Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Travel: Mahé Island

"There's a mountain right next to the airport!" Gushed and amazed from the moment I stepped off the plane. With 115 islands scattered like jewels in the Indian Ocean, Mahé being the largest is considered as the gateway to Seychelles. Almost half of their total land area is preserved, still untouched by time. Driving around Mahé is probably one of the most leisurely activities you can do. Passing by houses perched on the side of a cliff and coastal scenery just beg you to take photos. Even at its busiest when most of the tourists converge, Mahé Island remains laid-back, a perfect tropical dream destination. No wonder Prince William and Kate Middleton chose Seychelles as their honeymoon hideaway.

Eating in Seychelles

Part of cultural experience is to eat like a local when you travel. Try to skip your hotel's fancy menu, which can get really expensive. If you have a spare time to roam around, follow your taste buds to discover hidden restaurants and authentic hole-in-the-wall spots.

I can't stress enough how important it is to do some research before you travel. I read an article by Benedict Cumberbatch about his holiday in Seychelles. The way he described his dining experience at Maria's Rock as a "full-on, sweaty, sticky-fingered fun" made me want to eat there as a mission. It's a 10-minute drive from Kempinski Hotel where you have to pass a very narrow road down the coast. Maria's Rock is a quirky restaurant that connects to an art gallery located in Baie Lazare. Seafood platter was served fresh. You can cook it to your taste preference on a hot stone with saffron butter, spices and creole sauce. Crepe with caramelized banana and ice cream drizzled in rum for that "gourmet" status rounded off our extremely satisfying lunch. Maybe I shouldn't be writing this down. Getting hungry here. But have you ever eaten a meal so good that it almost moved you to tears? I just did on my birthday. Never deprive yourself of foreign foods when you travel. Dedicate your trip to food the same way you seek out adventure, art and architecture.

Hiking in Morne Blanc

Seychelles is an island of forest-clad hills. You can't leave without going on a hike. Last time I was this fearless, it was an easy path six years ago in the Philippines. Since my body will always find a way to injure itself, I tripped and went home with an open wound. Okay, enough embarrassing myself. I was prepared for clumsiness to strike again.

We stayed at the hotel for another hour to prep after breakfast then drove to Beau Vallon for 25 minutes. On our way, I could see some tourists who were about to leave by the roadside. We couldn't resist making a curious pit stop. Lo and behold! We stumbled upon a hidden gem. Long stretch of white sand beach as far as your eyes can see with gorgeous landscapes all around. A beach to ourselves with only the therapeutic sounds of waves crashing amongst the silence. It was beautiful, raw and a true definition of paradise. Sad to leave Grand Anse without a quick swim but the mountain awaits.

Morne Blanc is described as a moderate in difficulty level due to its continuous uphill climb. There's a trail that you can follow so there's no need for a guide. Always keep on the look out for a yellow paint! Sounds like a walk in the park, right? Not when it starts to rain. We still trudged up to the mountain where the steps became even more slippery. One wrong move and we'd fall off into the abyss. We decided to take our time or in unpretentious terms: STOP, REST and SIT on a rock dwarfed by the grandeur of nature. "Safety first," I thought. We tried to enjoy the scenery even if we were busy gasping for breath. Hoping and praying not to encounter any snakes or lizards too. After over an hour, we reached a wooden bridge. It's like finding a light at the end of the tunnel! What a relief! Exhaustion was worth it with a sweeping view of Seychelles and the Indian Ocean. It's true, though. If you can climb a mountain, you feel like a beast who can do anything when you're pushed to the absolute limit. Good news! Drum roll, please. I survived this hike without a single scratch. *Cue Sia's "Unstoppable" song.

Next stop, Eden Island. It reminded me so much of Dubai Marina with its luxury villas and apartments but instead of buildings, you're surrounded by a mountain backdrop. We had our late lunch at La Belle Epoque followed by a walk around the marina with an ice cream cone like a sweet first date. Heehee! Then a rainbow appeared in the once rainy sky as we were about to leave. Oh Seychelles, you have never failed to surprise me.

Related blog posts: Seychelles and La Digue and Praslin Island

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