Having done some work on Adina after our passage from Chagos/BIOT we opted to hire a car and headed off for a few days ashore as Susie’s birthday treat. The main island of Mahe is dominated by steep slopes of dark grey granite set amongst lush greenery and forest. To cross over from east to west or vice versa means climbing steep roads that have sharp turns and switchbacks or what we called ‘wiggly parts’ before descending on the other side. Startlingly the sides of the roads have sharp edges with deep gutters, intended to cascade rain down the hills but the result is more one of making you wary of going anywhere near the edges. Added to that you have the fun aspect that there are few places to park so locals simply stop to drop someone off or even sometimes just park. You also need to watch out for the local buses which positively hoon around these roads. Despite the driving concentration required they are still beautiful stretches of road passing through thick vegetation.
The owners of our guesthouse had warned us about the road up to their property, advising us to deploy first gear, turn the air conditioning off and go flat out. This we duly did but as we approached the property looking for the drive, we slowed. Fatal error, our little car was not going up any further. And the handbrake didn’t work! So we rolled back but got very close to one of those dreaded gutters. Brian the owner came running out and placed rocks behind us before we managed to climb forward a bit and then roll all the way back down and start again. He kindly offered to get the car up the hill as he has done for other guests, but if there is one thing we’ve learnt on this trip you just have to try and then try again so we accelerated up, swung into the drive, stopped and let the heart rate recover.
Leisurely days took over as we took the car to explore the island, marveling at the scenery, its many pretty bays and beaches and we took to doing some hiking. It’s safe to say we fell in love with the Seychelles pretty quickly. Every island we go to we dream away of owning a holiday home. We emphasise the words ‘dream away’. The Seychelles certainly hits the right notes; homes sit on the hills with magnificent views out to sea, tropical fruits grow in the gardens, the vegetation is lush and green, white sandy beaches encourage you to walk them, the sea beckons for swimming, there is no shortage of walking and exploring. But it also has enough creature comforts for us softies with plenty of shops and restaurants – although all this comes at a price, the Seychelles is not cheap by any means as much is imported. A lot of French, Italian and South Africans have made the Seychelles home. We’ll keep dreaming.
Feeling restored we headed back to Adina to prepare her for our incoming guests. Adina was cleaned head to toe or should we say mast to keel, laundry done, a big shop, fresh ingredients from the local market, gas filled, fuel filled, water tanks filled etc. Charlie and Nicola Beausire are long-time friends who we have raced and cruised with many a time. Easy going, people who love to explore, enjoy food and drink, they are great friends. Once they had changed into some more warm climate clothes we did a quick drive around the island and headed for a restaurant called Chez Plume – it had to be done!
They had come to see the Seychelles so we set sail the following day heading for the island of Praslin a five hour sail away. The breeze was fresh and the seas a little bit lumpy but we made good time with a lunch stop in a pretty bay called Anse Georgette before heading for our overnight stop at Anse Lazio. Anse Lazio or Baie Chevalier is a big bay and a favourite with cruisers. A long white beach with the big grey granite boulders you associate with the Seychelles made it pleasing to the eye. We soon learnt we had left Mahe the same day many of the charter boats leave. Most of these are crewed catamarans with a smattering of people doing it themselves. One catamaran dropped anchor not too far from us so we politely asked them if they could not move a bit further away as after all it was a big bay with plenty of room. The skipper told us he had lots of scope down and was staying aboard and he would watch our boats. Slightly bemused as we’d always move if somebody asked us, we nevertheless took him for his word of staying aboard and headed to shore. The beach had small breaking waves which meant you had to time your landing and jump out fast. We managed to master this with Charlie somehow standing in the dinghy. Enjoying a cheeky beer on the beach we noticed the couple who had said they were staying on their boat coming to the beach in their dinghy. Pausing on a wave they were promptly dumped and capsized their dinghy. The woman recovered and strode ashore while the man tried to rescue the dinghy only for a wave to deposit it squarely on his head. Some would call it karma, we opted to focus on getting back out to Adina without capsizing our dinghy.
