With a population of just around 3,000, the people of Digue pride themselves on using bicycles as their primary means of transport, unlike the larger neighboring islands of Mahé and Praslin, which have seen more urban growth. For locals, a car is not necessary and getting around by bicycle has always been a way of life.
“Since we were little, my brother was trying to teach us how to ride a bike. They hold the seat and you think they’re holding on, then let go of you and then you fall and lose your knees. And that’s how you learn to do bike,” says Florie Marie, a resident of La Digue. “However, my sister, she lives in Mahé, and she still doesn’t know how to ride a bike.
Tourists also participate in the local tradition by renting bicycles to explore the island. “La Digue is known to be a bike island. So you’ll have customers who want to drive to the beach, but the majority, they want bikes,” said rental company owner Travis Mills. of bicycles in La Digue.
The current number of vehicles on the island is 60, a huge increase from the 10 it had in the 1980s, when only wealthy families could afford to own cars. But that’s still a small number, one that’s partly tied to the difficulties of individual vehicle ownership here: No cars are allowed unless they provide a public service. However, the increase in tourism construction and the necessary vehicles that come with this work have raised alarm bells, especially with locals.
“With more vehicles on La Digue, that aspect of tranquility, calm, relaxation will no longer be there. And that will certainly have a big impact on La Digue itself, its tourism, its environment and its ecosystem,” said Patrick Andre, the Principal Secretary of Transport of Seychelles.
Conservationists warn that new developments could impact the natural habitat of endangered species on the island, such as the Seychelles black paradise flycatcher, known as Vev in local Creole. La Réserve de la Veuve, a national park and conservation area set up to protect the endemic Vev, is a jewel of the natural beauty of the Digueois.