The Seychelles Islands: Vacationing Inside Your Screensaver

Bonus Beach Time! Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue, Seychelles
Bonus Beach Time! Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles

Another lifetime ago, back when I worked as a graphic artist for a local newspaper, my supervisor had a screensaver depicting a beach of limpid blue water lapping against white sands perfectly framed by enormous grayish-brown boulders worn smooth from millennia of erosion. Always a sucker for the power of an intriguing image, I felt inspired to find out where it was and then how I was going to get there. The image in question is that of Anse Source D’Argent – consistently voted among the world’s best beaches, and a frequent subject of wall calendars and screensavers everywhere. As for how to actually get inside that screensaver, allow me to explain.

Located – quite literally – about a thousand miles from anywhere, the Seychelles Islands are an archipelago of some 115 islands situated in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. Madagascar would probably be considered its nearest neighbor, but that’s another story with its own screensaver. In terms of neighbors, rather than being a weird recluse in a remote Unabomber-style shack, the Seychelles are more like a secluded retreat for the well-to-do, using their remoteness as a natural barrier against the penniless masses hoping to peek over the fence.

Historically, the island nation was a haven for pirates who made their living raiding the trade routes to India and beyond. Settled by the French in the mid-1700’s, they were named after King Louis XV’s finance minister, viscount Jean Moreau de Sechelles. Had there been computer screens back then, perhaps he would have settled for a screensaver, but technology being what it was, he became the namesake for an exclusive archipelago that is now synonymous with paradise and the good life.

Despite its French beginnings, in the early 1800’s the islands fell under British control all the way up until its independence in 1976. The production of crops such as cotton and vanilla began to decline, being replaced with perhaps the fattest (both literally and figuratively) cash cow of them all – luxury tourism. Here’s where those screensavers earn their keep.

International visitors – aside from those with their own cruise ships or luxury yachts – will arrive via air on the principal island of Mahe. Home to the capital, Victoria, and a few square blocks of ‘urban’ population, the rest of the island offers glimpses of what makes the Seychelles such an amazing destination and screensaver diva: rainforest, beaches, and sunsets.

Not far outside the capital is lovely Beau Vallon – a two mile crescent of white sand beach with a great view of the ultra-exclusive Silhouette Island across the bay. Not surprisingly, water sports abound from Jet Skis to diving to Deep Sea fishing. For anyone with limited time and budget, Mahe will be a satisfying stand-in for the screensaver-worthy scenes you likely came looking for. But since you came all this way, you might as well stretch things a little bit further and see those digital fantasies with your own eyes by either a short flight or ferry ride to the other two ‘main’ islands – Praslin and La Digue.

Praslin, in my opinion is the best place to base your explorations. There’s plenty to do and see, some of the finest places to stay, and one or two locales that have made their way to computer screens the world over. Lodging here is not cheap, but if you’re going to splurge, this would be the place to do it.

Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles
Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles

Once again, the beach scenes of lush greenery sloping down to powdery beaches abound, particularly at Anse Lazio, a gorgeous cove tucked away in the northwest corner of the island, and a great place to observe the mind-blowing Seychelles sunsets over the open ocean. This place is no stranger to screensavers and calender shoots, so make sure it isn’t a stranger to your itinerary. Yes, it’s that good.

What makes Praslin so unique though, is actually located in the hilly center of the island – a nature preserve and World Heritage Site called Vallee de Mai. This is the only place in the world where the indigenous coco de mer plant grows in the wild. Since its unlikely you’ve seen many coco de mer fruits on a screensaver or elsewhere, the ‘male’ appendages are shaped as you would likely imagine a male appendage to be shaped, and the ‘female’ nuts are the largest nuts in the world, weighing up to 40 pounds. Besides their hefty weight and size, they are noteworthy for their shape, which strongly resembles the lower half of a woman’s torso, and was known to cause excitement among early (and presumably lonely) sailors who would chance upon them on the open seas. Anatomical similarities aside, this is a virgin rainforest of soaring trees and oversized greenery, with leaves that could double as a car cover. If you ever wanted to imagine yourself as an ant in a terrarium, this would be the place.

Accessible only a short ferry ride away is the third most-visited of the Seychelles Islands, a tiny green gem called La Digue. If Praslin could be considered laid back, then comparatively La Digue would be considered comatose. There are only a handful of vehicles allowed to operate on the island, and you’re far more likely to hire an ox-driven taxi than anything with an engine. The tradeoff is a tranquil, quiet slice of heaven, or at least it would be if it weren’t for the harmless but disturbingly large palm spiders visible every so often.

Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue
Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue

Most opt to get around by foot, and if you don’t mind strolling around in near 100% humidity, less than an hour’s walk will bring you to Pointe Source D’Argent and its namesake beach. Here you’ll find abundant clusters of the signature granite boulders for which the Seychelles are famous. Worn smooth by eons of erosion, they take on unique shapes in surreal formations which no doubt accounts for their prevalence in the screensaver industry. The beach is shallow and the water warm, but as far as scenery goes, I can’t think of anywhere else that can compare–both digitally and in real life.

Getting to the Seychelles is sadly just slightly less difficult than climbing into your computer screen. Air Seychelles is the national carrier, with routes predominantly from Europe and South Africa. Tickets are not cheap, and so are accommodations, which range from ‘expensive’ all the way up to ‘need-to-sell-a-kidney-on-the-black-market-just-to-tip-the-bellboy’. Again, the Seychelles have marketed themselves as an upscale retreat, catering to those who have the means along with the occasional wannabe like myself, so budget well or else it’s a long swim back to the African mainland.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what to expect on a visit to the Seychelles, it’s time to ask yourself the hard questions: Am I willing to travel such a long distance to see it? Can I afford it? Will it be worth the expense to do so? If you said yes to all three then by all means, come visit this archipelago right out of Paradise. If you said no, then that’s OK too. You can always just stare at the screensaver.

Share Your Love For All Things Travel With A Gift From Customtravelart.com!

Whether it’s a custom tee, bucket list design or personalized departure or arrivals board, Custom Travel Art can create the perfect gift for the traveler in your life – even if that traveler is you! Browse our collection now for the perfect travel gift.

Southern (Hemisphere) Comfort

It’s that time of year again. While I’m vacillating my attention between my icy driveway and the level of oil for my burner, my mind tends to wander from the chilly environs of my native Long Island and longingly travel to points south—way south. I don’t know if it’s comforting or teasing to know that even though we’re on the same page of the calendar, on the other side of the equator the sand is on the beaches, not the roads, and the only ice to be found is mixed with fruit and liquor. And while we had our chance to enjoy the warmth of summer a few months ago, I can’t help but feel a twinge of envy when I think about the pleasant weather happening right now in lower latitudes.

 

Looking back, some of my fondest beach memories took place during what North Americans, Europeans, most Africans and all Asians with the exception of Indonesians (who never get cold weather anyway) would consider the winter months. So here are a few of them with incongruous dates to match the picture. Perhaps it will warm you up by imagining yourself there—or with anger at my having brought it up. 

 

January 25, 2008

Punta del Este, Uruguay

The happening resort town of Punta del Este
The happening resort town of Punta del Este

 

Seeing the word January on the calendar doesn’t often conjure images of sun-kissed beaches and warm waters, but it certainly does to visitors and residents of this happening resort area less than two hours’ drive east of the capital of Montevideo. I only got to spend a few hours here before my cruise ship was set to sail onward, but it felt great to (literally) get my feet wet again after several months of cold weather back home—not to mention having been in the frigid waters of Antarctica just a few days before.

 

March 10, 2013

Ilha Grande, Brazil

The idyllic sand & surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil
The idyllic sand & surf of Praia Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

 

Historically, March is one of the snowiest months where I live, so you can imagine the joy of coming to the end of the sometimes arduous path through the jungle and stepping out onto the powdery sands of the beach called Lopes Mendes—considered one of Brazil’s best. I distinctly recall walking the edge of the waterline, alternating between the baking sand and the cool waters of the South Atlantic while listening to music on my iPhone and marveling at the verdant scenery hugging the ribbon of sand curving off ahead of me. Upon returning to my wife and blanket and opening a bottle of the local cerveja, I can assure you wind chills and snow drifts were the last things on my mind.

 

March 18, 2009

Praslin, Seychelles Islands

Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles
Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles

 

While at the end of the season—though technically on the winter side of the Spring Equinox—visiting the golden sands of the beach at Anse Lazio in late March was zero part lion and 100% lamb. I arrived here at sunset after a delayed bus ride, broken sandal on a steep hillside descent, and an encounter with a pack of dogs with questionable motives. All that was forgotten—along with the date—upon seeing the calm waters lapping the rounded granite boulders bordering this tranquil cove. I took my pictures, caught my breath and negotiated a cab ride back to the resort with the last of my cash, but if I had the chance I doubt if I would have ever left until well into Spring.

 

So as we Northern Hemispherers (trademark pending) prepare to enter the heart of winter’s wrath, it’s not such a bad idea to steal a thought or glance south. Perhaps planning that trip to the other half of the planet will be what you need to get you through a few months of heavy coats and scraping windshields.

 

Have a favorite experience in the Southern Hemisphere? Leave a comment