The most beautiful place on Earth
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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The two taxis, three flight segments, a jam-packed bus, and very rough ferry ride that it took us to get from Zanzibar in Tanzania to the island of Praslin here in Seychelles was totally worth it! I didn't think there were any places these pristine left on our planet. You know that tropical paradise screen saver have on your computer or the beach scene in all those cheesy motivational "Successories" posters you see at the office, those photos were probably taken in Seychelles
Because Praslin is so lightly touristed, many of the minor roads going to the beaches have hardly any traffic (5-10 cars an hour!) We've walked more here than any time during our trip, in fact most of our stay we've averaged close to ten miles a day! Our days have been spent on foot or riding rented bikes through the verdant jungle roads, sitting on the beaches, and pinching ourselves at how we ever managed to be so fortunate to visit Seychelles
Midway through our time here we took a daytrip over to the neighboring island of La Digue to see Anse Source D'Argent, the much ballyhooed "most beautiful place on earth." Well...in my humble opinion, the claim is 100% accurate! Even though it was overcast with a gray sky so the turquoise hues of the water were subdued, it truly is unbelievable. My photos don't even begin to do the place justice. I have never seen anything like it. With how chatty Katie and I tend to be, anything that shuts us up in awe must be pretty impressive. As we were walking amidst the huge granite boulders lining the beach, we were totally silent, only once in a while chiming in with something like "this is unreal!" What is funny though is that there are a lot of other places in this tiny nation that come within striking distance of the "most beautiful" claim as well.
We also did a SCUBA dive one afternoon off a nearby uninhabited island. Although the visibility wasn't stellar, we could see far enough to spot at least twenty sharks, the largest being around six-feet long! I'll let Katie tell you a bit more about that experience...but just in case she leaves this part out - anytime during the dive when we sighted sharks Katie did everything she could to maneuver so that I was between her and them
A short aside: So far on this adventure we've been fortunate a number of times to use frequent guest points at hotels as well as get a few complementary upgrades. Often this luxury pairs humorously with our other travel logistics. For example, in both Cairo and Malta we stayed in suites (which had we paid for them rather that used points or received a free upgrade would have cost well over $700 per night) but arrived or departed the hotel using local public buses, wearing flip flops and carry dusty backpacks. Hmmm, I can only wonder the thoughts going through the bellman and desk clerks heads? Seychelles is another great example of our continuing paradox of traveling in "high style" on a budget trip. We flew here for free using frequent flyer miles, and are staying in a really cute, moderately priced beachfront apartment (L'Hirondelle), cooking our own meals, and riding public transit. We share the same magnificent beaches with people paying $500+ per night at nearby resorts. So bottom line: You can come here and have a marvelous time without being a millionaire or travel guru, it just takes a bit of transit time and planning. The gold standard for a beautiful city of course is Venice, but for natural beauty: Seychelles has everywhere beat!
In yet another great contrast of this trip, tomorrow we are flying from affluent Seychelles back to Nairobi then onward to Malawi, one of the poorest nations on earth, to begin our two-month overland adventure through southern Africa
So after a night in Nairobi, we finally made it to Mahe, Seychelles (the main island) and debated about our travel logistics to our final destination the nearby island of Praslin. We basically had 2 choices to travel the 30 miles - high-speed catamaran ferry, or fly in a tiny little 8-seat plane (the difference in cost was only about $20 each). Since our flight in was a bit bumpy on landing and it was a big plane, I absolutely pleaded that we take the ferry, as I was very scared to fly in the tiny plane with rough air. I won, and we made our way to the port where the seas looked really calm. This was all an illusion as the port was in a harbor, and the seas were so ridiculously rough outside it. The ferry itself had 200 or so auditorium style seats inside an air-conditioned room. Each seat had a seat back pocket with a motion sickness bag (first sign of things to come), which I didn't notice when we sat down. There were automatic air fresheners bolted to the wall on each side of the room, which I also didn't notice (second sign of things to come). As soon as the ferry rounded the corner out of the harbor, and it started to get a bit bouncy, one of the staff came over to us and asked if I was prone to seasickness
But it was worth it!! The beaches in Seychelles are amazing - just like a little slice of heaven. I have a hard time imagining how a beach could be more beautiful or look more like paradise. Even the breezes smelled like flowers! Since Seychelles is close to the equator, the temperature is pleasantly consistent year round, with highs in the mid 80s and lows in the mid 70s
One afternoon we went Scuba diving. We had a few choices as to different dive sites, and Todd was really keen on going to this one site around some huge granite rocks with pretty corals, lots of tropical fish, and the possibility of giant sea tortoises, eagle rays and giant Napoleon Ras (Google that because they look so funny with their big lips). Only problem was that reef sharks frequented the area as well. Naturally, I have a strong curiosity when it comes to sharks, and really LOVE Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. But, I really LOVE them on TV - not swimming next to me. The Dive Master assured me that these sharks were really just big fish, and that they were more scared of us that I could ever be of them. Oh, and that we would likely encounter a shark or two where ever we went. So, I (normally the world's biggest wimp) went along with it.
Once we got on the boat, I started sizing up the other divers just making sure that they weren't all the Jacque Cousteau/Indiana Jones type. They seemed okay, and it turns out that at least half of them were more nervous about the shark thing than I was
When we were all in the water and getting ready to descend to 50 feet below the surface, the Dive Master gave us this bit of instruction: "If a shark swims towards you, start swimming towards it, and it will turn away." And then he was underwater. WHAT? Are you insane? Was that a joke, or serious advice? It didn't really matter, because under no circumstances was I going to do that... that is what husbands whose idea this was are for, right?
And then it happened
So to close our time in paradise, here's a few travel tips for coming here:
The major islands in Seychelles are:
Mahe - The largest and "busiest" of the islands. We didn't see much of it other than the international airport and ferry terminal.
Praslin - We stayed here and are so glad we did. Praslin has best beaches for sunbathing (with sunscreen) and swimming as well as lots of lodging options and logistics connections by air and sea.
La Digue - Small and laid-back, and certainly worth a few days
Other islands - There are dozens of smaller islands in Seychelles dotted with a variety of very exclusive resorts. We didn't go to any of these.
Seychelles is as beautiful of a destination as you could ever hope to find. Unless you were easily bored, anyone would love it here. The stunning natural surroundings and positively gorgeous beaches have enough to keep any visitor enchanted for weeks.
Seychelles is surprisingly underdeveloped and sparsely populated. There are not a lot of restaurants, nightlife is nonexistent, population centers are small, and not a lot of traffic. All this helps accent the natural beauty and preserves the charm and magic.
Seychelles is as safe as it gets, and there is virtually no crime. We felt completely secure everywhere we went, day or night.
English is the language of business and government and is widely used and understood
Being an isolated island chain, Seychelles is pricey. The cost level is about equal to that of Hawaii or New York City. Food is generally expensive and hotels are limited to either high-end resorts or a few much more affordable small guesthouses that have rooms with kitchens. Most tourists we observed seem to come here on all-inclusive tours from Europe. Making your own arrangements as an independent traveler is very easy as well.
Seychelles is very low hassle; you will never be given sales pitches, there are no beggars, locals are friendly but reserved, and life is slow-paced and easygoing.
Coming to Seychelles from the US will take a while, but if you combine it with a few day stopover in Europe or Dubai (Fly Emirates), you could have a great time getting here.
We both agree that this is our favorite stop on the trip so far! We would come back in a heartbeat (and are already plotting ways to make this happen!).