Attack of the Sea Urchin

Stephanie kind of minimized the events of my devastating sea urchin attack, but here’s what really happened…

We were SCUBA diving off La Digue in the Seychelles, and we were about 90 feet down. I was so enthralled looking at the reef that I failed to notice a giant, man-eating, killer sea urchin sneaking up on me. This thing had to be at least three feet across!!!

giant sea urchin.jpg

Giant, Killer Sea Urchin

Stephanie tried to signal me, but it was too late. Suddenly, the sea urchin grabbed me in its tentacles, and started jabbing me with its venomous spines – at least 60 or 70 puncture wounds!! Meanwhile, Stephanie was having none of this. She unsheathed her diving knife, and saved my life by killing the sea urchin.

It was too late to fend off the worst of the attack, however. The venom was affecting my central nervous system, and I was beginning to black out. Thinking quickly, Stephanie fashioned a makeshift tourniquet out of her bikini top to prevent the venom from completing its fatal work. It was then that she brought me slowly to the surface making sure I didn’t get the bends. Once on land, she hoisted me up in a fireman’s hold and carried me the 19 miles to the hospital.

The clinic turned out to be in some guy’s garage, so I was grateful that I didn’t actually need surgery. Instead, they prescribed fresh lemon juice to break up the spines still stuck in me. As much as I wanted to take the lemon juice orally in the form of a cooling (possibly alcoholic) beverage, it was to be applied topically.  I spent the next two weeks in traction recuperating while Stephanie tried to get me on “Good Morning, America.”  (Note: They weren’t interested.)

All in all, it was a lucky break for all involved except for Stephanie’s bikini top which was never seen again. 😦

bikini top

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Other Sites & Activities on Mahe, Seychelles

The beaches on the Seychelles served by far as our biggest pastime during our three week visit.  But each island had more to offer, and we so we did take in a few sites and activities each week.

Victoria, Mahe
On our first night in Mahe (and the Seychelles) we were really tired.  We decided to let our bodies decide how much sleep they needed and forgo the alarm.  In retrospect, that *might* have been a bad idea!  We awoke at 2:30pm the next day, realizing we had slept longer overnight than ever before – a full 15 hours!  There was no longer time to do a day trip to a beach, so we opted instead to take the local bus into the main town on the island – Victoria.

Victoria was small and quaint with a few interesting things to offer.  Due to our late timing we only caught the tail-end of the local market, a much smaller version of the markets we have in Cuenca.  We enjoyed it nonetheless; we picked up a few items and then walked to the center of town, which is marked by a traffic circle and the Victoria Clock Tower.  Remarkably unchanged over the 100+ years it’s been standing, the clock tower is named after the same monarch for which the capital city is named.

 Then we moved on to the Bel Aire cemetery, a Seychelles National Monument.  It opened in the late 18th century and was Mahe’s first public burial ground.  It houses the bodies of the first French Settlers, including a “giant” who had reached the height of 9 feet 6 inches by his death at age 14, and Pierre-Louis Poiret, the alleged son of Louis XVI.  In 1862 many of the graves were buried by the great landslide (Lavalas), which only makes the place more interesting.  This place was amazing, with huge old deciduous trees mixed in with towering palm trees.

Last but not least, we walked through the notable Hindu Temple in town.

SeyTe
A few days later we went to the tea factory on Mahe. Tea is one of the primary agricultural exports of the Seychelles along with vanilla and cinnamon.

As luck would have it, they weren’t processing tea that day, but we were able to walk through and observe the equipment and machines at a discounted price. We did so, and came back with a lot of questions!  Our luck changed when a man who worked there overheard us, and offered to take us through again, giving us explanations at each phase of the process.  He even turned on several of the machines so we could see exactly how they worked!

123 The whole process

Hike to Anse Major
As we mentioned in our post on Mahe beaches, Anse Major was one that was only accessible on foot or by water taxi.  We chose to go on foot.  The hike was maybe an hour long, and went through forest as well as along many ledges with beautiful views – the ocean way down low to our right, and enormous granite boulders, “slides,” and “walls” to our left.

Snorkel / wildlife photos

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.