Trip to paradise

Seychelles is an archipelago of absolutely stunning 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. Surreal rock formations, lush forest, unique wildlife, turquoise ocean, some of the world's best beaches and year-round sunshine creating this little paradise on Earth. Cliché? Maybe. I guess, the best way to find out is check it for yourself. 

Tips

Here are few tips, before you start planning your own trip:
-if you fly through Ethiopia and you need to stay overnight in Addis Ababa (Lufthansa/Ethiopian connection), you will have to pay entry visa of $50/€44 pp.
-if you travel in wet season, bring umbrella (some hotels have them for rent), sunglasses, hat, flip flops and sunblock (even with 50 UVA you will still get your dream tan).
-bring mosquito repellent or even better, insect repellent. You may or may not need one, it depends on your hotel’s location and which places you are going to visit (Cousin Island for example). You may experience mosquitos, midges or sand flies bites especially at down and dusk.
-this is malaria free region so you don’t need special vaccination. You may be asked for yellow fever vaccination certificate but only if you travelled from or had more than 12 hours transit stay in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. These countries are listed online and are easy to check.

-to get entry visa, you will be asked to fill out a short form (usually air crew have forms ready for all passengers) and show proof of your return ticket and accommodation in Seychelles.

-queue to the airport immigration desk is quite long and could take about 30 to 45 minutes what may be important if you booked ferry or flight to other island.
-last ferry from Mahe to Praslin island departs at 4.30pm so even if your flight arrives in Mahe at 2.30pm, you should have enough time to catch it anyway. It was my biggest fear and that’s why I decided to play safe and got a flight instead. Jetty journey from Mahe to Praslin takes 1 hour while flight takes 20 minutes.
-for a bit of adventure or if you suffer from seasickness, you may consider booking Air Seychelles domestic flight to Praslin island. It’s slightly more expensive than the ferry but it is definitely more thrilling experience. Baggage allowance is 20kg for check in bags and 7kg for hand luggage.

-two ferry companies operate between islands - Cat Cocos and Cat Rose. You can find timetables and online book tickets on www.seychellesbooking.com , then only exchange your printed booking for boarding pass in the office at the jetty.
-you can buy mobile sim card at the airport in Kiosk Airtel located next to the terminal exit. You need unlocked phone and passport. We didn’t have problems with coverage in any places we visited.
-you can’t travel on a bus with big luggage - you may need to take a taxi instead.
-you can find money exchanger at the airport and at the jetty. Euro and Dollars are widely accepted and exchange rate is fair. Expect getting small change in local currency (Seychelles Rupee).
-renting a car is quite expensive but you don’t need international driving licence. Cars are driven on the left side of the road, speed limit is 40km/h. If you need a car, then refer to detailed information in section about transport.
-all beaches are public and free of charge but if you want to visit Anse Georgette in Prasiln Island then you need to send an email directly to Constantia Lemuria resort to get a visiting permit (because the beach is only accessible through the resort). Your hotel can organize this for you as well. If you want to visit Anse Source d’Argent on La Digue Island, then you need to pay entry fee to L’Union Estate Farm (again, the beach is only accessible through the farm).
-bring a torch (some hotels may provide them), the best one is the head torch, especially for cycling because there are no street lights and it gets pitch dark just after 7pm.
-you can drink tap water so just buy one bottled water at the beginning and reuse the bottle during your holidays.
-there are many bike rental companies on La Digue island that offers also electric bikes. If you are not fit enough to cycle the hills around the island or just holiday-lazy, then consider renting the e-bike.

