Photographing The Seychelles
When I first saw images from the granite beaches of the Seychelles by my colleague and Snapp Guides team member Esen Tunar I knew I want to go there. So we planned our family holidays accordingly and spent three beautiful weeks there this July.
Our time was divided evenly among three biggest islands, Praslin, La Digue and Mahe. We didn’t visit any of the more remote islands which are mostly reserved for exclusive resorts that would have blown our budget!
Here I’d like to share some of my favourite locations for photography on each of the three islands. At the end of this post there is some more practical information about visiting the Seychelles for photography.
This super picturesque beach is located at the north west part of the island. It’s a sandy beach with interesting granite boulders on the south end. It faces west so usually late afternoon and sunset times are best for photography. It is also very easy to get to. You can take a public bus, but I recommend driving. Parking is nearby and you can then be flexible with your time. >>Location
Another amazingly beautiful beach on the west part of Praslin. Although similar to Anse Lazio (a sandy beach with granite boulders on each end) it offers different photo opportunities. Some of the boulders are easy to climb and the waves here are just stunning. The colour of the water and its translucent waves are just amazing. The best time to be here is early afternoon and for sunset.
To visit this beach you need to be organised. Ask your accommodation provider to call Constance Lemuria hotel and book a visit for you. Do this a few days ahead as the number of visitors per day is limited. The visit itself is free. Once you have a reservation you can drive to the above mentioned hotel, park there and walk for about 20 min to the beach. The walk through a golf course is pleasant. >>Location
Valee de Mai
Valee de Mai is located in the middle of Praslin and makes a nice half day trip. It is a pleasant walk through the indigenous forest and you have a nice opportunity to see Coco de Mer palms. Besides this, there are opportunities to photograph birds and other smaller creatures. The entrance fee is quite hefty, but hey, this is the only place in the world where Coco de Mer grows! I am still not sure whether I am more fascinated in the female or male palm trees! There are opening hours that you should check before a visit. My suggestion is to visit in the morning before it gets too humid. If overcast, there will be hardly any light in the forest and you might need a tripod. >>Location
La Curieuse Island
One of the best places to photograph the giant tortoises is La Curieuse island. The tortoises are roaming freely around the “Farm” and you are allowed to feed them with greenery. I was amused to learn how to tell whether a tortoise is a male or female! But tortoises aside, the island features an amazing mangrove forest and also some very nice sandy beaches. In fact, Anse St Jose was my family’s favourite stop of the whole trip! The best way to get to the island is to arrange a boat trip. We simply asked our host to book it for us, including a barbecue picnic (which was average). >>Location
St Pierre Island
This is a small islet not far from Anse Volbert beach at the north of Praslin. It is popular with snorkelers and you can combine a visit here with a visit to La Curieuse island. The best time for photography is in the afternoon when sunlight illuminates the most picturesque part of the island. Most of the time there will be many boats and people around, but with a little luck and patience you can get a “clean” shot.
I was shocked to see how damaged the corals are here. I would not encourage visiting and anchoring here as it causes even more damage. But circling and taking shots of this beautiful island is one of the highlights of Seychelles. >>Location
Anse Source d’Argent
Arguably the most picturesque beach of the Seychelles. If not the most beautiful, then certainly the most photographed. This was the only beach that I met fellow photographers. Classic images of dark granite boulders and the ocean attract many photographers and some of them arrive just for this beach. It is one of the busiest places I’ve seen (although the Seychelles in general are not overrun by tourists) but most people leave when the light starts to get interesting. I shot at this beach three times (always at sunset) and only once I wished that some people weren’t in my frame.
To get here you will need to go through L’Union Estate where there is an entrance fee of 100 rupees (about 6-7€). The beach is about 700m long and there are different granite rock formations all along. >>Location
Grand Anse & Petit Anse
Grand Anse and Petit Anse are both located at the south eastern part of La Digue. There is a paved road leading to Grand Anse over a steep hill. To get to Petit Anse you will need to take a short trail over the granite hill, NE of Grand Anse, this will take you about 20 min.
Both beaches are very similar; wild sandy beaches facing the big ocean. In the season of trade winds there are always huge waves crashing onto granite rocks. I really enjoyed climbing the huge boulders between the two beaches. It gives you an elevated view on both sides – see above images. The left one faces Petit Anse and the right one faces Grand Anse. Even though I only shot there at sunset, I imagine sunrise must be very good as well. >>Location
Anse Cocos is located at the eastern part of La Digue island. The easiest way to get there is via Grand Anse and Petit Anse. This is about a 40-45min walk and you need to be familiar with the trail before you go there in the evening for sunrise.
Personally I liked this beach better than all the others on La Digue. Maybe because it really is remote and less visited – I never counted more than 10 people here and most of them come and go.
At the east end of the beach there are huge granite boulders that are easy to climb. From the top you get a nice overview of the whole beach. Since it faces east it would also be great for sunrise, but you’d need to start very early and use a good headlamp. >>Location
The North: Anse Patates and Anse Severe
The north part of La Digue offers a few smaller beaches that are worth exploring with your camera. Anse Severe lies on the west end of the island and is popular with families as it is protected from the big waves by a coral reef. It’s a nice location for a sunset shoot. Praslin island is visible in the distance which adds interest – see the above photo. On the east side there are several small beaches that can be explored for possible photography compositions. Waves here are bigger which Is good for experimenting with different shutter speeds. The lower two photos were taken at small but beautiful Anse Patates. You can continue east from here; there are several other spots that have photography potential. >>Location
Carana beach is located at the northern part of Mahe. The east part of this small beach has some very interesting granite boulders and this is how I discovered it in first place – from the road you can get a nice shot, but watch out for passing cars and busses. There is a trail leading down to the beach at the east end. I visited this location for sunrise and got some really nice light. >>Location
Baie Beau Vallon
This is the busiest beach on Mahe. A lot of people throughout the day, many boats and sea sport activities. All this it actually make it fun. The sea here is nice for swimming and there are a lot of options for food along the beach. Sunsets here are the most interesting part of the day. In the distance there is the Silhouette island – most of the time with a cloud cap. Clouds here can make for a very nice sunset and there is always enough local children who will play with the waves.
