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SEYCHELLES Often separated by thousands of miles, Maurice Schutgens and his long-term girlfriend reconnect in the idyllic Seychelles archipelago to explore its beautiful islands.

Unabashedly beautiful, unapologetically wild and hopelessly romantic; these are just some of the phrases synonymous with the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands located in the Indian Ocean and just a short stint from mainland Africa. Home to spellbinding beaches, remote jungles and secluded hideaways, it is no wonder that the Seychelles are a favourite romantic getaway for newlyweds and couples. The heat and humidity hit us like a sledgehammer. We had arrived in the Seychelles, a place we had dreamt about for years. Our excitement at finally being here was heightened by the imposing green colossus of Les Dents which towers over the airport of Mahé. We picked up our pre-hired car, pulled into the sparse midday traffic and headed for the idyllic Anse a la Mouche located in the southwest of the island. As soon as we checked into our charming wooden bungalows located in a vibrant patch of forest, it was time to chase the sunset. My girlfriend- Jorien- and I have watched a thousand sunsets together and yet I desire to see a thousand more with her. Once at the beach we sat side by side as the sun finally surrendered to the horizon, happy to finally relax and chat about everything and nothing. Shortly after, the stars appeared in the sky and with them came the moon. Our first night at this dream location was magical, crowned by an exquisite candlelit dinner of fresh fish prepared in traditional Seychellois creole style. The next few days passed in a daze; viewpoints revealed isolated beaches and long forest walks ended at hidden waterfalls. There was so much to see that it was a complete assault on our senses. The stretch of coastline along Port Launay Marine National Park was especially wild. We went back on

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several occasions to just sit on a rocky outcrop overlooking the beach, with green towering mountains in the background and white caps of breaking waves hungrily advancing on the shores down below. We were tempted to sit back, relax and idle our days away, but Jorien and I often grow restless. Luckily, Mahé was an absolute hiker’s dream with an impressive network of trails, from the relatively arduous 30 minute scramble up to the Morne Blanc viewpoint to the 45 minute trail along Anse Major that takes you high above the azure waters then takes you down to a perfect little bay. After exploring the incredible beaches of Mahé, we hopped on a short 15 minute flight to Praslin. Our lodge, located high above the serene gold coast, looked out over the picturesque St. Pierre Island which shimmered in the bay further beyond. It made for excellent kayaking. Praslin Island is dominated by the jungles of the famed Valle de Mai National Park where visitors flock to see the Coco de Mer. It is said that centuries ago when fishermen came across the nuts which would wash up to the shores, they believed these came from underwater forests which were home to terrifying sea monsters that preyed on unsuspecting fisherman. True or not, seeing an endemic Coco de Mer was high on our list so we headed for Fond Ferdinand in the southeast of the island. Same nut, no crowds and significantly cheaper. As attractive as the nuts were, you’d be completely nuts to fork out Ksh 35,000 to take one home with you! No visit to Praslin would be complete without checking out the popular Anse Lazio, an award-winning stretch of coastline. While it lived up to its hype, we wanted to get away from humanity and find some solitude, and we

knew just where to find it. An unmarked trail led from Anse Lazio through the humid forest and after a strenuous 1.5 hour hike, we crested the final rise. There, magnificently spread out below us was Anse Georgette, sparkling in the sun with turquoise waters lapping powdery white sands. It was indeed a lover’s paradise and there we lost ourselves in Praslin and in each other. It was only a 15-minute ferry ride to La Digue which turned out to be small compared to the other islands. With a population of only 2,000 people, its streets were awash with bicycles (bicycles actually outnumber cars), reggae music blared from portable speakers and it was the very definition of laid back. One main road crosses the island. As you emerge from the forest, you feel the fresh ocean breeze on your face long before you see it, then you emerge on Grand Anse, a spectacular stretch of coastline. Most visitors are so mind blown they simply collapse under the nearest makeshift palm-leaf shelter and go no further. We pushed on to Petite Anse and Anse Cocos which are La Digue’s best-kept secrets. While most beaches on La Digue are postcard perfect, a favourite for visitors is the easily accessible Anse Source D’Argent (ASDA). We arrived in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds and see the colours at their most saturated. Nowhere else in the Seychelles are the massive granite boulders as incredible as on ASDA. Long after the crowds left, Jorien and I strolled barefoot on sands warmed by the sun, hand in hand. I couldn’t remember a time I felt happier. The rest of our days in the archipelago were incredible. Snorkeling amongst reef fish, hiking and tucking into local food. The Seychelles really are a lover’s paradise!

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