Torsten Curdt’s weblog

Between sunburn and rain

IMG_6979On Wednesday I returned from the Seychelles. A few days earlier as planed. Unfortunately this trip wasn’t exactly born under a lucky star. Originally I wanted to go sailing for a week (with little diving) and then spend a week in a hotel/guesthouse doing even more diving. Unfortunately the sailing trip did not work out (Did I say I hate travel agencies?). But I thought either I will work something out when I am there or I will just be diving. Fair enough. This could have worked out just fine especially as I had some local contacts …if there hadn’t been the cyclone over Madagascar. Knowing that people died and many lost their houses I refuse to moan about the bad weather and diving conditions this caused for me. So turns out I was doing little diving, no sailing and a lot of reading during this vacation. Still it provided me with some experiences and insights that will help me (or you) when planing the next trip to these beautiful islands in the middle of the indian ocean.

The Flight

So many people have been raving about Emirates to be a top-notch airline. Frankly speaking it wasn’t really living up to the expectations. The food was indeed probably the best in-air food I have ever had but the service was no more than mediocre and the entertainment system more of a bad joke. From Frankfurt the flight is via Dubai which gives you two legs of about 7 hours plus the transit in Dubai. While surely Condor is even less a fancy airline I would still go for the direct flight with them next time. Without making any political statement it also felt really weird flying through the triangle of Baghdad, Tehran and Kuwait.

The Arrival

IMG_6903Arriving on Mahe the first thing you notice – it’s damn hilly! Mahe and Siluette have the highest mountains of the Seychelles. They catch the clouds which is why you are likely to get more rain on these islands. It’s green green green with the usual granite looking through occasionally. When you leave the airplane you’ll get the usual no-aircon shock when the warm and humid air hits your face. All year around temperatures are somewhere around 28-30 degrees. But while the travel guide says it’s all year round destination I would carefully pick the right months next time. For diving it seems April and October might be the best times to go.

Getting around

IMG_6782Victoria is about a 10 minute car ride from the airport. The capitol city is by all means small. 80,000 people, 1.5 nightclubs and a single bar that is not related to a restaurant or hotel. So don’t expect a big nightlife. If you do go out: While getting a taxi from the airport is no problem, you might get no more than a shrug when after a few “Seybrews” (local beer) you ask someone to call you cab. There is no taxi service number on Mahe. Getting around with public transport is easy before 8pm. For a flat rate of just 3 rupies (about 0.20 EUR) you can just hop on one of the busses that are quite frequently going. But if you want to do a bit more than just laying on the beach you should probably consider getting a rental car. Be advised though – driving is on the left side of the road and can be really scary with the winding roads. Just ride a bus and you know what I mean.

Where to stay

IMG_6814I have been staying in a guesthouse in Beau Vallon at Liz and Teddy’s (the glass bottom boat guy). It was a nice self catering apartment just a few meters from the beach. They have 3 appartments. The smallest one starting at 30-40 EUR per night. Which is dead cheap for the Seychelles. (Send me a mail for contact information) Usually accommodation starts at around 70-80 EUR for a simple guesthouse which might not even include more than a breakfast – if at all. There really is no upper limit. You can easily spend 3000 EUR per night and more in a (granted) luxury resort. Luxury tourism has been the main focus for the Seychelles for years. Only recently more and more affordable guesthouses and simple hotels/resorts are becoming available. It’s really no backpacker destination and I would also not recommend it for solo traveling unless you are fine just staying solo. If your are really going for the spontaneous backpacking type of vacation make sure you have an address when you arrive – otherwise immigration might give you a hard time.

What to do

IMG_6907Frankly speaking there is not much you can do except beach and water sports. The mission and all what is considered scenic on Mahe plus the different beaches can probably be visited within 1-3 days. (Driving around the whole island is no more than a 1.5 hour drive). Beau Vallon is the little more touristy beach. That means it has some restaurants and a few hotels on the beach. Just stay away from the “Hotel Coral Strand” area and you should be fine. Beau Vallon is also where most of the dive shops are. Victoria itself the most interesting was probably the bigger supermarket and the fish market. So I suggest to stay just a few days in Beau Vallon, maybe explore the island a bit and then book your ride with the CatCoco catamaran/ferry to Praslin and/or La Digue. It’s a 40 minute ride that sets you back 40 EUR for one way. If you have more time there is also a post ship going at around noon. Supposed to be around 15 EUR but will take about 3 hours. Next time I surely will do the sailing as that seems to be best way to get around the islands. I was diving with a couple that actually just came back from that very sailing trip. While the boat was basic they did recommend it. If you have a little bigger budget you might also check out Dream Yacht Charter. Unfortunately 300+ EUR per person per night is not exactly a bargain.

