Tag Archives: vacation

The Beaches and Mountains of Seychelles – Part One (Praslin)

Waking up to a sunrise on the beach, strolling along misty hills in the morning, spending the afternoon sighting birds in a tropical forest and finishing the day with the sun setting into the ocean. What if you can have a holiday where all of this happens on the same day? That holiday is Seychelles!

Seychelles is the only group of granitic islands in the world – in fact, it is considered to be among the oldest islands in the world – breaking off when the ancient continent of Gondwana split and shifted 80 million years ago. This also explains how this variety of flora and fauna and the tropical forests got here.

Our 5-day vacation in Seychelles started off in Praslin, the second largest island in the archipelago.

Praslin

We landed at the Praslin Airport and walked to our homestay which was on the Grand Anse beach.

If you have 2 days in Praslin, you can consider renting a car so that you don’t have to depend on the bus timings. There are 3 bus routes on the island – 61, 62 and 63. The bus fares are standard (SCR 7 per person for one trip when we visited in early 2020) – so it would help if you have change. Buses run every 30-45 mins and the frequency reduces in the weekend.

ROUTE 61: Mont Plaisir – Anse Boudin via Vallée de Mai

ROUTE 62: Mont Plaisir – Zimbabwe via Consolation

ROUTE 63: Mont Plaisir – Anse La Blague – Côte d’Or

Praslin has some really beautiful beaches – our first stop was Anse Lazio. To get to Anse Lazio, you can take Bus 61 or 62 till Anse Boudin and walk about 15-20 mins to the beach. The beach was beautiful – however, there was a lot of seaweed washed ashore which made it a bit messy.

Our next stop was the Cote d’Or beach or Anse Volbert. There are quite a few hotels and guesthouses here making it a good base location.

We picked up some food along the esplanade and got back to enjoy the sunset at our “private” beach stretch in Grand Anse.

We woke up and headed straight to the beach for the sunrise.

After a half day excursion to La Digue, we visited the Vallee de Mai reserve – home to the famous Coco de Mer – a rare species of palm tree which is only found here. The reserve is situated right in the middle of Praslin island on top of the mountain.

The male and female trees are very distinct in appearance. The nut is gigantic – the largest seed in the world. Local folklore says that the male tree uproots itself on stormy nights to mate with the female.

We also spotted the elusive Seychelles Black Parrot chomping on some fruit deep inside the reserve. If you are in Praslin, don’t miss visiting here – it may not be the biggest or most dense nature reserve in the world, but the fact that it is one of the best preserved remains of the ancient supercontinent, makes it a fascinating sight.

We took the next bus to Mt Plaisir in an attempt to go to Anse Georgette. There is a trail near the bus stop – look for a wooden signboard (look closely or else you will miss it).

The trail takes you through the thick jungle with some steep climbs. We walked for about 30 mins till we reach the point where the trail started descending towards the beach.

The trail easily takes about an hour one way, so we were roughly halfway there. There was, at best, an hour left before sunset and we didn’t want to risk being stuck there – so we headed back. Something for next time!

We ended the day with dinner at the Paradisier restaurant. Seychelles is not really a foodie’s paradise – there are few restaurants and they are quite expensive. This means you will mostly be looking for takeaways and supermarkets. There was a supermarket called Whole Foods (no relation to the US version) near our place where we got our breakfast. Another option is to buy supplies and cook it yourself – all homestays will have a kitchen that you can use.

Check out part 2 of this blog here.

Five Days in Paradise – Seychelles On A Budget!

Roughly a thousand kilometres off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean lies the island nation of Seychelles. With human occupation coming relatively late in the 16th century, Seychelles is a “young” country with a cultural mix of French, British, African and Indian influences. There are around 115 islands which consist Seychelles – these are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world as well as really diverse landscapes and ecosystems.

As we scoured the map for possible “5-day trip” destinations, we didn’t think beyond a domestic location initially. We happened to stumble upon Seychelles while looking for flights. It ticked all our criteria for a short trip – can be covered properly in a 5-day trip, cannot be clubbed with any other country nearby, Visa on arrival, a 4-hour flight – it was perfect!

Some quick research and bookings later, we were on our way. We were planning to visit three of the main islands – Mahe (which has the airport and capital – Victoria), Praslin (home to the Coco de Mer) and La Digue. So, let’s get started on how you can plan your perfect holiday in Seychelles!

Best Time to Visit

Being very close to the equator, Seychelles experiences warm climates throughout the year. Peak tourist seasons are December-January and July-August. The best months which are generally recommended are the shoulder months between the switching of the trade winds – April-May and October-November. The trade winds can also determine the amount of seaweed washing up on the beaches – keep an eye out for this if your hotel is on the beach.

