Praslin and La Digue- The Sold Garden of Eden Versus the Real Garden of Eden

Praslin and La Digue- The Sold Garden of Eden Versus the Real Garden of Eden

Enjoy life now. This is not a rehearsal- Unknown

After a wonderful introduction to the Seychelles thanks to the delightful Island of Mahe read all about it here, we were ready for the next leg of our adventure, the Island of Praslin. Praslin is the second largest and most populated island of the Seychelles. By ferry it is about an hour from Mahe (15 mins by plane). We took the ferry to Praslin and the journey was far from smooth sailing; remember the whole sea sickness saga we experienced on the ferry from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam detailed here? Well for the ferry from Mahe to Praslin, multiply that sea sickness by two!  Luckily, I was able to bear the heavy rocking of the ferry this time around and managed to sleep it off. Unfortunately, two thirds of the passengers on the ferry were not so lucky- I woke up to the sight of red, hot flushed faces and filled up sick bags (lol).

Finally we arrived at Praslin and it was breathtakingly stunning. What struck us about Praslin was how beautiful and absolutely crystal clear the sea was. The view of the turquoise sea made the ordeal on the ferry seem all worthwhile and a distant memory. Excited, we alighted from the ferry, collected our bags and waited, and waited and waited…until it became evident that the car hire I had pre-arranged was not there to meet us. True to the Seychelles hospitality, an employee of another car hire company offered her assistance and we were able to sort out a new car. About an hour later we were finally on our way to our Hotel, Dhevatara Beach Hotel, which was about 40 minutes from the jetty (but less than five minutes from the airport).

I must admit that on arrival I wasn’t wowed by our hotel. The hotel looked good but I wasn’t convinced that its appearance was in keeping with the average price of €450 per night charge. The ocean view suite we were given was also not what I expected as it wasn’t directly opposite the beach and in my opinion not worth the premium paid for “ocean view”. We however grew to appreciate our hotel more after touring the island and from conversations with the locals, it is considered one of the top and well known hotels on the island. Putting our first impression of the hotel aside, the more pressing issue for us was food. Despite stuffing ourselves during breakfast at our hotel in Mahe, we were still very hungry and our first request after check in was for the lunch menu. We requested room service cause we had no energy to walk to the hotel restaurant even though it was just a few steps from our room. The food when it eventually arrived was satisfyingly tasty and filling- the perfect prelude to my afternoon siesta. Click here to view a video tour of our hotel room. 

After waking up, we decided to drive around the island. Praslin is a relatively small island and you can drive around the whole island in less than two hours but contrary to what the travel guides on Praslin suggest, we didn’t see that many people riding bicycles. Most people either walked, got the bus or drove everywhere. The island is so small that we sighted a few times some of the folks we had travelled with on the ferry walking on the road. In terms of scenery, Praslin is lushier and greener than Mahe and the roads are more levelled (generally not as steep or winding as the roads in Mahe).

The next day was my birthday. I felt a mixture of relief (from the stress of planning the holiday) and excitement. I was just so grateful to be celebrating my birthday in such a beautiful country and had every reason to be thankful to God. I had just finished my own prayer when my travel partner drew me close to pray for me. It was such a beautiful moment; I could feel the sunshine from the sun rise on my face and there was just a wonderful feeling of peace and tranquillity that came with the prayers. Overwhelmed with emotion, I let out a little tear of joy knowing that the memory of my birthday morning will be with me for a long time.

Breakfast at the hotel was delicious but disappointingly, it wasn’t a buffet (ehm don’t judge us we love our food and like having several options lol). After breakfast we packed our backpacks and drove to Vallée de Mai National Park. Vallée de Mai National Park is Praslin’s key attraction and one of the country’s two UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is also meant to be the only place in the world to find the Seychelles black Parrot and the giant Coco de Mer, a double coconut and the world’s largest nut (its female and male species look like a lady’s and man’s private parts respectively). In the 19th century, the British General Gordon produced detailed ‘proof’ that the Vallée de Mai was the Garden of Eden and that Coco de Mer was the tree of knowledge (fascinating legend that I’m sure the locals and the Seychelles tourism board would like us to believe). The hike in the forest was good, however at €20 per person entry fee, I didn’t think the visit was worth it.

