The Seychelles in the middle of the Indian Ocean are a thousand miles from anywhere but about as close to paradise as you are likely to get on any holiday.
Our plane skimmed over a necklace of islands and I followed a young couple down the aircraft steps. They were about to have a wedding. Back home the roads had been icy, ‘as smooth as a bottle’ but there, the sun was brilliant and the temperature... 86F.
With the waves crashing in and the birds crying overhead it was just the place for their special event. The main island is Mahe. It is not big, but very mountainous with the hills covered by trees, and what trees, Banana, Palm, Giant Bougainvillea. There was luxuriant growth it seemed like the sort of place you could plant a walking stick and it would grow.
We hired a Mini Moke and followed twisting roads past little green tin sheds with corrugated roofs that turn out to be shops.
A bare footed local padded homewards, wearing a red baseball cap and carrying a couple of freshly caught fish dangling from a string on his finger. Suddenly supermarket shopping seemed a long way away! Round another corner we came to a school yard where children in bright uniforms played in the sun. On the other side of the road surf crashed in on the sand.
There are 68 palm fringed beaches on the main island of Mahe, and on most it would be hard to take a bad photograph. Some hotels have their own, one even has it’s own little off shore island. I liked The Coral Strand on Beau Vallon Bay where you can watch magnificent sunsets over Silhouette Island. If you want a meal with a view, drive up to the restaurant that has its sides completely open on to the bay of Anse San Mouche 40 foot below.
We had come out to the main island of Mahe on Air Seychelles's Boeing 767, but if that's the whale of their fleet, the very busy minnows are the little 20 seat Twin Otter planes that dart back and forth to the smaller islands. No sooner are you in the air, it seems, than the plane banks and you swoop down to touch down amid another set of coconut palms.
By plane it takes only minutes to reach Praslin, by boat it's two hours. It's hinted that a prehistoric forest there may have been the original Garden of Eden.
As you wander through it, you begin to believe it. Colourful birds flit through the trees and if you snorkel a few yards out from where the waves wash in on the powdery sand curious fish wait to greet you.
We continued our island hopping by crossing the blue water to La Digue. We sailed over by schooner.
Salt spray occasionally bashed across the bow, a welcome addition in that hot sun to the cooling breeze. The sail was stowed and we entered harbour. Beyond the children diving from the pier a line of oxcarts waited and I climbed on to one, joining a young lady who's shirt bore the legend 'Your guide in Paradise'. Some consider La Digue to be the most beautiful of the islands. There are formations of granite boulders and giant tortoises munch their way through the ferns.
When you are not relaxing on the beach there are a number of excursions you can take. I tried the excitement of deep-sea fishing and battled with a king fish and I also made a visit to view the fish at the St. Anne Marine National Park. You travel out in a glass-bottomed boat. Put a handful of bread crumbs over the side and the sea around you will seem to be boiling with fish. Later you can dive in and feed them by hand, but watch out for over enthusiastic nibblers, they can tickle.
But there were other islands beckoning. Frigate Island lies 35 miles from Mahe. It's surrounded completely by a reef and is only l¼ miles long by a mile wide. You can swim amid beautiful coral or take a walk around and be introduced to the wildlife, like the rare Magpie Robin. There was so much to photograph and at one point on the walkabout I was aiming my camera at a brightly coloured bird in a banyan tree when I almost fell backwards over a giant tortoise. He lumbered back into the shade no doubt to brood over it for a couple of years and I scuttled on to catch up with the rest of the party who had found some very old graves reputed to have belonged to pirates. Who ever lay there I don't suppose they could have chosen a better place to end their days.
There are many so beautiful places on the islands that you'll find making choices difficult and its not all lazing in the sun, if you want to be active you can hire a sailboard, go paragliding or even round off the day with dancing to Camtole music before taking a barefoot stroll along the beach.
Report and pictures by Allan Rogers
Paradise and powdered sand in