Island Life

My time in the Seychelles was a relaxed one. We stayed on the island of Mahé for the entire duration, gradually getting to know the place. When visiting a new country, it's always tricky to settle in and find the best places to go. One of the main challenges we faced was finding the best places to get food. The supermarkets lack or have very limited fridges meaning there is no fresh meat, fish or milk. The island is renowned for its fresh fish, however. The supermarkets had freezers but I'm not sure eating frozen tuna is making the most of fish caught on the island.

Fresh fruit is probably the easiest thing to find. At the side of the roads are frequent fruit stalls, selling a variety of native fruits including bananas, papayas and mangos.

Look closely and you can see me in the mirror picking some bananas

By luck, we solved the next piece to the food puzzle. When driving to Victoria, along the West coast of the island, we saw the sign for a butchers. We decided to check it out and were greeted by the friendliest shop owner that I'd ever met. The woman was lovely and knowledgable. When we first went, all of the meat was frozen but she informed us that on weekends, she got fresh meat in to buy from the counter. Even though the meat was frozen, there was a variety - more than you get in the supermarkets.

The shop owner recommended different meats to us, some I'd never heard of, like the special Seychelles sausage. She also told us the best ways to cook it and what spices and vegetables to add to get a typical Seychelles curry. We tried all of her suggestions and loved it. We also went down one weekend to get the fresh meat. We stocked-up and she also gave us a free sample of some local black pudding which tasted very different to any which I've had in the UK.

Next, we needed to find some fresh fish. After all, if you like fish, you can't go to the Seychelles and not eat fresh fish! When we went to the market in Victoria, they did have fish but Victoria is so far from our cabin that the fish would probably spoil in the heat, on the drive back.

Sometimes, you would also see people at the side of the road with a few fish laid on a table. It was hit-and-miss if there was any left as most of the fish went quite early and I'm not exactly an early person.

One day, when we were driving to Anse Royale beach (you can read about my fabulous experiences at this beach here and here), we passed an open-walled building with benches laden with fish. This was perfect as it was only a 10 minute drive from our cabin. We stopped off to buy some fish. Buying fresh fish is quite overwhelming. There were so many different fish, most of which I'd never seen before. We asked one of the people selling the fish which was the nicest. He pointed to a deep grey fish with yellow fins. We asked him what it was and he told us it was a grouper. We then asked if they do fish 'cleaning' which is essentially filleting it. He simply nodded and then picked up the fish and took it behind the table. I was a bit startled as I hadn't decided that I even wanted it. We didn't even know how much it cost! We started negotiating the cost, all the while he was 'cleaning' the fish for us. Well, we had to buy it now. We managed the haggle the price a bit but I'm not entirely convinced that we got the best deal. Hopefully it would be nice.

We went back to our cabin and cooked the grouper. We served it with rice in a coconut milk sauce. The fish was really good and I mean really good! It was so soft and delicate. It may have been costly and a traumatic purchasing experience but I'm really glad I got to try the fresh fish.

It seems it's fairly common in the Seychelles for people to start preparing products for you before you've even agreed on the price. This also happened when we went back to the market in Victoria to buy souvenirs. We decided we liked a particular present and before we'd agreed on a price, the woman was wrapping it up for us. She took great care wrapping it, but it was a little stressful as it took us a long while to decide on a price. I suppose, if you expect it, it's not as bad.

The grey and yellow fish on the left is the grouper we ate

Our delicious grouper curry

The little town of Anse Royale also held the final piece to our food puzzle - a 'fresh supermarket. Yep, that's right, a supermarket with fridges! I went to town in there, loading smoked salmon, ham, cheese, and pate into my basket. The one problem with this supermarket was the prices - everything was really expensive! Because Seychelles is a small island, most food is imported which can bump up the prices. Also, I suspect this shop attracts tourists which will also increase the prices. This supermarket was a godsend to me who was craving ham on toast for breakfast. There's only so much cheese on bread you can take!

The last thing I want to talk about in this post is one of the down-sides to travelling. That's insects and bites. Nice topic, I know! Before I went to the Seychelles, I could hardly find anything online about what insects to look out for. I bought a mosquito repellent that had a really high deet content and sprayed (more like gassed) myself with it every morning. Despite this, I was getting bitten to death by something. My arms, legs, bum and tummy were completely covered in red lumps. It was incredibly itchy and I struggled to sleep some nights. If you look on the above picture at my bum, you can see it's red with bites.

Eventually, I had to go to the pharmacy and I'm glad I did because the pharmacist was really helpful. Many of my bites were actually down to sandflies, little flies that are so small you can hardly see them. As the name suggests, they are found around sand, seaweed to be exact. Sandflies are not effected by deet so the deet was practically useless. She gave me a more natural product which repelled both sandflies and mosquitoes.

Finally, lots of the 'bites' that coated my thighs and bum weren't actually bites at all but a 'caterpillar rash'. I had never heard of this. No, a caterpillar hadn't been on me but these little caterpillars live in trees and make threads that are toxic. These threads fall out of trees and land on whatever is beneath them. They could land on chairs, tables, sun-beds, you get the point. When you then sit on the chairs or lie on the sun-beds, you are touching the irritant threads which are invisible and thus you get a lovely caterpillar rash. So, basically you should avoid sitting under trees in the Seychelles. Caterpillar rash is not fun!

So, there you have it. It's not always the most attractive topic but I wish someone had informed me of this before I went. For half of the holiday, I was itchy and my legs were ugly with bites and rashes. Not ideal!

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