Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part III – La Digue

Welcome to La Digue!  This was the smallest of the three islands we visited.  It’s the third largest inhabited island in the Seychelles, but it’s still pretty small.  No cars!  Everyone gets around on bike or foot.  We loved it.  Here are the beaches on which we spent our time.

Village of La Passe on the east coast of the island – walking just outside of town at low tide.  This beach doesn’t even have a name that I could find, and it’s too shallow to swim, but the great views of Praslin are breath-taking.  One day we just sat on a log and ate our lunch while taking it all in.

View of Praslin from Village of La Passe

 

Grand Anse – A picturesque beach with huge waves and surrounded by large granite rocks.  Imagine long sweeping arcs of pristine white sand.  The big waves roll in from across the Indian Ocean and they are both wild and wonderful.  There are many warnings not to swim due to a strong undertow, but we were not the only ones in the water and in this (admittedly strong) swimmer’s opinion, the Seychellois are much more cautious about swimming than us Northeasterners!

 

From Grand Anse, you can take a leisurely hike to Petite Anse by walking across the rocks and following the footpath.  During the 15 minutes it took us, there was some beautiful scenery in the form of hidden pools, unlike what we saw on the beaches.

107b A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

107a A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

How gorgeous is this?  Another hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

 

Petite Anse – This is the Sister beach to Grand Anse.  It was raining when we got there but still beautiful enough that we decided to wait it out under one of the little palm frond shelters there.   Swimming here is also regarded as dangerous, but that didn’t bother us.  We stashed our things in a crevice between those famous granite rocks, and dove in.

110 We can (try to) keep out of the rain

We sat under one of these palm shelters to keep out of the rain

 

Anse Cocos – We continued on the path to get to this beach which is also accessible only on foot.  This beach is more sheltered; it benefits from a natural lagoon formed by granite rocks providing calm waters to swim in.  I believe it was low tide, however, and it looked… well… murky.

 

Anse Source D’Argent – This place is reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world, and it’s not hard to understand why once you see it.  It was my absolute FAVE of not only all the beaches we saw in the Seychelles, but in the world!!  It has soft white sand, clear turquoise water and huge granite boulders sculptured by the elements and time itself.   The very shallow waters are so sheltered by the reef that they actually felt HOT when we snorkeled.  I had to swim super far out to get to lukewarm, and finally somewhat cool water.

The one downside to this beach is that the only access is via L’Union Estate, which requires an entrance fee for non-residents.

ASA55 Low tide, Anse Source D'Argent

Low tide, Anse Source D’Argent

ASA70 Anse Source D'Argent

Anse Source D’Argent

ASA56 Uh oh, another beautiful Seychellois beach

Uh oh, another beautiful Seychellois beach

ASA69 Source D'Argent beach

Source D’Argent beach

Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part II – Praslin

Mahe was gorgeous, but the moment we arrived on Praslin via ferry, I knew I was going to like it even better.  It’s smaller and definitely easier to get around.  We hopped off the ferry, onto a bus, and 15 minutes later arrived at our guest house.  That afternoon we were on a beach!

Anse Volbert – Also known as the Côte d’Or (“Golden Coast”), this beach has sugary white sand, crystal clear water, great views and the occasional friendly dog.  It’s a popular beach on the island but 1½ miles long so it never felt crowded.  Best of all, it was within easy walking distance of our lodging!

P19 A boy and his dog

A boy and his dog.

Anse Lazio – It is frequently called ‘the best beach in the world’.  Even on a cloudy/rainy day, it was beautiful.  Its fame has led to great popularity though, so it can feel crowded compared to other beaches.

P82 Back on shore

P84 Anse Lazio, Seychelles

Grand Anse – We learned firsthand that this is more of a town on Praslin that has beach along it.  There were lots of fishing boats in the water here.

P184 Oh look - no one here

Oh look – no one here!

P183 Drying fish on Grand Anse

Drying fish on Grand Anse.

