For a while now Seychelles has nicely evolved as a “Bucket List” destination for Indians and the reasons aren’t hard to find – a vibrant Indian community, an Indian Naval Base (Assumption Island) as well as living the Bollywood dream and holidaying like Bollywood celebs.
Seychelles on the world map is a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean, but make no mistake, it is Planet Earth’s last “Paradise”. Splendid isolation, wonderful locales, endless stretches of white sandy beaches and beautifully encircled by mountains has meant that Seychelles has lured the discerning travellers to dive deep into its mesmerising beauty.
Indian visitors have a lot to cheer about with the recent launch of Air Seychelles’ direct flight connecting Mumbai to Mahé and their policy of Visa On Arrival has truly been lapped up by Indians looking for an escape from the frightening pace of metropolitan life.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a household name given the fact that Indo-Seychellois, who number around 10,000 easily make up an unputdownable minority ethnic faction in this island nation.
The first lot of Indian immigrations were basically South Indians, who came as slaves, much like the Africans in the 1770s and much later as indentured labourers. Today, the contribution of the Indian community is a well-accepted fact and if you visit places like Mahé, Praslin, La Diguemall and Victoria, the Indian connection is unmistakable. The later in particular is conspicuous by its majestic Hindu temple.
Seychelles' climate is quite salubrious, and the temperature hardly ever drops below 24 °C or ascends above 32 °C. For happily falls outside of the cyclonic belt making it a safe tourist destination.
With the Indian wedding industry galvanizing towards a billion-dollar one, Seychelles is easily one of the most preferred wedding venues. So ethereal is the beauty of this island nation that it is as if the divine architect had designed Seychelles with lovelorn couples in mind – for instance, imagine the thrill of getting married on a catamaran!
The recently married Duke & Duchess of Cambridge who chose Seychelles as their honeymoon destination is proof of how well Seychelles Tourism has marketed the island nation in the competitive global wedding bazaar.
Wedding in Seychelles does make a lot of sense – economic sense to be precise as the mandarins of Seychelles Tourism have priced the Wedding Packages very attractively and needless to say the rates are competitive.
It is wise to avail the services of a registered Wedding Specialist and leave the homework to them – from choosing the most appropriate hotel/resort, hiring musicians, photographers, beauticians and even liaising with the Registrar’s office is best left to the wedding agencies.
In Seychelles harmony is a way of life and so vibrant is the social landscape that people of African, Asian and European origins still live in perpetual peace whilst retaining much of their traditional customs and beliefs intact that were left behind by their forefathers. Hence, a peek into the local art, cuisine and architecture reveals that innate synchronization of many diverse cultures - traditional houses conspicuous by their vertical roofs for instance bear unmistakable French and British architectural influences.
First-time visitors to Seychelles make it a habit to embark on immersive local cultural experiences that offers outstanding opportunities to fathom the islander’s fascinating lifestyle. Creole music and dance performances have been outright hit with visitors as has been the erotic dance form – Moutya.
Victoria, the capital of Seychelles is unlike any other world capital – devoid of any showmanship and the buzz that one is accustomed to with such cities, just twelve streets and 25,000 inhabitants is all that makes up Victoria city.
The city is conspicuous by its stone & wood houses and walking through the city’s streets is a sheer delight with the smell of many spices and happy-go-lucky people. The Clock Tower located at the North is easily the most iconic landmark of the city, designed to perfection, much like a carbon copy of London’s Vauxhall Bridge Clock Tower. Make it a point to indulge your tongue at Pirates Arm restaurant on Independence Avenue. The ambiance is laidback and typically Seychelles. Other city neighbourhoods worth ambling past are the Sir Selwyn Clarke Market and Revolution Avenue, both choc-a-bloc with eclectic eateries.
The city’s backwater too is nicely evolving into a tourist-friendly neighbourhood with the New Pier serving as the anchorage point for cruise ships and tankers. In the morning, the market here is a beehive of activity with traders trading in marine products, fresh fruits and vegetables. Here at the city’s backwater market, exotic spices are in great demand.
Victoria apart, other dream destinations like Praslin and La Digue are much preferred by visitors, blessed as they are with fascinating beaches, coral islands, and atolls. For the quintessential anglers, look no further than Farquhar Atoll and Alphonse Island. Both have signature Lodges exclusively meant for anglers.
Another outstanding Mahé neighbourhood is the picturesque village of Baie Lazare. Legend has it that the 18th century French voyager Lazare Picault had set foot here on the advice of the then French government’s directive. For those Indians who have visited Goa’s St. Francis Church, will find the Baie Lazare Church to be similar as both are dedicated to His Holiness St. Francis of Assisi.
Hop on to the North and you come across Praslin Island where the Anse Lazio, popularly referred top as the Chevalier Bay is straight out of a Hollywood flick – a short hike over a hill and the breath-taking sea vista is all for you to gulp. The crystal clear waters, signature Takamaka and coconut trees offer enough shade for rest and relaxation. Try out the local delicacies in the beach shacks... melt in mouth stuff really!
For those with a penchant for immersive experiences, La Digue is ideal – laidback ox cart rides and bicycles are the chosen mode of transportation. The beaches here are white and sandy. Make it a point to spend some time at L'Union Estate for a fascinating peek into the island’s Vanilla plantation heritage.
For the diehard divers and rock climbers, La Digue is an all-time favourite with thrill-seekers, while hiking options are best on the La Pass to Grand Anse Trail that winds through the island’s last remaining French colonial heritage.
To sum up Seychelles, the immortal words of Bruce Good comes to mind:
They are having Champagne and Caviar in Seychelles right now. They are ok.
Traveller’s fact file: reaching there
Seychelles has two airports - Seychelles International Airport at Victoria and the other one is the Praslin Island Airport. For international visitors, Seychelles International Airport is the principal entry point. The airport happens to be the headquarters of Air Seychelles, the national carrier of Seychelles. The airport is well connected with some of the world’s most preferred airlines like - British Airways, Emirates, Austrian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Turkish Airlines to name just a few.
The government of Seychelles in their mission to promote the island as a niche island getaway has laid nearly 400 km of motorable roads. Biking is a great option and bike rental companies are found in plenty at Victoria City.
The island’s principal port is Victoria and for hopping in between islands Cat Cocos and catamaran ferry services ply between Mahé and Praslin. Ferries depart every 15 minutes of interval.