Shopping for bargains and curios in the African republic

Beautiful as it is, there’s only so much swimming, gorging and drinking you can do on a tropical holiday. Try as I might to avoid it, my wife is always keen on at least a couple of days shopping whenever we travel, and the same was true on a recent sojourn to the sun-drenched shores of the Seychelles.

Seeing as there was no way I was getting out of it, I relinquished. If the truth be told, when I am in the mood to shop there is no stopping me, so I was secretly looking forward to a day of credit card chaos. There was everything from street markets filled with handicrafts, beachside souvenir stands (T-shirts for the nephews and nieces, that kind of thing) to high-end art galleries and jewellery stores and antiques – even a few wonderfully air-conditioned and upscale shopping malls if needs must. So off we went on a mission to find some choice items, and hopefully a few bargains along the way.

Antik Colony

Being the large population centre that it is, the heart of the Seychelles’ capital Victoria is where most of the easiest shopping action is to be had, and our first port of call was the Antik Colony at the curiously named Pirate Arms Arcade.

The place is loaded with stalls, which were heaving under the weight of artefacts and souvenirs and sustainable food and beauty products made right there on the islands.  Their point of difference is that they take otherwise simple everyday products like teas, soaps, cinnamon and vanilla pods (items so hum drum in our home supermarkets), and present them in such beautiful ways that they become objects of beauty. The vanilla beans I bought came in a silver-plated box and my mum loved me for it. Although they will probably never get used, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Anse aux Pins

One of the great things about going anywhere in the Seychelles is that no matter where you are there is always a great view out to sea. And so it was a chilled out drive down the coast (everything is chilled out when you have a driver) to Anse aux Pins and the Craft Village, where the predominant medium is coconut. Set up in and around a plantation house that dates back to 1870, the shops themselves are housed in former workers’ bungalows where we watched the artists at work. Not only do they serve as the market selling the works of local artists it is also a living museum with all the furnishings and objet in the house preserved exactly as they would have looked all that time ago. To be honest we didn’t spend as much time ‘shopping’ as such, instead we found ourselves coveting the beautiful designs craftsmanship of the furniture, although in the end we did buy a couple of silk paintings for the wall back home.

For Art’s Sake

Art is where the shopping truly comes alive at the high-end in the Seychelles, and a lot of local and expat artists have set up galleries, which are dotted right across the islands. My wife is something of an art lover, so we set aside a half day (in our air-conditioned car) to troll through as many galleries as we could in tandem, with a circumnavigation of Mahe. There are too many places to list but the highlights of our day would have to be the coastal-inspired paintings of Donald Adelaide and the Art Adelaide Studio, Andrew Gee’s watercolours, both at Baie Lazare; or the sculpture works of Antonio Fiippin, also at Baie Lazare, and Tom Bowers at Santa Maria, Anse a la Mouche. We visited eight galleries in one afternoon and managed to negotiate our way into becoming the proud owners of two beautiful works, one painting and one wooden sculpture, that look magnificent in our home today.

Local Flavours

Of course, some of the best and most rewarding shopping you will ever encounter will come during a stroll through local markets. You know the kind of place I’m talking about; the one filled with the smells of grilled fish and meats, pineapples and coconuts, where you will be accosted by some charming woman with two teeth and a smile big enough to generate world peace, asking you to buy a sarong or a shell necklace. Here you can haggle, have a laugh, drink some tea and really get to experience the local way of life. With no fixed pricing, no pretension, and some of the best souvenirs at the price you want, just let yourself go and enjoy the ride. The best markets include Bazar Labrin on Beau Vallon Beach every Wednesday and the last Saturday of the month, Sir Selwyn Clarke Market in Victoria, which is especially appealing on Saturdays and Victoria Bazaar every Friday.


Retail recommendations

  • There are so many galleries on the islands that its best to do a little online research and decide in advance which ones carry the type of art you are looking for.
  • Due to weight restrictions on baggage, many of the shops and galleries in the Seychelles offer a postal service and are more than happy to take care of all the details for you upon purchase.
  • Always bargain with a smile and remember not to take things too seriously. If you think something is too expensive, don’t feel obliged to buy it, simply explain and decline politely.
SHARE
Previous articleGreater Catalonia
Next articleIn the Shadow of Mont Blanc
Michael Travers
Kiwi Michael Travers, a former marine biologist turned editor and journalist, has been based in Bali but travelling extensively for the past seven years and is equally at home in a private villa dining on foie gras and sipping Calvados as he is sleeping in a grass hut on in the Spice Islands drinking coconut juice.