Even when Hollywood conjures up the image of the idyllic beach paradise for the big screen, they can’t come close to the incredible shores, ancient rainforests and laid-back vibe of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles. Sunbathe in the morning, explore prehistoric rainforests in the afternoon and watch the sun dip below the Indian Ocean of an evening on this stunning archipelago
And centuries of influence from passing traders, invasions and land grabs by the Mauritians, Arabs, French, British and Portuguese have lent the islands its fascinating history, amazing architecture and internationally influenced dishes. There are sights on the microcontinent you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
Comprising 115 islands, the hubs of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue attract the majority of the holidaymakers, although there are plenty of others to explore, some with and some without accommodation, making for glorious day trips and luxe isolation experiences.
Marvellous Mahé One of the inner islands – and the largest of them all – Mahé is where the majority of vacationers stay, or at least use as their base from which to set off and explore the rest of the islands.
Hire a car or a Mini Moke for bonus fun points, and spend hair-raising days driving along roads with sheer cliff drops on one side and rising 1,000-metre-high granite peaks on the other, to experience the many tucked-away beaches the isle is home to.
A trip up into the mountains, where the cool air often covers the peaks in mysterious misty swirls, is a must, as you’ll encounter sights you won’t see anywhere else in the world, such as the jellyfish tree, the carnivorous Seychelles pitcher plant and the coco de mer palm, the nut of which is the shape you get stamped into your passport upon arrival.
Head into the capital of Victoria for about as much bustle as you’re likely to experience in the Seychelles. With its colonial-era buildings and narrow streets in the older district, and wide avenues and tropical gardens of the newer areas, you’ll also find a mini Big Ben clock tower.
For a spot of sunbathing, try Beau Vallon Bay on the northwest coast which is one of the most popular sandy destinations, meaning it is buzzy, but can be overpopulated. For a beach lined with private coves try the palm-dotted Anse Royale on the southeastern coast, or the even more off-the-beaten track Anse Soleil, which is where adventurous nighttime snorkellers head to experience the bio-luminescent glow of micro-organisms shimmering in the waters.
Praslin and La Digue
An island-hopping boat ride from Mahé, a day trip – or a few days’ stay – to Praslin, the Seychelle’s second largest island is a great way to spend your vacay. Here you can explore the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Vallée de Mai, which comprises over 19 hectares of palm and coco de mer-filled prehistoric rainforest. Set within the Praslin National Park, you can take a guided tour through the region or make your own way along one of the many trails throughout.
Beach-wise you’re spoilt for choice – and bear in mind these sandy shores were once a favoured stop for pirates! – with Anse Lazio, Cote D’Or and Grand Anse all paeans to sand-and-sea perfection.
Head to Lazio for spectacular sunsets, with forests and rising hills providing exploring opportunities after a morning on the beach; while you should visit Grand to experience the longest beach on the island, perfect people-watching and warm bath-temperature waters.
Tiny La Digue, 50km from Mahé, covers an area of just 10.1 sq km and is best visited either en route to, or after you’ve enjoyed Praslin due to their proximity. Here you’ll find more cool, shady forests packed with orchids and vanilla vines, and as there are no cars on the island, a bicycle should be your mode of transport choice.
It’s fair to say that time has stood relatively still on this peaceful patch of the Indian Ocean, and the seclusion of the beaches reflects this. Try Anse Coco for its unspoilt loveliness, and work up a sweat before plunging into the waters by trekking to it via Nid Aigle; alternatively, Anse Marron is yet another spot where you might not see another holidaymaker all day.
Sights for your eyes
If you’ve had your fill of the beach and the forests, there are plenty of other attractions to experience, which make for fun morning or afternoon excursions. Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden on Mahé makes for a fun experience, if only to sample the traditional Creole-style food on offer, which includes ice creams flavoured with a variety of the spices you can check out prior to lunch.
If you have plenty of time to spare, head to the outer islands, Curieuse in particular, where you’ll find the ruins of the former leper colony, mangrove forests, parrots and giant tortoises – as well as spots on the beach where the sea turtles swim up to lay their eggs.
Back on Mahé, why not pay homage at the Bel Air Cemetery to one of the island’s past residents, poor old Charles Dorothée Savy, who grew to be nine feet tall, and who met with a nasty end when his family poisoned him because they were afraid of his height!
Budget: Demeure de Cap Macon
With rooms starting from Dh420-a-night, this is about as budget as you’re going to get in the ’chelles. Situated 13km from the international airport on Mahé, the de Cap has only six rooms, making for a cosy guesthouse vibe, and you can enjoy great views of the ocean from the veranda. With Anse Forbans’ beach a stone’s throw away, the hotel boasts quaint colonial features, a BBQ area for private use and kitchenettes in each room for self-catering. demeuredecapmacon.com
Mid range: Le Meridien Barbarons
Found near the beautiful Grand Anse beach in Bel Ombre, the hotel boasts an on-site spa, as well as a dive centre where you can take lessons and book trips. Set amid tropical gardens, each of the 124 rooms feature balconies which open out onto the Ocean. Choose between Le Mangrovia restaurant, with its live cooking stations serving up both local and international cuisine, or Le Cocoteraie overlooking Barbarons Beach, where you can sample the best of Creole. lemeridien-barbarons.com/
Luxury: Banyan Tree Seychelles
Built on land once owned by British comic legend Peter Sellers and Beatle George Harrison, the resort blends modern comforts with architecture sympathetic to the island’s history. Sip cocktails by the infinity pool, enjoy a vast range of treatments in the spa and choose from seven dining options, including charming lounge bar La Varangue. Banyantree.com/en/Seychelles
By Gemma White, Editor, Scene magazine
Published: 17:53 September 26, 2012