The Seychelles: A place in-between heaven and paradise

Posted on 23 November 2020

Considered the most beautiful beach in the world, this is Anse Source d’Argent on La Digue.

Everyone has a preconceived notion of what an island holiday is about. If I say the word Seychelles, you automatically think swaying palm trees, endless turquoise waters, cocktails served day and night – and the quintessential honeymoon destination. I know at least five couples who honeymooned there in the last two years which qualifies that thought process.

The sparsely populated Indian Ocean island has been open to South African tourists since November 7, when Air Seychelles reinstated its weekly International flight every Saturday from OR Tambo International. In December the airline will increase flights to three flights per week on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to accommodate visitor demands.

COVID-19 has caused irreparable damage to tourism on the island, and with only four active cases currently, they are being cautiously optimistic about allowing travellers back into their world. Where better to social distance than a beach on a remote island?

Ten African countries have been permitted to reenter the country from October 19 2020. In their latest updated Visitors Travel Advisory, authorities said travellers from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi Niger, Burundi, Ghana, Rwanda, Botswana, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya and Zambia can now enter Seychelles.

On board the first flight to the island via the national carrier Air Seychelles, there is an inexplainable buzz, unlike any I’ve felt all year. The excitement of finally being able to visit another country is electric. A South African family of two grandparents, a mother, a four-month-old baby and a toddler sit behind me and they are teeming with anticipation to get to their destination. The mother and her husband live in the Seychelles, she went home before lockdown to have a baby and he had to stay behind for work. When the borders shut he was unable to get back to South Africa to be with her so he has never met his child. You can imagine the tears and smiles when they were finally reunited. It was a beautiful day indeed. Families have suffered the most during lockdown.

There are strict regulations to adhere to before boarding international flights, while you are on the plane and when you disembark too. Every country is different so make sure you understand what their regulations are and stick to them precisely.

The Seychelles Government requires you to have a coronavirus test 72 hours before you arrive and then again 72 hours before you depart. Make sure you have an official stamp or signed copy of this test as a hardcopy. They might not always accept the copy of the results you receive via email, you might need to fetch the hardcopy from the laboratory where your test was done. It is always best to find out from the lab themselves when the hardcopy will be available to collect, and if they can email it to you with the official stamp.

The rule of mask use at all times in the airport and on the plane are strictly enforced. The only exception is if you are eating or drinking. I suggest getting a few comfortable, breathable masks for the duration of your travel. Also, bare in mind that the island is extremely humid and hot at this time of the year, so getting the right mask is important.

Like we do in South Africa, you are expected to sanitise at every corner of the airport and your temperature is checked a few times as well. Have all your documentation on hand and in a place that is easy to access quickly. Officials are not allowed to lend you a pen so make sure you have a working pen on hand. The address of your hotel is important, as your details have to be carefully monitored by the Seychelles Government in case there is an outbreak.

The island of Mahe from the air.

We arrived at the chic, contemporary-styled Eden Bleu Hotel in the dark and could hardly wait for the morning to get our first glimpse of Mahé – which is the capital and most densely populated of the four inhabited islands in the Seychelles. Here, 90% of the population reside, most of whom are Catholics. There is no poverty, no hawkers allowed on beaches and government-funded medical care. They strive to give tourists the most relaxed and private holiday, with very little to sway you from the picturesque beaches and lukewarm blue seas.

True to research and postcard-perfect pictures, I admit the Seychelles is indeed made up of swaying palms, the bluest blue beaches and cocktails at every hour of the day, although you should find out if they are part of your package at your hotel or that could be a costly mistake.

Picture-perfect beaches in the Seychelles.

It’s hard not be drawn into the island way of life, you simply can’t resist wanting to rush to every beach and immerse yourself in everything that is the Seychelles. They are ready to welcome tourists back post haste so if there was ever a time to get a great deal in paradise, now is it.

The three islands we visited are worlds apart in personality – Mahé has a city vibe to it – is flanked by a world-class marina and is the largest of the islands. Praslin is the island that delivers an authentic island experience. You can get there via boat or small plane from Mahé.

Praslin is full of wonder, and almost prehistoric. It is home to the Coco De Mer, the plant with the largest seed in the world, which the Seychellois are extremely proud of. The best and only word to describe it would be ‘suggestive’. The seed mimics a bum and has a protrusion of hair in the centre which is more than a little ‘suggestive’. It is highly protected as it grows no where else on the planet. You can buy one to take back home but it needs to be certified and will set you back anything from R5000 – R10 000. The tree that bears the seed is found in the Vallée de Mai – an enchanting UNESCO World Heritage Site forest that engulfs you in shades of green and moments of wow. There are various trails that lead you through the forest, take your time if you do go, it is a place of unhindered beauty.

The Coco De Mer plant.

The third island we visited was La Digue, one forever etched in my memory. It is a place frozen in time. You get there via ferry from Praslin and the only way to make your way around the small island is via bicycle, also there is no other way you should. As you navigate your way through the streets of a place steeped in Creole history and time, you can feel the ghosts of islanders past welcoming you with open arms. The houses and hotels are moulded into the ancestry of the land so nothing doesn’t belong. Most famous for being home to the most beautiful beach in the world Anse Source d’Argent – is dotted with massive granite rocks, pristine white sand and aquamarine warm water it is without a doubt one of THE most seductive beaches I have visited. You can’t help but stand and stare in awe of the natural beauty before you. Don’t forget to bring snorkel gear, there are few opportunities to swim over corals teeming with exotic creatures like this. Don’t be surprised if you pass a few giant tortoises on your bike tour through the island, they call La Digue home, not a bad view to live with – even for a tortoise.

La Digue is without a doubt paradise on Earth.

Restaurants throughout the Seychelles will do the mandatory temperature checks and ask you to fill out your hotel information so they can track your movement. It is the new way of life, and not too much to ask for considering what the rest of the world is going through.

Your hotel can give you relevant information about where and how to book and plan for your exit COVID-19 test, some are gracious enough to get a nurse to visit you at your accommodation to have the test done. It is always good to plan ahead so it does not interfere with your itinerary. You should also enquire about the cost of the test and factor that into your budget.

So, it appears that I did stumble across an island in-between paradise and heaven where you can escape the madness of the world and swim with turtles. And the biggest misconception is that it is mostly for honeymooners, it is also a great family getaway, highly recommended for solo-travellers and even a friend’s escape. Travelling during the pandemic may scare you a little but it is far easier than I anticipated and not half as daunting as your mind tells you it is. Get out there again, it’s time!



Pictures: Nidha Narrandes

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