Life’s a beach in the Seychelles
If you, ahem, shell out on a trip to the lovely 100-island archipelago of the Seychelles, escape the resorts and go island-hopping
Takamaka Bay rum is found all over the place. It is produced on the main island of Mahé and the small distillery, on a colonial plantation near the capital, makes for a pleasing – if slightly inebriating – afternoon. We are talked through the distilling process by a pleasant young woman while a grumpy brewer gets on with the business of making the hooch. After the short tour there is a longer tasting session. There are six different rums made here and we are made to try each of them. Six shots in six minutes and I am fit for the bed.
On the island of Praslin, a short ferry ride from Mahé, is the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. This forest of enormously tall Coco de Mer trees is a Unesco World Heritage site.
As we plot our way through the forest in the company of a cheery guide called Sean, fruits dangle perilously from the treetops above. Having just read that more people die in coconut attacks than in shark attacks, I seek reassurance from Sean. It is not forthcoming. He tells me that if one of these 30-pounders falls on me I will not be long for this world. He chuckles as he shares this coconugget.
The Coco de Mer may be a potential killer – in my head if not in reality – but is beloved here and to be found on almost every tourist T-shirt and street sign. Even my passport now bears a stamp in its shape.
The nut itself, by the way, looks bizarrely like a lady’s bottom. Best to be aware of that so you don’t titter inappropriately at a security check-point. They probably don’t like that.
The other must-see spot on the Seychelles is also on Praslin, some 40 minutes from the Coco de Mer forest. Anse Lazio is consistently voted among the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world and it is not hard to see why: crystal clear turquoise water laps a shore of gleaming white sands fringed by lush forest.
This beach made headlines in 2011 for the right and the wrong reasons. Kate and William holidayed nearby after the royal wedding, but that was not the story which attracted most attention. Two separate fatal shark attacks took place off the beach. In the first, a French tourist was killed while snorkelling 20 metres from the shore. Weeks later, an English man on his honeymoon was pulled under and savaged by the same shark. He was dragged onto the sand by some brave holidaymakers but died within minutes.
The shark attacks were the first in the Seychelles for nearly 40 years but had a devastating impact on tourism. The beach was closed for months until shark nets were put in place. All is not quiet in the water here but the nets are still there and, while they do mar the natural beauty of the spot, their presence offers swimmers considerable comfort.