La Digue Different
Some vacations are pure escapism. They are meant to unplug you from a world filled with an excess of internet, information, stimulation and stress. Don’t get us wrong, we can be the best of adrenaline junkies but even we recognize that taking a break from the world can be a good thing from time to time.
Where can you possibly escape modern life and slip into time gone by? Into a natural place with a relaxed vibe, stunning scenery, and friendly locals? A place without internet, traffic and deadlines to meet? After some research we happened upon the perfect place: La Digue island in the Seychelles.
It seems like La Digue and the other two major Seychelles islands of Mahé and Praslin were destined to be idyll backwaters that today serve as refuges from our hectic modern lives. The Seychelles is actually an archipelago of 115 islands found in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. The islands were not known to be inhabited by any indigenous population. People only arrived in the 16th century when the French established a small settlement in 1770, on Mahé the largest island in the archipelago.
Before that, the only people around were Arab traders who frequented Praslin and Curieuse to collect the coco de mer nuts only found on those two islands. Arabs and Europeans prized the hollow, light palm nuts as decorative canvasses that they bejeweled and displayed. Later pirates used the islands as a strong hold from which they terrorized rich merchant vessels sailing to and from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.
The French colonists on the other hand, put down firm roots growing spices and later cotton and sugarcane over a twenty-year period. After the conclusion of the French Revolution, they decided to break away from France and became independent. Their freedom was curtailed when the British showed up in 1811 and took control of the archipelago. They clashed with the French who were either using slaves or allowing slave boats refuge on their shores. A huge exodus occurred and the islands lost almost half their populations.
British rule lasted in the Seychelles until as late at the 1970’s when the islands’ two political parties finally pushed for and won independence. Today the islands are inhabited by mostly Seychelles Creoles who take their ancestry from East African and Malagasy people. The total population is under 100,000 with La Digue having less than 3,000 people.
The history of the islands is what sets it up as an ideal refuge today. Its low population, independent spirit and geographical isolation has meant that progress and development have been kept in check. The reason we want to visit La Digue in particular is because it is large enough to enjoy some infrastructure, such as paved roads, (yes, paved roads) but rustic enough to have at one count, only 6 taxis. The transportation of choice on the island, in no particular order, is foot, bike, ox cart and electric cart, and one of those 6 taxis. Further, the island is accessible only by ferry from Mahé or Praslin due to the lack of an airport.
Thankfully, La Digue has an area of just over 10 km so getting around without a car is not that difficult. It’s generally a case of hopping on a bicycle and setting off wherever you want to go! Many hotels offer guests free bicycles and an opportunities to rent them are plentiful so visitors never go without.
Once you have those wheels under your feet the thing to do on the island is visit the incredible beaches and there are many. La Digue has the most photographed beach in the world. Anse Source D’Argent is part of L’Union Estate, a National Heritage Site. There are different things to see on the old estate such as the plantation house, plantations themselves and cemetery, but visitors give them mixed reviews. That said the 15 giant tortoises and the famous beach always receive positive mentions. Anse Source D’argent is a series of little bays and as it can get quite crowded it is recommended to head to the last one, to really feel like you are the only one in heaven on earth.
The waters at Anse Source D’argent are quite shallow and it is said that other beaches on the island are better for swimming. Grande Anse, Petit Anse and Anse de Coco are on the southeast coast of La Digue with Grand Anse being the longest on the island. All rival the beauty of Anse Source D’argent, but the waters are deeper and the beaches less crowded. Some locals have warned however that swimming on this side of the island is dangerous between May to October.
Anse Cocos luckily is comprised of a natural lagoon that offers protection and good swimming most of the year. For swimming, visitors go to the north of the island, to beaches such as Anse Severe and Anse Patates.
These beaches are accessible by road and you can get there by way of your own bike steam but a others such as Anse Marron have to be found on foot. In fact, there are many other beaches and coves we have not mentioned that are secluded and ready to be found by intrepid, world-escaping travelers.
The raw, wild, natural, untouched essence of La Digue is what travelers to La Digue come for which is why they don’t mind that the accommodation, save one luxury resort, is small, self-catering hotels. Much of the food, is imported onto the island and as such expensive but fresh fruit and seafood are plentiful and nicely prepared. Finally, the main town of La Passe is just that. A place to pass through on your way to a hidden piece of heaven that will make you forget about the world and plug into something totally different. La Digue different.