I am tempted to say that Praslin is “the real thing” based on what I saw during my visit to the Seychelles, although that would not do full justice to the many good experiences I also had on Mahe, the main island and home to the country’s capital, the international airport, and the archipelago’s main sea harbor, nor the many other islands like La Digue, Denis, or Bird, which I could not visit due to the limited time available.
Praslin can be reached by ferry from the main port on Mahe and by air through Air Seychelles inter-island flights, offering a choice of transport to visitors. I was doing the morning departure to Praslin with the “speed boat,” a catamaran with open verandas, as well as enclosed cabins, and offering a bar service for those in need of extra coffee or tea in the morning, since the ferry leaves at 7:30 a.m.
The view across Mahe, and as one gets nearer to Praslin, is best to be described as idyllic, while the smaller islands, although within sight of the bigger ones, bring the term “Robinson” to mind. Landing at the Praslin harbor is picturesque, with yachts, fishing boats, and speed boats dumpling on the mooring, while the quay is a hub of activity, with lots of people lined up to take the return trip to Mahe.
A number of smaller, Seychellois-owned hotels are available on Praslin but international hotel groups, like the Kingdom Hotels’ Raffles brand are also present, offering a mix of different varieties of accommodation, including guest houses which seem to spring up everywhere and can only be owned by Seychellois’ with up to 10 available rooms – which means foreign investors must build at least 11 or more rooms to be licensed.
The Seychelles Tourist Board’s website at www.seychelles.com offers a wide variety of information about Praslin, where to stay, what to do, and what the budget might be.
What is clear is that Praslin is more laid back than Mahe, which itself is not running at the high speed seen in other capital cities, probably because only about 20,000 inhabitants live there – and while there is now even a traffic jam in the morning and evening, as cars try to get in and out of the city on the only routes across to the Beau Vallon side, it is nothing compared to the jams I found when returning to Nairobi.
However, Praslin is distinctly calmer, and this translates into a mindset visitors tend to acquire when experiencing the islands’ long white beaches – no hassles with beach boys there, sitting by the pools in the resorts enjoying the sun, the staff’s outpouring of friendliness and hospitality, and the good food, here more than elsewhere based on seafood, of course. According to tourists “sampled” at the Praslin aerodrome, some of whom have stayed on the main island on previous vacations, could not be complimentary enough about their respective resorts, in particular those with children. Said one mother of two: “We never had to worry about the kids, with so many others around and all the supervised activities they had every day,” adding, “They loved the food, the fruits and all; in the UK we, of course, also have many of those fruits, but eating them sitting in the sand, and it is so warm all the time – nothing compares.”
And finally, some say most importantly, the island is home to one of the country’s terrestrial national parks, part of which is the fabled “Vallee de Mai” where the famous coco de mer grows and where the black parrot is found, all of which can be seen with ease on day excursions from any of the hotels on Praslin.