Remote, wild, lush—when the first European explorers discovered the 115-archipelago that is the Seychelles, they thought they had found the Garden of Eden.
Upon arriving at these pristine, white sand, palm tree-fringed islands populated with gorgeous creatures that don’t roam the earth anywhere else, I wasn’t sure that they were wrong.
On my island-hopping cruise around the Seychelles with Zegrahm Expeditions, I learned a few valuable lessons that apply to the Seychelles or any adventure.
Always Get Off the Boat
Our Zegrahm Expeditions cruise director wanted to manage expectations. The snorkeling wasn’t as good as some of the other times, the announcement warned. There was a light chop in the water, and we might not see as many fish as before. Not needing more of an excuse to stay in bed for a long post-lunch nap, many people opted to stay on the boat. I dragged myself out and had one of my favorite snorkels of all time, thanks to two sea turtles that joined me (apparently they didn’t get the announcement). Sure, I swallowed some seawater due to the waves, but I would have always wondered what I’d missed if I didn’t go out.
Take a Trusted Guide (or 14)
Me, on this trip: “I saw a fish; it was shaped like a potato but a bright yellow color.” “What’s that crazy thing that looks like it’s embedded inside a rock but has teeth and moves?” Rich Pagen, a conservation biologist and one of our designated marine life guides/”fish guys” onboard always had an answer for me, no matter how odd my description sounded.
We had a team of 14 expedition guides on this trip, with expertise in microbiology, ornithology, anthropology, and more—it was like having access to a highly specialized (and fact-checked) Wikipedia of the Seychelles. The experts dined with us at every meal and were always socializing in the ship’s lounge at night, so we could corner them with more questions at any time.
Perhaps most importantly, we had Gemma Jessy, a naturalist and native Seychelloise. Gemma grew up on the island of Praslin and was invaluable for her knowledge of the Seychelles’ history, culture, and best places to go.
If you try to do this trip alone, you’ll miss out on the knowledge, stories, and expertise that make it so memorable.
Don’t be afraid of looking dumb. Ask the question. The experts onboard won’t judge you, and you’ll learn things in a way that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. It’s better to say “hey, what’s that?” any time you see a unique bird or animal and get an instantaneous answer (usually along with a few fun facts) rather than try to Google it yourself later.
However, if you’re the person who asked (while we were on a boat) what elevation we were at, the other guests might judge you a little. Blame your mental lapse on the altitude sickness.
Never Miss a Sunset
On a cruise, your daily life can be a bit regimented. There are set times for meals and activities, with repeated announcements to get you to the right place at the right time. But sunset is an extracurricular that you’ll have to plan for on your own.
Make it a priority to figure out what time the sun sets each day and which side of the boat will be best for viewing. Be settled in well before the sun dips below the horizon, so you can watch the sky gradually change from a golden glow to a fiery red—the show is spectacular, wildly unproductive, and different every night.
Saving time for simple joys in life like a sunset can remind you to slow down and appreciate each day.
Bring SPF 50…
…and a sun shirt, swim tights, and a bandanna. The Seychelles are only a few hundred miles from the equator, and the sun is merciless down here. Any inch of exposed skin gets sunburned after an hour or two in the water, so covering up is the way to go. Just make sure that any sunscreen you wear is reef-safe.
Covering up is a reminder that sometimes, there’s an easier and simpler solution to what you’ve always done (slathering yourself in sunscreen).
Don’t Forget to Look Up
Change your viewpoint from what’s in front of you and you’ll find more stars than you’d know the sky contained. Birds you won’t see anywhere else on the planet, eyeing you with confusion and curiosity but no fear. Clouds lit up by the setting sun. Stunning, clear blue skies with an unbroken horizon that you could lose yourself in.
Sometimes in life, we’re so focused on what’s in front of us, or watching our feet so we don’t trip, that we forget to look up and appreciate the bigger picture.
Minimize Your Impact
The Seychelles are special because they are so untouched by humanity. Follow the “leave no trace” rule by packing out anything you bring in and never stealing anything (like sand or shells) for a souvenir.
Protect the wildlife by keeping your distance from animals, who can catch diseases from humans or learn bad behaviors. Never touch a coral reef (the oils from your skin can cause destruction), and avoid kicking or walking on coral, which can kill it.
Many of our Zegrahm guides on this trip made their own reef-safe sunscreen, picked up marine trash, and even took home plastic water bottles for recycling—emulate that behavior.
Don’t Give up the Moment for the Photograph
I could have taken a million photos and videos and never quite accurately recreated the delicate light here, the sparkling emerald-turquoise color of the waves, or the softness of the sand. If I spent the whole time trying, I would have missed out on the real-life moment.
Snap a photo or two and then put the camera down, so you can fully embrace this moment in time that you’ll never have again. Feel the heat of the sun warming your skin. Smell the unpolluted fresh air. Taste the salt spray on your lips. Run the sand through your fingers and marvel at its softness. Be fully present, and the memory will stick with you much longer than any photo.
Leave Your Plastics at Home
The Seychelles have banned plastic bags, cups, plates, and cutlery. Remember that as you’re packing and leave your Ziploc bags behind—and think about how you can replace them with eco-friendly alternatives. It was an eye-opening lesson to me as I was packing for this trip just how much I rely on one-time use plastic bags for travel, and I’ve now replaced them with reusable alternatives.
The Seychelles are wild, and you can’t plan your trip down to the minute, unless you want to miss out on an amazing snorkel because you refused to wait for the right tide. No matter where you go, you can’t plan every minute of your trip, or you’ll lose the chance for spontaneous adventures to occur.
Be flexible in your plans, release your expectations, and give yourself up to the flow of the islands—you’ll be rightly rewarded.
More from SmarterTravel:
- When We Were the Wild Adventurers: Sailing Between the Stars and the Sea in the Seychelles
- 10 Gorgeous Beaches You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
- The Essential Beach Packing List
Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Zegrahm Expeditions on its Ultimate Seychelles Tour With Aldabra Atoll. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline for pictures of the tour and more.
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