How to plan your vacation

Most visitors will find themselves on one of the three main islands: Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. Mahe is the biggest of them, with international airport and the smallest capital in the world. This is where you will find more infrastructure, accommodation and attractions' choice. You will need to rent a car if you don’t want to waste your time on waiting for a bus. You can get to other islands by ferry or organized tours. Praslin is the middle sized of all the three islands, beautiful, very quiet, laid back, not crowded at all, yet with its own very small airport and jetty. You can rent a car for a day or two, or use bus or taxi. La Digue is the smallest of them, where most locals and tourists use old-fashioned bicycles to move around,  described online as the most relaxing and charming of all three – marketing or truth? Find out more details in section about La Digue. All the islands offer pristine beaches, deep blue waters and beautiful jungle-like forests, but let’s face the truth, exotic nature - above and under the water - is the main attraction of Seychelles. If you are looking for an adventure or wild nightlife then you might find yourself disappointed. It is quite expensive destination and it is not possible to visit this country cheaply so bear this in mind. 

The best time to visit

The best time to visit Seychelles is in April, May, October and November - it's transition between hot and humid northwest winds and cooler southeast winds. It is the time when ocean is very calm and rain is not expected. Seychelles though, are the whole year destination and even the rainy season is not very wet. Downpours come usually at night but even short rainfalls during the day turn quickly into sunny day. One local told us that the best month to visit is February. This blog is based on hot and humid, rainy season around Christmas time and yet, we had one of the best vacations ever. 

How much time do you need

How much time do you need to visit this country entirely depends on your interests and budget. Two weeks would give you nice and relaxing time split between the three islands. We spent 10 days in Seychelles split between two islands - Praslin and La Digue. During the time, we have managed to explore both islands plus Curieuse IsIand. We also spent two full days under the water and still found the time for doing nothing and enjoying ourselves. 

Accomodation

Accomodations ranges from very expensive hotels thru guesthouses, full houses to rent, apartments and simple rooms with bathroom and kitchen shared with house owners. Unfortunately, even the simplest option could cost you €60 or more per night. My advice is to get yourself spoiled because we only live once. I am not suggesting to break a bank and book a hotel for €1000 per night but you can find really nice accommodation for €170-€250 per night and make your stay memorable. You will find options of accommodation, restaurants/takeaways, small shops, scuba diving centres and tour offers in the area of Cote D'Or beach on Praslin island. Area of Grand Anse beach also offers choices of accommodation but, in my opinion, doesn’t look that nice. We stayed in Colibri Guesthouse in Baie Ste Anne with a very convenient location close to jetty. They even have a secret path which gets you to ferry in 5 minutes. The guesthouse is embedded in beautiful gardens and that magnificent coast view is second to none. There are only 12 rooms located in chalets spreading along the garden. Most rooms have a lovely view but the most beautiful, panoramic view and a little privacy on balcony can be experienced in the Honeymoon Suites. Breakfast is included in price, evening dinner is a 3 course meal at €25 pp excluding alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. The guesthouse is located in a very quiet area, there are no restaurants close by and unless you have rented a car or you are willing to pay taxi fee, you need to stick to the hotel restaurant. This is the only drawback but do not worry much because food in the hotel restaurant is quite good and different every evening. The hotel doesn’t have a beach (not many hotels have access to the beach though because all beaches are public) but instead, there is an infinity pool and small sun lounges area with steps going straight down to the ocean. 

In La Digue, most activities happen around the jetty so while searching for accommodation here, pick one placed not directly alongside the main road. We stayed in Villa Charme De L’ile, 75m2 luxury apartment with fully equipped kitchen, very specious bathroom and lovely balcony with a swimming pool view. There is only 5 apartments in 3 buildings surrounded by beautiful garden. You can get breakfast for extra charge and even though, every apartment has fully equipped kitchen and balcony for dining outside, I would recommend their fresh and delicious breakfast. Every room has its own bicycles, charged €6 per day per person (same or even less expensive than in any other bicycle rental). Villa Charme De L’ile is located in quiet area, in a walking distance to the jetty, the main street and multiple restaurants, eateries and takeaways. This place is perfect in every detail. 

