Seychelles Trip Report April 2005 by Andrew & Sibylle Moss
Sibylle and I married on the 2nd April 2005 having spent ages planning the wedding and the honeymoon or as it turned out to be our honeymoons. We decided instead of ‘not another toaster’ we would save like mad and pool our wedding presents and go to the Galapagos Islands, one of the premier diving destinations of the world.
That presented the first problem, when is the best time to go to the Galapagos? That is not as straight forward as it may sound because the Galapagos is affected by three different currents during the year. These currents have different temperatures ranging from hot to cold affecting the climate and the marine life to be seen amongst other things.
After much research and conflicting advice we decided, for diving but not necessarily general tourism purposes, it would be best to go towards the end of October. That trip is subject of another report.
That left the question, what do we do after our wedding? Clearly we had to have a honeymoon immediately after the wedding, but where to go? We wanted to go somewhere nice but to keep the costs under control acknowledging the forthcoming outlay for Galapagos. We also wanted to be able to dive but also to be able to do other activities.
We did think of going back to the Maldives where we had got engaged but felt we would prefer to go somewhere else it only being 18 months on and we were sure if we went there that we would have been underwater as much as possible to the exclusion of everything else. The Canaries was another possibility but to stay somewhere nice it started working out quite pricey. For some reason, out of the blue, Sibylle suggested the Seychelles on the grounds that it must be romantic, being in the Indian Ocean the diving must be reasonable and there had to be other things to do, the Seychelles comprising a number of mountainous islands some of which are positively large when compared with the Maldives. We thought however it would be prohibitively expensive but set about planning and investigating nonetheless.
It turned out that we could fly the day after our wedding with Air Seychelles from Heathrow to Mahe, the principal island in the archipelago. We also found that if we booked self catered accommodation ourselves it cost about £30 - £40 per night. That was it, we decided to do a backpacking trip to the Seychelles lasting 13 nights, the maximum amount of holiday we had available to us.
After a fantastic wedding we turned up at Heathrow and were the first in the queue. I asked for an upgrade being honeymooners but it turned out that virtually everyone else was going to get married or were honeymooners on package holidays so we didn’t get very far with that one however we did manage to get the Emergency Exit seats.
We arrived early on the 4th in Mahe and got a taxi to our accommodation, Le Petit Payot in Beau Vallon. It was close to and had been recommended by Big Blue Divers, one of the dive centres on the island. Anyway the accommodation was a great apartment which was owned by a rather eccentric local who had an affinity with alcohol. When sufficiently inebriated he claimed he was to be the next and indeed first black Pope, the previous Pope having died whilst we were eating our wedding breakfast.
Anyway, 2 hours after arriving we decided we wanted to go diving. So much for a relaxing start to the holiday! Decision made we set off with Big Blue Divers for a dive at Sunset Rocks, me with a 2 mm shortie and Sibylle in an Icelandic wetsuit.
So that was the first dive. Next morning, Shark Rock, an offshore pinnacle. No sharks but a big sting ray. That afternoon, on route to L’ ilot (the island), the crew spotted 2 whale sharks and we jumped in to snorkel with them for half an hour which was great they being the first we had seen. That said it was tiring as being good divers and never having needed them before we had left our snorkels ashore. B….r! Anyway the sharks were about 5 metres long, just babies as we were to find out later in the year.
The next day we hired a car and went around Mahe, a spectacular mountainous island with rich flora, fauna and amazing beaches. After a day off it was back to diving with a 2 tank dive which as we had learnt in the Maldives does not mean a twin set dive but rather means taking 2 tanks out in the boat and changing them over after the first dive. The dives were the Lighthouse and the second the Tiernay Marine Reserve after a lunchtime BBQ on the beach.
That was to be our last dive in Mahe. The next day we went out for a long walk with an ecologist called Basil who was a font of information. The last day in Mahe was a Sunday and the Pope’s funeral. Everything including Victoria, the Capital, was very quiet so a relaxing day was had.
Overall Beau Vallon was a good place to stay, self catering was easy there being odd shops around and many reasonably priced excellent cafes and restaurants. The diving around Mahe was nowhere near as good as the Maldives but overall the experience including the land tours was great. The only problem we had was lack of bottled water, Mahe having run out of plastic bottles! This meant we, and more particularly our teeth, were quite sick of Sprite by the end of the week!
Next day, early to Victoria to get the ferry to Praslin, an island to the east of Mahe and then straight onto La Dique which lies a short distance to the south. La Dique was absolutely spectacular with amazing beaches and big waves. There were very few cars on the island with bicycle and ox drawn cart being the main forms of transport.
We stayed in Fleur de Lys; self catered accommodation, which was great. It is possible to dive at a price from La Dique but we didn’t as we only had a couple of days there and there was so much to see and do including meeting giant tortoises from the Aldabra Atoll of the Seychelles and seeing what has been voted the most beautiful beach in the world Anse d’Argent, golden sand and granite boulders surrounded by hills covered with lush tropical vegetation.
After La Dique it was back to Praslin. We were to stay at Hirondelle which is on the eastern side of the island close to the Octopus Dive Centre which had been recommended by Big Blue Divers. This side of the island was scenic however there was clear evidence of damage from the tsunami which had struck some 4 months previously. We ended up staying in Hirondelle only one night principally because the accommodation was very close to the road which runs along the eastern side of the island which turned out to be busy and noisy. So after a restless night we hired a Suzuki jeep and set off to see what we could find. We were so glad we did, ending up in a bungalow on the western side of the island in the grounds of Villa Flamboyant. This turned out to be the best accommodation we found with our own private beach and all for £30 a night!
Being on the western side of the island we kept the jeep throughout our stay on the island travelling to the Octopus Dive Centre on the east coast for diving, a 20 minute or so journey. Dive sites included St Marienne, White Bank, Booby Rock and Whale Rock. These dives were excellent with lots of marine life and soft corals and we felt they were very much better than the dives around Mahe. One particular highlight was seeing a very rare guitar shark, a cross between a shark and a ray, glide past, another first on the species seen list!
On the non diving days we had a look around the island and visited the Vallee de Mer, home of Coco de Mere palm trees. These are only found on Praslin and on one other island in the Seychelles and nowhere else in the World. We ended up buying a coconut as a souvenir; it weighs 11 kg and needed a licence to export! We will leave to your imagination what it looks like.
It was then time to leave Praslin. We flew in a small aeroplane back to Mahe into a beautiful sunset and then 10 hours back to Heathrow before driving home.
Overall great memories, an excellent place to go and very easy to organise oneself on the internet and when there. We really enjoyed self catering which was reasonably priced as were the many restaurants and cafes to be found on the islands. It is possible to fly cheaper than we did if you have more freedom with the dates. All in all a great alternative to the Canaries.
It was then back to our usual lives, work and cold grey north east weather. Three weeks after we were back it was deemed time to resume North Sea diving. We set off with Tyneside BSAC 114 Branch and Alan Lopez of Spellbinder II. We did just the one dive that day out of the three possible. It lasted 23 minutes and the entry in my log book is ‘welcome to reality’!
Andrew and Sibylle Moss