Last month I admitted I didn’t enjoy skiing, and neither do my family. This month I’ve another confession – I don’t much enjoy diving and beaches, either. So when someone suggested we went to the Seychelles, I shook my head. I imagined a week of sand, suntan and sloth. My family would go bonkers faced with so much free time.
But a good friend insisted we would find these coral islands a pleasant surprise. So I forced a reluctant boyfriend and three kids, aged from six to 14, on board a 12-hour flight to discover the truth about the Seychelles. We returned 10 days later, boasting we’d never had such a good break.
The secret was we didn’t immediately scuttle off to one of the outlying islands, where white beaches may stretch on forever but few people live and most of the buildings are big hotels. We settled down on Mahé, the main island, where the waterfront was mostly rocky inlets carpeted with withered palm tree fronds.
We also went self-catering in a chalet. Cooking for ourselves was a challenge on a small island, where almost everything is imported at great expense. For the first two days, we ate bananas and tinned corned beef. Then we discovered that you don’t actually go to a shop to buy food. You ask around, find someone with a cousin who’s going out in a boat, and buy fish fresh from him each morning. The same applies to your fruit and veg. A neighbour will have an auntie with a garden and be delighted to deliver you a basket of star fruit. Coconuts fell from the trees in front of our door.
The Seychelles can be pricey, but our chalet was simple so cheap. We took the local bus into nearby Victoria, a pocket-sized colonial capital city, more Graham Greene than Gauguin. Here, imports were so precious that one shop announced on a big billboard, ‘We have Dettol this week!’
So, we ended up in the Seychelles without any lazing around and without indulging in any underwater activities other than the odd accidental dip beneath a warm wave. And the beach? Well, it was lovely, but we mostly used it to gut and fillet our parrot fish on, throwing their skeletons into the sea.