Island Hopping In Seychelles - The Best Way To Explore The Idyllic Land
An archipelago consisting of about 115 islands, Seychelles looks like a small dot in the Indian Ocean but is vast in terms of scenic beaches and resorts. The idyllic setting of almost all the beaches in Seychelles offers an escape from the dull, monotonous lifestyle. Refresh yourself by taking a dip in the still, deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean in Seychelles. And you will be bewildered to know that each island here has its own unique geography, culture, way of life and history.
So, if you want to experience the real Seychellois life, you cannot confine your trip to just one or two islands. The unspoilt nature in each of these islands, the cute little turtles, the cyanic waters and the soothing dark green of the nearby vegetation make Seychelles look surreal. However, one mind-boggling question which troubles anyone planning a trip to Seychelles is which islands to visit? Travelling to each of these 115 islands is out of the question in just a single trip. There are options to discover around five or six islands to make your trip to Seychelles wholesome and complete.
The best way to unravel Seychelles is through island-hopping. Jump from one island to the other through the well-connected ferries and air shuttle service. Or if you have more money to splurge, book a yacht or cruise along the main inner islands of Mahe, La Digue and Praslin. The ample number of travel agencies and ferry services make sure you experience the idiosyncrasies of the main inhabited islands without any hassles.
Landing in Mahe
Seychelles International Airport is located in Victoria, Mahe. So, you will be on Mahe when you land in Seychelles. If you are too tired from the overnight flight journey, you can choose to stay in Mahe for that day and relax in its wonderful, pristine beaches. There are cab services from the airport to Beau Vallon, one of the most popular and gorgeous beaches in Mahe. Public transport in the form of buses are also available but you'll be allowed on the buses if you have just one backpack; they turn away commuters with suitcases and other baggage. And, if you are lucky enough to land on Mahe on a Wednesday or the last Saturday of the month, you can also help yourself with the lip-smacking local snacks and witness the vibrancy of the Bazar Labrin, a weekly market. However, do visit Praslin and other islands the very next day, for it is better if Mahe is the last stop of your Seychelles' sojourn.
Mahe to Praslin
If you simply cannot contain your alacrity to discover Seychelles, then set off to Praslin, the second largest island of Seychelles. Inter-island flights are the quickest way to travel between Mahe and Praslin taking just fifteen minutes. In case you are worried about the inbound flight delays or luggage restrictions and do not have deep pockets, you can also use the catamaran Cat Cocos which offers its ferry services from Mahe to Praslin three times a day. The ferry service is available thrice a day at 7:30 AM, 10:30 AM and 4:30 PM from Monday to Thursday. On Friday, instead of 10:30 AM, the ferry departs at 10:00 AM, on Saturday at 11:30 AM and on Sunday at 11:00 AM. There are cab services from the airport to the Victoria jetty which are also offered by Cat Cocos (you can book these online in advance).
As the Cat Cocos ferry departs from the jetty, you enter the panoramic waters welcoming you into the real Seychellois beauty. The journey of sixty minutes takes you past the phenomenal views of St. Anne National Marine Park and the mountainous terrain of Mahe. The Cat Cocos jetty in Praslin is at Baie Sainte Anne situated in the east of Praslin. From here, you can embark upon your adventurous stay in Praslin, one of the most beautiful islands on the earth. You can either opt for a taxi, local buses or your hotel's shuttle services.
Rightly known as the 'Garden of Eden', Praslin's majestic beauty will leave you dumbfounded. The small island city boasts of palm-fringed beaches like Anse Georgette and Anse Lazio, both bordered by gigantic granite boulders and Anse Volbert-Côte D'Or, the main beach of Seychelles. The rugged, greeny terrain of the city is also home to Praslin National Park, which encompasses Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The island also has forests of Coco de Mer trees, which are regarded as the best souvenirs to take home from Seychelles.
You will fall in love with the coral reefs found off the shores of Praslin. And, you cannot help but be amazed by the endemic Seychelles Bulbul and the black parrot flying past you as you sunbathe in Praslin's beaches. Inhabited by approximately 6,500 people, the island has three main settlements- Baie St. Anne in the east, Grand Anse on the south coast and Cote d'Or on the north coast. Each of these settlements is like cute, tiny villages with marvellous picture-perfect beaches. The other parts of the island are largely uninhabited, and a sweet natural silence sits sleepily upon them. Getting around the island is quite easy due to the network of buses. You can also hire a cab or rent a car if you wish. The island also has luxurious resorts and a bunch of restaurants serving savoury dishes.
