The second island we visited was Praslin, which is only a fifteen minute boat ride from La Digue. Praslin is bigger than La Digue, with actual roads and buses that sometimes arrive when the schedule says they will. Except for the 63. As we were told, the timetable for the 63 bus is a “suggestion.”
Finding our accommodation was its own challenge. I had lots of relevant information about the place, like the unmarked junction it is situated at and an aerial picture. What I didn’t have was its name. A thorough search of the Airbnb page made it clear that the actual name of the place was available nowhere on the listing. I have to give Jake credit here for being a team player; rather than grouch about having to walk along random roads in the middle of a humid, mid-thirties day with all our luggage on our backs because, for all my planning, I’d forgotten to check I knew the name of the hotel, he cheerfully picked up his bag and started down the road.
We scrutinised the one screenshot of a map showing the beach and two roads at length as we were on the bus. Then, we walked along the road and the beach with me saying “I’ll know it when I see it” based on nothing but one picture. Fortunately, that one picture proved to be enough given the bright mint green pillars lining the property. I don’t know if the hotel intends all of its guests to go on the same treasure hunt just to get to reception, but I should probably suggest they name the hotel on the listing. We stumbled in, suitably dripping with sweat, and were pleasantly surprised by how nice this place was given its price. While I do most of the advance planning for trips, I am mostly winging it (don’t tell anyone). Sometimes, you get a stroke of luck for which you can take all the credit. Ahem.
Our time on Praslin was spent much the same as our time on La Digue, except this time we used the bus to get around instead of bikes. Much like the food, there is a very expensive and very cheap option and nothing in the middle. Taxis are more expensive than London black cabs. The bus is an discriminate 40p per ride, whether you’re travelling one stop or circling the island. You can rent a car for about 40 euros, but it didn’t make sense for us, both from a price and time perspective. We took the bus, which served as both cheap travel and an activity in and of itself, what with the buses being crammed with more people than is clearly advisable before being hurtled up and down the hills of the mountainous island, around numerous hairpin bends that have a drop into the jungle on one side and a drop into the ocean on the other. Is it even a holiday if you don’t risk your life at least once?
We headed up to Anse Lazio, often hailed as Praslin’s most beautiful beach. It was crazy bananas gorgeous. It had the classic smooth rocks, turquoise water and white sand, along with a beautiful stream heading from the ocean into a freshwater channel. It was also a decent hike from the bus stop, around forty minutes up and down hills in the jungle. The water here was so clear and the snorkelling was incredible, especially the shoal of squid that shot past us just below the surface. Underwater thoughts included I should petition someone to change the collective noun for squid from a shoal to a blot and oops my nipple’s slipped out of my bikini again.
Our snorkelling trip to Anse La Blage was somewhat more eventful. This beach is even more secluded (though helpfully the bus runs all the way to the beach) and the day was little windy, so maybe we shouldn’t have chosen that day to swim out past the reef break to get to deeper water. While we swam out fine, the currents quickly got stronger so we decided to head back over the break. However, other than the narrow clear channel we swam out through, there is a lot of shallow reef. We were blown onto the reef and then knocked down by waves into the sharp coral. My feet and hands are covered in cuts and I’m sorry for whatever my feet did to the poor coral that earned them those scrapes.
After attempting to cross the coral and only having a few metres and many small open wounds to show for it, we tried to swim back out, through the waves, to get to deeper water and take the long way round to the channel. Then we got caught in the strong currents and had to swim hard to fight our way back to calmer water. Honestly, this was probably a bit dangerous. Fortunately, we are both very strong swimmers – hence why we felt safe to head out in the first place – and we were making steady, if slow, progress back to the beach. The water was fairly murky due to being churned up by the wind and waves and I did think then, ‘this is the moment the shark appears.’ I was equal parts hopeful and terrified of that prospect. While no sharks emerged from the deep, we did see an enormous stingray with a sting measuring at least three metres.
After making it back to calmer water, we sat in the shallows to decompress. Our snorkelling in the shallower water led us to a number of other stingrays buried under the sand, with only their eyes and stings poking out. The ocean, man. Not to be messed with. It’s definitely still a holiday if you don’t risk your life twice.
Our trip to Anse La Blage was the second option for that morning, after deciding we were too knackered to attempt the three hour hike to Anse Georgette. Not sure we actually picked the easier option. We also visited the Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage site containing the endemic Coco de Mer trees, black parrots and blue pigeons. We then went for a sunset kayak where I flirted with a different kind of danger taking my DSLR in the kayak with us. Worth it.
On Friday we had our most anticipated day – we went diving. I was so excited. While I got certified almost a decade ago, I hadn’t been diving in over five years. Our day with Octopus Divers will get its own post, but it was a magical day under the sea where we saw sharks, rays, a turtle, an octopus, eels and numerous amazing tropical fish. It’s days like this that make me want to book a flight to Indonesia and not come back.
Praslin was the perfect follow-up to La Digue. It has the same natural charm of pristine beaches and vibrant jungle, with more infrastructure and options. As with La Digue, the people we met were wonderful, especially our dive guide Vicky, who had the most unbelievable knack for spotting sea creatures in dark spots and caves underwater. I’m not sure if an ‘octopus-sense’ is a useful superpower, but if so, Vicky might just save the world.