I started with wondering if its pronounced as “sea-shells” or something more French sounding. Once I started looking at the pictures, the name didn’t matter. Seychelles in not the only place in the world with white sand beaches and pristine blue waters. It is, however, one of the very few that has all sorts of beaches – lagoons, little waves, big waves, rocky and anything else you can desire – right next to each other. Add to this mixture an absence of crowds and it becomes one of the most unique places to visit.
Planning a trip to Seychelles was easier than it seemed – there isn’t too much to choose from. There was one direct flight from India – from Mumbai and booking separate tickets to Mumbai and then onwards to Mahe was the cheapest. The flight from Mumbai is a short one, less than 5 hours, but is at an odd time. It leaves Mumbai at 5:45 am arriving at 8:35am, which maybe too early to check-in to a hotel. We spent the time at a local restaurant in Victoria having a light snack. Other flight options are all via the gulf countries and will be longer flights.
Hotels are very limited in almost all of Seychelles. Most of the hotels are 5-start properties and are exorbitantly priced. Mahe would have some reasonable options but as you move to smaller islands, the options reduce and the prices shoot up. The best options we found where these “self-catering villas”. Privately owned and run 4-8 room institutions which are usually well located, very well furnished and even better priced. They come with kitchenettes, lovely decor and in our lucky case a view that would beat most 5-stars. In Praslin there are fewer ones with a view but Mahe has loads of them. In some of the smaller ones, the owner would arrange a nice breakfast for a small additional fee. The rooms were large and tastefully decorated and the owners and managers are cheerful and ready to help.
Hiring a car is a no-brainer, unless you are in one of those resorts. There is so much to see on the islands that hiring taxis or relying on the slow busses will never cut the deal. There is hardly any traffic (except in Victoria) and driving around the islands is super easy. Only two watch-outs: First, Victoria can have crazy traffic and paying for parking is kind of un-intuitive. You need to pay at some local shop and there is usually no signage on the shop! Best way is to ask the locals, they will help. Second, some of the interior roads are quite steep and windy and have no lights at night. However, you don’t always need to go there and distances are really short – so you can drive really slow.
Finally – food! This is the tricky one. Outside of the resorts, good food is hard to find. Even in some of the highly recommended places, the food was average at best and exorbitantly priced. There is very limited variety and almost no sign of anything remotely related to customer service. The only 2 places I would strongly recommend are Mary Antonette in Mahe and PK’s in Praslin. Another place that looked good is the restaurant at the Takamaka distillery, especially for cocktails. I would recommend trying out some of the take out places – they are very reasonably priced and even if the food turns out to be average, you don’t feel as bad. If you are an Indian willing to cook, most grocery stores are run by Indians and are full of typical Indian groceries.
One thing that I found surprising was that for a country that runs on tourism, they don’t care much about tourism outside of the resorts. Most shops in the city close on the weekend and even some of the restaurants. The real way to enjoy Seychelles is to live like a local…get the take out food, sit by the beach and pour yourselves some Takamaka.