“The islands are blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, ocean, mountains, beaches and tropical forests.” Unknown
The Seychelles has been on my ‘must-visit’ list for quite a while. Anticipation was high and the combined Eid and anniversary trip didn’t disappoint, this Indian Ocean paradise was just stunning. After just a short but bumpy flight from Abu Dhabi with Air Seychelles we landed in Mahé, the largest and most populated island and were immediately whisked away to the popular north east region of Beau Vallon.
While the Seychelles is seen as the perfect honeymoon destination it also offers much more for every type of traveller. It’s family-friendly, perfect for those looking for a luxury beach trip or even those who prefer the more affordable local Creole experience, however everything is generally quite pricey. We choose the relatively new UAE owned hotel, STORY Seychelles (previously known as The H Resort Beau Vallon Beach) a five star haven which is tucked away at the end of the small beach town in a prime oceanfront location.
In recent years our travels have seen us moving from location to location, packing and unpacking every couple of days so I was excited to arrive at one place and unpack for the duration. While we were based in Mahé there are plenty of accessible options and excursions to visit neighbouring islands by boat (or helicopter if your budget allows) as well as exploring by taxi, hire car, bicycle and even take a mountain trail or hike through the jungle to secluded beaches like Anse Major.
Alongside sunbathing by the pool, snorkelling and watersports Beau Vallon also offers visitors a long pristine stretch of beach that’s great for a stroll especially at sunset. The beach finishes up in the local town where you can interact with the locals in little shops, bars/restaurants and purchase that all important fresh coconut. With all the resorts in this area located on the beach you can choose to stop off for a beer, iced coffee or grab a bite to eat at any of the spots along the way.
Located right next to the airport Eden Island is a man-made development for those who enjoy the finer things in life while staying in a self-catering villa rather than a hotel (also home to the Eden Bleu Hotel that opened in 2012). Various apartments, villas and maisons of all shapes, sizes and price ranges are dotted around the pools and four beaches. The two-story centralised Eden Plaza houses dining outlets, a retail precinct and entertainment options alongside an impressive deep water marina that’s home to many super yachts. There’s also a spa, gym and tennis courts.
Friends of ours happened to be staying there so we were treated to an insider view of this luxurious development, no cars are allowed within the residential area (making it extra family-friendly) so each villa comes with its own golf buggy. Properties are available to buy for those with bundles of cash or can be rented on long or short term leases. I thoroughly recommend a visit to Eden Island as seeing is believing, we had a great day with lunch overlooking the marina, many cocktails and way too much Takamaka rum.
Seeped in history Victoria, the tiny capital of the Seychelles is located in Mahé. Named after Queen Victoria from its time under British Colonial rule, the tiny town is a riot of colour and cars, a small statue of the late queen is situated opposite Little Ben which she gifted the island. The clock tower is a smaller silver version of London’s Big Ben and was constructed in 1903 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. A small covered market is filled with aromas and people selling fish, fruit, clothes and trinkets. Straw hats and souvenirs can be purchased from stalls that line the streets.
Seychellois people of all religions appear to live harmoniously and along with the many Catholic and Anglican churches (including the Immaculate Conception Cathedral) there’s a mosque and the colourful Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Hindu temple. Those interested in history can visit The Seychelles Natural History Museum, giant land tortoises reside at The Botanical Gardens at Mont Fleuri and there’s a Tea Plantation further inland. The Seychelles celebrated Independence Day while we were there on 29th June marking forty-one years since Britain granted the archipelago independence in 1976.
No visit to the Seychelles would be complete without a trip to the Takamaka Rum Distillery which is located on a former plantation site past the airport. An informative distillery tour takes you through the stages from the raw sugar cane to fermentation barrels and finally to the bar to taste all the different flavours. We came home with a couple of bottles of the delicious caramel and coconut infused varieties, it seemed rude not too!
The large port in Mahé is home to many fishing boats and the regular ferries that take you to Praslin and La Digue from there you can also get charter’s onto the smaller islands. With the island only 26 Kilometres from tip to toe the best way to explore Mahé is by hiring a car and discovering all the little secret beaches and coves along the way.
We followed the beach road around around the whole island stopping off at various beaches along the way, lunching in Baie Lazare (where the French first landed and claimed the island in 1742) at the Kempinski Resort. We discovered the various craft villages and artist studios in the southern part of the island before taking the snaking mountain road to the northern tip.
The fourth largest island, La Digue is idyllic. It embraces a slower pace of life with most people on two wheels instead of four (some ox carts too). Tourists flock to this tiny piece of paradise and we were no different, arriving on the jetty we grabbed a bike and cycled to visit the reputed most photographed beach in the world, Anse Source D’Argent.
Located in L’Union Estate coconut plantation, it certainly lived up to all the hype looking like a real life postcard with its soft white sand, huge granite boulders and turquoise waters. Its sheltered reef was attracting snorkelers and kite surfers taking advantage of the windy conditions.
The L’Union Estate is also home to the Aldabra giant land tortoises who are unfortunately in a low-walled enclosure unlike other islands where they roam free, they are very visitor friendly though and we hand fed them. La Digue is a charming island that is awash with history, traditional architecture and restaurants serving fresh seafood and authentic Creole cuisine. Alongside the many beautiful beaches the island is covered in palm trees, lush green vegetation and colourful flowers. It was definitely my favourite spot and I would recommend a full day visit to explore the whole island by bike instead of just the morning like we had there.
We spent an afternoon in Praslin, the second largest island in the Seychelles that’s home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vallee de Mai where the Coco de mer (Lodoicea) grow. We walked through the forest to see the world’s largest nut, the Coco de mer in situ, the heavy double nut that’s shaped like female ovaries takes years to grow in the in the tall palm trees (some up to 30m high). The fan shaped leaves form a dark canopy above the forest, the female and male plants grow separately pollinated by the green gecko. Like the Coco de mer, the rare endangered black parrot is also endemic to the Indian Ocean island and although we heard them we didn’t manage to see any.
We spent the last few hours relaxing on Anse Lazio, an absolute tropical paradise with soft sand and calm shallow waters lined with palms that regularly finds itself listed amongst the top ten beaches in the world.
The Seychelles, a collection of 115 scattered islands some of which remain untouched, is probably the most picture perfect place I’ve ever been (so far) and I am comparing it with trips to the Maldives and Mauritius. It’s a diverse place that offers the most beautiful deserted beaches, mountains, jungle, all kinds of land and sea based activities as well as Creole customs and cuisine. So whether you are looking to relax on a sun lounger, explore the coral reefs, go island-hopping or be at one with nature the Seychelles has it all, did I mention there’s also caramel and coconut flavoured rums.
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Eden Island aerial photo used with courtesy of edenisland.sc/seychelles and Victoria Market photo used with courtesy of www.lonelyplanet.com/seychelles/
Read more about the Seychelles in previous post In Pictures | A Postcard From The Seychelles
We booked our whole trip to the Seychelles with Expedia traveling with Air Seychelles (Etihad Airways also has daily flights) and stayed at The H Resort Beau Vallon Beach. We booked our airport transfers, island hopping boat excursion and hire car with Mason’s Travel.