Many destinations do not quite live up to their promotional photograph promises – beaches are not so palm tree-lined and uninhabited, sands not so clean and white, seas not so clear and turquoise – but Seychelles’ beaches did not disappoint ITTN’s Neil Steedman.
Pure white sands, clear blue/turquoise seas, abundant lush palm trees, unique granite boulders, giant tortoises and few people – all just as the brochure photos promised. So what’s not to love about the Seychelles beaches?
This island nation in the western Indian Ocean has a population of 90,000 and comprises 115 islands – 43 Inner Islands, of which 41 are the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands in the world, and 72 Outer Islands, which form five groups of low-lying coral atols and reef islets.
The main three islands are Mahé (27km x 8km), with the international airport and capital of Victoria, the second and 36km away is Praslin (10km x 3.7km), and the third, 6km from Praslin, is La Digue (5km x 3km).
Reasons to Visit
There are many reasons why your clients will want to visit the Seychelles, the main ones including that they are in love and/or have just got married; or they seek beautiful, clean, uncrowded beaches; they love snorkelling, diving or sea fishing; or they are fascinated by unique flora and fauna.
Only 16 of the 115 islands are inhabited and just 15 offer accommodation, including only two in the Outer Islands: Alphonse and Desroches. Many resorts and hotels are of luxury standard, and in some cases they are the only resort/hotel on their island. However, a wide range of not-so-expensive accommodation is also available, particularly on the three main Inner Islands.
The Seychelles has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin, where the unique buttocks-shaped Coco-de-mer nut grows, and Aldabra in the Outer Islands, the world’s largest raised coral atoll at 7.9 metres, the world’s second-largest coral atoll (after Kiritimati or Christmas Island in the Pacific) and home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises (about 100,000).
Not so inspiring are the shops or, surprisingly, even the market in the capital, Victoria. However, the Seychelles’ first hypermarket is opening on 2nd October 2015 at the Bois de Rose Complex in Victoria, so hopefully the shopping options on Mahé may improve.
To really experience the Seychelles inevitably means island hopping because no two islands are the same and each has its own character and attractions.
Air Seychelles operates a 15-minute shuttle service of 20 return flights daily between Mahé and Praslin, as well as other inter-island flights, usually on the request of hotels to Bird, Denis, Fregate, D’Arros, Desroches and Alphonse.
The Islands Development Company operates charter flights, mainly to the outer islands, while Zil Air provides helicopter charter island transfers, excursions and scenic flights.
Inter Island Ferry’s traditional, sail- or diesel-assisted schooners Curieuse and Silhouette and Cat Roses catamaran operate from Praslin to La Digue, while Cat Cocos’ two catamarans operate services between Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Both ferry companies offer online bookings and e-ticketing for their routes through www.seychellesbookings.com (which also offers online availability and booking for resorts, hotels and guesthouses in the region).
ITTN flew with Emirates, which flies twice daily from Dublin to Dubai and twice daily from Dubai to Mahé. Emirates has this month celebrated serving the Seychelles for over 10 years.
Other airlines operating to the Seychelles include Air Seychelles, Ethiopian Airlines, and Etihad Airways.
Where to Stay
ITTN stayed in the following hotels:
Mahé: Eden Bleu Hotel, Eden Island. This new business hotel is conveniently located 5km from Seychelles International Airport and 5km from the capital, Victoria. The 74 deluxe rooms, 12 suites and one presidential suite overlook either the marina, which offers charter boats for island hopping, fishing, diving and day trips, or Eden Island.
Praslin: The 3-star Indian Ocean Lodge is a pleasant beachfront hotel at Grand Anse, a 20-minute drive from Cote d’Or beach, for diving and island excursions, and 35 minutes from the world-famous – and exceptionally beautiful – Anse Lazio beach.
Silhouette: Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa. Silhouette Island, north-west of Mahé, is a National Park within a Marine National Park and offers guided nature walks, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise sanctuary, sunset cruises, snorkelling and PADI scuba diving, and many endemic and threatened flora and fauna. The Hilton Labriz, the only hotel on the island, provides 40-minute boat transfers from Bel Ombre Jetty on Mahé, offers 111 spacious villas (a beachfront villa is recommended), including a 1,090 sq m Presidential Villa, and has seven restaurants, a fitness centre and luxury spa.
Where to Eat
Mahé: Marie-Antoinette, Serret Road. Experience authentic Seychellois food prepared in the traditional way using local organic ingredients.
Mahé: Bravo, Eden Island. The Prawn Platter is a ‘must have’ order to savour while overlooking the marina.
Praslin: Pirogue Lodge, Cote d’Or Beach. Superb cuisine, seconds from the beach, which is overlooked by the six guest rooms if you want to overnight.
Silhouette: Grann Kaz at the Hilton Labriz is a Créole restaurant offering local specialties and produce in a 150-year-old Créole house, the restored home of the Dauban family, original owners of the island. Guests can choose between five and seven dishes to share, accompanied by Seychelles tea spiced with endemic fruits and seasonings, and followed by Grann Kaz’s homemade ‘rum arrange’.
Time Difference: Seychelles is four hours ahead of GMT.
Climate: Seychelles enjoys a pleasant tropical climate all year long: the islands lie outside the cyclone belt, there are no extremes of weather, and the temperature seldom drops below 24 degrees or rises above 33 degrees Celsius. When north-west trade winds blow from October and March (averaging 8 to 12 knots) the sea is generally calm, the weather hot and humid, and this is the best time for diving and other water sports. When south-east trade winds blow from May to September (10 to 20 knots), they bring the drier, cooler and windier conditions ideal for sailing. The periods of calm between the trades produce fairly warm and wind-free conditions in April and October. However, short-lived tropical downpours can occur at any time of the year.
Health Regulations: Seychelles is a disease-free environment. There is no risk of contracting malaria or yellow fever.
Entry/Exit Formalities: There are no visa requirements to enter the Seychelles. Documents required for immigration clearance are a passport valid for more than six months; return or onward ticket; proof of accommodation; and sufficient funds for the duration of your stay.
Currency: The Seychelles Rupee (SCR) is divided into 100 cents. Notes are in 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 Rupee denominations, coins in 5, 10, 25 cent or 1 and 5 Rupee denominations.