I was inspired by some of the other stories Kelly and Scott have shared about their island adventures, and started thinking about any tropical getaways in my past. Growing up in California, the place to go was Hawaii, and it was quite common for my friends to go there on family vacations, or even school trips for the lucky ones. Sadly, I have never been to America’s island paradise, and while this used to be a sore spot of some contention among my Hawaii-traveled friends, I quickly came to terms with my lack of vacations after I was fortunate enough to visit the Seychelles during Semester at Sea.
An archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean off the East coast of Kenya, I had never heard of the Seychelles until about a day before I visited. Like most countries in Africa, the Seychelles has a long and complicated colonial past, but was most frequently visited by English and Portuguese traders on their routes from the Far East. Today, the tiny island nation boasts a small population of mainly Creole-speakers and expats from Europe. Its remote location means that the tourists that provide the main source of income for the country are mainly Brits or Europeans. One of the many reasons it’s not too shabby to live in Europe!
I can certainly see what all the fuss is about, though, because the Seychelles is truly a breathtaking island locale…with the clearest blue water I have witnessed, pristine beaches that are both endless in number and practically deserted of visitors, and lush tropical plantlife.
During my three days on the main island, I set out to see as much as possible. The capital, Victoria, is a somewhat sleepy tropical town, with architecture reminiscent of the country’s European colonial past. The main attraction is the clock tower, and signs all over town direct visitors to the “Big Ben” of Victoria. The actual “tower” can be a bit disappointing if you are unaware of a Seychelle law that mandates that no structure may be built exceeding the height of a palm tree!
Among the other attractions of the main island is an impressive botanical garden that contains countless species of rare and tropical plantlife. Of course, a weekend in the Seychelles is not complete without adequate beach time and possibly some snorkeling. To accomplish this, the best way is to visit one of the main beaches where local fishermen rent out their boats and take tourists on snorkeling trips around the various islands. The owner of the boat that we rented even took us back to his family’s house on his island (he was the only inhabitant!).
On our second day in the Seychelles, some fellow students and I met a South African woman who was on an extended holiday with her daughter and offered to show us around a bit beyond the typical tourist trail. We accompanied her and some of her friends on what we thought was a hike, but turned out to be an encounter with a very interesting group of people – the Hash House Harriers. Contrary to what you, or indeed I might think, the group is not devoted to partaking in a certain herbal remedy, but rather they gather to participate in non-competitive impromptu walks or runs (which they call a “hash”).
Our afternoon with the Seychelles branch of the HHH was hugely entertaining, and we hiked to the top of one of the highest peaks on the main island. While taking in the stunning views of tropical paradise, we chatted with these quirky Seychellians and shared their picnic lunch. Afterwards, the hashers proved themselves my kind of people and invited us to join them in their traditional post-hike drink.
By the time it was time to depart our island home, I was already plotting how to finagle a return visit. While I haven’t managed it yet, I’m not giving up revisiting the remote and completely enjoyable Seychelles. If you have the means, I highly recommend paying them a visit!