The money

IMG_6954This situation reminded me a little on Cuba. There are a quite complex set of rules (that just had changed in Jan) on who is allowed to pay for what in their national currency (rupies) and who has to pay in EUR/USD. Accommodation and diving for example I had to pay in EUR while for food in the supermarket rupies were OK. In general this is a bit of a rip off to get some strong foreign currencies. The problem is that many things need to be imported which is probably a good reason why. Of course you would want to try and pay in rupies whenever you can. You can get rupies at the bank for 1:11 or on the black market for up to 1:18 in exchange for EUR. Not that I am encouraging anyone to go down the later route. Penalties are quite severe. Also be reminded that for changing rupies back to EUR you will have to hold on to your bank receipt! But for sure the best way is to bring cash with you. Plenty. Preferably Euros. While credit cards are accepted you really want to use them only if there is no other option as fees might apply.

Where to eat

IMG_6968As I was staying in a self catering apartment I quite often just got me the basics from the supermarket. But be prepared: no cheese and other quite often other things are missing that you’d expect from home. As I had local contacts I have been invited a couple of times. You just will love the creol fish. If you crave for some cheese I can recommend the sand-floored Boabab Pizzeria right on Beau Vallon beach. They even took rupies. “La Perle Noire” is just across the “Coral Strand Hotel” and a little more fancy. It has a nice atmosphere and the food was great. They expect you to pay in EUR and prices are at what you would expect e.g. in Frankfurt. I always wanted to try the “Al Mare” but never got around to it.

The diving

IMG_6944Diving surely was the main reason for me to visit the Seychelles. Unfortunately I cought a bit of a bad weather and after a handful of dives even a cold. (yeah!) The first dive while not spectacular from the flora and fauna still had awesome visibility. 30+ meters and the bluest blue I have ever seen. A big nurse shark, some reef and white tips, a moray and a school of barracudas was the best it got during the week. We were diving on the west coast of Mahe. What got me excited the most was on the surface though. On the last day we got escorted by a school of 10-15 dolphins. Just very few meters from the boat. Would have loved to just jump right into the water. I was diving with Big Blue Divers just out of convenience as they were just next door. Not recommended. A couple of things happened that just should not have happened.

So after all it was a bit of a weird vacation. The first day I got myself a pretty bad sunburn, later the week a cold. In the middle there was a lot of reading. (3 books in 10 days) Some diving and some partying. By far not that much pictures I was hoping for. It had indeed some great moments but in the end I thought I rather come back some other time. As I had the chance to change my flight for just a little fee I decided to head home a little earlier, save the money for the few nights and rather plan the next trip. Will I come back? Sure thing.

  • francesco
    May you provide the "Teddy's" telephone number?
    Thanx in advance
  • I just gave them the name and phone number of Teddy's where I was staying. I would just not tell them how long you really stay in the first guesthouse. The place of the first night should be fine for immigration I guess.
  • francesco
    yes, thanx
    what about the first accomodation? do the police ask fo rimmigration purposes about the first night?
    don't want to get stuck too much in the same guesthouse...
    what did u do?
  • Hey Francesco,

    Finding good and cheap accommodation is not that easy - indeed.

    AFAIK they don't have a web site. But I can give you the phone number if you want.
  • francesco
    great site.
    Are you so kind as to provide liz and teddy's guesthouse link?
    gotta go in Seychelles in october and I wonder how where to stay.
    I don't like travel agencies and resort... but planning and finding cheap and appropriate guesthouses doesn't seem to be easy.
  • TheGuru
    Slight off track, but inspiring for Torsten to write that book one day.
    I picked up this book recently:
    Beneath southern skies : celebrating 100 years of Australian aviation / Jon Davison and Tom Allibone. (ISBN : 0734405731)
    It was written and produced entirely on a laptop using a 5Mp digital camera, Adobe photoshop, and Adobe Framemaker - all in less than 12 months from concept to bookstore.

    Too easy for the talented ones.
  • @The Guru: Thanks, mate! Wouldn't it be great just doing that? Traveling the world and writing about it. It crossed my mind :)
  • The Guru
    Awesome photography! If you ever got tired of the techno world you should write and produce travel books. Maybe you can do something to blend the two passions together.
  • Gemischte Gedanken und eine klare Aussage am Schluss trotz alledem. So muss es sein ;)
    LG, der Musch
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