This diamond-shaped island is one of the most alluring destinations in the Seychelles. Read on to discover why.
Of the 115 islands in the Seychelles, few beg to be explored more than La Digue. With its lapis lazuli waters, Creole culture, and regular ferry services that easily link it to the main islands of Praslin and MahĂ©, it certainly sees its fair share of visitors. Yet itâ€™s managed to stay happily laid-back nonetheless, traversed by more brightly colored ox-carts than cars. Itâ€™s the fourth-largest island in the archipelago, but still small enough (at 10 square kilometers) that you can easily make your way around its coast by bike, the preferred mode of transportation in these parts. Hereâ€™s where to point your handlebars â€¦
Straight to the Shore
Thereâ€™s no shortage of idyllic beaches on La Digue, whose surrounding reefs are home to sea turtles, stingrays, octopuses, and a multitude of colorful fishes. The two best snorkeling spots are Anse SĂ©vĂ¨re and Anse Source dâ€™Argent, both on the west coast. The latter is among the most beautiful beaches in the Indian Ocean, with scalloped, palm-lined coves and sculptural granite formations that have been used as the backdrop for advertising campaigns for Bacardi rum, Campari, and Bounty chocolate bars. In the southeast, the waters of Grand Anse may have currents that are too dangerous for swimming, but its shores provide a perfect lunch stop with beachside restaurants serving beers and grilled fish.
A Plantation Turned Park
Spread over 300 hectares at the southern end of the island is Lâ€™Union Estate, a former vanilla and coconut plantation thatâ€™s now a state park. These two crops were once the primary sources of income for La Digue, and here, visitors can watch how coconut oil is traditionally made, from husking the fruits to processing them in an ox-driven mill and bottling the finished product. Also on the grounds is the original plantation house, trails for horseback riding, and a colonial-era cemetery of mossy gravestones where some of the islandâ€™s first settlers were laid to rest.
Creatures Great and Small
The oldest denizens of the island are the Aldabra giant tortoises, most readily seen roaming in a spacious enclosure on the grounds of Lâ€™Union. Birders, meanwhile, will want to venture to the western side of the island, where the 21-hectare La Veuve Reserve is the worldâ€™s only natural habitat of the black paradise flycatcher, known locally as la veuve, or â€śthe widow.â€ť You might also spot the Seychelles bulbul or red fody flitting through the reserveâ€™s takamaka trees.
A Feast of Creole Fare
La Digueâ€™s spicy food is best sampled at the open-air restaurants of Zerof Guesthouse (248/423-4067)Â and Chateau St. Cloud Hotel (248/423-4346), where buffet tables are laden with Creole curries, grilled tuna and grouper, lentil soup, papaya and mango chutneys, and palm-hearts salad.
The Perfect spot for Sunset
Leave ample time in the late afternoon to pedal up the west coast to La Passe, the islandâ€™s main village. Along the way, youâ€™ll pass through sleepy lanes of breadfruit and casuarina trees and pretty Creole homes with high sloping roofs, shuttered windows, and trellised gardens. A seat at the oceanfront Tarosa CafĂ© (248/423-4407) is exactly where youâ€™ll want to be when the sun sets behind the boat-filled harbor.
This article originally appeared in theÂ June/JulyÂ print issue of DestinAsian magazine (â€śIntriguing La Digueâ€ť)