We started dreaming up the next Chasing the Sun campaign on the flight home from Tonga – where we’d had encounters with humpback whales, free dove into azul ocean caves and even scored fun surf. How could we top that?
As we weighed up a handful of palm-fringed islands in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the ‘Seychelles’ was impossible to forget (despite the island’s reputation for fickle surf at best).
The Seychelles are a thousand miles from anywhere, and while completely uncrowded surf was a major draw card, the islands have so much more on offer : the magic of rare, endemic flora, the intermingling of African beats and Euro cuisine, and the lore of French corsairs’ buried treasure.
We touched down at sunrise on the Seychelles’ main island of Mahe. I was immediately struck by the feeling of permanence of the islands: the sturdy, towering granite boulders give the island of Mahe a distinctly different vibe than islands like the Maldives. Unlike the shifting sands of most atolls, the granite seems to extend in both temporal directions, rendering it both ancient and permanent. Plus, the whimsical plumage of Acacia trees, most commonly associated with the plains of Africa, reinforced the exoticism of the landscape.
Gondwanaland was one of two supercontinents on our planet, formed just before Pangea around 180 million years ago. The tough granite structure of the Seychelles was part of Gondwanaland, later splintering off from India to become the planet’s only granitic islands. During this period the Earth was changing rapidly, including a mass extinction of three quarters of life on Earth, including all non-avian dinosaurs, a phenomenon called the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event.
We made our way along the slow-going coastal road to the southeast of the island, lined in lush greens, to the breezy little vista of Surfers’ Beach Hotel. We had no idea what to expect from food or accommodation in the Seychelles, so we teamed up with the kind folks at Seyvillas to help us find lovely accommodation options and to guide our itinerary to four Seychellois islands in two weeks.
We were pleasantly surprised by the spacious and clean accommodation at Surfers’ Beach — just a minute walk from a sincerely stunning swath of beach blanketed by glittering little polished stones of smoky quartz once embedded in the boulders lining the beach. The steady SE trade winds this time of year meant constant onshores that kept us cool amongst the otherwise balmy tropical heat.
Over the following three days, we circumnavigated Mahe (it takes around 2-3 hours), slurped coconuts to hydrate after 30 hours of travel, and put in a fair few hours at Baie Lazare, the most consistent wave during our stay. It’s a left-hander breaking over shallow, but not too shallow, reef covered in a grassy green moss interspersed with live coral, much of which was stifled to death by the onslaught of El Nino. In 1999, the Seychelles experienced a major coral reef die off that NGOs like Nature Seychelles and Wise Oceans are working to replenish (more on their work later).
The water wasn’t of the clarity that we expected because of the richness of plankton in the water. There’s an important trade off that we’d made without knowing it: in the Seychelles, you can have stellar water quality, or you can have consistent surf. It seems to be rare to have both at the same time. Stoked to be surfing, we traded off little lefts as the sun wove between cerulean skies and big cheery cumulous clouds.
Lots of surfing calls for lots of food — and while eating healthily vegetarian in the Seychelles is no simple task, it is feasible with a touch of creativity. Little roadside stalls offer up plenty of local fruit – tiny sweet bananas, (kinda pricy) red papayas, dried coconut and even the odd selection of locally grown veggies, like pumpkin and greens. We hit one of the supermarkets in the centre of Victoria, the Euro-inspired little capital of the Seychelles, which was filled with a staggering quantity of white breads, sweets and sodas. Most of the food is shipped in from South Africa or the Middle East, so brands and items in Seychellois food stores are always changing, depending on what was available to ship on a particular date. We discovered a section of healthy options and scored a couple bags of red quinoa, rice cakes, artichoke paste, jarred tapenade and tamari (we celebrated!), then headed for the resort town of Beau Vallon, which offered the broadest selection of fruit and veg. And so we happily filled our cozy little Surfers’ Beach self-contained kitchen with bonafide Byron Bay hippy food. Winning.
And just when we’d sorted ourselves comfortably with top notch food supplies and worked out the wave at Baie Lazare, it was time to board the ferry to make our way to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, according to Nat Geo, and happen upon waves we hadn’t even anticipated …..
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Chasing The Sun: Seychelles – La Digue coming up next…
Accommodation on Mahe – Surfer’s Beach Self Catering
FRIENDS OF CHASING THE SUN: