By Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey
Some 1,500 miles off the East African coast lies paradise. Or at least a place that comes as close as possible. The Seychelles archipelago is made up of the main island Mahé with the capital Victoria and the international airport, the two smaller islands of La Digue and Praslin, and more than 100 even smaller islands, some of which have been transformed into some of the world’s most exclusive private resorts.
Long known as a honeymoon destination, you can ‘do’ the Seychelles – and say ‘I do’ there – in utter luxury, in places such as North Island, or Fregate Island Private. Or you can enjoy the Seychelles in relatively affordable style, in one of the many resorts on the main island Mahé. Either way, the islands wow with their incredible flora and fauna, greenery that is barely contained by gardeners, running wild immediately outside of any constraints, and includes the famous Coco de Mer, whose cheeky nuts are immortalised on the Seychelles tourist stamp. There are more than 200 bird species, including the iconic frigate birds, and the adorable fairy terns that always come in pairs.
And then there is the Indian Ocean. Water as clear as mineral water laps either on the reefs of the coral islands or offers playful waves that crash on white beaches hemmed by those famously smooth rocks on the granite islands. The deeper waters are teeming with life, making the archipelago a snorkeler’s and scuba diver’s dream come true.
Whether you arrive for a relaxing, pampered honeymoon or a more adventurous trip, the Seychelles offer so much and are without doubt one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
What to do
Apart from lounging by the beach or playing in the water all day, there are a few things to see and do on the islands. On Mahé, a walk through Victoria is a must. One of the smallest capitals in the world, Victoria boasts a population of 26,000, just over a quarter of the Seychelles’ total population. The capital is filled with colourful colonial houses; has one famous landmark: a little clocktower standing in a crossroads, and a botanical garden that is well-worth visiting. Victoria is also home to the island’s main market, a daily feast for the senses that sells the islands’ fresh fruit, and fish.
Spend an evening in Beau Vallon, with its many affordable and fun beach bars, a superb sunset location, and the lively Bazar Larin Markt, officially only open on Wednesdays, but there are stalls throughout the week selling local handicrafts and snacks. One day at least, hire a car and drive around the island, through the lush Morne Seychelles National Park offering forest hikes such as the Morne Blanc and the Coppolia Trails, and discover many secluded beaches often studded with small restaurants offering the freshest seafood.
On Praslin, a visit to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve is essential, not only because of the many birds and incredible plant life, but because this is the home of the Coco de Mer, which produces the world’s largest – and most erotic – seed and palm flower. You can visit Praslin on a boat trip from Mahé, and even take in La Digue along the way.
Relax in Style
On each of the islands you can find luxury resorts, which pamper you morning to night, but it is noteworthy that not all of them lie right on the beach, mostly due to the mountainous nature of the islands. For a honeymoon to remember, book a villa on a private island, such as Fregate Island Private, an island reached by helicopter or small plane from Mahé. A nature reserve where humans take second place, it offers 16 villas nestled in the greenery, with each offering a large living room villa, a bedroom villa, indoor and outdoor bathrooms, a small pool, all connected by private boardwalks, and breakfast and any other meals if you wish, delivered right to your front door. Each villa comes with a golf buggy to get around and each beach has an ‘occupied’ sign and a phone to call up for cocktails or snacks brought down to you. Not cheap, but also not the priciest, and so worth it.
Either way, wherever you stay, whichever island you choose, Seychelles is Paradise Found. A trip of a lifetime.