Hopping From The African Continent To A Tropical Island
A visit to the Seychelles full of eye openers and surprises
My journey to Seychelles began on a flight with Kenya Airways, which got us into Mahe about 1 ½ hours later (more about this explained elsewhere), the service delivery on board was well above average, and every bell call for the crew was answered with a smile and prompt appearance of either the beverage or snack requested. With only six passengers in business that day, the two cabin attendants tasked to look after us were able to pull out all stops, and indeed they did, so all credit to them.
Landing at the airport in Mahe, just outside the capital Victoria, was smooth, and the views during the final approach across other islands and then into Mahe offered spectacular sights of the tropical forests and the steep rocks making up the mountains.
An early word of advice for travelers intending to come to the archipelago: NO Visa are required AT ALL, and visitors passes are given on arrival, BUT, proof of valid hotel reservations and a corresponding return ticket are required and ARE inspected by the immigration official. ALSO, Yellow Fever certificates are required and are checked too, at least for anyone coming from or having connected through a yellow fever area, and anyone missing those documents will have a visit to the main hospital scheduled the next day.
Those arriving directly from Europe or via Dubai, do NOT require the inoculation, but IF TRAVELLING VIA NAIROBI,it is required. Baggage is thoroughly screened on arrival again and sniffer dogs are deployed around the luggage carousel, so anyone up to mischief ought to think twice before carrying contraband into the Seychelles.
However, all formalities were concluded speedily and with a cheery smile, setting the mood for the visit from the very first moment.
What is surprising for someone coming from the African continent, was the total absence of the hordes of taxi drivers shouting for business or tucking ones arms – or almost twisting it to give them a fare. The airport was VERY organized, VERY clean, and the suspicious idlers often found hanging around airports in Eastern Africa were conspicuously absent. Top marks for that first experience when entering the Seychelles, and there is more to come.
Since my last visit, a dual carriage new highway into Victoria has been built, and free of potholes, one reaches the city and the hotels beyond without dangerous overtaking in corners, constant hooting, or triple laning.
My arrival on a Sunday mid-afternoon was most pleasant, and my driver quickly reached my first night's stop at Beau Vallon Bay, an indigenously owned and managed seven suite guest house or villa, next to a famous Creole restaurant with the ocean and public beach just across the road. The Bord Mer Residence, with the back drop of a steep tropical forest peak on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other, is a fine example of the diversification the hospitality sector has undergone in the Seychelles in recent years, and how smaller, privately-owned and managed hotels, guest houses, and residences are carving out their own market niche for travelers with a sense of independence and NOT wanting to be put into the template of resort activities, but opting for doing their own exploring and wandering about, eating in local restaurants, and finding their own entertainment and sporting activities.
On arrival, I was greeted by one Enda – which should have really read Edna but for an almost certain spelling error on the birth certificate – who proved to be the factotum general in this little residence. She simply could not stop smiling and laughing alongside everything she explained and did, and being a live-in caretaker, she competently and promptly attended to all and sundry, repeatedly reminding all guests again with that beaming smile, "All it takes is ring the bell or call for me, any time, and I will come to assist."
Breakfast, the only meal the residence provides, is served preferably on the balcony or else the sitting room of the suite and, of course, cooked to order, starting with a fruit platter and freshly-made juice, eggs prepared to the individuals’ preference, and my toast was accompanied by a delightful homemade guava jam from a family recipe that I was told they would not give away.
A fully-equipped mini kitchenette with microwave oven, hot plate, fridge, rice cooker, and kettle, plus cutlery, glasses, crockery, pots, and pans gives the option of doing a home-cooked breakfast, lunch, or supper. Yet, nearby are some of the best known and certainly very popular restaurants, so why bother to shop, prepare food, cook, and wash up when Creole cuisine is beckoning both next door and within easy walking distance?
The suites are tastefully furnished, well aired, spacious, and in particular the oversized shower head in the bathroom gives one a thorough soaking after a hot and sweaty sojourn to the beaches. Hot water comes instantly and is in an ecofriendly fashion produced through solar panels discreetly tucked away on the roofs of the four double-story buildings.
The architecture is typically island style, with protruding balconies upstairs and terraces on the ground floor, and the sound insulation was good enough not to hear a thing from the neighbors at night – maybe also because I had not slept the night before, having had to leave for the airport at 02:30 am to catch my flight and then working until departure rather than opting for an uneasy sleep for two or three hours – in other words, after my supper, I slept like a log and was unlikely to have heard anything anyway.
The bed, by the way, was on my arrival sprinkled with frangipani flowers, obviously freshly collected that day, and the fragrance filled the room with this typical tropical scent. Elsewhere in the room more frangipanis were deployed on green leaves, decorating tables and bathroom shelves - a constant reminder that I had reached an island paradise.
Owned and managed by a Linda Mancienne, who followed in her mother’s footsteps into the hospitality business, as did several others of her siblings – the Bord Mer Villas are now 5 months in business and enjoyed near full occupancy since opening day. Linda initially worked in the hospitality sector in various capacities and after gaining enough experience, she then decided to become a young Seychellois entrepreneur and went into the business herself, supported by an affirmative action program of government assisting those willing and capable to do so. Watch upcoming editions for excerpts of my interview with her on her views about the archipelago’s tourism sector and how she benefitted from this affirmative action program from the government to empower Seychellois citizens. For bookings, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bordmer.com .