Give me a beach and some waves and I'd be happy to holiday anywhere in the world.
While island destinations are always at the top of most people's list, I have always thought why travel far for something you can get right on South African soil.
WATCH: Which Seychelles resort is right for you?
Seychelles is one of those far-off places - although more accessible to us than anywhere in the Caribbean - that looks good on a postcard but likely to not live up to one's expectations (as Mauritius did for me).
But what makes the 115-island republic stand out from its other Indian Ocean counterparts is its natural beauty, somehow preserved in the face of colonial expansion due to the small size of its islands. Its beaches (which are all public) continuously tops the lists of amazing destinations around the world, and lush forests can even be seen from their tiny capital Victoria.
The pristine islands bring paradise to life, the Creole people go out of their way to make you feel at home and the sunsets will make you want to stay forever.
QUICK GUIDE TO SEYCHELLES: Visa-free for South Africans
The price tag is almost like going to Europe
There is one downside for those travelling with Randelas - Seychelles is not a cheap place. The tiny country has very little industry and has to import everything, and because Seychellois have free education and healthcare, the tax on these imports are also quite high.
Unlike some other tropical destinations, resorts in Seychelles also rarely do all-inclusive packages, and when you're already paying between R3 300 and R16 900 a night, paying more for drinks and meals can really kill your budget.
If you want to do it on the cheap, book self-catering accommodation, hit up the markets for food to make at home and stick to buying local beer and rum (the wine prices will make your head spin).
READ: These are the cheapest months to fly to these African islands from SA
One of the local beers at the Sir Selwyn Welwyn-Clarke Market in Victoria. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
Environmental consciousness is integral to the Seychellois society
Seychelles is probably one of the tidiest countries you will ever see - beaches are spotless and Seychellois take immense pride in their environment. Many resorts and hotels try to build around nature rather than demolishing it, and many conversations are had about the dangers of climate change.
Their coral reefs are another point of pride, despite the constant battle against bleaching and pollution. Last year, the Seychelles government pioneered a new deal where they swapped some of their sovereign debt for investment in marine protection, which involves coral reef nurseries that helps nurture and heal corals to be transplanted back in the ocean.
SEE: Coral nurseries in Seychelles aim to replenish reefs threatened by climate change
The extremely endangered Aldabra giant tortoise Maka at the Takamaka rum distillery. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
What I wish I could have done while in Mahé
While we toured many beautiful resorts, beaches and a historically interesting rum distillery, I wished I could have properly hiked the hills, forests and mountains of Mahé. We did a short hike above Kempinski Seychelles Resort and the vegetation of the island is so fascinating. One person talked about a hike she did recently walking on tree roots that had completely covered the granite floor, and another hour-long trek that takes you to a completely secluded secret beach.
If I ever return, I will dedicate a large part of my itinerary to just hiking trails - taking in stunning views on the Dans Gallas trail, traversing through a mangrove forest on the Casse Dent route in the heart of Morne Seychellois National Park or swim by the beach awaiting at the end of the Anse Major route.
LISTEN: Take a Hike: The podcast series for hiking and adventure enthusiasts
The roots of a palm tree in Vallée de Mai. (Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
Creole hospitality is almost better than South Africa
Tourism is one of the island's main industries, and even outside of the travel sphere everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful. But my most memorable experience didn't take place inside a resort or tourist attraction.
On the last stop of our tour of Mahé and Praslin, we headed out to Beau Vallon Beach - a long stretch of sandy bliss that's has a lot of foot traffic - to catch an oft-talked-about Seychelles sunset.
As we watched the sky turn gold and pink, behind us our hosts and their families were setting up a Creole braai, similar to one you would find in SA, with all the meat and seafood you can think of. The sides were sauteed vegetables and some of the best noodles I've ever had, and was a welcome change from the resort food that tends to leave you bloated.
Paired with local Takamaka coconut rum (a must-try) mixed with pineapple juice, the sunset gave way to a Seychellois mariachi-type band and traditional dancers, eager to get everyone involved in their twists and turns.
In the end, I just never wanted to leave.
WATCH: WATCH: Which African island is right for you?
(Photo: Gabi Zietsman)
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