Transportation

Transportation in Mahe and Praslin is pretty similar. You can choose between buses, rental cars and bicycles. In La Digue most tourists and locals use bicycle as the main transportation but few big taxis always wait next to the jetty. Buses are very cheap and for 5 Rupee (30 cents) can take you to almost every beach and attraction. Disadvantage of this form of travel is the time you waste on waiting for it. Also, you can't travel with big luggage on the bus - you need to take taxi from the airport instead. Bicycles are great for La Digue where traffic is low, but considering very narrow, hard shoulder-less roads in Praslin, I would recommend against it. Taxi is relatively expensive option but on opposite side, you can ask taxi driver to tell you some stories or give you some tips about the islands. Taxi from jetty to the airport in Praslin (approximate distance of 10 km) cost us about €30 - the same price for taxi from jetty area to Vallee de Mai and back. Renting a car definitely gives you a freedom but even though it seems to be relatively inexpensive at €45-€55 a day, the cars come with very basic insurance what then adds extra €20 per day for peace of mind. Yes, you need extra insurance simply because roads are winding and very narrow, with no hard shoulders at all. It gets pitch dark at 7pm and there are no street lights plus many coconut trees around so the chances that one may hit your parked car is quite high. Also, not many car rental companies rent their cars for one day only, usually you have to rent a car for 2-3 days. On a positive note, the islands are so small, you won’t spend much on petrol. Do you need a car? Well, yes. As I mentioned, car gives you freedom so you can visit places in your own pace or use it in the evening (the last bus is around 7pm) to get to a restaurant if you don’t want to eat at your hotel every day. We rented a car for 24h at a price of €75. We collected her on arrival day at the airport so we had saved on taxi already, and we returned the car on the next day, after full day of exploring Praslin island. We didn’t need a car for other days but if you are not a scuba diver who spends few days under the water, then you may need a car for longer than 24h. 

Dining

Food is yet another item that could be considered expensive part of any holiday. You will find here very expensive restaurants in fancy hotels, some casual and affordable ones (also in guesthouses but not every restaurant is open to public) and very inexpensive takeaways and food stalls. Takeaways serve food in big portions and the food is quite tasty - do not expect anything fancy though. If you like fish dishes, those will be fresh here for sure. Seychellois use coconut husk for BBQ what makes grilled fish taste even better.

What to do on Praslin and La Digue islands

Prasiln island offers two parks with famous and unique Coco de Mer. Valle de Mai is quite extensive and expensive, especially if you add a private guide to your entry fee. You can also find here a very rare black parrot but to be honest, you need to be lucky to spot it. Coco de Mer palms are easily seen from the road, both female and male trees, so if you don’t have time or money for entrance fee, just simply go for a walk along the main road. Second option to see the Coco de Mer palm trees is in Fond Ferdinand park.  More interesting in my opinion because of its walking trails that finish at the top of the hill with spectacular views. This park is a lot cheaper and price includes guided tour. Both parks are accessible by bus and both have car parking. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, hat and bring water. Coco de Mer palms are growing naturally on just two islands in the Seyschelles. The nuts are quite expensive and can only be purchased from authorized sellers so make sure yours are certified to avoid problems at the airport. Anse Georgette beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on the island but since the entrance is through golf course of Constance Lemuria Resort, you will need a permission/pass. Shuttle bus is reserved only for the hotel guests so others have to take about 20 minutes walk to the beach. We didn’t bother to visit that beach, the truth is, there are many beautiful and not crowded beaches on the island.

Anse Lazio beach is a long stretch of white sands, palm trees and turquoise waters. The beach is quite popular among tourist but there is always plenty of space on the beach. You can get here by bus, unfortunately bus stop is located about 20 minutes walk up and down steep hill. The easiest way to get here is by taxi, organized island tours or by rented car but the last 2 km of the road is narrow, steep and winding. Parking is located just few steps from the beach and also next to the Le Chevalier restaurant. 

