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Off-grid Indian Ocean: Discovering La Digue, Seychelles

The lesser-known corners of the Indian Ocean are where you’ll find pristine jungle hikes, hands-on conservation experiences, grassroots tours, off-grid islands and low-key lodges, plus some of the world’s best underwater wildlife. La Digue is no exception

By Sarah Barrell
Published 3 May 2019, 10:27 BST
Anse Source d’Argent beach, La Digue
Anse Source d’Argent beach, La Digue
Photograph by Getty Images

This wild, rugged 115-island archipelago, 900 miles off the coast of mainland East Africa, is home to the world’s only oceanic granite islands. The Seychelles might be less polished than the Maldives, but it has no lack of pristine white sand. If you want a truly cast-away vibe — without the exorbitant price tag attached to the outer coral islands that double as private resorts — then La Digue is the destination. High-end hotels are few to none, but family-run guesthouses thrive on this carefree and largely car-free island, where the main traffic hazard might be a giant tortoise snoozing on the tarmac. The tourist office — a modest wooden villa with a thatched roof — is the main town’s biggest building, issuing room bookings, bike hire and photocopied hand-drawn maps of the few sealed roads that run beyond the harbour’s fringes.

Thanks to its teardrop shape and impossibly pink granite boulders framing soft, white, palm-fringed crescents, La Digue is prime day-tripping terrain for selfie-snapping honeymooners. But once the crowds retreat to the newlywed suites of Praslin and Mahé islands, La Digue rewards travellers with burnt orange sunsets that transform the almost uninterrupted halo of beaches from white to gold, and the water to mercury. There’s little to do here, after dark. And dark it is, as streetlights are scarce and most of the island’s few low-rise buildings are powered by generators. It’s a boon for stargazing but a nuisance if you’re piloting a bike; most locals ride one-handed, using their smartphone in lieu of a bicycle light. Have a cup of calu (palm wine) and go with the wobbly flow.

Come morning, before the ferries dock, follow sandy trails out to the east coast’s no-name beaches, stopping to buy fish fritters and fruity, tomato-based octopus curries from roadside shacks, whose owners occupy themselves, between scant customers, shooing roosters off the tables. Then, kick back to listen to the cicadas and the pull of surf on sand, with those sleepy giant tortoises as your only company.

How to do it: Cabane des Anges has double-room apartments from £100 a night, on a B&B basis. British Airways flies direct from the UK to Mahé. There are regular air and sea connections between the island of Mahé and Praslin; La Digue is a 15-minute ferry-ride away from the island of Praslin. 

Published in the June 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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