We had hiked ourselves an appetite and after about two hours we were on our way to Anse Lazio beach, a beach regarded as one of the top 10 beaches in the World. En route we discovered a local restaurant which was the first local restaurant in the Seychelles that we were able to get quite tasty food and at a relatively cheap price. After overindulging ourselves, we proceeded to the beach. Anse Lazio beach was indeed beautiful with fine white sand and spectacular mountains as its backdrop. The waves from the sea were also very inviting but be careful when you do visit this beach because there have been shark attacks there in recent years. Driving to the beach is also very scenic and about 5-10 mins drive from the beach is the top rated Raffles hotel where we were meant to have my birthday dinner but we had to change plans because we were both exhausted. The good ol’ chicken and chips ended up being my birthday dinner 🙂 Thankfully the hotel got me a birthday cake too. 

The next day we checked out of our hotel in Praslin and set off to the Island of La Digue. By ferry La Digue is a mere 20 mins away from Praslin and oh what a gem of an island it is! It was love at first sight for me. From the moment I stepped off the ferry I knew that we had saved the best till last. We took a minivan to our villa but really if we knew our way it was less than 10mins walk from the jetty.

First impression of the villa was wow! Exactly the type of authentic look I was hoping for and it was oh so so clean. In fact, we rate the villa as highly as we rate our Presidential Suite at Park Hyatt, Zanzibar. Click here to view the video tour of the villa in La Digue and here for the video tour of the Presidential Suite at Park Hyatt, Zanzibar. After settling in, we decided to ride our rented bicycles around the island- it was at this point that I realised that I couldn’t ride a bike! I was gutted since riding a bike was one of the activities I was really looking forward to 🙁 I was forced to walk to the nearby supermarket to buy the ingredients for lunch and dinner while my travel partner went exploring on his bike. It felt good being able to cook African stew with a lot and lot of pepper (we had missed pepper so much). My travel partner helped cut the chicken but as a true African man, he disappeared immediately after that to go chill by the pool while I continued to slave away in the kitchen. The verdict on my cooking was great (honest feedback), apparently it was the best food throughout the whole trip (still honest feedback).

La Digue was so laid back that we felt obliged to follow suit. We didn’t get up to much here just strolling and absorbing the beautiful scenery. The next day we got ourselves a tandem bike and my poor travel partner peddled the two of us around the island (quite an effort since I am not exactly light weight). Funnily, right after breakfast there was a power outage and the island was literally at a standstill for about 5-6 hours. The supermarket was closed presumably because the tills wouldn’t work. We couldn’t get money out of the ATMs as there was no electricity to power the machines and more frustratingly, I couldn’t cook! We decided to pass our idle time at Anse Source d’Argent beach, a splendid beach with fine white sand and huge boulders. It is in my opinion the most beautiful beach in the Seychelles and a must visit at an entry fee of just 100 SCR per person (it is also one of the most photographed beaches in the world).

The next day it was time to bid farewell to La Digue and the Seychelles. We took the ferry back to Praslin and from there boarded the extremely small plane back to Mahe; thereby ending our Seychelles adventure.

 

My destination verdict: Praslin and La Digue are not as developed as Mahe and island life in both is at a much slower pace. No denying that the sold Garden of Eden, Praslin, is serenely beautiful with its beaches Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette frequently making the top ten lists of the best and most beautiful beaches in the world but for me, La Digue is the real Garden of Eden, being more sublime with its natural charm and beauty. The tranquillity one experiences in the two islands cannot be explained in words. Unlike in Mahe, there are no water sports to keep you occupied or island parties to keep you in a trance. Instead what you get from both islands is a true island escape from life’s “vanities” and from the hustle and bustle that comes with bigger islands, towns or cities. Put simply, it’s life of peaceful existence on these islands. What is also great about both islands is that they are more affordable than Mahe.

Of the three islands of the Seychelles we visited, La Digue was probably my favourite (closely followed by Mahe). The beauty of La Digue is that you get to mingle with the locals and experience day to day life just like a local but then you can retire to the privacy of your villa for real intimacy and uninterrupted seclusion. I would personally recommend spending as long as possible in La Digue even if it is at the expense of an extended stay in Praslin or forgoing a stay in Praslin completely (all sight-seeing in Praslin can be accomplished in a day trip). Also if you can resist the temptation, don’t bother visiting Vallée de Mai National Park (unless it becomes free entry).

 

Click here for more travel tips on visiting the Seychelles.