There I was on a beach, watching the sun set with just a dog for company. Except, the dog wasn’t alone. He had a ‘partner’, who was asleep under a tree by the shore. The good boy would keep running at the tide creeping in, as if to tell the waters to keep from his sleeping friend. It was the sweetest thing.
I was in Seychelles, a country off the coast of East Africa, where even the dogs are romantic.
Most island countries make for ideal honeymoon, baby-moon, pre-wedding moon celebrations. Think gorgeous beaches and landscapes, water adventures best experienced in pairs, sailboats for sunset rides and so on. Seychelles is one such place. Its coast throws up dazzling vistas of water, its beaches offer enough shaded spots for romantic picnics, and its long evenings beg for cosy dinners with shots of local rum and plates of octopus curry.
What, then, is there for a solo traveller to do? I took a week to find out.
One Sunday morning, like the good Catholic girl I pretend to be, I attended Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Church. One of the oldest on the island, it contains the tomb of the first and only Seychellois Bishop, Felix Paul. Later, I went to the century-old National Botanical Garden. There, in the quiet of the landscaped greenery, I found little streams, spices such as nutmeg and vanilla, a lotus pond and a Chinese garden with stunning sculptures. I lingered under the shade of the coco de mer, the palm tree endemic to the country, and discovered a cannonball tree, so named because of the sound its round and heavy fruit makes when it falls on the ground. I spent another morning drinking — apart from learning about — the island’s special Takamaka rum. The alcohol is made with organic sugar cane from local farms and water from the Vallée De Mai Nature Reserve, known for high mineral content. A sip of the coconut rum was soothing nourishment on a tropical afternoon.
Visiting Victoria, the capital city on Mahé, the archipelago’s main island, took me half a day. I picked up vanilla essence and fresh fruit from the Victoria Market and wandered up to the tiny replica of the Big Ben — the Victoria Clock Tower. Though cute, the fact that it couldn’t tell time was a disappointment. The Seychelles National Museum of History turned out a better option. There I learned about the history of the country and Creole culture, and marvelled at gifts given to the state by visiting dignitaries. I found another bit of history at the Mission Lodge, where missionaries taught children in late 19th century. The ruins lead to a gazebo, where Queen Elizabeth II once sat for tea, amid sweeping views of the ocean and mountains.
I spent the evenings at the beaches. There was the tourist-popular Beau Vallon with white sands. Surfers Beach was a deserted paradise with gentle waves. At Anse Aux Pins, I found a beach populated with tiny crabs. At Anse Takamaka, I swam in the shallow waters and befriended another dog, this time on the lookout for his human friend, who was snorkelling. Anse Royal is where I met the stray dog I began the piece with.
During my stay in Seychelles, I attempted to tune out the noise: To drink in the silence of the beaches, to spend time reading or writing in my journal. And yet, at the end of it, I had my best memories when I wasn’t alone.
Solo travel isn’t for me. I don’t believe in discovering myself by gazing out at the ocean for hours, or contemplating life while surrounded by turtles. I prefer the shared pleasure of watching an endangered turtle on a deserted beach seek out a shrubbery to lay her eggs, and then join other tourists in covering her footprints so that no one disturbs her. There’s joy in drinking local beer under a coconut tree and discussing a typical Seychellois Sunday, where families step out as early as 4am in order to find a choice spot on the beach and then spend the day eating, drinking, swimming and dancing to music. At the crowded islands of La Digue and Praslin, I befriended a South African journalist. We later swam in the ocean, photographed each other and traded notes on Seychelles. On the ferry ride back to the island, a Brazilian traveller and I watched a spectacular sunset while discussing politics. I got some more photos of myself — this time against a sunset — thanks to a British writer and budding photographer.
It took me a week to realise that, in a honeymoon destination, it’s always good to find a (travel) partner.
Joanna Lobo is a freelance writer based in Mumbai
Air Seychelles has flights to major metros in India. Seychelles is a visa-free country. Seychelles enjoys warm tropical climate through the year. April-May and October-November are shoulder months with great weather and fewer tourists. Villa Chez Batista on Anse Takamaka beach for a secluded getaway or Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa at Beau Vallon beach for a luxury stay. Octopus curry, shark chutney, satini (a spicy salad sometimes made with dried fish), and ladob (bananas or sweet potato with milk). Buses have a flat fare of 7 Seychellois rupees (1 Seychellois rupee = ₹5). A bus ride from the north to the south makes for a picturesque introduction to the island.
Air Seychelles has flights to major metros in India. Seychelles is a visa-free country.
Seychelles enjoys warm tropical climate through the year. April-May and October-November are shoulder months with great weather and fewer tourists.
Villa Chez Batista on Anse Takamaka beach for a secluded getaway or Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa at Beau Vallon beach for a luxury stay.
Octopus curry, shark chutney, satini (a spicy salad sometimes made with dried fish), and ladob (bananas or sweet potato with milk).
Buses have a flat fare of 7 Seychellois rupees (1 Seychellois rupee = ₹5). A bus ride from the north to the south makes for a picturesque introduction to the island.