We visited in early March and the weather was pleasant and perfect for a beach holiday!

Getting Around Seychelles

There is a direct flight of Air Seychelles operating from Mumbai – which is the one we took. You can also find direct flights from Dubai, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa and London (and some more locations).

Once you are in Seychelles, you can choose any of the following four modes of travel: flight, boat, bus and car.

Domestic Flight: You can fly from Mahe to Praslin (and back) on one of the tiny Twin Otter 19-seater planes operated by Air Seychelles. The flying time is hardly 20 mins and is definitely a ride worth experiencing! To reach other more remote islands, you can opt for charter planes as well.

The last time I sat on a plane this small, I jumped right out at 13,000 feet.

Boat: There are ferries operating between all the main islands – you can easily book them online here. It takes about 60 mins to travel between Mahe and Praslin. Praslin to La Digue is about 15 mins – the ride is so smooth that it gets over before you realize it!

Bus: There are buses running in Mahe and Praslin which you can climb on and buy tickets. Praslin is very simple – you either go around the island or take the route which cuts through the hill in the middle. Mahe is relatively bigger – grab a route map and get started. Buses are sparse and run on limited frequency during weekends – you can beat that by taking a car!

Car: One of the more preferred options to explore the islands is by renting a car. You can easily get one at the point of arrival – ferry jetty or airport (advance booking would be good as we found that most agencies run out of cars on the travel date). We went with Scenic Car Rental. It was a good decision as we discovered that our homestay was on the top of a steep hill and we would have struggled to walk all the way up! A car also gives you the flexibility to stop wherever you find a nice spot and explore the island better. We recommend this!

Visa and Currency

Indians have Visa on arrival at Seychelles along with 140+ more countries. So, you don’t have to worry about the hassle of applying for visas! The currency of Seychelles is the Rupee (SCR). 1 SCR = 3.5 INR as of Dec 2020 (it was 5.25 INR in March 2020 when we travelled).

How many days to spend in Seychelles?

The BIG question when it comes to any itinerary – how many days is good enough? For Seychelles, it depends on how many islands you’d like to cover. For Mahe, we would recommend atleast 2 days – you can spend upto 4 days for a relaxed vacation. Praslin is more laid back – you can spend 1-2 days here and add one more day for an excursion to La Digue. Our itinerary covered these 3 islands over 5 days. If you have more days in hand, you can visit the giant tortoises at Curieuse Island (day trip from Praslin), the Bird Island or the Cousin Island.

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Mahe. We flew in from Mumbai. Fly to Praslin. Explore the beaches – details in our blog on the beaches and hills of Praslin and Mahe.

Day 2: Morning boat to La Digue. Explore the island on bicycles – this is a must-visit island and a one-of-a-kind experience. Say hi to the giant tortoises and the most photographed beach in Seychelles.

Back to Praslin and bus to Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve (home of the Coco de Mer). Explore more of Praslin (bus to Mt. Plaisir) and back.

Day 3: Boat to Mahe. Spend the evening exploring the Beau Vallon beach area.

Day 4: Explore Victoria and the local markets. Hike to the top of Morne Blanc. Enjoy a swim at Grand Anse. Have an authentic Creole lunch. Drive around the northern roads of the island.

Day 5: Explore the beaches in the south of Mahe island – Anse Intendance, Anse Royale. Complete the drive along the entire periphery of the island. Fly back at night.

You can pay a visit to the Takamaka Rum Distillery or visit some of the art galleries if time permits. There is also the Victoria Botanical Garden – you can check out the tortoises and Coco de Mer if you missed them on the other islands.

This should help start your planning for that long-awaited trip to Seychelles. You can read more about each of the islands and the must-visit places in our other posts – Mahe and Praslin, La Digue.

If you have any questions on how to plan your trip, please leave a comment below and we’d love to help! You can subscribe to our blog for all the updates and travel tips. For a lot more pics and stories about our latest travels, follow us on Instagram @fridgemagnet.tales

Croatian Chronicles

When you are planning your itinerary through Eastern Europe, Croatia is a country you just cannot skip. With its beautiful beaches, quaint little towns and pristine national parks, Croatia has something for everyone and is perfect for a relaxed holiday and not to mention light on your pockets!

Croatia (or Hrvatska in Croatian) shares borders with Slovenia and Hungary in the north, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina in the east and Montenegro in the south. In the west the Adriatic Sea with over a thousand Croatian islands – is the ultimate island-hopping dream! The idyllic Dalmatian coast in the south offers everything from crazy nightlife and parties to spots where you can sit back, sip on a cocktail and enjoy the slow and quiet life.

