La Digue - Seychelles.
Off the East coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, 660 mls NE of Madagascar and 995 mls East of Kenya. Nearest international airport is on the neighbouring island of Mahe, 27 mls.
Fourth largest of the Seychelles group, 27 mls NE of Mahe and 4 mls SE of Praslin; several other smaller islands to the NE. Reached in 3½ hrs by schooner from Mahe or by 30-min ferry service from Praslin.
At just over 3 mls long and 2½ mls wide, this tiny island of about 2,000 people is full of charm and character, retaining an untouched ambience and slow pace of life just as slow as the traditional mode of transport, the ox cart. It is growing in popularity as a tourist destination, with visitors drawn here by the island's beautiful, palm-fringed coves and beaches with their spectacular granite backdrops; off shore lies a ring of coral reefs popular with scuba-divers. Most of the coastal area is flat, but Eagle's Nest Mountain (also known as Belle Vue) covers almost the entire centre of the island, rising to a height of 1,000 ft and offering good hiking possibilities and stunning views. As with most of the Seychelles islands, there is a blessed lack of poisonous biting creatures, although mosquitoes and sand flies can occasionally be a problem, especially during monsoon season (May to Nov).
Middle to upmarket nature-lovers seeking total relaxation and an away-from-it-all holiday. A haven for romantically inclined couples; a popular honeymoon destination. Slow pace of life and lack of amenities mean most visitors only stay a week or less. Some day trippers from cruise ships, which dock off shore 2 or 3 times a month.
Mostly simple guesthouses that provide a genuine back-to-nature experience. Only 1 hotel offers 4-star accommodation; a couple of small hotels on the North coast have more facilities than most. Many hotels insist on a minimum of 3 nights' reservation.
Source d'Argent (SW) has idyllic coves for sunbathing, swimming and snorkelling, but sharp reefs emerge near the surface at low tide (small fee for access). Anse Severe (NW) is a large, sandy beach, good for swimming and snorkelling. Anse Cocos (SE) has beautiful pink-tinged sand bordered by impressive granite formations; accessible only by boat or footpath. Swimming is forbidden during the SE monsoon (May to Nov), owing to dangerous undercurrents on several beaches, including Grand Anse and Petite Anse in the SE, and is always forbidden on Anse Gaulettes (NE). It is wise to seek advice before swimming in isolated coves.
Small tourist shops and a couple of art galleries along the main road from the jetty. A few other shops at the jetty offer groceries and other convenience items. La Digue Island Lodge has 2 boutiques well stocked with souvenirs and other necessities.
Daytime: beach and water-based activities; Veuve Nature Reserve, home to a small population of one of the Seychelles' rarest birds the paradise flycatcher; l'Union Estate, a carefully restored former vanilla plantation which is home to 50 giant tortoises; the dilapidated Chateau St Cloud (now a small hotel), built during the Napoleonic Empire; exploring the island's magnificent coastline on foot or by bicycle along several good cycling routes; short but very steep climb to the top of Eagle's Nest Mountain, where its alternative name of Belle Vue becomes self explanatory.
Not the place for nightlife; some hotels provide evening entertainment; the local community hall holds dances/discos at weekends, but these are mostly for locals.
A couple of independent restaurants by the jetty and inland; otherwise it's down to hotel and guesthouse dining options, with most visitors choosing to stay on half-board basis. Mainly Creole cuisine, built around fresh fish and local vegetables.
Little in the way of motorised transport; there are a few taxis on the island and some hotels have their own trucks. The best way to get around is by bicycle, on foot or by ox cart although this last form of transport is now a bit of a tourist gimmick, more expensive and much slower than a bike. Schooner service to/from Mahe (1 a day, weekdays only). 30-min ferry service to/from Praslin (6 a day, with 8 on Sunday, when local Seychellois come over for the day); advanced booking is advised.
Quite limited, as most clients come for the peace and tranquillity. However, there are boat trips to nearby islands, game fishing and diving.