HomeBBC NEWSTravelLa Digue: The Seychelles' tropical biking paradise

    La Digue: The Seychelles’ tropical biking paradise


    With more bicycles than cars on La Digue, the 10-square-mile island is doing its best to protect itself – and a rare bird species – from overtourism.

    La Digue Island is arguably one of the most famous of the 115 islands of the Seychelles. It attracts thousands of visitors each year to Anse Source d’Argent, often referred to as the world’s most photographed beach due to its spectacular boulders reminiscent of prehistoric times, and is an ideal backdrop for Hollywood movies and commercials. On a smaller scale, birdwatchers from all over the world come to witness the rare sight of the Seychelles Black Paradise Bird, an endangered species endemic to the Seychelles.

    But perhaps the island’s lesser-known miracle is its lack of cars and how Digueois manages to limit traffic to preserve the pristine beauty of its 10 square kilometers of territory.

    The island where bikes outnumber cars

    Digueois, with a population of only about 3,000, prides itself on using bicycles as its primary mode of transportation, unlike the larger neighboring islands of Mahé and Prahran, which are growing at a much faster urban rate. For the locals, cars are unnecessary and getting around by bike has always been a way of life.

    “From a very young age, my brothers tried to teach us how to ride a bike. They held the seat, you thought they were holding it, then let go of you, then you fell and you lost your knee. That’s what La Digue Island resident Florie Marie said.

    Visitors also participate in a local tradition of renting bicycles to explore the island. “It’s well known that La Digue is a bicycle island. So you get customers who want to drive to the beach, but most people want bikes,” said Travis Mills, who owns a bike rental company on La Digue.

    The island now has 60 cars, a considerable increase from the 10 cars that only wealthy families could afford in the 1980s. But it’s still a small number, partly related to the difficulty of personal vehicle ownership here: cars are not allowed unless public services are provided. However, the rise of tourism construction and the necessary vehicles that come with it have sounded alarm bells, especially among locals.

    With more and more vehicles on La Digue, the peace, quiet and relaxing aspect will no longer exist,” says Patrick Andres. This will certainly have a huge impact on La Digue Island itself, tourism, the environment and the ecosystem,” Seychelles’ chief transport minister.

    Environmentalists warn that further development could affect the natural habitat of endangered species on the island, such as the Seychelles black paradise flytrap, known in local Creole as the Vev. Veuve Reserve is a national park and reserve designed to protect the endemic Vev, the supreme jewel of Digueois’ natural beauty.

    Anse Source d’Argent is often called the most photographed beach in the world due to its imposing boulders (Credit: Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

    “We’ve seen an increase in the amount of construction or development on La Digue Island, and that’s been a big issue with the number of fly traps,” said Josianna Rose, park ranger at Catherine Reserve. “People from La Digue are building a lot of things, and they’re cutting down trees for construction.”

    Since 2008, environmentalists have transported dozens of flycatchers to neighboring islands through a breeding program to ensure more suitable habitat for the rare bird.

    La Digue Island now has a moratorium on new tourism facilities until 2023 to protect local natural resources. Sherin Francis, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, said, “If we really want La Digue Island to remain one of the gems of Seychelles, we must be able to start controlling and monitoring development on the island at this point.”

    Similarly, the ban on private vehicle ownership, as well as discussions about phasing out all fuel-dependent vehicles and expanding more traditional modes of transportation (only one cattle car operator remains on the island), have become part of the shift towards the goal of Radigue Island becoming the eco-capital of the Seychelles.

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