Anse Kerlan – It was difficult to find public access to this beach as there were several private chalets along its side, but once we found it, we had it to ourselves for hours.

P189 My beach baby

Postcard perfect beach – Anse Kerlan

P192 A whole driftwood tree

This is one of my favorite photos we took in the Seychelles

Anse Consolation – This was the most difficult beach for us to get to, as we had to transfer busses in Grand Anse.  What we didn’t know is that the buses take a several hour break during lunchtime, and we happened to need our transfer right about then.  No worries – it led to our first real hitchhiking adventure (if we don’t count the one inside Haleakala National Park).  And we’re alive to talk about it!

Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part I – Mahe

For our 12th wedding anniversary last November, we spent three weeks in the Seychelles.  When we talk about our trip to the Seychelles, most people’s first question is, “Where are the Seychelles?”  The Seychelles, officially known as the Republic of Seychelles or more commonly Seychelles, is its own country.  It consists of 115 islands that lie in the Indian Ocean, 932 miles east of Kenya, in Africa.  If you know where Madagascar is, head north and a little bit east, and you’ll find the Seychelles.

Since few people we know had any idea of where the Seychelles are, it wasn’t totally surprising that we didn’t run into many Americans while we were there.  Did I say “many”?  I meant “any.”  In fact, at the Visitor Bureau on one of the islands, the woman working there just could not believe we were Americans visiting “for fun”; she was convinced we must be in working for the US government in some shape or form and stationed in Dubai, which is a common stopover on the way to the Seychelles from the US.

So your next question might be, what made us think to go there?  It took several ingredients.  For starters, any remote island beach destination sounds pretty great to us.  More specifically though, it was due to the fact that as a boy, Elliott had a stamp collection, and in it he had a few stamps from the Seychelles.  They really stood out to him, and ever since then, he’d wanted to go.  There was also the fact that we knew Kate Middleton and Prince William had honeymooned there; and if it was good enough for royalty, we were thinking it was pretty special!  (For those of you who are interested in this type of thing, it turns out other celebrities have been drawn as well, such as George and Amal Clooney, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.)  All of this wasn’t quite enough though, for as you can imagine, remote islands that draw celebrities can be very expensive to reach.  Finally, after years of telling Elliott his dream might very well never happen, the missing ingredient came along – a super-discounted airfare.

The Seychelles are mostly known for their stunning beaches.  I normally like to be surprised, but I did peek at a few photos of beaches on the Seychelles before we went, and I was immediately super excited.  We’ve been fortunate enough to lie on many a-gorgeous beach, but these appeared top-notch in my opinion!  So what makes them more beautiful than a beach, on, say, St. Thomas?  The islands in the Seychelles are either granitic (made of granite) or coralline (made of coral).  We visited three of the granitic islands: Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue.  And since these islands are all made of granite, it’s not unusual for the beaches to be edged by enormous, pinkish granite boulders.  To me, they *are* the beauty.

As we traversed the islands we went from big to small.  We started on Mahe, where it sometimes took hours on the bus to get to a destination.  We then went to Praslin, where an hour bus ride gets you anywhere you want to go.  We ended on La Digue, where there are no private vehicles, the most-used form of transport is bicycle, and if you’re hardy, you can walk just about anywhere you want to go.  We spent most of our time in the Seychelles relaxing on her beaches, so now I’d like to simply share their splendor with you, our readers.  Since we have so many gorgeous photos, in today’s post we’ll just cover the beaches of Mahe and Praslin.  Take a look, and be sure to check out our next post, which will showcase beach photos for La Digue.  If you’re a beach and nature lover, perhaps you’ll want to add Seychelles to your own bucket list.

Bel Ombre – We walked to this beach on our first day on the Seychelles.  We didn’t have much time as it was already late afternoon, and it wasn’t a fabulous beach at all by Seychelles standards.  But we loved it, and I had a blast swimming, and Elliott loved all the bats that came at dusk.

