- Big beach with shallow, safe waters and lots of shade when needed.
- Great snorkelling in the bay, with a full swim out to Chauve Souris Island for the more experienced
- Access to lots of great little shops and restaurants
Cote D’Or Beach at Anse Volbert reminds me of the first time I tried Pinotage. I’d never liked red wine before then and most types are still not for me. But on my first glass I knew it was different; sweeter, fruitier, lighter. It was a perspective changer.
In a similar vein, I have never been a lover of beaches; their sand, their busyness and just a general feeling that there were better things to see in the world. But Cote D’Or may be about enough to change at least part of my views. Located on the the North Eastern shore of Praslin Island it it is – according to my Lonely Planet guide – the most popular strip of beach on the island. It certainly feels it on the approach, Anse Volbert village is the closest thing to a’strip’ on the island. A long run of shops, restaurants and tour guides offering everything from diving adventures to island hopping trips. But the beach itself is long enough to allow you to find your own slice of paradise. If this is busy they should see Brighton Beach on an above average day in June.
Cote D’Or in many ways is typical of Seychelles beaches; creamy vanilla sands sloping gently down to waters clear enough to see through but turquoise enough for the easy to construct coastline photo. You don’t need to be Trey Ratcliff to do well here, just point, shoot and a travel brochure centrefold is yours to take home with you. But it was more than this that made me fall in love with this beach at Anse Volbert. I hadn’t felt the same about Anse Lazio or Anse La Blague. I certainly hadn’t felt this way about other much talked about beaches such as Reduit in St Lucia or Legè-Cap-Feret near Bordeaux.
So what was it?
For one the sand was not too, well, sandy. Maybe a product of the high tide the day before but the sand was compacted down to be as flat as tarmac. It was still soft, just not blowing around and getting everywhere; easy to walk on, great to lie on just not irritatingly omnipotent like most sand covered beaches are. Upon leaving the beach I did not have sand in my bag, my hair, my wallet, my book, my pockets, my bottle or anywhere else it shouldn’t have been.
The size of Cote D’Or also means you can carve out your own piece of isolation. Admittedly we are here in the off season but even so we visited on weekend days as well as in the week and managed to avoid the claustrophobia of most beaches. We dropped our towels down towards the back of the beach and even found a patch of shade under the sprawling leaves of a palm tree. There are people around and passing by but you can find your own space here. Even the sellers are not too pushy, occasionally wandering past offering a boat trip or fresh coconut but when turned down they wish you ‘a pleasant day’ and carry on. In the Caribbean we found you almost had to don a suit of armour and ready yourself for battle. Even then you’d find you’d parted with some money and ended up with some item you didn’t want before you really knew what had happened. Maybe we are just more experienced travellers now, or maybe the Seychelles is just a bit more relaxed.
For me though, the biggest highlight of Cote D’or was the sea. For a pathetic swimmer like me it is always a relief to see calm and shallow waters! Protected by hills either side and the small island of Chauve Souris the bay was like a big pool. It required more walking than swimming and remained waist high for almost 50 metres away from the beach. For the more serious marine lovers it was possible to make it out further and even swim out to the island to do some snorkelling. For me though I was content with the more serious stuff; splashing around, floating and Baywatch running.
So there you have it:
1) Sand not too sandy
2) Able to keep away from other people
4) Calm water
5) Sellers not too pushy
Never has a list made me sound so young, patient, grateful and benevolent in all my life!
Either way I was happy, sitting at the back in my patch of shade whilst Becca did her best Ursula Address impression. I was really starting to get the hang of this. Occasionally get up, go for a brief splash around in the ‘unlikely to be dragged off to sea’ waters then come back and work my way through the epic ‘Ghost Train To The Eastern Star’ by Paul Theroux who was working his way through a cold Japanese winter
The rest of my time was made up dipping in and out of the little stories that unfold around you if you stay in one place for long enough. We were passed by an old, well-travelled couple scuffing their way up the beach. Dressed all in white in a distinct contrast to their tough, boot polish brown skin and managing to pull off an air of sophistication and class only found in a generation who still dress up to go out. They were the kind of couple I hope we one day become; still clearly doting on one another, helping each other along, him carrying her bag and stopping for an occasional photo with their instant film camera. The joy of travelling together is something I hope we can hold on to for as long as they have.
They were not alone on the photography front. People work hard on the beach to try and get a snap they can share that screams ‘be jealous of me’. Working particularly hard at it were a Japanese couple who had made their way out 10 foot or so into the sea. Her slender, conservatively dressed, long hair held back by her sunglasses – him long Hawaiian shorts, linen shirt and still wearing his rucksack. They were there for a good 20 minutes getting shots from every angle, never leaving the same spot.
Further up the beach a couple of teenage gymnasts had been doing tricks to amuse the locals. Backflips, handstands, pikes, turns and springs were met with applause and whistles from the makeshift crowd. The local children did their best to join in managing some impressive forward rolls and not so impressive hand stands into back flop. They seemed resilient enough and were quickly distracted by trying to entertain a guy with a large camera who had been documenting the show.
A couple of hours went by quickly, by far the most time I have ever spent on a beach in my life! And I actually had a pretty good time, high praise from a whose previous enthusiasm for such places was so low. Needless to say if you’re on Praslin Island at any point I’d recommend you make your way over to Anse Volbert to see it for yourself.