Winter Break Trip- The Seychelles

There are a few perks to working and living in Abu Dhabi.

  1. The weather is consistently beautiful each and every day- no snow, no ice, no bitter winds that make your face hurt. Just sun, sun and more sun. Sometimes there is a cloud or two and you think “maybe it will rain…” but then it doesn’t.
  2. The winter break is long- like 3 weeks long. Read- lots of time to travel and explore if you can find the right deals
  3. Travel to what felt like far of distant lands is now only a short direct flight away.

As we tried to decide where to go on our inaugural trip from Abu Dhabi we thought of places that we might not venture to from home. Sri Lanka, Thailand, Maldives and of course the Seychelles were a few we were throwing around (with many others of course, because really, the world is our oyster!)

Seychelles
Beau Vallon Beach

After finding the right trip, we packed our bags and headed to the airport for a short 4 hour direct flight to Mahe, Seychelles for a glorious 5 days of beaches, ocean and exploring.

December-March is typically the rainy season (and summer as it is in the southern hemisphere) bringing humid, warm temperatures and (obviously) a great deal of rain. We were lucky to have only one real day filled with rain and one gloriously sunny day where we were able to soak up the sun (and a good sunburn in the process). The rest of our trip was peppered with clouds and the odd shower but nothing that would keep us from the beach and exploring the islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.

Seychelles
Feeding the many tortoises that live on the islands

We stayed in Beau Vallon directly on the Beau Vallon beach, one of the most popular beaches on the island. In the dry season, this bay is perfect for diving and snorkeling because the waters are calm and clear. Since it was the rainy season, the water was too rough to snorkel, but it was still warm, turquoise blue and a treat to lay by and enjoy. The little town site surrounding the beach was filled with shops, restaurants and grocery stores. It was the perfect place to stay and explore on foot (since renting a car seemed a bit dangerous as they drive on the left side of the road!) We walked in to the town a few times to pick up various treats from the shops and visit the local market in the evening for dinner.

Seychelles
Our walk into Anse D’Argent

Half way through our trip we decided to take a tour of two neighboring islands- Praslin and La Digue. The tour started with an hour ferry ride from Mahe to Praslin on the Cat Coco ferry. Now I’m not a big boat person…I feel nauseous often when riding boats even when the water isn’t rough and  feel the after effects of the waves for days to come. Needless to say, I was feeling quite worried about the ride and had my gravol ginger close at hand to help stay off any nausea I might encounter.

Well I could have never anticipated the trip we would have…but I’ll tell you it was quite possibly the worst boat ride I have ever been on.

When you see the crew wearing rubber gloves carrying “discomfort bags” in their back pockets and just watching for people who are showing the telltale signs of seasickness (pale, sweating, generally looking like they might die), you know its going to be rough. Actually I should have clued in when I watched locals get on the ferry, grab a bag or two and find a spot to sit.

Well, I felt a little discomfort on that first ride….and I utilized a discomfort bag to get me through the trip. But I felt better knowing I wasn’t the only one. And that Andrew, with his sturdy sea legs, felt the effects of the ride as well.

I’ve never been happier to get off a boat.

Only to get on another one to La Digue 10 minutes after. Thankfully that ride was much smoother and only 15 minutes long.

Seychelles
La Digue

La Digue is a small island Northeast of Mahe. With a population of only 3000 people, La Digue’s main form of transportation is bicycle and small transport trucks. You can cycle the whole thing in less than a day (being only 5 km long and 3 km wide)

We visited a coconut and vanilla plantation and spent some time on Anse Source D’Argent where the Granite rocks dot the beautiful white sand beaches. It’s such a beautiful contrast against the clear blue ocean.

Seychelles
Anse D’Argent

After La Digue, we made our way by ferry back to Praslin.

We enjoyed a beautiful creole buffet at a seaside restaurant, drove some of the island and had a chance to visit Vallee De Mai nature reserve, a World UNESCO heritage site where the famous Coco De Mer tree grows.

Seychelles
Vallee De Mai

This tree (with its gigantic and odd shaped nuts) only grows here in  Praslin….it thrives in the granitic soil and, though it has been attempted, this plant does not grow anywhere else. One tree takes over 30 years to mature and the nut takes another 7-10 years once the tree has been pollinated.

Seychelles

We were also lucky enough to spot 3 black parrots while on our walk. (there are only 520-900 of them on the island and they are quite shy)

Seychelles

We finished our day at another picture perfect beach.

Seychelles
Anse Lazio

The Seychelles are not high on the budget-friendly list of destinations, but we found a few ways to keep the costs down.

  1. Find a hotel that includes breakfast or find a self-catering hotel/apartment.
  2. Stay in a more tourist-friendly area. It will allow you to walk to destinations close by as taxis are very expensive to use and give you more options than just your hotel to eat at.
  3. Find local restaurants and grocery stores to eat and shop at. We found the food at hotels was expensive and bland…the food at the local restaurants and at the farmers market was much better and a significantly better value.