Beau Vallon – Famous Beau Vallon Bay, on the northwest coast of the island, has the major hotels and restaurants on the island.  We whiled away the better part of a day here.

Sunset Beach – A gorgeous beach beyond Beau Vallon that we could walk to; ironically, we couldn’t see the sun set through the clouds!

Port Launay Marine National Park – Lovely, horseshoe shaped arc with white sand and calm waters, known for its protected status and excellent snorkeling.

Anse Major – We had to hike to this beach, but that’s what made it extra special.  As if the hike itself wasn’t rewarding enough… there was a secluded beach at the end!  And there was plenty of great snorkeling too.

M186 Lovin' life

Lovin’ life.

Takamaka Beach – Stunning, picturesque beach with beautiful golden sand and impressive palm trees, as well as the Takamaka trees that give the beach its name.

M233 Down at the end

Down at the end.

M234 My rock!

Elliott climbs his rock…

M237 A spiritual moment

and has a spiritual moment.

This Ain’t Vegas

Luxor!  It’s the first thing people think of after Cairo when talking about Ancient Egypt.  We docked early enough for Mohammed to start beating the crowds for us again. First stop: Karnak. Karnak is actually a massive complex with many temples, shrines, and even a sacred lake. It was consistently enlarged by subsequent kings during the reign of the Pharaohs, and is now the largest temple complex in Egypt.  It’s a bit crumbly these days, but that doesn’t really minimize the impact.

One of the focal points of Karnak is the Hypostyle Hall.  No, that doesn’t mean it’s shaped like a hippo (though that would be pretty cool).  It means that the roof is supported by interior columns. After 3200 years, most of the roof is gone, but the structure is still pretty impressive.  So much so that another chunk of The Spy Who Loved Me was filmed here.

On the way out, we discovered that the original path into Karnak was lined by sphinxes with rams’ heads. How did we miss that the first time?

Up next – the temple of Luxor.  (Okay – gotta ding the Greeks again. Luxor was known to the ancient Egyptians as Thebes.) Unlike most of the ancient temples, Luxor was not dedicated to a god, but rather to the living pharaoh. It was not as big as Karnak, but still held some pretty amazing stuff.  Note the missing obelisk from the entrance. It was carted off to Paris by the French in 1833, and now stands in the Place de la Concorde.

The temple of Luxor was largely buried in sand for centuries, so there are parts of it that are still intact and there is plenty of color.  In one spot, there’s a carving of Min – the fertility god.  He is depicted with his arm thrust into a V (gee, what’s that supposed to symbolize), and actual sperm coming out of him.  How the ancients knew what sperm looked like is still a mystery. His erection is a bit blackened from centuries of people touching it as they prayed for fertility.

273 The ancients knew what sperm looked like

Min, the fertility god

One interesting feature of the temple is a mosque that was built on the ruins before they were excavated.  It is still in use today, and is accessible from the street behind Luxor Temple.

We had one last night on board, docked in Luxor before our last day of sightseeing.  That night on our ship we were treated to a dancing show. First was the requisite belly dancer who would drag men on stage and let them look silly.  She even got Stephanie up there and showed her a move or two. After she finished, there was a whirling tanoura dancer with his huge, layered skirts swirling.  First he had baskets that would magically multiply while he danced, then the lights went out and his skirts lit up for a mesmerizing, twirly display.  All of this was very similar to the show we saw in Dubai on our desert safari – but this time we got to sit much closer and see much more.

In the morning, we chose an extra tour – a sunrise hot air balloon flight over Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. We had always wanted to take a balloon ride, and here was our chance.  They asked us not to tell people what they charged us, but it was about a third of the cost to fly in a balloon over the Pennsylvania countryside – and although Pennsylvania is beautiful, we found this scenery much more exciting!  .

They were supposed to take us to 400 meters, but we flew up to almost 900 before gently landing in someone’s backyard.  And the scenery with the sun rising over the Nile was unbeatable.  Here, take a look….