Praslin to La Digue
Praslin is considered as the base for one-day trips to other smaller neighbouring islands like La Digue, Curieuse, Cousin Island, Cousine Island, Aride Island and Chauve Souris. Getting to La Digue from Praslin is via Inter-Island Ferry's catamarans Cat Rose's I & II with their base in Praslin jetty. There are a total of eight departures in a day and the journey takes just fifteen minutes. The schedule is as follows- from Monday to Friday at 7:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 11:45 AM, 2:30 PM, 4:00 PM and 5:15 PM (On Fridays instead of 5:15 PM, the last departure is at 5:45 PM). On Saturdays, the timings are same as that of Fridays, with an additional ferry service departing at 1:00 PM. On Sundays, the schedule is- 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 12:30 PM, 4:00 PM and 5:45 PM.
La Digue is an island which can be perfectly described as an apostle of nature. If you are looking for a place away from the rawks of vehicles and traffic, La Digue is your place. The island has very few motorized vehicles. That said, the transportation options are limited once you reach the jetty in La Passe. Most hotels here do provide services to escort you from the jetty to your hotel. However, if your hotel does not, then you can look for some motorized taxis or the traditional ox cart taxis. In case you don't have luggage and are just paying a one-day visit to the island, then the best thing to do is to rent a bicycle (bicycle rental agencies are located just a few metres away from the jetty).
Exploring La Digue
Once you have sorted out your mode of commute, throw yourself in the arms of nature in La Digue. Its beaches, namely Anse Source d'Argent, Grand Anse, and Anse Cocos are a feast for the eyes and even feature in the world's most beautiful beaches. The granite formations, pleasant climate, azure waters and silky sand transport you to a completely different place. The island is even home to the rare black paradise flycatcher. The small population of approximately 2,800 people are basically settled in La Passe and La Reunion. Given its small size, getting around the place is quite easy either on foot or on a bicycle. La Digue does not have an airport and the only way to get to this island is through the ferry service.
After you have enjoyed yourself in La Digue, you need to get back to Praslin through the ferry to discover more of Seychelles. The Inter-Island ferry timings are as follows- from Monday to Friday at 7:30 AM, 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 12:15 AM, 3:30 PM, 5:00 PM and 5:45 PM (On Fridays instead of 5:45 PM, the last departure is at 6:15 PM). On Saturdays, the timings are same as that of Fridays, with an additional ferry service departing at 2:00 PM. On Sundays, the schedule is- 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 2:30 PM, 5:00 PM and 6:15 PM.
Praslin, as mentioned before, is regarded as the best base to organise your full and half day trips to other smaller islands. While your stay in Praslin, a visit to these tiny, pretty islands with their own magnificence is a must on your to-do list.
Praslin to Cousin Island
Located 2 kilometres west of Praslin, Cousin Island is a feast for the eyes. Protected under Seychelles law as a special reserve, the island boasts of granitic rock formations, long sandy beach and exotic birds. If you are fortunate enough, you might even sight some of the endemic birds of Seychelles warbler, Seychelles sunbird, Malagasy turtle dove, and Seychelles blue pigeon. If you are putting up at a hotel in Praslin, then trips to Cousin Island will be arranged by your hotel itself. Otherwise, you can contact local tour operators for excursions to Cousin Island. Another thing to be noted is that there are no overnight accommodations, barbecues or full-day trips allowed on Cousin Island. The reserve is open for three hours from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM through Monday to Friday and remains closed on weekends. So, plan your trip wisely!
Praslin to Aride Island
You cannot miss this, for if you do, then you would miss the essence of Seychelles. The only bird island in the western Indian Ocean, Aride is a blessing for those visiting Seychelles. The Magpie Robins and the redolent Wright's Gardenia are the island's USP. The extensive flora and fauna is the icing on the cake. And unlike Cousin Island, you can enjoy barbecues here.
