Your Ultimate East Africa Beach Guide!

A 3 part series on where you can most likely find me when I win the lottery and retire.

Part I: The Seychelles

How do you spell paradise in African? Yep, you guessed it S-E-Y-C-H-E-L-L-E-S. 

The country to me as a South African has never really seemed to be situated in Africa. I never learnt about Seychelles history or way of life…Its technically not on the mainland (yes sorry Mauritius, same Whatsapp group)…In fact my only reference to the Seychelles growing up was all the gorgeous Miss World candidates that sashayed in as the announcer announced the next candidate from Africa…. “Miss Seychelles” – cue 8-year-old Bee jumping up and down just happy that this hot Nubian Queen was African.  So there I was, I’d just quit my investment banking job after 4 rewarding,but also excruciating years and a friend says they’re heading to the Seychelles for work… I remember telling myself I already had a trip planned to Mozambique to reward myself for sticking it out for that long. Being so proud of myself for sticking it out and starting another job in 3 weeks meant that I allowed myself to do the unthinkable at the time… I literally bought my ticket to the Island 2 days before I left – because in 2016 if you aren’t yolo’ing what are you doing??? (yes, the Bee on my right shoulder just rolled her eyes at me and asked whether I was the same person who was shouting financial freedom in our time 5 days ago….) #YOLO

Everyday felt like being in Paradise

So with a work laptop in tow which in theory I was supposed to be using in the final weeks of my garden leave (which I opened twice that whole week)… I bought and boarded the cheapest Kenya Airways flight I could find…Yes, you definitely can fly there direct…but again, even though I was YOLO’ing, I was a price conscious YOLO’er (yes, I’m just making up all these words). Remember kids, just like safety, budget first (ALWAYS)!!!! I remember thinking I should stop by Nairobae for longer because I absolutely love that city…but honestly – I was so bloody excited to be in the Seychelles that it didn’t make sense to have a long layover. I remember going to land and just grinning from ear to ear like I owned land in the Seychelles! As you go in for the landing on Mahe Island, all you can see is the crisp blue and clear ocean with a littering of Islands.

What a view!

The Seychelles are basically an archipelago of 115 islands off East Africa. It’s home to numerous beaches, coral reefs and nature reserves, as well as rare species such as the giant Aldabra tortoises…Make time to see these tortoise…it’s a rare treat! Mahé is your central point of travel to visiting some of the other islands, home to the capital Victoria and the only place to land when coming off an international flight.  It also has the mountain rainforests of Morne Seychellois National Park and beaches, including Beau Vallon (My favourite) and Anse Takamaka. The Island is one of those places where you constantly ask yourself whether you really deserve to be there because it’s so darn perfect.

Anyways… I digress. The immigration process was pretty straight forward and luckily, I didn’t need a visa for the Seychelles…insert: thank you South African passport. They don’t have Uber because let’s face it, does a population of 95,000 really need Uber? For the most part the general pace is a little on the leisurely side so they really is no reason for you to be rushing about. I’d booked a cab with a local person my friend uses all the time and that seemed to be the most economical solution. 

Even my hair was standing up and paying attention – beach day in Beau Vallon

I spent 6 days frolicking, hiking, going to beaches, finding local eating spots and finding new reading spots in the resort where we were staying at. I would highly recommend Le Meridien despite the price tag…also, if you didn’t budget accordingly …then the Seychelles aren’t for you. Short of finding local local spots (where speaking some French is crucial to be chummy with all the locals and find the best bargains) there really were few spots that I felt were priced comparatively well to South Africa..and yes I know…our wine and food is cheaper than most places in Africa..but the Seychelles was another level of expensive… … and unlike some other cities that have an abundance of Airbnb’s where you have the option of dining in when you feel the pinch in your pocket, the way the hospitality industry is set up in the Seychelles…you are kidding yourself if you think you won’t be staying at a hotel. So what were the questions that I’d wished I’d asked to help me better prepare for this trip and the questions that I did ask that ensured that I had a good time?

Q&A:

  1. How much should you ideally budget? More than you need. JOKES (I’m not really joking), seriously, a bed and breakfast at a decent 4-5 star will set you back GBP300 (USD330 or R6,100) per night. Opt in for an all-inclusive because the alternative is quite tough on the pocket  
  2. When is the ideal time to go? The best times to visit Seychelles is April, May, October and November. These months represent the transition times between the hot and humid northwest trade winds (from November through March) and the cooler southeast trade winds that define April through October (Thank you google, I just showed up in April because of Carnival)
  3. What languages are spoken in the Seychelles? The national languages of Seychelles are Seychellois Creole, English and French.
  4. When is Carnival? Around the last week of April and it was a ton of fun! This was a huge selling point for me going…Yes, it is not the most known carnival in the world but the locals are a ton of fun and the food was so so tasty!
  5. Is it worth it to pack hiking shoes? A definite yes from me.   It’s generally a very hilly island and my personal favourite hiking spots / mountains were:  Morne Blanc and Le Glacis Noir
  6. What are the cheapest activities to do in the Seychelles? A beach day and hiking
  7. Is it a romantic destination? DEFINITELY. There’s definitely plenty to do that’s not laying by the pool, soaking up the sun and having your share of mojitos…but it is most definitely a romantic location so remember that before you take your little sister…. it’s not worth it…
  8. Is there Uber? Definitely not – there are a couple of local alternatives so best to know where you are going or get the hotel to pick you up
  9. What currency is accepted in the Seychelles? Seychelles Rupees, USD and EUROs…
  10. Late night restaurants? Like good old South Africa, there isn’t much in terms of this so best to plan ahead… Boardwalk Café on Eden is the spot for night-time eats and is reasonably priced