Beautiful Cote d’Or beach is located near Anse Volbert Village and many accommodations, restaurants and diving centres are located here, making this part of island a lot busier. It’s a good place to go for a walk, for dining and water activities. There are many beaches around Praslin Island, some of them are tiny, some of them very secluded and some completely abandoned. If you rent a car, you can easily find your private beach. When you get bored of sunbathing, you might consider a boat trip to Cousin or Curieuse Islands. Cousin Island known as Bird Island is a nature reserve protected under a law. You can visit this island by organized boat tour or water taxi (check out Sagittarius) and after paying a fee, tour guide will take you to see wildlife up close. It is a natural reserve so make sure you wear appropriate clothing, footwear, bring water, sun cream and the most important – mosquito repellent. 

Curieuse Island can be reached either by organized tour or a private taxi boat. We got there with prebooked boat tour. It was a bit more expensive but, in return, we shared the boat with one more tourist only. Pickup from our hotel and park fee was included in the price. You could find beach vendors selling cheaper trips but as I always say ‘you get what you paid for’, so don’t be disappointed with your choice later. The island is a home to the Aldabra Giant Tortoise and famous endemic Coco de Mer palms. Our skipper left us next to the Doctor’s House - a small museum depicting history of the island – and from there, we took 1.7 km walk in 29 deg C thru the mangrove forest, to the other side of the island, where giant tortoises were roaming freely next to a beautiful beach. You can touch and feed this gentle giants, what became the highlight of my trip. You will have enough time to enjoy this absolutely stunning beach so go for a walk across the huge boulders and come back for BBQ lunch which is served as part of the trip. It is the national park so if fee wasn’t included in your tour, then you will be asked to pay about 13-15 euro. The island is uninhabited, no shops nor restaurants here so bring water, sun cream, towel, hat and comfortable shoes. Don’t visit it in flip flops. You can walk barefoot on the boat and on the beach but you will need comfortable shoes to walk thru the mangrove forest and around tortoise. It was a very enjoyable day finished with quick stop for snorkelling around St Pierre Island which is also part of the national park. 

Scuba diving can be another activity to keep you busy. Water temperature is about 28-29 degrees Celsius but waves, current and surge make diving a bit more challenging. If you suffer from seasickness, make sure to take some medicine before your boat departs (my experience is base on wet season). Unfortunately, El Nino hit Seychelles waters twice during the last 20 years damaging all soft corals so seeing it bleached was heartbreaking. The coral reef has started re-growing in some areas of the national park - you will need to pay park entrance fee to see these. Although marine life is diverse with commonly seen green turtles, hawskbill turtles, grey and silver tip reef sharks, lion fish, barracudas, game fish, giant grouper and stingrays; chances of spotting whale sharks, hammerhead sharks or manta rays are slim and season dependent. There are four dive centres in Praslin and one or two in La Digue. We visited 5 different scuba diving sites with Hawksbill Dive Centre which base is located next to the jetty pier in Praslin Island. Their location was very convenient for us since our hotel was located just 5 minutes walk to the jetty (using the hotel’s private path). The dive centre’s owner Jamal was very accommodating, helpful and we always dived in small group. There is a decent size parking next to the jetty, where you can leave your car if that’s required.

On La Digue Island your time will be filled with bike trips to multiple beaches, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving or hiking. It is one tiny but very charming island. My first impression wasn’t great though. I read about idyllic island where only way of transportation was bicycle or small electric vehicle for those who needed transfer from ferry to their hotel but the minute we disembarked the ferry, I was surprised by amount of people and big cars. Smell of fuel mixed with humid air and reckless locals on motorbikes and electric bicycles was disappointing. Fortunately we stayed on the island for four nights and we had a chance to see the quiet and picturesque part of it too. You can visit the island on a day trip, rent a bike, cycle to few beaches and then have late lunch in one of the restaurants located alongside La Passe before the last ferry departure but, I would highly recommend you staying overnight.

