Can Seychelles become the gay-chelles?
On the edge of one of the world’s most photographed beaches, underneath a leaning palm tree, a tall, athletic man in tight-but-not-too-tight speedos lifts a coconut above his head, before ramming it – with a mighty force – down onto an erect branch, that’s been strategically secured into sand that’s just as golden as his skin, below his feet, hoping to crack the hard brown, layer, and release the soft white flesh within. Damn.
The LGBT press group that I’m part of watch on, the gay men among us unable to help ourselves from making jokes about ‘nuts’ and ‘banging’ on the side-lines of this cracking show. Mature, dear? Us, dear? Hm. Not so much. But this is what happens when you bring four gay men – and a gay woman – to the Seychelles.
‘You want to try?’ the glistening Adonis asks me, ignoring our childish giggles.
Always keen to get stuck in, I don’t hesitate, and rush over to his work space in the shade, taking his shaved coconut in my hands, before raising it up, and giving it my all. But instead of cracking it open, I almost topple over, unfortunately, as I bring it down with a pathetic, forceless thump, barely even making a dent on the fruit. (Is it a fruit? No, it’s a nut. Both? Stupid question, sorry.)
He laughs, and so do we. Is he… flirting? With me? A guy? Erm, probably not, I tell myself, sadly. But forget the coconut, I’m the one getting a crush here.
Maybe I’m just a Londoner so deprived of friendliness in the weary capital, that when it presents itself elsewhere in the wider world I am no longer able to recognise it, and get carried away?
But anyway, I digress. You may be wondering, why was an LGBT group flouncing around in the Seychelles – an archipelago in the Indian Ocean – in the first place? Or, all being well, the gay-chelles, as it might one day become known.
Because, let’s face it, when you think of popular queer destinations, you’d be forgiven of not immediately thinking of Africa, the continent which is known to be very limited in terms of LGBT progression compared to other areas of the world (with the exception of South Africa and Cape Town.)
But generally speaking, the continent is, it’s fair to say, lagging behind when it comes to gay rights. But change might be coming…
The Seychelles are reaching out, and coming out, too, it seems, in the hope that the island can become known as one of the leading gay-friendly regions in the continent.
With gay marriages in the Maldives bringing some of the ever in-demand pink pound to the Caribbean, it makes sense from a business sense too to get in on the action, by opening their arms to our communities in 2019.
So, although you might be hard pressed if you’re looking for gay clubs to go cruising on the islands – of which the population is only about 90,000 – or drag queen bingo of a Wednesday, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in the Seychelles. Oh, and same-sex activity is not against the law – phew! – and it’s not illegal to have Grindr, unlike some neighbouring places, which is handy, right?
We stayed at the Eden Bleu hotel, which is a grand complex with luxurious hotel rooms and epic villas, complete with infinity pools that are just begging to be uploaded onto Instagram before your luggage has even been put away.
On the edge of paradise, Eden Bleu, with its friendly staff and variety of menus, is so large that guests get around the complex, where you can enjoy man-made beaches, tennis and the gym by golf buggy. And who doesn’t love a golf buggy? It’s buggy wonderland here, and the vehicles are easy and fun to get around on. And if you can’t drive, as some of us admittedly find it a tad trickier, the staff will be glad to escort you, making you feel super VIP.
Don’t drive after visiting the Takamaka rum distillery though, or you might be eligible for a DUI… In the delightful factory, you can see how the island’s favourite drink is made. And taste it too. Lots of it. Hic. See the sugar canes be crushed up, and smell the varieties of the dark devil’s juice, while going on an interesting and engaging tour led by a lovely lady called Maria (watch out for the ghost though.)
You’ll want to see the inner islands while you’re there too, or as many as you can – there are 115 islands in total, after all. Take a ferry out to Praslin, which used to be used as a hideout for pirates back in the 18th century (figures, with all the rum…) On Praslin, you must go to the Vallée de Mai Nature Preserve. This destination is so beautiful, political figures have previously been convinced it is actually the Garden of Eden. You know, from the actual Bible? Although there’s no Adam and Eve on your tour – yes, I checked – they are famous for the unique coco de mer – also known as the sea coconut, and holds the title of being the largest seed in the world, fact fans – as well as their aromatic vanilla orchids.
Walking through the forest is like being in Jurassic Park. But, you know, with the T-Rex. There is bountiful beauty, waterfalls, rivers, trees – always fascinatingly named, with an origin story fit for an Avengers movie to accompany them – encompassing every shape; gothic and colourful, mighty, small, bizarre and displaying interwoven external roots. It’s unmissable. And, for the immature of you, there’s plenty of innuendo on this excursion, too. Google an image of the Coco De Mer and you’ll get an idea, but that’s just the, ahem, tip of the ice berg.
After Praslin, it’s a far shorter ferry ride to La Dique, which is best seen by bike. On this rustic little island, you can have one of many opportunities to meet the magnificent tortoises that inhabit the place, long before we humans did, and few other places in the world, which you can’t pass up on. These huge pre-historic beasts – the Seychelles is home to the oldest and largest in the world – can be watched for hours (so, about the time it takes them to walk two metres, roughly!) and you can even feed them. You’ll be shell-shocked by their cuteness.
And then on Praslin, you’ll find Anse Lazio, which is consistently voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, where you can bathe in waters so warm it’s difficult to believe you’re actually in the sea and not a hot tub. And those blues… It’s like the island has created its own filter and has it permanently fixed over the shores. But it’s real, and has to be seen to be truly appreciated. And if beaches aren’t your thing, well, go find a man cracking open a coconut instead like we did.
If that’s not a reason for gay men to visit the Seychelles, well, then frankly, I don’t know what is. You’d be nuts to overlook it.
Seven nightly prices on a bed & breakfast basis in the Presidential Suite from £3975 per person based on 2 people sharing, and a Luxury Marina View Room for £1915 per person for two people sharing at the Eden Bleu Hotel. A nightly rate on a bed & breakfast basis in a six bedroom villa cost from £1100 for 12 people per night
Tel: +0800 408 8042
Email: [email protected]
Seychelles Tourist Office – UK & Ireland
132 Buckingham Palace Road, Ground floor
London SW1W 9SA