327 Balloons over Luxor

Up up and away

We felt like we’d already had a full day, and it was only 9:00 am!  Next Stop:  The Colossi of Memnon. These are two G-I-A-N-T statues of Amenhotep III.  Built in 1350 BCE, they are over 60 ft. tall.  Imagine if Amenhotep had been standing instead of seated.

367 The Colossi of Memnon.JPG

The Colossi of  Memnon

It was here that we met Mohammed for our day of touring.  In advance of the blistering sun (it was supposed to be over 106°F) he had his head wrapped up in a turban, and I commented how he had the right idea.  A little bit later he asked me to give him ten Egyptian pounds (about $1), and wouldn’t tell me what it was for.  He negotiated with a local vendor, and bought me my very own turban.  He even showed me how to wrap it.  Now *that’s* service!

After the colossi, we went to the temple of Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut was a queen who became pharaoh in 1478 BCE, when her husband died and her son was too young to rule.  Although not the first woman to rule Egypt, she was one of the most successful.  Way to go, Ancient Egypt, for not discriminating based on gender!

Anyway, her temple to Amun-Ra was built so the people could worship her after she died and became a goddess. It’s still under renovation, but is one of the more impressive monuments of ancient Egypt.  Oh, and my favorite goddess, Hathor, makes an appearance.

The famous Valley of the Kings came next.  This is a canyon under which there are over 60 tombs of ancient pharaohs. Most have long since been looted, but this is where the tomb of King Tut was found underneath another tomb.  Interesting side note:  King Tutankhamun was not a very important, accomplished or even old king.  He reigned for only 10 years, from the time he was 9 until he was 19.  What makes him seem so special to us is that his was the only tomb found undisturbed and full of all the treasures with which he was buried.  One can only imagine what the tomb of a major king must have been like before it was plundered, since the building and filling of a king’s tomb continued throughout his entire reign!  You can pay an additional fee to visit Tutankhamun’s tomb, but our trusty guide advised against it, saying it was pretty bare inside and not worth the money.

Only a few tombs in the valley are accessible at any given time, but, alas, we were once again not permitted to take photos. We have no photos of our own of the Valley of the Kings itself because it’s pretty boring once you’re inside it.  You need to be up in the hills to get a more majestic photo. Like this:

Valley_of_the_Kings_panorama

The Valley of the Kings

After lunch we bade farewell to our fantastic guide, Mohammed.  (Did we mention how great he was?) The last thing our tour company did for us was arrange a transfer to El Quseir, four hours away on the Red Sea for a different kind of Egyptian experience, and our next adventure.

In De-Nile

The morning our cruise was to depart, we had one more activity in Aswan – a ride on a traditional felucca. These boats with their triangular sail would traditionally ply the Nile trading fishing and transporting goods and people. Now they’re largely a tourist activity. Our time in Aswan was pretty much windless, so for our morning tour we drifted more than sailed. Our local captain tried nobly to make it a fun trip but we were at the mercy of the current. He tried paddling using the gangplank (to our amusement), and even let us each take a turn. It was harder than it looked.


In the end we compensated for the lack of wind and felucca movement by jumping into the Nile for a swim. It was surprising how cold the water was considering the air temperature was over 100 degrees. It was a blast to be floating and swimming in the Nile River though; so much so that we jumped in a second time! I guess at this point we were thankful there were no crocodiles in the Nile after all.

103 We're in de Nile

We’re in De-Nile

As we drifted back on our felucca to our ship, the captain had some trinkets for sale. We negotiated him way down, to prove we weren’t your usual sucker/tourists, and then tipped him heavily anyway for trying so hard to make the felucca ride fun for us.

That afternoon was the moment we had been waiting for – sail away. There’s something just cool about sailing up the Nile. It feels like generations of people are sailing with you in spirit. We were enthralled watching the river go by as we sailed to our first stop. (The Love Boat even did a two-part special on it by the way. Wouldn’t ya know, they hit every single spot in Egypt that we did.)