We moved Adina on to visit the island of Curieuse famous for its tortoises. While smaller than their Galapagos counterparts they seemed more active and agile. Enjoying a walk we spotted some living in the wild before arriving at the ranger station where there were many of them walking around enjoying the grass and any leaves the tourists would feed them. They seemed a happy bunch and we were a happy boat for seeing them.
The island of Praslin is famous for the Vallee de Mai where the coco de mer palms grow and the national bird the small so-called ‘black’ parrot can be found. The coco de mer palm is endemic to the Seychelles and has a female palm and a male palm. It’s rumoured that on a full moon night the male moves over to the female to mate. There is no factual evidence of this as anyone who sees it is turned into a black parrot. The female palm produces a unique heart-shaped nut which can weigh as much as 18kg. The palms are protected and indeed there are even anti-poaching campaigns to stop people cutting them down and selling them to eager collectors. As for us we strolled around the park and ticked off as many of the endemic species as we could and we left happy not to be turned into black parrots.
Susie is very fond of sloe gin and the exclusive supplier of Sloe gin on Adina has always been the Beausires. This time they had made a bottling called “Yacht Adina Special Reserve Waddesdon Rothschild Estate Sloe Gin 2016”. What an honour! Susie had kept some of the last bottling and the screw cap had become a bit loose with the result being that the sloe gin had oxidised and aged. Cue a vertical tasting and much to our surprise aged Sloe gin is a pretty good tipple. The younger yacht Adina Special Reserve was described as vibrant and with 1.5 litres there is much to be enjoyed. But be warned, you do need to be a special friend for Susie to share it.
Our next destination was the famed island of La Digue, en-route doing a stop at the small St. Pierre islet famed for its snorkelling. The trade winds have stirred everything up so the visibility is no longer so good but we still saw lots of tame fish and much to our surprise a tame hawksbill turtle. We are very used to turtles sprinting off at the first sight of humans but this one just stayed put looking at us. No doubt someone has befriended it.
We took Adina into the small harbour of La Digue parking her med-style stern to which means an anchor out the front and lines tied ashore. It had been a long time since we had done this but it’s always good to do these things! To get around La Digue everyone cycles and we quickly felt relaxed here – there was just something about it that made you slow down. We duly hired bikes and went exploring. La Digue is famous for its beaches, we’ve now seen many a beach and were a little sceptical that anywhere could surpass some of the stunning remote beaches we have visited. There are many claims of the Seychelles having the best beaches in the world. It’s true – they do. Yes, they have soft white sand, the background is green and lush, there are coconut trees but so do many other beaches around the world. The one thing unique to the Seychelles beaches is the big grey granite boulders scattered around. Beautiful, truly beautiful.
Our time was all too short in La Digue and we headed back to the main island of Mahe. Charlie and Nicola had read and heard our stories about catching fish but our lines had not tempted anything while we were in the Seychelles. It all sounded like stories. Little did we know our luck was about to change. First a nice cheeky tuna and then Charlie was sitting on the back monitoring the lines when he saw the one jump. Charlie didn’t hesitate and the line was quickly coming in. We always try and work out what the fish is from a distance but we weren’t sure of this one as it moved sideways. Charlie pulled it in and it was a nice sized Wahoo! These are treasured fish and make great eating so there was much excitement on our side. Three more tuna later the fishing was put to a halt as we simply couldn’t store anymore. Could the Beausires remember the name of the Wahoo? No, it was a ‘yahoo’, ‘yewaaa’ or ‘yehhaaa’ depending on the time of day.
Back on the mainland the Beausires’ final day was spent doing a hike to the top of Mahe – read steep hills and sweat. A few compulsory sights in town ticked off and all the exploration that needed to be done was complete. That night we headed over to Beau Vallon where Charlie and Nicola kindly treated us to a very nice dinner.
Their visit as ever was all too short but plans are already being made to see them again. Charlie and Nicola, as ever thank you for your friendship, your kindness in bringing things out for us, for spoiling us, for all the fun and laughter. It simply was one of the best weeks we have enjoyed on our circumnavigation, please hurry back so we can have another holiday together!
So we now have two days in which to turn Adina around as the Senior Plumes arrive for their annual inspection. A weeks sailing and a week exploring on land in great company – can’t wait, we love the Seychelles.
** For more pictures click here