Traditionally known as Lafet La Digue, the La Digue Island Feast which is dedicated to St. Mary – the island’s patron saint – and celebrated each year on August 15, has once again attracted thousands of locals and international visitors to its shores to commemorate the largest religious and cultural manifestation that is uniquely attributed to this island.
As the tourism industry in Seychelles continues to prosper from its 18 percent increase in tourist arrivals, recorded during the first half of this year, even La Digue’s charming family-run guesthouses and self-catering apartments have witnessed an overwhelming increase of visitors for Lafet La Digue.
In fact, as from Friday morning, the sleepy tropical port of La Digue was already crowded with yachts and catamarans, whereas the ferries were continuously busy unloading the great mass of crowd on to the quay. By lunch time, most restaurants and cafes were full to capacity, while the majority of the crowd preferred heading towards the colorful assortment of stalls placed at La Passe – the heart of La Digue – where both locals and tourists alike looked forward to an array of activities fit for all ages as well as a panoply of caterers who had mobilized to satisfy the hungriest of palates with their grills, local delicacies, and desserts. There was also a lot of live entertainment taking place on the main stage featuring local prominent singers and musicians with the likes of Joseph Sinon.
At one point, even the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Alain St.Ange, took center stage to convey his welcoming message. “It gives me great pleasure to be back home and see that Lafet La Digue continues to grow more and more popular year after year. As a native Diguois, I am proud of this traditional event, as it is rooted into our culture and reflects our way of life and the way we were brought up,” said Minister St.Ange. Furthermore, Minister St.Ange had the pleasure of announcing that four veteran artists from La Digue, namely Despily Williams, Jeanne Legge, Thomas Knowles, and Fernande Ladouce, have just been inducted into the Seychelles Musicians’ Wall of Fame for their long-standing contribution within the local musical scene and that their engraved stars are placed right at the entrance of the National Cultural Centre in Victoria, Mahe. This announcement was welcomed by a cheering crowd, especially the local Diguois who took pride in it.
Last but not least, the minister expressed his immense gratitude to the main organizers and all those who in one way or another contributed, including the local sponsors whose involvement was key in making this year’s event another successful one. The night then continued until the late hours with an open-air music show filled to capacity whereby the large crowd danced to their favorite hits.
The next day, churchgoing folks rose early on the morning of August 15 for the traditional procession, whereby the statue of the Virgin Mary was adorned with flowers and palm fronds and was escorted from its grotto to Saint Mary’s Church in Anse Reunion. During his address to the congregation, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Denis Wiehe, reiterated the need for Seychellois to reconnect with their spiritual values and to exercise their faith in their everyday lives.
Celebrations resumed soon after mass with more arrivals coming in from the Cat Cocos and Cat Rose’s ferries. Some of the most interesting activities organized for the day included traditional games such as the climbing of a greasy pole and tug of war. Another highlight of the day was the popular yacht sail race which saw the participation of seven boats. The race had officially kicked off at 10 am from Marine Charter and ended with the first yacht arriving in La Digue around 3 pm. Coming out victorious with a time of 4 hours and 46 minutes was “Freedom,” sailed by Bernard Moutia, whereas the runner-up was “Multi 23” captained by Gerard Lafortune who arrived with a time of 4 hours and 57 minutes.
Also new to this year’s event was the introduction of a Full Moon Party which boasted of local prominent deejays and singers. The crowd could not resist the temptation of being lured to the main stage once again with its fascinating light show, smoke effects, and the trembling music volume. It’s worth noting that this was not the only spot that reigned with musical attractions. In fact, on the other side of La Passe, a Creole Ball was taking place at the local community center, while a beach party at Anse Kalis was entertaining a large crowd of merrymakers.
As for Sunday, the event started to calm down as those visitors hailing from Mahe and Praslin were slowly making their way back home. For those catching the last ferry, the perfect ending of a long weekend on La Digue is to take a short bicycle tour around the tiny island measuring only ten square kilometers (nearly four square miles) and perhaps taking one last dip at Anse Source d’Argent renowned for its white powder sand, granite boulders, and pristine water.
Riding back to the jetty, some tourists might take the opportunity to visit the Veuve Nature Reserve, home of the world’s 200-or-so remaining Black Paradise Flycatcher. As the sun sets into the sea and the majority of the visitors have left, La Digue returns back to its original laid-back ambience whereby the locals’ priorities revolve around the simple pleasures of life.
Top Three – The traditional procession and mass which took place on August 15, 2015 at Saint Mary’s Church in Anse Reunion.
Middle Left – The Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St.Ange, congratulating Fernande Ladouce, one of the four veteran artists from La Digue who has been inducted into the Seychelles Musicians’ Wall of Fame.
Middle Right – One of the many bands which entertained the Friday night crowd.
Bottom Left – La Passe – the heart of La Digue – was lined up with colorful stalls which catered to visitors of all ages and walks of life.
Bottom Right – The sleepy tropical port of La Digue was already crowded with yachts and catamarans starting from Friday morning.