Access to Aride Island is through local boat or tour operators in Praslin. You can also have an excursion arranged with the hotel you are putting up at. The choppy and rough waves make it difficult to sail, and therefore, Aride Island remains closed from May to September. The island is open to visitors on all days except weekends. Nevertheless, you can arrange a trip on weekends with prior permission from the island manager.
Praslin to Curieuse Island
Cute, friendly giant Aldabra tortoises await to welcome you on this small piece of the island north of Praslin. The lovely beaches of Baie Laraie and Anse José are fringed with viridescent palm trees and greyish granite boulders. The deep blue waters make swimming and snorkelling perfect and enjoyable. The desert mangrove forests, gorgeous golden sands and the unspoilt nature are pristine, something you would not find on any other island. Bask in the glory of Coco de Mer and have an eye out for the black parrots here. The island also has the Curieuse Marine National Park which is open on all days including public holidays.
Day trips to Curieuse Island are organised by local travel agents in Praslin and are often clubbed with excursions to Cousin Island and St. Pierre. If you want to charter your own boat, you can do so from Anse Volbert. It takes about five to ten minutes to reach Curieuse Island from Praslin, so do visit it.
Praslin to Illot Saint-Pierre
St. Pierre has to be your ultimate snorkelling destination in Seychelles. The snorkelling experience here is unmatched compared to anywhere else in Seychelles and attracts tourists from all over the globe. The island is dotted with a few coconuts and palm trees and the landscape is inordinately beautiful. As you take a dip in the turquoise waters around the island, you will be greeted by a plethora of marine life. It is definitely a dream come true for avid snorkelers!
It is a glorious feeling to swim past the Clown surgeonfish, powder blue tang, and sergeant major fish. Combined with the trip to Curieuse Island, St. Pierre offers a unique opportunity to snorkel, though it is almost impossible to land on this island. The tour guide would advise you where to snorkel, and in case you are on your own, choose the region near the islet on the Praslin side. Happy snorkelling!
It is usually advisable to enjoy the lush, green vegetation of the Cousin Island first, then soak up the sandy beaches of Curieuse Island followed by snorkelling near St. Pierre (an entire day). Next, you can visit the Aride Island separately on another day.
Praslin to Mahe
After you have basked in the warmth and vibrancy of Praslin and other smaller islands, it is time to behold the splendour and glory of Mahe, the largest island of Seychelles. The Cat Cocos ferry is the best and the cheapest option to travel to Mahe from Praslin. The ferry is available thrice a day according to the following schedule- on Mondays at 7:30 AM, 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM; on Tuesdays at 9:00 AM, 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM; on Wednesdays at 7:30 AM, 1:00 PM and 5:30 PM; on Thursdays at the same timings as that of Wednesday; on Fridays at 9:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM; on Saturdays at 9:00 AM, 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM and on Sundays at 7:30 AM, 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM.
You have experienced the tranquillity of nature on the other islands, but here in Mahe, you will see the brimming city life of the Seychellois. However, before you judge this place as too noisy and busy, do know that even Mahe is far from the maddening chaos of other cities in the world. It proudly boasts of the Mahe International Airport and has the highest and the best services in terms of transport, hospitals, education and markets. Its enticing beaches invite you to soothe your eyes with picturesque white sands, cyanic waters, dark green palm trees, and ash-coloured rock boulders. Petite Anse, Beau Vallon, Anse Intendance, Fairyland Beach, Anse Takamaka, Port Launay, the list of stunning beaches in Mahe is endless.
Mahe also has a number of hotels, resorts and restaurants serving a wide variety of cuisines such as French, Creole, Indian and Chinese. If you want to do some shopping in Seychelles, then Mahe is the right place for you. Bazar Labrin, Victoria Market and Sir Selwyn Clarke Market are the major shopping hubs in Mahe. Getting around Mahe is quite easy with the help of cabs and buses.
Nowhere in the world is island hopping as enjoyable and exciting as that of Seychelles. The short journey from one island to the other in Seychelles includes witnessing the resplendent beauty of the deep, turquoise waters, the dark green vegetation and the clear blue skies. And with the excellent ferry services, island hopping becomes relaxing and quite convenient.