The giant tortoise was excruciatingly slow and stately as it drove with precision across the road.
Two cars and a bicycle patiently stalled as this ancient peeled creature – one pictured below – caused the rarest occurrence on Praslin Island: a traffic jam in Seychelles that lasted every four minutes.
This was a small price to pay to be on this rainforest island so exotic green and beautiful that it is protected by a United Nations charter, a part of the world where early explorers were so seduced by its beaches and forests that they assumed it was the original Garden of Eden.
The Daily Mail’s John Gunther checked into Constance Lemuria in Praslin, a small island in the Seychelles
Shimmering: Praslin is known for its palm-fringed beaches
It still seems a million miles away from some distant stress. Cities. Noise. Crowds. Even the airport is lined with cranes paddling next to rolling hills next to the runway.
It couldn’t be more ideal to escape the turmoil of the coronavirus. To date, there have been no virus-related deaths on any of the inhabited islands, of which there are 40, including the North Island where Prince William and his royal bride, Kate, went on their honeymoon.
Praslin is only a stone’s throw away from Mahe by small plane. It’s small, intimate, and untouched. In a car you can go around the whole island in an hour – or rather, dawdle.
Definitely rent a car (Elvis, my rental car company, cut £ 5 a day for goodwill so the daily cost is around £ 30). There are no yellow lines. There are no parking tickets or fines.
The interior of the island is made up entirely of jungle (some of the most spectacular in the world) and the beaches range from beautiful to breathtakingly beautiful.
We stayed at the Constance Lemuria, which combines efficiency with glamor and has a golf course that hosts European championships. Be warned, however, that your swing may be interrupted by giant land crabs heading across the greens towards the nearest sand hole.
Currently, you have to take a coronavirus test 48 hours before departure, then another on the fifth day. Otherwise, you can enjoy the resort as normal, including the beaches. However, you are not permitted to use the spa, gym or diving.
And you have to fly direct from the UK to avoid being quarantined here on your return.
Fittingly, the BA direct flights start today.
The Lemuria is an ambitious hotel with smiley face staff where nothing is too much trouble. There are rooms and villas on the beach, well-equipped kids’ clubs, and a spa. But what sets it apart from the location is the food.
It is said modestly that there is a buffet every evening – despite Covid-19. This is indeed a Michelinesque feast staged to the surprise of the chef.
Nothing is formulaic, from the selection of curries to spare ribs to exotic puddings made from papaya or coconut ice cream and cheesecake.
John remembers how a giant tortoise caused the rarest occurrence on Praslin – a traffic jam that lasted every four minutes
Turquoise Holidays (turquoiseholidays.co.uk) offers seven nights of half board accommodation in a junior suite at the luxury hotel resort Constance Lemuria from £ 2,795 per person, including round-trip flights. The price is based on two people traveling in January 2021.
What sets it apart from some large hotels is that ambition does not outperform talent.
In the 1980s, Seychelles was the fashionable place for the rich and famous, dwarfed by the hedonistic havens of Mauritius and the Maldives for the next two decades.
Just like the giant tortoise, the Seychelles have kept moving slowly, and that speed has secured them as the most pristine tropical sanctuary. Think of the laid-back nature of the 1950s West Indies when you land in Praslin.
The small strip of air offers views of palm-covered atolls where Dr. Doolittle might have expected the giant marine snail to come into view from the turquoise water beyond.
Along the winding coastal roads are a few churches with corrugated roofs and small shops like Muthu’s Provisions. Not a corporate logotype that you can see anywhere. No wonder there. After all, this is where the original bounty commercials were made.
For those who want to stand out from the sand and beaches, the inner Vallee de Mai is an enchanting forest where a shady two-hour walk offers the chance to see incredible frond-edged trails and black parrots in the panoply for those who are lucky and have sharp eyes.
Back at the hotel, there are fishing trips or, at the right time of year, turtles preparing to hatch their eggs. I can also recommend a visit to the teardrop-shaped La Digue, an even smaller island that only houses 2,700 people.
It was first recorded by the French explorer Marion Dufresne in 1768 and is largely undeveloped. There are no big hotels; People ride around on bikes or golf buggies as you pass Creole houses with porches and orange roofs piquant against lush green walls. You can cycle across the island in less than 20 minutes.
Like so many other parts of the world, the Seychelles need tourism more than ever. We went there just before the deadly virus – and I can’t wait to go back. Now the rules have changed in our favor.