“Which way do we go?”
The inevitable question faces us while staring at a fork in the road. We are on bikes on the tiny island of La Digue, one and one-half hours ride via catamaran from Mahé, the main island in the Seychelles islands.
We are on bikes because the island, all of 5 kilometers wide and 7 km long, is so small and the weather is so reliably perfect, there is no better way to get around. A few internal-combustion-powered vehicles shuttle foods and wares, but that’s about it. You can walk, of course. You can even take an ox-pulled cart if you aren’t in a hurry (and why would you be?). But mostly all you see are bicycles.
We are in search of what travel writers describe as the most beautiful beach in the world. It’s called Anse Source d’Argent, which can probably be roughly translated as “Bay of Silver.” It’s gotta be around here somewhere.
Sherry decides to stop and ask someone in a nearby restaurant. Her linguistic skills are coming in very handy. She speaks Mauritian Creole, which is close enough to Seychelles’ Creole that she can pass a native.
Me? I’m struggling enough with French (from which these Creole languages are derived) and for some reason at the moment the only thing I can come up with is: “Donde esta la playa?” Spanish will do me little good here. On the other hand, German and Russian tourists seem to be everywhere. (My German is very rusty; Russian is nonexistent.)
Sherry returns with directions and we proceed. We have very high expectations, having just spent a week at the beach near Port Gaud on Mahé. The sand there was the finest I have ever seen. The water was clear and warm. The snorkeling was surreal.
The road to Anse Source d’Argent is narrow and at times the pavement has ceded its long fight with the elements to reveal nothing but sand and dirt and crushed granite beneath. We also have to keep an eye out for the canopy of branches overhead. The shade is most welcome, but the coconut and Badame nut trees have no remorse, allowing gravity to bestow the fruits of their labors on unsuspecting travelers. No doubt more than one tourist has been knocked on the head.
We finally find the water’s edge and a rest area with a bike rack but every spot is taken. Sherry decides to hoof it to the beach to see if this is a good spot. I stay with the bikes and hover over a couple of tourists who are just then pulling their two-wheelers out of their metal slots on the rack.
I maneuver one bike into its place and turn around to get the other when a group of four German tourists come streaming in. A giant of a man hops off his bike and is just about to slide it in to the one last spot when I find myself more or less yelling:
“Entshuldigung! Mein parkplatz, bitte.”
“Oh, sorry,” he says, clearly aware that German is not my native tongue.
Sherry returns, having scouted a good, private spot for our snorkeling excursion. The beach is surprisingly quiet given it’s a weekend and this is known as the locals’ favorite spot.
The tide is low, and so looking out at the water is not your typical picture-postcard scene. But the beach is nestled between an impressive expanse of coral and granite cliffs. La Digue is carved out of granite. The stone has been warn smooth with cartoon-like ridges that appear to be out of a Flinstones movie set.
We get our snorkeling gear into place but the water is so shallow that it will require walking on the prickly coral to reach any point where we can adequately venture under water. But we persevere and our efforts are rewarded.
The water here is even warmer than Port Gaud, which was already incredibly delightful. And the fish are abundant in a multitude of varieties. We are guessing somewhere between 80 and 100 of the archipelago’s 1,100 distinct species are evident. And they are big. Some seem to enjoy flashing their teeth.
At one point we come upon an underwater fish trap with a lone and perhaps lonely “Humphead” Parrot fish specimen caught inside. He is a big guy, rather unattractive, but clearly good for cooking. He is caught in a Kayze, the name of the traditional bamboo device used by Seychellois natives for centuries. Little blue fish — a variety that you might find in a home aquarium — dart in and out of the slats that make up the his cage, almost as if taunting the big brute with their freedom.
Sorry, Big Guy. You’re going to end up being somebody’s meal. Nobody said life is fair.
Back into town
After two hours in the pristine waters, we call it a day (at least for snorkeling) and decide to dry off and head back into town. We hop back on the bikes and stop at a little market to get some cold drinks. I stay with the bikes while Sherry goes inside.
I am minding my own business, trying to cool off in the shade, but can’t help but observe an interesting cyclist riding up to the store.
He cycles up on a clunker of a bike. He spots a new model parked nearby. Doing a swift U-turn, he jumps off his rusted jalopy and hops on the new bike and rides away. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for this exchange. I wait to see if the owner of the nice bike, who has now inherited this rusted antique, will appear from the store.
But Sherry emerges first with refreshing coconut waters. We down our drinks and proceed back into town for lunch.
Once again, bicycle parking is a problem. We find a pole and this time, given what I had just witnessed, we lock our vehicles to it.
We set out on foot to find an eatery and look up to see the name of a restaurant: Fish Trap Restaurant & Bar. Hmm, wonder what the fresh catch of the day might be?
We are seated at a beautiful table in the shade that is overlooking the scenic harbor. We order some ice teas but a moment later the water approaches and apologetically informs us that the one spot where we parked our bikes is the one spot where the La Digue Public Works Department must dig a hole at this very hour on this very day. We are infinitely amused. It’s Saturday on tiny island of 2,500 inhabitants and just about as many bikes parked everywhere. What are the odds?
Once this problem is rectified, we again sit down and open the menus. We learn a bit of history about the restaurant: It was established by Seychellois natives and brothers Sydney and Carl Mills in 2015. And they are carrying on a family tradition started by their uncle on the nearby island of Praslin.
The first thing that catches my eye on the menu: “Trap Fish.” You can probably guess not only what we have, but who we have.
Alas, life is not fair. But the fish was great.