Few people can resist the siren call of the dreamy archipelago of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. The 115 islands, scattered like jewels in azure waters, resonate with the magic that comes from being adrift, and a world unto themselves.
As soon as you land at Mahe International Airport in the East of the main island of Mahe, after a four and a half hour flight from India, you realise that this is a country that moves to the cyclical rhythms of nature and life revolves around the village and the village church. The islands reveal their secrets, slowly and shyly as though conscious of the fact that their ethereal beauty could seriously overwhelm. The very air vibrates with mystery. Tales of hidden treasure, secreted away by the dashing pirate La Buse who ambushed ships in these parts, swirl around the islands. Indeed La Buse’s buried booty has been the subject of many futile searches in the archipelago and continues to elude treasure hunters even today!
This is where Britain’s young royal couple William and Kate had honeymooned and so had actor George Clooney and his bride, Amal Alamuddin! Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie too have ambled down the beaches here in search of the quiet anonymity that lovers and celebrities seek.
But the average tourist in Seychelles enjoys island hopping rather than mere beach combing. Steam to the island of Praslin, 40 km to the north-east of Mahe, in a smooth ferry. Puff up the Pirate’s Trail where you will stumble on an 18th century stone oven, hidden in an old growth forest, and artefacts like a cannon ball, rifle and a small treasure chest which are believed to have belonged to La Buse the buccaneer. Praslin’s beaches like the Grand Anse and Anse Lazio (acclaimed as some of the most beautiful in the world) have an end-of-the-world feel. But naturally, only 7,000 people live on Praslin which is the country’s second largest land mass! Stroll down its wind-swept beaches, feel the frilled surf lap your feet even as the sun, resembling an orange cannon ball, slides off the sky.
The car-free isle of La Digue which lies just 7 km away from Praslin is another gem – unspoilt – with just bicycles, ox carts and a handful of pick-up trucks plying its narrow roads. Time shrinks and stands still here and you may feel that you have hurtled back into the past.
La Digue is also the jumping-off point for excursions to the nearby islands of Felicite, Sister or Soeur island and the magical Coco island where one can snorkel and swim, marvelling at the limpid waters in which multi-hued fish dart around; the lion fish with its vivid red markings, parrot fish and even manta rays!
Luxury hotels, where romance reigns morning, noon and night, dot the virgin landscape. They offer luxe frills like spas, gourmet cuisine and romantic tables for two. Dip into local Seychellois cuisine, imbibe some of the local heady Takamaka rum and feel the spirit of the islands, afloat in a sea of yesteryears, unchanging, and immutable!