Yesterday was an active but mellow day exploring beaches and inner islands near Praslin Island. I joined a day tour beginning at 6 am with a drive to Cat Cocos ferry and an hour-long ride from Mahé Island to Praslin. On Praslin, we boarded a catamaran for a sailing and snorkeling adventure.
Sailing on Catamaran Oplezir
St. Pierre Islet
Sailing from Praslin to our first stop, St. Pierre Islet, took about an hour. St. Pierre is a small, picture-perfect island, but the current was too strong for snorkeling. We stopped for photos and continued to a calmer area where we spent an hour snorkeling in the warm, heavenly Indian Ocean!! The variety of fish was disappointing, but we saw angelfish, a few striped, blue, and yellow schools, groupers, and sea bass scuttling along the bottom in the seagrass. The strong pull of the Indian Ocean’s current was obvious.
I snorkeled with a Spanish couple who were on a diving holiday and had been in Mauritius and the Comoros before Seychelles. They were disappointed in Praslin’s fish and coral, but thought Seychelles beaches were the most beautiful in the Indian Ocean.
Next, we sailed to Curieuse Island – fifth-largest Seychelles inner island – to hike and visit giant Aldabra tortoises. The tortoises don’t swim, but roam freely throughout the island. They’re named for the place where they originated – Aldabra coral atoll – part of the outer islands. They’re friendly, loveable creatures and seem to enjoy being touched. They can live to be 250 years old!
We explored the flora and fauna, including magnificent coco de mer palms and mangrove forests. Coco de mer is a rare species of palm endemic to Praslin and Curieuse. It’s the subject of legends and folklore. The coco de mer nut is the “largest seed in the plant kingdom”.
The hike was easy except for climbing a few boulders along uphill sections of the trail. The beaches, views, and vegetation were exceptionally beautiful! Pointe Rouge, a coral garden off the eastern coast of Curieuse, is a popular diving spot.
“From 1833 until the mid-20th century, Curieuse Island was a quarantine station for lepers. Today, old ruins and the doctor’s house remain. The house is a French colonial building from the 1800s. Now, it has a small museum and visitor’s centre.”
Part of the hike was a boardwalk trail through a mangrove forest teeming with fiddler crabs, exotic sea snails, geckos, skinks, palm spiders, and birds, including the elegant white-tailed tropicbird. A curious photogenic skink posed for us on a palm tree trunk.
Reddish laterite soil characterizes the island and led French explorer Lazare Picault to name Curieuse “Ile Rouge”. The name changed to Curieuse (curious in English) in 1768, when a boat led by French explorer, Marc Jospeh Marion de Frense, claimed ownership of the island in the name of the French crown. Today, it’s a popular tourist spot but only park rangers live on Curieuse.
The hike led to Anse Josee Beach where we boarded Oplezir again for a Creole seafood lunch prepared by the crew. The food was simple, healthy, and delicious. We enjoyed it in good company surrounded by stunning scenery and turquoise water!
Anse Georgette Beach Praslin
After lunch we cruised to nearby Anse Georgette Beach for a photo stop, more snorkeling, and a delicious swim. Anse Georgette is known for its “untouched, natural, astounding beauty”.
“Anse Georgette’s incredible mix of gorgeous turquoise ocean water, pristine white sand, and incredible palm trees make for a truly jaw-dropping beach”.
Anse Georgette has excellent snorkeling, but the current can become unexpectedly strong, and there’s no protection from offshore coral reefs. When the surf came up, our guides decided it was too dangerous, so we sailed to a nearby beach. I was eager to enjoy more snorkeling but soon experienced a taste of the Indian Ocean’s power.
I joined the Spanish couple again, and we swam to an offshore rock formation near the beach. Mesmerized by the surroundings, I didn’t notice the strong surf on the way there, but later got pounded hard into the beach. Thankfully, I wasn’t near rocks or coral reefs. An older man had to be ferried back to the boat. I swam back with a swimsuit full of itchy sand – a small, humbling reminder of the sea’s all-encompassing power!
Heading back to the ferry, we cruised Praslin’s north-east coast and saw a small pod of dolphins – too fast for photos. Many fell asleep on the forward trampolines hypnotized by the soothing, rocking motion of the sailboat. After an idyllic, satisfying day, I had a better understanding of life in the Seychelles – my home for the next three weeks!