News » Tourism

The real deal on the Seychelles

A tropical island paradise off the east coast of Africa



Have you ever thought of leaving the rat race behind, packing up and moving to some idyllic place with swaying palm trees and pristine white sand beaches? Well, that’s exactly what David Rowat and Glynis Sanders did, leaving behind the dreary rains of England, to buy The Underwater Centre, a dive shop in the Seychelles.

When I told people that I was going to the Seychelles, the usual response was "Sechelt, oh yeah, I’ve been there, I love the Sunshine Coast."

No, man, I would say, the Seychelles, not Sechelt!

"The Seychelles… where the heck is that?"

Sometimes referred to as "the farthest place from anywhere," it’s an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa. Independent as a country since 1976, the Seychelles have been under both French and British rule in the past, so both languages are widely spoken (along with the local Creole), making it a good fit for Canadians. Being located where it is geographically, its people are a melting pot of different cultures, including Asian, European, Indian and especially African.

The Seychelles were also fortunate to escape the Dec. 26 tsunami relatively unscathed.

The local radio station proclaims itself as "Paradise FM" and as far as the stereotypical image of Eden goes, this is about as close as it gets. Year-round pleasant tropical climate, refreshing breezes, beautiful warm water, sugar-white sand beaches and ubiquitous hanging coconut palm trees complete the picture.

The Seychelles are also the only oceanic granitic islands in the world, which is an academic way of saying that scenically, it rocks! Rugged outcrops, spectacular mountain peaks and even whimsical granite boulders framing its beaches, all abound. Imagine, if you will, The Chief dropping down to a secluded beach, with beautiful turquoise water (a few degrees warmer than Howe Sound, I might add).

One such beach, Anse Source D’Argent, is the pride of an island called La Digue. Often referred to as "the most photographed beach in the world," it’s frequently the site of supermodel photo shoots. Unfortunately, there were no supermodels while I was there, just a few fat European men in Speedos. But the beach did not disappoint, nor did the island itself, with its charming laid-back atmosphere. So laid back in fact, that almost all transportation is still by oxcart, or bicycle.

The second largest island is named Praslin, best known for its magical forest in the centre, called the Vallée de Mai. With its unique plant species, leisurely walks through this national park’s well-marked trails are truly enchanting. It’s most famous for an endemic Seychelles palm species, called the Coco de Mer. I have to admit, prior to seeing them, I was wondering what all the fuss was about, but they really were impressive. The massive coconuts from these trees weigh in at up to 45 pounds, and are the largest seeds in the world. Shaped like a woman’s pelvis , they’re nicknamed "the love nut" and are said to possess aphrodisiac qualities. Hard to believe that coconuts could be erotic, but these ones are! (Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been single too long.) To make matters more ridiculous, the male fruit is decidedly phallic, and quite impressive in length. The strongest evidence yet, that God has a sense of humour.