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16.07.2017

Traveler in Neverland

Travel

Castaway vibes set in as Zoe ventures to the Seychelles Inner Islands, Praslin and La Digue. In a world where fish fly above the ocean and pirate treasures remain uncovered, there’s no wondering why these mystical islands are a boundless haven for our inner child to run wild and free.

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Praslin & La Digue Island, Seychelles
Zoe wears An Aviary Tale, Sicilia

It was one of those moments browsing through the Instagram account of Beautiful Destinations when I stumbled across Hilton Northolme’s bungalow haven. The truth is, it’s more beautiful in reality; a terraced world of teak wood cabanas immersed by oversized leafy canopies. The idyllic tropical garden of Eden if there ever was one. Flora from the most exotic traveler palms to coconut trees all perfectly set among the beds of pink periwinkles. Room 221 wins the contest for #RoomWithAView. My senses engulfed by the deep cedar incense while I gaze out into the midday ocean. The jungle palms around my balcony perfectly framing Silhouette Island. I could feel the pull, my curiosity luring me into some sort of a spellbound realm, so eager to discover the Inner Islands. As I stand, I surrender to the beauty – I’ve found my Neverland. The only thing left to do was to get there.

Hilton Northolme, Glacis Seychelles
Rum Day Diaries at Hilton Northolme’s Ocean View Bar, Glacis Seychelles

I successfully made it my mission to find a way to get to the islands Praslin and La Digue. There’s a boat leaving Victoria port at 7:30 AM the next morning; the occasion to see for myself if it was really the case that beaches in Mahé couldn’t be compared to those found on the Inner Islands – I thought, how is that even possible? As the boat pulls out of the port we take to the surge of the waves. I gaze out taking it all in. The infinite horizons, the depth of the big blue and as my eyes somehow adjust to the erratic swell of the waves, I start to catch glimpses of flying-fish; their wings sparkling as they hover over the ocean.

Arriving in Praslin, I feel that far-flung sensation. Not only am I far away, I’m now indifferent to it – that castaway mood kicks in. As I drive through the coco-de-mer jungle forest of Valle de Mai, through to Praslin’s northern bay of Anse Lazio, it’s hard not to be caught up imagining the types of folklore told to children here. Between one conversation and another I’ve come to understand that treasures from pirates and buccaneers are still very much alive among the Seychellois. The thought of treasures of golden coins and trinkets all awaiting to be uncovered fascinates me. Author Ian Fleming was entirely convinced of one big treasure’s whereabouts, to the point that he was involved in a search during his stay in the Seychelles. Between the pirate stories and the myths of the lingering island spirits my mind is entirely captivated.

Praslin Island
Anse Lazio, Praslin

I reach the end of the road of Praslin’s northern point. As I walk through dirt lanes, past splintered picket fences and through the coconut groves leading up to Anse Lazio suddenly freedom lay before me. My breath somehow swallowing into itself in sheer disbelief of this abundance of beauty in front of me. I’d been transported into a Bounty chocolate ad. The Seychellois I met in Mahé was correct – the beaches are not to be compared to those of the Inner Islands.  As I walk along the bay a sea turtle straddles towards the shoreline; she’s here to lay her eggs. A local man approaches me his eyes twinkling and tells me, “nobody ever sees this, you are very lucky… when nature knows you love her, she comes to you”, his words touched me.

Within less than an hour I find myself back to riding the waves over to La Digue island. Grand Seour and Felicite islands lay in quick succession of each other, followed by gigantic granite boulders emerging from out of the ocean. The mood so Narnia-esque, entirely mystical. Somehow the feeling on each island is so different to the next. I struggle to imagine how drastically diverse it must be all the way in the coral Aldabra Atoll islands, 1.370 KM south-west from here. As I step off the boat in La Digue I’m propelled into a time-warp; a world that commutes on multi-colored bicycles and carriages pulled by Oxen, where fishermen blow into enormous sea shells creating a bellowing didgeridoo-like sound to announce the arrival of fresh catch of the day. Everything about the island feels so wholesome. There’s a powerful connection with the wild that lurks about here. As I set out on the dirt tracks I remove my shoes. There’s an instantaneous freedom about roaming bare foot here. I cycle to the east of Reunion. I arrive at Anse Gaulettes, a beach reminiscent of unicorn dust, speckled with broken bits of red and blue coral among the towering rose-tinted boulders. As I continue to cycle towards the west of the island through the coconut groves past local teak-wood houses I notice single paintings left out on the porches painted by local artists. I couldn’t tell if they were for sale or not. I fall in love with one in particular, the abstract lines and the colors so perfect, truly capturing that Digois mood. As I continue past the coconut factory I find myself at the world’s most photographed beach Anse Source D’Argent. I leave my bike at the end of the dirt track and walk through the largest boulders I’ve come across yet. The ultimate prize after a 20 minutes walk – fried breadfruit and BBQ’d snapper with several refills of a magical smoothie drink made with golden apple, star fruit, mango and rum!

La Digue
Red Coral, Anse Gaulettes, La Digue
Coconut groves, Reunion, La Digue
Anse Source D’Argent, La Digue

The openness is wild here; the ocean knows no mercy. Once the tide decides to sweep its way inland it swallows all paths with it. Suddenly the boulders are submerged into the water and my path back to the dirt road is inexistent; I’m almost disorientated as to how to get back. Nothing looks familiar anymore. I stick to the direction where I came from, my body entirely submerged to above my waist line as I push against the current. It was a moment when I wasn’t sure whether to curse at the fact, or to thank myself for having drank one too many rum smoothies. As I take the boat back to Mahé island I can tell that it is going to be another one of those spectacular sunsets followed by the magical after-light that I witnessed in Beau Vallon. With my feet dangling off from the edge of the boat I lose my senses to the horizon as the ocean transforms into a world of deep saturated pinks and purples. Nature’s beauty so intense that its power lures your senses into wanting to be part of it – almost hypnotic. As I watched my final sunset in the Seychelles from the middle of the ocean I felt moved knowing that I was taking back with me the most precious gift of all – the knowing that somewhere among the chaos of today, I can always return to Neverland.

Thank you Hilton Northolme, for the beautiful stay and for organising this unforgettable and incredible journey to Praslin & La Digue! xoxo

As featured by Conde Nast Traveler . Zoe’s Instagram journey through the Seychelles:

 

Author: Zoe Hili

Photography: Zoe Hili

Tags: Seychelles, La Digue, Praslin, Hilton Northolme

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