Paradise on the Seychelles’ Silhouette Island

Posted by Kirsten Smart on 24 March 2011

Midnight at OR Tambo Airport: The people in the queue at the Air Seychelles check-in counter looked like they were off to a fancy dress party at the psych ward. Below their panama hats they wore manic grins, below their grins they wore Thailand-bought Hawaiian shirts, and below their shirts they wore colourful crocs. On either side of them were queues for flights to Dubai and London, where business men dressed in suits were pummeling their Blackberries and swigging their lattes. At least this is what I think I saw; my vision was restricted by the over-sized straw hat I was wearing.

I was off to the Seychelles again, one year after getting hitched on her beautiful shores (actually it was monsoon season and we ended up saying our vows in the lounge area next to the TV with the cricket on mute, but you know what I mean). As I bathed myself in tester bottles of Duty Free perfume, my thoughts strayed what I would do first when I got to Silhouette Island, a mere 40-minute boat ride from Mahé. I settled on burrowing into the sand in the shallow part of the gorgeously warm water whilst sipping on a coconut drink.

Six hours later, my husband and I were boarding the ferry for Silhouette Island with five enthusiastic French and Russian couples (well, as enthusiastic as the French and Russians can be). From Mahé we could just make out the silhouette of our destination (so the name is fitting) and even from there the island looked huge. Although Silhouette is the third-largest of the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles archipelago, it’s inhabited by only around 130 residents and one resort, Labriz Resort and Spa. The rest of the island is a nature reserve, untouched and pristine.

As we neared the island, we felt a collective sense of awe and excitement. Flanked by the azure-blue ocean, the 750 m tall, lush, green mass of volcanic rock, glowing white sand and tropical vegetation stood chest out, like a peacock in paradise. At the Silhouette port, we were greeted with sweet citronella tea and a cool, wet towel and whisked away on golf carts through the little town. We passed the old, wooden plantation house built by a Mr. Dauban in the 1800s (and now transformed into a museum/creole restaurant) and the little primary school , its walls covered in big, amateur paintings of bottles and syringes and slogans declaring that drink and drugs destroy families. We passed tiny houses on wooden stilts and a hospital with the world’s greatest-ever view and then, finally, we entered the resort.

Our room was spacious, with high wooden ceilings, a flat screen TV and a gorgeous bathroom with an indoor and an outdoor shower (I maintain that humans were made for showering outside). It’s at this time that I would have run straight to the beach, shedding my clothes and shouting my order for a coconut drink, but I was starving. Having slept through breakfast, the last solid thing I ate (apart from an unintentional mosquito on the boat ride over) was a breakfast bar in the car on the way to the airport the day before.

So we made our way over to the restaurant where we proceeded to pay an extraordinary amount for a less than satisfactory vegetable lasagna. After swallowing it whole, we vowed never to buy lunch there again (we had paid half-board, so in future we would make like my mother and steal bread rolls and jam from breakfast). We strolled onto the paradisaical beach, flopped onto our bellies and promptly fell asleep under a palm tree.

That evening we had our first dinner at the resort. With seven buffet tables groaning under the weight of fresh bread, pasta, meat, fish, salads, fruit and desserts, it looked much like I expect dinner in heaven would be. Except in heaven I would be sitting at a table with John Cleese, Ricky Gervais, Noam Chomsky, Bono and Charlie Sheen (if he ends up there). And in heaven I wouldn’t have my bikini bottoms sunburned onto my bum (note to self: don’t fall asleep in the shade. Shade moves). My husband and I attacked the tables with the gusto of two stray feral dogs, piling our plates high with a little bit of everything (which, when added up, amounts roughly to the quantity of food eaten by a pregnant grizzly bear … before hibernation).

Somehow we were hungry by the next morning and turned breakfast  into an orgy of pancakes with honey, omelets, croissants, pastries with yummy yellow stuff in the middle and a piece of fruit (which somehow seemed to balance out the pancakes and pastries). After breakfast we waddled around the resort and down onto the beach. After a while, I noticed that my husband seemed to be grinning a lot more than usual. He also seemed to be paying less attention than usual to my monologues. Then I looked around.

I had read somewhere in Reader’s Digest that European women are liberal (and I don’t mean politically), but I was taken aback by the sheer number of beautiful, bronzed ladies lazing around with no tops on. I didn’t know where to look, though my husband clearly did. I felt as though I’d hijacked the dream of a pubescent boy.

So under the guise of wanting to explore the beaches, I picked my husband’s jaw off the floor, tucked his tongue back into his mouth and dragged him reluctantly away from the crowds of naked-breasted beauties. The further we walked the fewer people we saw, so we strolled right to the end of the beach, clambering over the smooth granite boulders and waded through the warm, shallow waters until we reached the spot where we would visit every day for the rest of our vacation. Our spot was comprised of the most magnificent stretch of pristine sand rolling into the clear blue sea and, at the end, the most splendiferous rock pool there ever was, filled with cheeky zebra fish that nibbled away at our feet.

On day three in paradise we decided to take a walk through the village to the Giant Tortoise Centre, which is part of the Giant Tortoise Conservation Project. After receiving an impromptu talk on Seychelles’ giant tortoises (which were thought to be extinct since 1840, until Ron Gerlach, his wife, Jill, and their son, Justin, discovered eight of the majestic creatures and relocated them to Silhouette) Accompanied by Ron himself,we were allowed into a little room that housed the tiniest tortoise we’d ever seen. It’s flabbergasting to think that in 100 years time something so small will grow so incredibly big (some of the tortoises weigh around 230 kg’s!).

We loved the tortoises so much that we went back to the sanctuary the next day. After stroking them for a while (they stretch out like cats when you touch them, it’s very rewarding), we wandered onto a trail that took us through the dense jungle and over one side of the mountain. At the top, we stumbled upon a graveyard looking over the incredibly blue water and onto North Island. What a view! A pity the dead guys wouldn’t be able to enjoy it, but at least we got to. We trotted down the other side of the mountain and onto the sands of yet another deserted beach, isolated by massive boulders on either side. If the entire world’s population (apart from us, of course) dropped dead of ChalieSheendidwhat? right then, we wouldn’t even have been aware of it. Well, until dinner time where there’d be no one to rival us at the buffet tables or offer us ridiculously overpriced wine.

Our final two days on Silhouette were spent idling at ‘our spot’, swimming, reading, snoozing and attempting to digest the mountains of pancakes consumed at breakfast. By the time we had to catch the ferry back to Mahé in order to catch our heinously early flight back to Johannesburg, we were ten pounds lighter mentally and ten pounds heavier physically. As I watched the sunrise over the ever-nearer island of Mahé, I knew that in five hours this holiday would seem like it was all one idyllic dream. A dream, no doubt, I will revisit for years to come.






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