Of the three islands I visited in the Seychelles, La Digue may have been the smallest, but by far had the biggest personality for me. It wins. Hands down. Without a second thought. No competition. And I can’t say I wasn’t warned before arriving.
“People are really friendly on La Digue, so friendly you’ll think everyone is making a pass at you,” says my Seychellois guide Marlon Panagary with a wink, as he drops me off at the Mahé Inter Island Quay. Before driving off, he opens his window to shout across the road: “If you don’t come back, I’ll understand, neither would I!”
Life on La Digue is slow. And I like that. A lot. It may be the Seychelles’ third most inhabited island, but it is minuscule – just 3km by 5km – and there’s barely any motorised transport here. Instead, golf carts go between the ferry terminal and the guesthouses, and hundreds of vintage bicycles line the streets. The kind that are painted pastel colours, have mud guards and twine baskets in the front. “The bikes all get mixed up,” says the manager of Château St. Cloud, my bed and breakfast set in a tropical garden, as she hands me a chain and padlock for my two-wheel chariot. “They have ours, we have theirs,” she says, matter-of-factly.
And so as I spend an entire day cycling along every road on the island from one beach to the next, before my swimming costume has enough time to dry. A man rests his chin and hands on the handle of his rake as he watches cyclists pedal uphill. I cycle south along the interior road towards Grand Anse beach, passing colourful matchbox houses, banana plantations, a blue and white shrine to the Virgin Mary, and wooden juice huts. There was one with the flags of the world, but my favourite was decked out with boating paraphernalia, where buoys replaced wind chimes.
After pedaling uphill and freewheeling downhill the tar road turns to sand at the lake of water lilies. But all the pedaling is worth it as Grand Anse is crescent-shaped beach that’s hugged by luscious vegetation. I find two dogs sleeping beneath a palm leaf cabana in front of a beach shack. That’s beach life for you! The owner entices me with a buffet of octopus curry, barbequed fish, Creole rice, shredded, unripened papaya and coconut chutney.
After relaxing in the shade of a bungalow hand-plaited from palm leaves, I walk to its sister beach, Petite Anse, which is book-ended by granite cliffs. It’s a mere 10-minute walk over the boulders through the tropical rain forest.
Back on my bicycle, on my way to Veuve Nature Reserve on the western side of the island, I cycle past art galleries, a yellow-painted church and home-bound school children. This nature reserve, like many others in the Seychelles, is home to giant tortoises and one of the world’s most photographed beaches. Anse Source D’Argent is a glorious curve of pure white sand kissed by emerald waters and backed by sculptural granitic boulders.
And while I understand why everyone makes such a fuss about it, my ultimate beach is the lesser known, quieter and relatively tiny Anse Patates at the northern tip of La Digue. Here, my bike-weary calves rest as I drink a mojito in a hammock dangling between two palm trees.
This is the beach that makes me vow to return and possibly even reconsider that marriage proposal I’d received — Marlon was right. But my admirer only knew me for an hour before suggesting I help him run his father’s bicycle rental shop until we grow old, and so I thought it practical to kindly decline.
From the grey boulders strewn across the sand I watch the sunset transform the water to liquid gold, followed by an octopus curry (famous in the Seychelles) at the beachfront Fishtrap Restaurant and Bar.
By morning, I don’t want to leave La Digue. And I’m so entrenched in the island’s laid-back pace that I miss my ferry back to Praslin. Yes, me, the kind of traveller who usually checks all her bookings. Thrice! I had mistaken the date — island life can do that to you sometimes.
I realise at the last moment, but am a few minutes too late and wave the ferry on its way. I run around the boat terminal pleading with boat owners to take pity on me. But most are too busy offloading the morning’s catch or slowly taking care of deck duties to pay me much attention. One fisherman measures the value of my desperation by asking for $100 for the seven-minute boat trip.
I approach another fisherman with a small rickety boat and we settle on $50. I take off my shoes and socks, roll up my trousers and clamber into his boat. From there I watch the waves wash away my laptop bag — the other crew member had placed it on the then dry sand. And so soon I’m laughing into the spray with each bump against the water as I’m drying my laptop with what dry clothes remain. Indeed, island life rubbed off on me. I did manage to catch my Air Seychelles flight back to Mahé in the end, though I didn’t want to.
I visited the Seychelles as a guest of The Seychelles Tourism Board and Air Seychelles. I wrote about this trip as part of my freelance work. Some of the photographs in this post have been used with kind permission from the Seychelles Tourism Board. As always, I maintain full editorial control of all content published on this website, but you already know that.