We awoke to the soothing sound of tropical rain. As Vijay International School headmaster, Martin Kennedy said: “What do you do when it rains in Seychelles? You wait five minutes then start swimming again.” The showers never last long and, due to the humidity, practically evaporate before they hit the ground. It’s often a refreshing break from the heat and doesn’t deter us from doing anything…not even swimming.
After breakfast we spent a leisurely morning by the pool then headed off to the jetty again, this time to catch the Cat-Coco’s “little sister”: Cat-Rosa. This is the ferry that takes visitors from Praslin to the even smaller island of La Digue. A rough population guide: Mahe has a population of 91 000, Praslin 6 000 and La Digue 3 000. Until quite recently there were only three cars on the island though locals estimate that number may recently have swelled to the double digits!
Transportation is largely by bicycle – both by locals and tourists – as well as tri-wheelers, golf buggies and the odd ox cart though, nowadays, the latter is largely for the tourists. We did, however, see a cow tethered to one of the bungalows on the island, along- side the family fishing boat.
La Digue’s greatest draw-card is its simplicity. Step off the jetty and it’s like stepping into another era. Another era surrounded by some of the most striking coastlines and beaches in the world. Once again the granite monoliths of this unique archipelago give it its distinctive character, rising out of the turquoise ocean, some shaped liked sea mammals, others like the intricately carved cathedrals of Europe.
We watch a group of old men play dominos under the shade of a palm tree, the ubiquitous bicycles tied to the trunk; two girls – one pedaling, the other sitting on the rack at the back – cycle by and giggle; a pair of teenagers sit on the step of a tiny azure-coloured kiosk, licking on ice cream lollies; a woman cycling by with the ingredients for the Sunday evening meal in a basket attached to the handlebars; three pre-teen neighbourhood “bad-boys” who slouch on the handlebars of their bikes and size up our boys.
The houses, in various states of upkeep and neglect, with neat little attics and long verandahs, sit snugly together along the narrow cobble-stone roads; on a picturesque hillside is the local cemetery, each grave lovingly maintained with fresh and artificial flowers; and visible, even from the ferry, is the proud local church, decorated, today, in blue ribbons and white roses for a wedding.
But as unspoilt as it is, there is evidence that La Digue is, in its own quiet way, also moving with the times: round the corner of the row of bungalows and you come across the newly-built fire station, a brand spanking new candy-red fire engine parked under its eaves. The local police force – though the word “force” is a grand name for the handful of police officers tasked with protecting the safest place on the planet – watches us from under the newly-painted police station, the “Exotic Exchange” Money Bureau tucked up close beside it.
After our tour of the island – our options were on foot or by bike and we chose foot – we cooled off at the coral beach of Grande Anse, regrettably our last dip in the sea.
While at the beach we met David who was busy preparing an octopus for curry tonight. David looks after the guest house of a friend, right on the beach, and cooks for and takes care of clients. This week he has a British couple staying and there’s octopus curry on the menu.
He was washing it in the sea then rubbing it on the granite rocks to soften it, he explained to us.
“Den I will boil it before cutting it up to make curry,” he smiles.
Another regular at the beach is Beau whose regular perch is a log at the entrance of Grande Anse, where he and a friend sit and call out to all the pretty girls. When he hears where we’re from, he breaks into a dazzling smile and starts to serenade us with Bob Marley’s “Zimbabwe”. We hear him all the way up the steep cobble-stone hill that leads to the jetty.
(Thanks to Christine, a student at the VJ International School who joined us for the day and quickly became a part of our group. She was also very co-operative about conducting interviews in French with the boys.)