What I liked most about this beach is the atmosphere – people, music, food and fun events. We dined here almost every night, mostly at the Creole food stand located near the outdoor workout station. These coordinates will take you to a spacious free parking spot, right at the beach. >>Location
Mahe offers some very nice hiking opportunities which can be nice for photography as well. One of the most popular trails is Capolia. When I heard that you can find pitcher plants here, I was in! The hike itself is relatively easy, not much elevation gain, but you need to be comfortable with uneven terrain. It can be slippery as well, especially when raining. Rain is actually fun here, it comes and goes quickly and a couple of times we just waited under huge palm tree leaves where it was completely dry. The pitcher plants are easy to find – when on the top, explore around the granite area and you will find a few places where they grow. >>Location
Morne Blanc Trail and Tea Factory
Another really nice hiking trail is Morne Blanc. This is a shorter hike, but much steeper. There are also less visitors. It is about 270m elevation gain, so don’t do this when it’s hot and humid. At the top there is a viewing platform (which is in bad shape so be careful when walking on it). The views from the top are spectacular. If it happens to be shrouded in mist just wait a few minutes, mists come and go, creating interesting views and shadows. >>Location
Not far from the trail, a little bit down the road there is the famed Tea Factory. The place is a bit rundown, but still worth stopping, even if for a few minutes. There are nice views from their garden so if you are not into hiking along the trail, this is a good alternative. There is a small shop where you can purchase different kind of tea. They also sell packets of lemon grass. >>Location
Further information and tips
If I had to decide to choose only one island to photograph it would definitely be La Digue. Anse Source d’Argent and its many other fine beaches make it a definite highlight of the Seychelles. But do allow yourself at least a week to explore the other two islands as well.
The Seychelles are known as a luxury destination that will cost you a fortune, but not necessarily so. Here are some tips on how to make it more affordable:
Flights: Be flexible with travel dates and check regularly for promotional fees. We flew with Turkish airlines which has direct flights from Istanbul to Mahe. A return ticket from Ljubljana (my hometown) was just above 400€!
Accommodation: You don’t need to stay in luxury resorts in order to enjoy the fine beaches of Seychelles. Most beaches are public and accessible to anybody. The most affordable option to stay is self-catering apartments. Here are some suggestions on Mahe, Praslin, La Digue. Expect to pay around 80-120€ a night for a very nice apartment. Some places offer a free night if you stay 6-7 nights.
Getting around: On Mahe and Praslin it is best to hire a small car for the duration of your visit. For photography purposes it does not make sense to rely on public buses. A small automatic car will do, roads are small and slow (driving is on the left side of the road). You will not spend much money on fuel – for a week of driving on Mahe we paid about 40€ total, not even a full tank. There is very relaxed attitude on the roads, locals drive slowly, they stop in the middle of the road to chat with friends and in general they are very tolerant. There are just a few roads and in a couple of days you will not need to rely on navigation (Google maps work great).
On La Digue hire a bicycle with a basket fir your camera backpack. This is the only way you can explore the island.
Food: I loved the food everywhere! Papayas, passion fruit, bananas, mangoes, coconuts and other exotic fruits are widely available everywhere. Make sure you don’t pay the “tourist” prices though! Creole food is wonderful, emphasis is of course on fresh seafood, but also other food is amazing. My favourites were fresh tuna steak, octopus curry, mango salad, avocado salad and a variety of barbecue options. Restaurants are obviously the expensive option – a dinner there will cost you about 30-40€ per person. Eating out at take away stands will be much cheaper, quicker and the quality of food is excellent. We paid on average 5-8€ per hearty meal of fresh seafood with side dish. If possible arrange a dinner with your host. On La Digue we were staying at Chloe’s guest house and the owner cooked for us every night – the most delicious food of the whole trip.
Photography gear: You will need a variety of lenses and focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto. Make sure you bring a super wide angle – this works beautifully for seascapes. If you want to shoot some wildlife also bring a telephoto lens. I only had 200mm but was able to get some bird shots and also some smaller creatures like horn-eyed ghost crab and mudskipper fish. Also bring a set of filters, a polariser and neutral density filters to experiment with different shutter speeds.
The main challenge will be saltwater and sand. Waves can be very unpredictable and your gear will get splashed by sea water. Make sure you have enough lens clothes and lens wipes. In this constant humidity and saltwater I found that Hoodman lens wipes work best to clean your lens. A waterproof bag and a headlamp are also recommended.
Inevitably the sand will get everywhere – in your clothes, camera bag, on your gear. Take extra care not to get it into your camera or lens as it might mess with your mechanism or even scratch your lenses. A blower is the best thing to get sand off the lens surface.
My tripod was full of saltwater and sand all the time. Almost every night I took it apart, washed and dried overnight.
To sum up, the Seychelles are one of the best places in the world to shoot seascapes. The unique granite rocks in combination with white sandy beaches cannot be found anywhere else in the world. If you are a seascape lover you should definitely consider the Seychelles as your next shooting destination.