Our afternoon stop was the temple of Kom Ombo. This temple was dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek, in the hopes of getting on his good side and having favorable farming conditions. It was here that we discovered that the Egyptians knew quite a few things about surgery as evidenced by the hieroglyphics. There was also a Nileometer which was a well that measured the height of the Nile. Based on the measurements, the king could determine how bountiful the harvests would be, and tax the farmers accordingly.

153 Ancient Surgical tools

Ancient Surgical tools

At Kom Ombo there is also a crocodile museum. The god, Sobek, would be seen to inhabit the body of a crocodile while on earth. That particular crocodile would then be cared for by the priests of the temple, and then mummified after it died. (Sobek’s spirit would move to another one at that point.) In addition, worshipers would leave crocodile-themed donations and even mummified crocodiles as offerings.

179 Mummified crocs still in their original packaging

Mummified crocs, still in their original packaging

Back on the boat, we whiled away the afternoon swimming and watching Egypt pass by before our evening stop at Edfu.

For our night visit to the temple, we took a horse and carriage ride from the boat. Since we were visiting at night, we got to see another sound and light show, but this one didn’t compare to the one at the Pyramids and Sphinx. The town of Edfu was so dusty that in many of our photos it looks like it’s raining.

The temple at Edfu was built around 200BC, and is dedicated to the god Horus. From here they would take him in statue form on his sacred boat halfway to Dendera where he would meet his wife Hathor coming from her temple. The two of them would then be taken back to one of the temples together for a week to consummate their marriage before one would return to their own temple.

197 The inner sanctum

The inner sanctum where Horus’s sacred boat is kept

On the way home, we found our carriage blocked by traffic. There was a wedding going on, and it sounded like a great time. We didn’t get to see the happy couple, but we did see their getaway…er…honeymoon car.

214 Turns out its a wedding

All ready for the happy couple

We opted for our third early-morning wake up in a row to watch our ship sail through the locks. They gave us a rough time estimate, and so we set an alarm. We were early, and they told us another 45 minutes. 30 minutes later, we were jolted out of a deep sleep when the boat bumped something on its way out of the locks. We ran up to the top deck again only to see our boat was on its way *out* of the locks.  We went back down to bed, feeling very disappointed, and sometime after that I woke up when the engines stopped. I don’t know how that woke me, but I’m glad it did because we were approaching a second set of locks. For the third time, we got up, got dressed and headed out on deck. Third time’s a charm!  We were the only ones there at 2:30 am, much to the surprise of the guys working the locks.

That morning we actually slept in a little before arriving in Luxor for more sightseeing.

Aswan-derful Sites in Upper Egypt

3:30 am! That’s the time we had to leave our hotel to catch our morning flight to Aswan. We got there around 9:00 am and met our new guide, Mohammed. (It seems everyone in Egypt is named Achmed, Khaled or Mohammed. 😉 ) Mohammed turned out to be an incredibly knowledgeable guide, but we were too sleepy and hot (it was 105°) to appreciate him at first.

Upon landing in Aswan, we didn’t even drop off our bags; we started touring right away. Our first stop was the famous Aswan High Dam. The dam was built to regulate the annual flooding of the Nile which is so critical to farming all throughout Egypt. The damming of the river created Lake Nasser – one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. The lake is 340 miles long, and extends all the way into the Sudan.

There were a few downsides to creating Lake Nasser. First, over 17 ancient temples stood in the floodplain and needed to be painstakingly moved to higher ground. The second downside (for us) is that no Nile Crocodiles now live north of the Dam. Since that was the way our cruise was headed, it meant we wouldn’t get to see any of the huge reptiles in the wild. We did see what we thought was a jackal, but Mohammed told us they rarely come out during the day, and don’t live in the area anymore. Bummer!

