident birds fish…) She’s talking about volunteering here when she is in college studying marine biology …yes- that’s more than 6 school years away…
Development in the Seychelles has been kept small, so far. Most areas are not overrun, for a long time building height was restricted to no taller than a palm tree. Beaches are not crowded, at least not this time of year. Looking at the available beaches compared to the number of accommodations, it never sees anything close to the crowds on the beaches of Mediterranean France or Italy. For those who want to spend a holiday with their feet in white sand, putting down their mai tai every so often to swim in clear water, this is heaven. For those of us with shorter attention spans who live about as far from here on earth as possible, maybe not heaven enough to journey this far for a beach.