La Réunion, Seychelles

Photo: Le Nautique Luxury Waterfront Hotel

This may be hard to hear, but someone has to tell you. You’ve been approaching the Seychelles all wrong. When you’ve considered a trip to the jawdropping archipelago in the Indian Ocean, you always looked at the two largest islands. Mahé and Praslin always felt overdeveloped and prohibitively expensive, though. So you’d get discouraged and look elsewhere. It’s completely understandable. Yet it’s time to reevaluate this African trip.

Let’s start by looking at La Digue. Though it’s the third most populated island (fifth largest in land area), La Digue has a radically different vibe. That’s probably because of the island’s transportation. It doesn’t have an airport, so everyone rides the 20-minute ferry from Praslin. There are very few cars—most of which are owned by hotels—since they were only recently allowed on the island. Colorful oxcarts are still the main way to get around. Bikes are plentiful, too. Or you can just walk, as the island is less than four square miles. It sounds delightfully laid back.

Like the rest of the Seychelles, La Digue was settled by the French. In 1789, they arrived with their African slaves. They built small villages, colonial houses, coconut and vanilla plantations, and Catholic chapels. Despite the island’s beauty—dense jungles, some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world, and huge pink granite boulders—most of the French didn’t stay. The Diguois people had the picturesque little island practically to themselves.

Photo: Le Nautique Luxury Waterfront Hotel

One local family, the St. Anges, has lived on the island since the turn of the 20th century. They farmed patchouli and vanilla, reimagined the traditional oxcart, and opened a small beachfront hotel over the years. Their great-granddaughter, along with her Aussie husband, took over the family business and expanded it. Le Nautique Luxury Waterfront Hotel is now a chic little spot on Anse La Réunion.

When you step off the Inter Island Ferry, you’ll be greeted by one of the hotel’s owners on a golf buggy. From there it’s just a quick ride or a six-minute walk down the island’s west coast to Le Nautique Luxury Waterfront Hotel. The small hotel has a modern Creole design in its main guesthouse and three cottages. Seven rooms have high ceilings and bleached-wood furniture beyond their verandas. The decor has a nautical theme (think thick rope lamps). Most feature large walk-in showers; the additional freestanding tub is a good reason to upgrade to the king deluxe seafront.

The hotel also has an open-sided, thatched-roof restaurant. It serves beautifully plated Creole seafood. The bar, a cute beach shack, has swing seats with an ocean view. It sits beside the raised pool, which waves crash over at high tide. While bikes are ready for you to start exploring La Réunion, La Passe, Veuve Nature Reserve, and, of course, those stunning beaches. It sounds like you finally planned a proper Seychelles trip.

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