08 Lake Nasser extends 340 miles and into the Sudan

Lake Nasser extends 340 miles into the Sudan

After the dam we took a boat to the Temple of Isis at Philae. (There go the Greeks renaming things again. This was known to the ancient Egyptians as Pilak.) This island temple in the Nile is where all that is ancient Egypt came ramming home to us. The entrance to the inner courtyards of an Egyptian temple is through a large gate called a pylon – two large, tapered towers with a covered entrance between them.  There were walls and walls and walls of hieroglyphics. It’s one thing to see them in books and movies. It’s quite another to see every wall, column and slab of rock covered with detailed carvings that tell whole stories. We learned the story of Isis and Osiris and Seth, and I learned about my new favorite goddess, Hathor.

15 Motoring to Philae temple

Motoring to Philae Temple

 


At Philae one discovered an unfortunate, yet pervasive truth about all these Egyptian sites. Throughout history, Coptic Christians would often hide from persecution in these temples. In order to prevent a resurgence of idol worship, the Copts would chisel away the images of the kings and gods that were carved on the walls. Too bad we humans have a track record of overlooking historical significance when it gets in the way of personal religious preferences (remember the Sphinx’s nose?).

Back in Aswan, we checked out the Unfinished Obelisk. Obelisks were very popular in ancient Egypt. They look like a four-sided tower with a pyramid at the top. It’s where America got the idea for the Washington Monument. To create one, the Egyptians would carve a “lying down” obelisk out of a suitable granite deposit.  They would then drill holes along the border and fill them with wood. They would soak the wood which would swell and crack the rock right out of its foundations. As this Unfinished Obelisk was being carved out, it developed a crack on its surface that rendered it useless. The ancients just abandoned it where it lay which gives us some insight today in the Obelisk creation process.

That night, we stayed on board our cruise ship, The MS Royal Lily, even though we weren’t sailing for another day. This was a welcome treat because now it meant that our meals were covered for us. Yay!

It also meant we were on board for a Nubian show. The ancient kingdom of Nubia spans the area of Southern Egypt into the Sudan. This part of Egypt is called Upper Egypt, and the North where Cairo is located is Lower Egypt. This seems a bit counter-intuitive at first until you remember that the Nile flows from South to North, descending as it flows.

The next morning was a tour to Abu Simbel. Or was it that night?  It was another 3am wake-up call.  Abu Simbel is a temple complex about three hours from Aswan. In order to conserve and protect it, the only way to get there is via a convoy escorted by armed police. This convoy leaves once a day from Aswan at 4:00 in the morning, and returns by noon. We were near the end of the convoy, but somehow, by the time we got there, we had left the entire convoy behind and arrived first before the crowds. Did I mention that Mohammed was awesome?

71 The 4am morning convoy to Abu Simbel is in motion

The 4am convoy to Abu Simbel is in motion

Abu Simbel is a complex of two temples both carved out of mountains way down near the Sudanese border. The first is a temple to Ramses II, and the second is to his favorite wife, Nefertari (not to be confused with Nefertiti). Abu Simbel was one of the areas that would have been underwater after the damming of the Nile, so in 1964, UNESCO sent a team over to literally move mountains, and relocate Abu Simbel to higher ground. We watched a great documentary about it, until it inexplicably shut off in the middle, and that was the end of that. Basically, they cut the whole thing to pieces, built reinforced mountains in a safer place, reassembled the whole thing, and then touched it up so you couldn’t tell where it had been cut apart.  And believe you me when I say you couldn’t tell!!

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so we did what we could from outside. The flash from thousands of tourists damages the ancient color. They once used to allow flashless photos, but so many people would use the flash anyway that they eventually outlawed photos altogether.

78 Temple of Ramses at Abu Simbel

Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel

That gave us the afternoon to relax on our cruise ship, catch a swim, and maybe a nap. Tomorrow, we would sail!

130 Pool on the Royal Lily

The pool on the Royal Lily

Bums of Africa

I honestly think they do it on purpose. When the animals of the African bush see you coming, they turn around and show you the moon. Don’t believe me? The evidence speaks for itself…

56 Hey guys, where'd ya go

164 Obligatory rear-end shot

DSCN3790

94 Greg and his gun