Best time to visit

June to August is the peak tourist season as the weather is warm at this time of the year as in most other parts of Europe. If you want to avoid the crowds, plan your trip in late May, early June or September – the prices will be lower and you will also get good weather.

What’s the best way to get around Croatia? Oh, and what about the visa?

To plan your travel in detail, check out our blog on Travelling in Croatia made easy, but here’s a quick snapshot to get you started.

In most itineraries, you would enter Croatia from one of the two countries in the north (Slovenia or Hungary) and reach the capital, Zagreb.

Zagreb is well-connected to all neighboring capitals by land, air and rail. From there on, you can get buses to anywhere in the country. The roads are quite good and buses comfortable, making the commute easy. This is also the cheapest option available. The coastal cities and islands can be navigated using catamarans. Book in advance to get a good deal. You can also choose to fly to your destination – there are airports in all major cities.

Indians will need a visa to enter Croatia. Though Croatia doesn’t come under the Schengen Zone yet (as of Jan 2020 – they’re still trying!), you can visit Croatia with a valid multi-entry Schengen Visa. Which means, they will stamp your passport as you enter and leave Croatia. (Good news for those who get excited by immigration stamps like us!)  Get more details about the Visa requirements based on your country here.

What is the ideal number of days to spend in Croatia?

There is a never a correct answer to this question. You can spend months exploring the place! It totally depends on your budget (both in terms of number of days and money). We usually have a strict limit on our number of days as we have to get back to our jobs in India – so we try to optimize our number of places in order to get a true essence of the place (sights, culture and food!) while not being “too” rushed. Here’s our itinerary along with some of the options to help you decide!

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Zagreb from Budapest by train. Explore the city and leave for Plitvice by the evening bus. Spend the night at Plitvice.

Day 2: Explore Plitvice National Park – read all about how to make the most out of your day at Plitvice, what routes to take etc right here. Leave for Split by the evening bus. Enjoy the Split nightlife.

Day 3: Morning catamaran to Hvar island. Spend the day relaxing and exploring the island. Eat some amazing seafood! Night in Hvar.

Day 4: Catamaran to Dubrovnik. Explore the walled city and take the evening catamaran back to Split. Don’t miss out the best the Dalmatian coast has to offer and check out our detailed account here.

Day 5: Explore Split old town. Evening bus to Zagreb.

Day 6: Fly out of Zagreb.

Here are some suggested changes based on the type of person you are / group you are travelling with:

The Slow and Steady Tortoise: you can add more days at each place if you have the luxury of time. Or if you have only 6-7 days, you could skip Dubrovnik and spend more time at Hvar/Split.

History Buffs: add more time at Zagreb to check out the museums and learn more about the history of the region. Croatia has had a troubled history witnessing unrest and wars till as recently as the 1990’s. The people here have done an amazing job to get the country to where it is today.

Terrestrial humans: you can head to Pula, Umag and the Istrian peninsula. This cannot be combined with the above itinerary as it will be completely off the route and you would need many more days. You can follow the itinerary upto Plitvice and turn towards Pula.

Water-loving humans: Add the coastal city of Zadar and more islands like Brač, Vis and Korčula.

Foodies: Check out our Croatia Food Guide to follow our food trail.

This should get you started on your Croatia itinerary. Check out our other blogs on how to make the most of your Croatia trip here. Croatia holds a special place in our hearts. You could get lost all day in the beautiful streets and discover new things on every corner. Among all the countries we’ve visited so far, we would not think twice before packing our bags for Croatia again!

Do leave a comment below if you liked this post! You can subscribe to our blog for all the updates and travel tips. For a lot more pics and stories about our latest travels, follow us on Instagram @fridgemagnet.tales

 

How to Make an Itinerary

The Plan

The summer of 2017 – Nam and I were planning our first long vacation together. We were looking at 13 days in the first half of June. After working out multiple itineraries, we settled on Eastern Europe. We wanted to experience the best of what each place had to offer. This meant staying with the locals, having the best of the local cuisine, exploring the small lanes by foot and travelling light by public transport across cities – in other words, backpacking! The way I see it, there are two types of backpackers – ones who go where the roads take them and others who research and plan well ahead. It is difficult to be the first type when you are a working Indian and have less than 15 days of vacation (sigh!). Also, I prefer to be second type – it ensures that you do not miss out on the top experiences. In fact, I enjoy planning trips almost as much as the travelling. Continue reading How to Make an Itinerary

Mood Indigo 2011

What is IIT Bombay’s Mood Indigo? Is it really as big as all the hype surrounding it? I decided to find out along with some buddies from college. This is an account of my first visit to a college fest outside my college. I feel that experiences should be big – so I decided to make it no less than the biggest college cultural fest of Asia (at that time). I had a rather interesting train journey from Bangalore to Mumbai but I guess I’ll leave out that story for another time.