If you plan visiting the island for one day only, head straight to the most photographed beach in the world – Anse Source d’Argent. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to get there by bike and the beach is absolutely stunning, sheltered among impressive boulders dividing it into many lagoons. My advice would be to check tides’ chart because low tide steals a bit from the beautifulness. To get access to this beach you will have to cross through L’Union Estate Farm/Park, where you can find vanilla and coconut plantations, old colonial house and art gallery, cemetery from old colonial days and giant tortoise. Riding a bike throughout the plantation was amazing however, seeing tortoise closed and in some muddy paddle was really sad. I wish they could roam freely, especially because there are no cars there.

For those who stay on the island longer than a day, I would recommend booking a trip with Crystal Water Kayaks (google them). They are located on Anse Source d’Argent and provide fun and very informative 4 hours trip in transparent kayaks, including coral reef viewing, beach time, hike to get some panoramic views, swimming in natural pools and lesson on how to open a coconut. They provide small, waterproof bags so all you need is sun cream, hat, bikini, towel, water, camera and water shoes because hike to the viewpoint goes through water and walking barefoot on broken corals, shells and slippery stones while fighting with waves is a bit uncomfortable. I wouldn’t recommend it to a day trippers because the kayak trip is scheduled in last minute and depends on tides, wind and weather in general. One couple on our trip was very nervous about being late for the last ferry and eventually was taken earlier back to the base. 

Grand Anse, Petit Anse and Anse Cocos Beaches are located not far from Anse Source d’Argent. Narrow, winding and at some parts hilly road lead to them through the island’s beautiful, green and lush scenery. You can reach the biggest Grand Anse beach by bike but if you also plan visiting other two then, you have to park your bike there and take about 20 minutes hike along the coconut jungle to Petit Anse beach and from there about the same time hike to Anse Cocos beach. The further you go, the beaches are less crowded but to be honest, Grand Anse wasn’t crowded at all and hiking in a humid temperature of 29 degrees Celsius may not be worth the effort so I will leave it to your judgment. Grand Anse beach is absolutely beautiful with turquoise water and powdery white sand but there is very limited amount of shaded places. On both sides of the beach you will spot huge boulders so hide there or make your own tent out of palm tree branches or just simply grab some drink in a bar attached to the beach. 

The road that leads towards the northern part of the island starts from the jetty and follows the coast alongside many cute beach bars. Jump on your bike and take as many stops as you want, enjoying gorgeous views along the way. For those who love hiking, I would recommend visiting Eagle’s Nest for aerial view of the entire island. You have to hike quite steep road to the Bellevue restaurant, where you can grab a drink and enjoy the view. From there follow a path of approximately 25 minutes to the top. Do not underestimate this hike, make sure your footwear is appropriate. 

If you fancy scuba diving or snorkelling trips then Trek Divers are located next to the jetty. The whole island is only 10 square kilometres with easy to navigate roads but be careful, because the roads are narrow, don’t have hard shoulders and passing big taxi may be challenging.

There is no shortage of eateries on La Digue. From high end restaurants, through takeaways to fruit cabanas at the beaches. Restaurants are quite expensive but if you like seafood, I would recommend you Fish Trap Restaurant with its remarkable décor and lovely sea view. For those with sweet tooth, small cafe No1 Baie Sainte Anne, serves coffee with cakes. Takeaways serve tasty and inexpensive food options. These are very popular among locals and tourist, so queuing should be expected. 

La Digue is getting more and more developed, loosing slowly its paradisiac atmosphere amid the new developments. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved this beautiful place and had an amazing time on the island but only mentioned this because of misdescription in the online guide books. I expected small, very quiet and laid back island like Malapascua and Pamilican Islands in Philippines while La Digue is more commercialized.

For more descriptive overview of Seychelles check out my video on YouTube (stjaro), my highlighted Stories on Instagram @mayabielska and photos with tips on Instagram @travelinmayasstilettos. Thank you for reading. Maya