Seychelles

Our Seychelles trip was a beautiful mix of exploring and relaxing. We enjoyed every minute and look forward to the next adventure we take!

 

You’re Moving Where?

Our life has been a bit crazy since May. In a matter of 5 weeks our whole life kind of flipped on its head. That is when I applied and accepted a job at a new school…in Abu Dhabi UAE.

You read that right…Abu Dhabi. Half way across the world, a 10 hour time difference from home.

Now when we told people we were doing this, the common response was “Where?”

We would go on to explain that it was in the Middle East, on the Arabian Gulf and (this is when everyone understands) only about an hour from Dubai. **Ding! Light bulbs turn on**

We really didn’t know what to expect. I mean you can look at pictures on the internet, read blogs and travel sites, and stare endlessly at a weather app that doesn’t really seem to deviate from 40 degrees this time of year, but until you get here…you just have no idea.

So we packed up all we could carry in 5 suitcases and 2 carry ons, hopped on a plane and arrived in our new home 30 hours later.

On our first day exploring our new neighborhood. It is so sunny and bright here…

I fully expected that I would get here, sit down on the couch in our new apartment and just cry. Thankfully that has not happened yet. We haven’t had a moment where we thought What are we doing? Why did we move here?

Our apartment building

We have been (pleasantly) surprised throughout this whole process.

Let me give you a little taste of life here in sandbox as it is so lovingly referred to:

The people are incredibly kind- We first experienced this as we were leaving the airplane. We were talking with a couple behind us who lived in Abu Dhabi but had spent many years in Calgary. We chatted about what life was like as we were waiting for the plane doors to open. We parted ways and they wished us luck as we settled into our new life.

As we were waiting for our luggage to arrive the husband came over and handed Andrew a business card. “Feel free to call us anytime” he said. “If there is anything we can do to help you settle in to Abu Dhabi, we would be happy to help”

It’s hot here- The weather at this time of year is no joke. It is hot, pretty humid and incredibly sunny. You drink lots of water…which is good because you sweat a great deal. But here is the neat thing- you acclimatize very quickly to the heat. We have only been here 10 days and I really don’t leave the house without a sweater on (for modesty reasons as well as because it is much more comfortable in the ac). I’ve worn pants many days and in our apartment, we’ve had on our hoodies.

The condensation is on the OUTSIDE of the window. Yep…needless to say it was a humid day outside.

I believe I even remarked to Andrew the other morning on our way to catch the school transportation, “That breeze is a little cool today…”

You know you are beginning to get used to the heat when you think 34 degrees is “cool and beautiful”.

Just cause it’s dark doesn’t mean it’s cool- This is one of the most surprising things about Abu Dhabi. Once the sun goes down, my brain equates dark with cool. This is not the case in the UAE because when you walk outside you are hit with (an often more humid) wall of heat. But that doesn’t stop people. They are out in droves after dark to walk, jog, play (and sweat buckets) outside.

Things get started late- This is fascinating to me because I am an early to bed, early to rise kind of girl. But here in Abu Dhabi, things just get going when I am often ready to pack it in for the night. The other evening, we were at the mall and as we were getting ready to leave around 9, things were just starting to get busy (it’s open till midnight…sometimes during special holidays it is open 24hr a day!)

They have everything we have back home- need a new Joe Fresh top? Well you can’t find a Superstore, but you can find the store. They have literally everything! We decorated our house exclusively in IKEA…and had some killer chicken shawarma before we left.

We furnished our place from IKEA and Carrefour. I think the other teachers on the bus thought we were crazy…

Driving is a defensive art-When you drive, you really are taking your life into your hands (or wrapping it thinly in a tin box with zero power and hoping for the best). Driving here is fast and a little crazy. Rules of the road are more like suggestions. And the traffic circles (of which there are many) are just a free for all. I actually said to Andrew yesterday “Maybe it’s better to just stay in the outside lane no matter what exit you need…it seems safer”. On the way to work the other day, someone passed us on an exit ramp…yep just drove right beside us, half in the lane, half on the shoulder. And what is more interesting is that people aren’t passing you looking in your window with an angry face…they are simply just going faster than you, so pass you they will.

You can have ANYTHING delivered- Food from any restaurant, your groceries, laundry. Seriously, if you didn’t want to leave your house ever, you wouldn’t have to.

One of the greatest things about Abu Dhabi is Daiso. I have been to this store more times than I can count since we moved here…Daiso is my weakness…

Since school started it no longer feels like we are just on holidays and we feel like we are settling in to our new routine and reality.  We are so pleased with how this adventure has begun, and we can’t wait to see where it takes us next.