Elysium On Earth

Elysium On Earth

It is only when I visited Seychelles that I realised that the things said about these beautiful Island is true and not just brochure hype. Miles and...

It is only when I visited Seychelles that I realised that the things said about these beautiful Island is true and not just brochure hype. Miles and miles of beaches that define stunning beauty with waters in the most glorious shades of blue, pristine marine life, lush vegetation, enticing Creole culture...we could go on and on. But we will just give you a brief, very brief list of what you can see and do in Seychelles. The country which is part of the African continent and surrounded by the Indian Ocean, is comprised of 115 granite and coral islands, only a few of which are inhabited.

Beaches Seychelles' beaches are heavenly. The talcumpowder sands, the spectacular shades of blue of the waters, majestic granite boulders alongside, and secure environment which ensures safety for swimming and water sports all draw thousands of beach lovers. Of these, the stunning Anse Source d'Argent is reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world. Swimming, diving, sailing, surfing and snorkelling are popular water sports at Seychelles' beaches. For a more sedate way, take excursions in glass-bottomed boats for views of awesome marine life and corals. Yacht and fishing-boat charters are available in a wide range of prices.

Victoria This is Seychelles' capital and said to be the world's tiniest capital city. You can explore the entire city on foot within a day! But then the entire population of Seychelles is around 90,000! Yes, under one lakh! Sounds quite incredible especially to us Indians, where even a small town would have a bigger population. Check out the landmark Clock Tower, Courthouse, Victoria Botanical Gardens, Bel Air Cemetry, National Museum of History, Natural History Museum, the Vinayaka-Navashakti Temple, Bicentennial Monument, and Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market among other attractions.

Valle De Mai Located in Praslin island, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a pristine natural reserve. This vestige of a natural palm forest, is home to many endemic and rare species. The most famous is the coco-de-mer, the largest seed in the plant kingdom and the world's largest nut.

Guides pointed out the male and female species every time we spotted it on our guided walk. The coco-de-mer, whether in its natural form or as inspiration for artefacts and interior design is a recurring motif in Seychelles. Valle de Mai is also home to the rare black parrot which we were lucky to spot twice.

Besides, you can sight the sunbird, bulbul, Seychelles kestril, blue pigeon, cave-nesting swiftlet, green gecko, bronze gecko, (these are aplenty), chameleon, skinks, Seychelles house snake, Seychelles wolf snake and blind snake, gourgeon fish, besides the caecilian or frog-like creatures looking like large worms.

Aldabra Atoll The only other World Heritage Site of Seychelles, this is one of the world's rarest raised coral atoll. It is also home to the world's largest giant-tortoise population---about 1.52 lakh! However, there is very limited access to this isolated and exotic atoll which is virtually untouched by humans and once described as the crown jewel of the Indian Ocean.

La Digue A very scenic and tranquil island which is also very touristy, La Digue can be easily reached by ferry. Among the famous beaches here are Anse Source D'Argent and Grand Anse--we f o u n d them breathtaking. Fish, rays and sharks can be sighted here. The Veuve Nature Reserve houses the rare Black Paradise Flycatcher. Everywhere we encountered bicycles and hardly saw any cars---a policy which has contributed to preserving the island's ecology and peaceful nature.

Navasakthi Vinayaka Temple The only Hindu temple in the country it is visited not only by locals of the same community (there are many Indians in Seychelles) but also by tourists and visitors from around the world.

Giant Tortoises They are everywhere in the islands of Seychelles and you can see some fine specimens at Morne Seychellois National Park. The Botanical Gardens at Victoria house the giant Aldabra tortoises--a favourite with kids. You will also find them at small parks and coconut plantations.

Walk/Hike Hikes and walks are the best ways to discover these beautiful islands including their lush vegetation, to do a bit of shopping, stop by at artists' studios, eat authentic cuisine at small eateries, and meet and chat with the locals. The mountainous Silhouette Islands with primeval forests offer the best mountain hikes. Also check out two nature reserves---Cousin Island and its interesting variety of flora and fauna, and Aride Island whose birdlife which includes the world's largest colony of lesser noddy.

Shopping Pick up your souvenirs, gifts, trinkets, collectibles--- a piece of Seychelles to take home. Buy them from the small markets in and around Victoria especially the streets that lead out all sides from the Clock Tower. The coastal roads of Mahe and La Digue and night market at Victoria are other options.

The Crafts Village on Victoria's outskirts was a sheer delight with its wide range of shops and boutiques. We saw a wide range of pareos or sarongs, woodcraft, shell jewellery, silver and gold accessories, T shirts and skirts with local motifs, swimwear, vacoa fibre bags, colourful corals, bags in local design and using locally sourced material, paintings, items made of different parts of the coconut- tree, wall-hangings of all kinds and of course, lots of artistically made geckos and tortoises in wood and metal. Motifs inspired by fish, tortoises, and geckos were popular in gift items. Packets of curry spices or nutmeg or cinnamon quills besides vanilla products are other popular buys.

Eat and Drink Like all island countries, this is famed for its marine delicacies. Pure vegetarians like us were content to hear about the Seychelles specialities like fish (red snapper) head soup, shark chutney, octopus curry, smoked-fish salad, grilled or raw fish, squid, salted fish fried with curry leaves and sprinkled with lime juice, raw tuna loin with soya sauce, etc. La Digue is known for its dishes of lobsters with garlic and the biggest specialty — bat curry! Fruit-bat curry is a delicacy in the country. We vegetarians feasted on Creole vegetarian curry, salads, raw green papaya/ mango, breadfruit chips, the famed palm heart, bananas in various forms (raw banana sliced and fried or marinated in coconut milk, etc.), sweet potato, cassava, etc. Besides the amazing range of fresh fruit drinks from tropical fruits like papaya, passion-fruit, mango, starfruit, orange, etc., there were many varieties of rum and palm wine on offer for our non-teetotaller co-travellers.
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