Our trip has been months in the making. Months of packing our house, packing our bags, wrapping up our jobs and saying goodbyes to our friends and family. It’s an exhausting job, so to counterbalance this effect we plan to begin our trip with lots of relaxation. Tiny La Digue island in the Seychelles promises to be the kind of laid-back place we are looking for, accessible only by ferry and with bikes and ox carts the only means of transportation.
We’re somewhat surprised when we arrive to find several taxis, trucks and even an ambulance hurtling down the skinny roads. Apparently motorised transport has recently come to the island. Practically all the oxen we see are happily grazing in paddocks and not hauling around overweight tourists. The only ox cart we actually see in use was as wedding transport, and the bride and groom were definitely not overweight. The advent of motorised transport has presumably been positive for the local oxen, but perhaps been detrimental to the island’s atmosphere. So far, La Digue has managed to retain a relaxed vibe, but it is easy to imagine it slipping away in the next few years.
While there are more vehicles than expected, bike is still the most common way for tourists to travel around the island. For around $10 a day, you can rent a decent bike, complete with a supermarket basket attached to the back to cart around all of your worldly possessions (well the ones you need when you go to the beach anyway). The island (particularly the interior) is surprisingly hilly. Most people we came across ended up getting off their bikes and pushing them up the steepest parts, which is what our fitness levels required us to do too.
Once one has a bike, the best (and practically only) thing to do is to beach hop. The most famous beach on La Digue is Anse Source D’Argent, which has large rocks, white sand and perfectly clear blue water and is often named in lists of the best beaches in the world (you won’t believe number 5!). While beaches are free in the Seychelles, the only way to access Anse Source D’Argent is through the L’Union property. L’Union, of course, does not charge you to access the beach, but instead to walk through their property to the beach and see the gardens and other buildings. We enter the property right at opening time, paid our 100 SCR fee (approximately $10 AUD), and managed to find ourselves our own private slice of beach. Well we manage around 30 minutes of privacy before the beach fills up, and we’re interrupted by a middle-aged woman who asks Myles to take a photo of her and then proceeds to lie in the sand in racy Instagram poses.
While Anse Source D’Argent is very picturesque, our favourite beach was Anse Cocos. To reach it, you had to ride right across the middle of the island (with its steep hills) and then hike across three beaches through mud (and probably ox poo). It was never crowded and had the same (although fewer) large rocks, white sand and perfectly clear blue water of Anse Source D’Argent. Even better, there wasn’t a fee to pay to access the beach (or even the land you need to walk through to get to the beach).
The other thing La Digue is famous for is tortoises. At L’Union there is a small fenced off hill, housing dozens of tortoises. They seem crowded and largely unhappy. Their only source of food is a pile of leaves which only the tourists can access to coax the tortoises closer for photos. We throw some leaves to a group of hungry looking tortoises who do not seem particularly interested in human contact. It seems to be the kindest thing we can do, as freeing creatures that weight on around 250kg and are famous for being slow moving, in a foreign country, seems to be an excessively risky choice.
Tortoises also roam freely about the island, although they seem particularly attracted to the juice shacks around Anse Severe where they are fed the leftover fruit and scraps. They seem much larger and happier than the ones at L’Union, and they’ll even pose for selfies with you (well they stay still for them anyway).
La Digue is not famous for medical care, but since Keelie has been feeling unwell, we make a trip to the tiny La Digue hospital to get it checked out. The La Digue General Hospital has an open-air waiting space and a variety of run down rooms, across multiple buildings. After a two hour wait in quite possibly the world’s most delightful hospital waiting room, Keelie finally sees the doctor who diagnoses her with an allergic reaction and prescribes a couple of tablets and a cream. He advises her not to drink alcohol or eat seafood over the next few days. As drinking alcohol and eating seafood are two of Keelie’s favourite activities, she opts to disregard the advice. Fortunately, she is cured in the promised three days taking only the pills and cream. The entire experience, including prescription drugs, costs $26 AUD.
We stay at Villa Authentique during our time on La Digue, a simple but pleasant guesthouse not far from the ‘town’ and the ferry pier. Our room is basic and plainly decorated, except for our two bedside lamps, which have been inexplicably covered in Spiderman fabric. The guesthouse is run by a helpful man, who gives us a map of the island and explains the best routes and marks out the areas where it is too dangerous to swim. The location in town made it easy to find places to eat, which was lucky as we could never work out whether the restaurant at our guesthouse was open or not.
Meals at a restaurant in the Seychelles average around $30-40 AUD a main. The local delicacy is bat curry, and usually we are keen to ensure we try the local specialities, but at $40 for something that is almost certainly going to come with an above average risk of catching a horrible food-borne disease we decide to give it a miss. However, if we could have had a small taste for $5-10 AUD we would have given it a go: perhaps an enterprising local might start doing this in future.
If you are not willing to pay through the nose for dinner (which we weren’t, minus the night we celebrated Keelie’s birthday) your only other option is to eat at local take-aways. These little hole-in-the-wall joints, with no or limited seating, have meals that cost around $5 AUD. A new menu is written up each day on a whiteboard, and a portion of each dish is pre-prepared. Once each dish is sold out, it is rubbed off the menu like it never existed. It can get rather cutthroat, especially if it is busy or there is a particularly popular item on the menu.
Riding bikes, beach hopping and making friends with tortoises has been an idyllic way to start a holiday, but it is going to take much more than 4 days for us to truly wind down.