Continue reading Mood Indigo 2011

Backpacking in Lanka

One random weekend, Pilla, Mehta & I were chatting on our group and we realized that we’d never gone on a trip together. So we started planning for the weekend of 15th August. Potential destinations – anywhere in the southern half of India qualified as the three of us were sitting in Cochin, Hyderabad and Bangalore. After much debate, we zeroed in on Ooty, Pondicherry and Kodaikanal. And then, we went to Sri Lanka! Continue reading Backpacking in Lanka

The prequel – A Tale of Six Islands

The previous diary that I wrote of North India, had 6 parts and I decided to shorten the next trip’s account to make it reader friendly. This will be a story of 6 islands – in three parts. A trilogy is the safest bet, at least in movies – LOTR, Matrix, Bourne, Oceans, Toy Story. The only thing that works for me with more than 3 parts is Federer’s Grand Slam victories. I wouldn’t mind seeing him win a 100 times!

This part is the prequel – the one where the story takes off.

This story starts off in a supermarket where we are holding tubes of sunscreen like monkeys holding an iPhone. SPF 20, 30, 40?!! Having no clue about the technicalities, we made a rational decision like a manager – after trade-offs between the price, brand and SPF level, we picked out a few. Pleased with ourselves, we returned to college. (We later found out that our choice hadn’t really been the best one! :P)

We were a group of 11 – six from our hostel wing and five adopted members. We started our trip with steak burgers at Downtown Café in Calicut. Super Yum! We then headed to the railway station to catch the West Coast Express to Chennai. It felt like a really short trip with time flying as we played bluff and mafia.

We were welcomed the next morning at our very own Mehtaji’s home with delicious grilled sandwiches, bhel puri and sweets. I had taken on my usual role of the money bank with my camera bag acting as the ATM. We booked tickets for the movie Queen, which had recently released. And missing movies in Chennai would be a crime, given the cheap ticket prices. We checked-in for our flight the next morning so that we got window seats. All planned and set, we walked to the Marina beach. Right next to Mehtaji’s home was the main office of AIADMK (a prominent political party). The shops near the place had small photos and frames having Amma’s photo – like you get the ones for Gods near temples. Chennai is indeed different!

At the beach, we shot some balloons (with those moong dal bullets), discussed the atrocities of the college admin while sitting at the shore (will never get tired of doing that), ate a sub (chicken ham with loads of mayo) and went in for the night show at the nearby theatre. The movie was delightful and kinda fit in with what we were looking for – a last big escapade to enjoy a long trip without having to worry about deadlines or leaves.

The next morning we took taxis to the airport. We spent some time doing bakar and cracking some very punny jokes – couldn’t help it with so many Mallu’s in the group. Soon, we were on our way to Port Blair as the rickety Air India flight took off to cover the 1200 km over sea. So as promised, this prequel is where the story literally takes off. Stay tuned. Click here for Part One of “A Tale of Six Islands”

The Summer Capital of British India

ImageThe best thing about the road to Shimla is that the climb is not a painful experience. Travelling to the hills in India may not always be pleasant – going from Kozhikode to Wayanad in Kerala can be the most nauseous drive, thanks to the myriad hairpin bends and the crazy buses. Given that Shimla was more than 3 times higher in altitude than Wayanad, at 2400m, I kept my poly-bags ready. Our driver, Kalyan Singh was a Himachali through and through and the most talkative person I’ve seen. That’s what keeps him going without getting bored or sleepy – alertness is something which is really required in such treacherous terrain or the vehicle may casually slip down the slope (we saw quite a few such vehicles during the trip). This guy was a good planner and had packed these polybags before we left Delhi, as Himachal was a plastic free state. He knew the roads and mountains really well – something I relate to – remembering routes and places.

So let’s come back to the present. Continue reading The Summer Capital of British India

Delhi in a Day

If you have one day to explore Delhi, what would you do? Explore the history of the city, visit monuments to enjoy the splendid architecture or find out places that showcase the amazing food? I would love to say – everything! But if a day is all you’ve got, you need to pick your agenda. This blog explores the historical monuments and major tourist attractions of Delhi – all covered in one day.

Continue reading Delhi in a Day