So all in all, a really strong 8.5 out of 10 for me. It falls short of a ten because of the affordability aspect and it not being the easiest of places to get around in (lack of public transport etc). But the people, mountains and sites are amazing and unfortunately the prevalence of South Africans makes it feel like a way nicer version of a beach side town in Cape Town as you can get some of the same wines etc.  I couldn’t recommend the Seychelles enough. Have you been the Seychelles lately? Anything else to add to my list of Q&A? What was your favourite or least favourite thing about the Island? I would love to hear about them!!! Feel free to reply on the post or send me an email directly!

The 4 reasons South Africans should travel around Africa (and the greater globe) more…

Zanzibar forever remains one of my favourites – Nungwi Beach

I cannot count the number of times I have heard South Africans tell me that they’re going to ‘Africa’ or the continent for a week. Yes, I kid you not, we are a special breed. We have Africa in our name and there are still people who think they are going to a different continent when they board a plane at OR Tambo or Cape Town International or King Shaka. And yes, all 54 of our glorious countries are extremely different, but they are still on the same continent.

1.Are you Zulu? Sawubona!

Yes, I happen to be Zulu but this happens to most South Africans when they visit the rest of Africa. So many people know about our history, culture and some languages and appreciate how far we’ve come as a nation despite us not appreciating it. Yes, this is me also feeling terrible that I learnt nothing about African history in primary or secondary school and had to wait until I took a minor  in African studies to have a better appreciation for our similarities, struggles and so many of our cultural commonalities!!!

2. Yes there are brown / black people in South Africa

This is more for the melanated South Africans reading (Yes, I just made up that word).  Due to apartheid and socioeconomic reasons most South African people of colour have not traveled the breadth of our beautiful continent. Due to this, it should come as no surprise that a lot of Africans outside of the major hubs are genuinely surprised when they meet a black South African. For some reason a lot of places off the beaten track seem to think South Africans are mainly white….No, I’m not joking….I was in Tunisia and someone looked at me strangely when I said I was South African… apparently I was the first black South African they had ever met.  So do all of us a public service and go show some of our culture and fake those clicks even if you aren’t Xhosa or Zulu. You’re doing your country a service!!!!

3. This is more for the greater world then the continent, but you will have utterly amusing stories to tell your grandkids that you could never make up.

I lived in China for a period of around 2.5 years in and out, first as a student and then as an adult. It was not the easiest because of the stark differences in culture but being fluent in mandarin did help.  Questions I was asked in that period:

  • Are you related to Obama?
  • Is Kobe your big brother?
  • Why are you at the zoo, don’t you have animals everywhere in Africa? (And still…no we only have animals in the zoo)
  • You must be grateful to Obama for ending slavery…deadass. I tell no lies…
  • How come your Chinese is so good? (I lying to get an extra shot..my dad is Chinese and my mum is South African…)…mmm I guess that makes sense… *sips on her 4th free shooter because she’s half Chinese*
  • Why are you so dark…do your people not wash as much?
  • Some offensive, some hilarious…all requiring a level of patience that my mother would be proud I now possess (apparently I used to have the temper of a thousand Xhosa / Zulu woman)

4. You will genuinely be humbled by how beautiful the continent is and how so many places are not publicized. Yes,people have been hiding destinations from you.

I don’t even know where to start …The Danakil depression (lookout for my next post)… Labadi Beach in Accra..The skeleton Coast that’s on my bucket list… or the clear ocean in Zanzibar or the Seychelles…I don’t remember ever being taught about this Africa. I have been entirely humbled by how much I didn’t know before embarking on my journeys.  When kids were going off about some of their European holidays as a kid and we could only afford to go down the coast till now when I’m older and I can afford to explore more I have not come across anything as beautiful as our continent. I am entirely filled with euphoria every single time I land on a different island or city even when I’m overwhelmed and I need to go find a normal cab (Yes, there are places where there is still no uber or taxify or littlecabs – please go find a normal cab; its 2019 and its still in fashion to speak to people and bargain for your fare).

I wont lie, I love South Africa. I don’t think I could have been luckier in hitting the birth lottery when it comes to weather, lack of natural disasters, amazing food, friendliest of people and a more resilient nation but like I said above I am giddy with excitement every single time I know I am putting another African stamp on the green Mamba! Yes, I am that south African who listens to the expat south Africans and calls her passport the green mamba! Firstly, start budgeting…there’s so much to see and so little time…join the struggle bus and go to home affairs, if you get there extremely early you’re out within an hours and are assured a new passport within a week! And yes, we are thankful that the two most efficient ministries in our country is the one that taxes you (hey SARS, I feel like I’m owed a tax rebate ) and the one that actually allows you to run away from Eskom’s load shedding once in a while!!!!