As I sit at the departure gate in Dubai, waiting for my flight to the Seychelles to be called, I’m starting to feel a wee bit lonely.
I am surrounded by couples and I’m guessing most are honeymooners. I think I can tell by the amount of doe-eyed gazing, hand holding and knee stroking going on. And I start to wonder if I’m going to stand out like a sore thumb being a 50-something-year-old on my own in the Seychelles.
I am due to board the M/Y Pegasus, a luxury 44-guest motor cruiser, for a journey amongst the inner islands. I love small-ship cruising having travelled this way around the Greek Islands, along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and through the Polar regions in the past. It has all the benefits of a coach tour, moving around and seeing different places, with the unpack-once-only bonus of a river cruise. Plus, when the weather is warm, you’ve got the ability to jump off the back of the boat for a refreshing dip. It sounded an ideal way to discover the Indian Island archipelago to me.
After an overnight stay in the capital, Victoria, I set off for the port and the Pegasus. It seems to be a well-known ship and the taxi driver knew exactly where I needed to be as soon as I mentioned its name. I’m greeted by Vivek, our tour leader for this voyage. He greets me as Wendy, which makes me suspect I’m the only single female coming aboard. My stomach drops a bit in anticipation of dinner conversation with a table full of loved-up couples, and me. So, I’m very pleasantly surprised when we all meet in the lounge for a welcome cocktail, that although the guests are mostly couples, they appear to range in age from early 30s to 70s and the lounge is abuzz with a variety of accents. This was exactly what I had experienced on small-ship cruises before.
Our voyage takes us through the inner islands and it appears that the distances between them are small, leaving more time to explore on land and in the sea. By day three, I realise that I completely misunderstood the Seychelles. Although known for its beautiful beaches (and there are some absolute stunners to be visited), it was the wildlife that surprised me most. From our very first steps onto Curieuse where we were met by hundreds of giant tortoises, to the prolific bird life on the uninhabited islands of Aride and Cousin. Not to mention the marine life! Sadly, we didn’t spot swimming turtles, but they are there, along with colourful fish in their thousands.
But not to be outdone, the flora on the Seychelles is as spectacular as the fauna. Visiting the forested interior of Praslin Island was like visiting Jurassic Park. The multitude of different palm trees that form the forest canopy looked positively primordial. And amongst them sat the phenomenal Coco de Mer tree. These giant palms produce the largest seed of any plant in the world, which can weigh up to 40 kilograms.
So, having underestimated the natural beauty of the Seychelles, and misunderstood who my travelling companions might be, this turned out to be one of the most rewarding trips I have ever been on. Dinner conversation was fascinating, as most of my fellow cruisers were so well travelled, and we swapped stories and anecdotes until late into the night over French wine and local beer.
Every time I take a trip my bucket list gets rearranged and now at the top are more of the Indian Ocean islands. Madagascar, watch out!
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