My day trip to La Digue Island was marred by torrential rain that didn’t let up. Bicycling in rain with poor visibility made photography challenging, so I used several media shots in this blog post. There are abundant Internet photos and videos of the islands. Nothing beats seeing them in person, even in the rain.
Heavy rain began during the ferry ride from Mahé Island to Praslin Island and continued as we switched to a connecting ferry between Praslin and La Digue. When the ferry arrived in La Digue around 9 am, people were huddled under palapas or clutching umbrellas trying to avoid the rain and flooded streets.
Seychelles climate is temperate, but the isolated archipelago is in the middle of the Indian Ocean near the equator, so unpredictable storms occur almost every day. With the area’s micro climates, it can be raining on one island and sunny on another. Some storms are violent but brief, clearing within minutes or hours, but that wasn’t the case when I visited La Digue. Relentless rain continued all day…
December and January are known for heavy downpours. The least rainfall occurs in July. During my stay on the islands there were storms, but it was often clear.
La Digue is the third largest inhabited island and fourth in size. About 3,000 people live in two coastal villages – La Passe, where the ferries dock, and La Réunion. La Digue doesn’t have an airport and is linked to other islands by ferry.
Year-round temperatures fluctuate between 75 and 90 degrees both day and night.
La Digue was named after a ship in the fleet of French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, who visited the Seychelles in 1768. French settlers inhabited the island in 1789, bringing African slaves with them.
Inhabitants of La Digue are called Diguois. “The first French settlers were exiled from Bourbon for taking part in a political rebellion. They were to be sent to the East Indies, but bribed the captain to take them to Seychelles where many had relatives.” Later, liberated slaves and Asian immigrants also settled on the island. The population is mostly Catholic.
Nature Reserves and Wildlife
Not surprisingly, La Digue’s main industry is tourism. The island is known for stunning beaches like Anse Source d’Argent and Grand Anse. The bicycle company provided a map showing the major trails, beaches, and reserves. I encircled most of the island in steady, warm rain.
I visited Veuve Nature Reserve, home to the rare black paradise flycatcher. The Reserve was disappointing and many of the muddy trails were flooded and impassable. I heard, but never saw, birds and animals.
In addition to the Flycatcher, La Digue is home to several rare endemic species. As with many Seychelles islands, there’s a significant population of Aldabra Island tortoises. I peddled by several tortoises as they crossed the bicycle route in slow motion. Coconut crabs and a variety of geckos, bats, and tropical birds – fodys, sunbirds, terns – occupy the island.
Green sea turtles live on the edges of La Digue’s coral reefs, and butterfly fish, eagle rays, and moray eels flourish there. I didn’t snorkel on La Digue, but while snorkeling near Cerf Island saw colorful fish, eels, and a small, beautiful blacktip reef shark.
“Animals that traditionally live on La Digue are threatened by those introduced by human inhabitants. The rat population was probably the first animal brought to the Seychelles. Rats quickly caused extinction of many birds by eating their eggs and disturbing delicate nests. Dogs and cats were less of a menace.”
La Digue’s beaches are the most photographed in the world. They glow with soft white sand, translucent turquoise water, and spectacular pale pink granite boulders. If you’re adventurous, you can discover hidden isolated beaches.
Large, well-known beaches draw tourists from all over the world, and are the island’s forte.
West Coast Beaches – Best for Swimming
- Anse Source d’Argent – accessed via World Heritage Site L’Union Estate
- Anse La Réunion
- Anse Sévère
- Anse Patates
East Coast Beaches
Isolated / Secluded Beaches
The southeast coast has a series of “adjoining bays with picturesque beaches separated by granite boulders and backed by tropical forests”. The beaches have big waves and powerful undertow, so swimming is dangerous and not recommended.
The hike through the jungle to Anse Cocos includes a challenging “rock-hopping” experience. During my day trip, the rocks were wet and slippery, and forest trails were much too muddy to hike.
Bicycles are the primary means of transportation on La Digue. At one time, cars weren’t allowed. Today, there are a few vehicles, most belonging to hotels and resorts. Ox-drawn cart is another way to navigate the island.
“Driving a car on La Digue can be difficult. Roads were originally designed for bicycles. Cars going against each other must slide off the road with two wheels in the sand.”
Diverse ethnic groups inhabit La Digue. Flavorful local food has Indian, African, and European influences and is served at an interesting mix of restaurants. Abundant fish dishes are prepared in hundreds of ways, including grilled, steamed, sauté, curried, and raw with lemon and spices.
Ginger is a primary ingredient in Seychelles cooking. Other island food and drink includes jamalac, breadfruit, rum, octopus, palm wine, lobster, and the “biggest local specialty – bat curry ” made with Seychelles Fruit Bat meat!
While waiting for the rain to calm, I enjoyed espresso at The Fish Trap in La Passe and returned later for lunch. Their specialty is fresh, simply-cooked seafood. Everything I ate at the restaurant was delicious.
Snorkeling and Hiking
The best snorkeling in the islands is in the “crystal-clear waters of the Ile Marine National Park north of La Digue”. The Park is a group of three small coral-fringed islets off the northern tip of Félicité Island. Snorkelers swim beside Hawksbill turtles, Blue Surgeonfish, Parrotfish, Moorish Idols, Emperor Angelfish, Batfish, and stunning Picasso Triggerfish.
The hike to La Digue’s highest peak – Nid d’Aigle (Eagles Nest) – is challenging. When you reach the top, sweeping panoramic views make it worth the effort. I didn’t hike on this trip to La Digue, but if I return to the Seychelles, will spend more time snorkeling and exploring – hopefully in better weather.
Snorkeling on Félicité Island is a must. Even though La Digue is a small island, a guide is recommended. Tourists often get caught in treacherous currents and lost on hidden trails in the dense tropical forest.
“Since the Seychelles are detached from the rest of Africa, many animal species on the island are endemic to La Digue”.
Back in Durban
I arrived back in Durban happy to be in South Africa’s more “connected” environment. The Seychelles are amazing, but extremely isolated. I’m still reflecting about Seychelles nature, culture, and people, and my experiences.
December was rainy in Durban. Since my return, the weather has been divine with low humidity when compared to Seychelles. I will stay in Durban during January, hoping to snorkel and visit a few nearby game reserves! In February, it’s on to Maputo Mozambique.
Happy New Year to you and many more adventurous travels in 2018.
Thanks Gwen! May 2018 be a great year for you and making progress on your second book. You’ll be visiting California, Oregon, and Alaska – three of the most beautiful states in the US! Remind me when you’ll be in Oregon and I’ll give you my contact info. At this point I have no US telephone number as I cancel out local cell phones during long trips and get a new one on returning. Have had so many different SIM cards during this trip – am totally confused. If you’re nearby, we must meet! I’m about an hour south of Portland and an hour from the coast in Eugene, a pretty but quiet college town. At this point, not sure when I’ll be returning to the US or what I’ll be doing later in the year….