Home to nature reserves, coral reefs and idyllic shorelines, the Seychelles provides the ultimate romantic getaway, as Adrian Back discovered on his voyage to the islands in the Indian Ocean
There are very few destinations in the world blessed with more natural beauty than the Seychelles. The archipelago of 115 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean boasts more than 1,600 kilometres of picturesque coastline, with lush forests and striking rock formations punctuating the endless blue. So pristine and untouched, Mother Nature was incredibly generous with the Seychelles. In fact, early explorers, who landed on the islands, thought they had stumbled upon the Garden of Eden. Though remote (Seychelles lies miles east of Kenya and to the north of Madagascar in the southern hemisphere), the destination attracts an increasing number of visitors every year, who flock to the archipelago seeking the ultimate romantic escape. Even Britain’s famous royals, Prince William and Catherine Middleton chose this heavenly cluster of islands for their honeymoon.
But there’s more to the Seychelles than beautiful beaches and water so clear, you never lose sight of your feet. The main island of Mahé has a fascinating Creole heritage that is celebrated through its intricate French and British colonial architecture, colourful carnivals and traditional food. A little more than a four-hour flight from Dubai, we initially landed on Mahé. Home to the small capital city of Victoria, it is, by far, the largest and most developed of the islands. With about 90 percent of the local population inhabiting the island, Mahé is as busy as it can get with its buzzing city life. But that doesn’t mean you forgo time on the island if you’re looking for a more secluded escape. Mahé has the largest selection of five-star resorts, restaurants and white-sand beaches dotting the coast as well as numerous activities, such as snorkelling or diving with whale sharks and hiking across the rugged interior of the island.
In fact, you can make the most of your visit by choosing Mahé as your base, as no matter where you’re located on the island, you’re only a few minutes away from its most fabulous natural attractions and hidden gems. We stayed at Constance Ephelia on the west coast, which is one of the largest resorts in the Indian Ocean. Stretching out across 296 acres, the property is situated on two of the most picturesque beaches in Mahé and is an entry point to the marine national park of Port Launay.
We decided to spend the first day tuning into island life, exploring the beaches, strolling among the palm trees in the botanical gardens and checking out the local markets. One of the biggest highlights of our day was visiting Port Launay beach, located within the marine national park. Not commonly known among visitors, it can be reached via a series of small roads that run through the resort. Bicycles can be hired to get there and after half an hour of riding through the stunning surroundings, we arrived at a tiny path that descended down to the beach, where it appeared that we were the only people to have made the journey. Thanks to the peaceful surrounds, a staggering amount of marine life can be found in this area. So if you do visit, be sure to pack snorkelling equipment. Finding ourselves thoroughly relaxed, we chose to be more active during our second day on the island.
Thrill seekers will be pleased to know that Mahé is rife with opportunities for adventure. The daunting zip lines that run through the national park is high on travellers’ bucket lists. We decided to take on the challenge and try one of the eight zip lines that stretch from 85 to 120 metres. Traversing the forest’s lush green canopy of trees and granite boulders with views of the stunning coastline, it is not an experience to miss. Seeking something more peaceful after the hair-raising zip line experience, we decided to go kayaking through the mangroves that sit at the heart of the resort. This was a fantastic way to see local fauna and flora, with several species that can only be found in the Seychelles. We kayaked towards the north of the resort, where we discovered yet another picture-perfect beach with pale green waters that are contrasted by white sand and patches of black volcanic rock. A great spot to wind down an active day, make sure you get here in time to view the glorious sunset. The next day, we boarded a seaplane and took a 15-minute flight to Praslin, a tiny island boasting a collection of luxurious resorts. After the short transfer, we arrived at Constance Lémuria, a sprawling 249-acre property that showcases the natural beauty of the Seychelles.
The hotel and its grounds are built into the island’s luscious green hillside, while the three beaches of soft white sand have been largely untouched. Praslin has a rugged jungle-covered interior and it’s home to a national park and a nature reserve, peppered with large, striking granite boulders and is teeming with wildlife. We enjoyed three wonderful days on the island, much of which was spent getting up close to the exotic wildlife, including giant tortoises, colourful peacocks and fruit bats. A dream for wildlife enthusiasts, one of the island’s three beaches is reserved as a nesting ground for turtles. There is even a Turtle Manager – a rather unique position – to help the young have the best chance of survival. Those visiting between November and February may even be fortunate enough to see the young turtles hatch and make their first journey to the ocean. With plenty to do on the island, we found it hard to whittle down our options.
But we’d definitely recommend hiking the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. The park is home to the endemic coco de mar, the largest seed in the world, which is very common on the island but rarely found anywhere else. As you would expect from a secluded destination, there were plenty of ways to simply rest and relax on Praslin and that’s how we decided to spend our last day. We alternated between swimming and snorkelling at Anse Georgette beach. A serebe stretch of sand with mesmerising views, it is the perfect spot to draw your visit to a close, taking in the sunset with a cocktail in hand.
FLIGHTS Emirates offers daily non-stop flights from Dubai to Mahé, the main island in Seychelles.
ACCOMMODATION Mahé: A 40-minute drive from the airport, Constance Ephelia makes the most of its location, situated on two of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Mahé. It almost entirely occupies Port Launay, where opportunities to get up close to nature and explore secluded beaches are present in plenty. Praslin: An hour’s ferry ride from Mahé, Constance Lémuria offers access to three of Praslin’s most beautiful beaches. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve is also within easy reach.
DINING The Nest: For those seeking incredible views, this venue is a must-visit, thanks to its location on top of a natural rock formation. Nestled in Constance Lémuria, the menu boasts fresh seafood, think oysters, prawns, scallops and more. Adam and Eve: This Mahé restaurant offers a casual beachside setting where the main focus is on Southeast Asian cuisine. Try the nasi goreng, char grilled pork ribs and coconut saboo. Diva: There is a refined menu of classic Mediterranean dishes and a large wine list that is unrivalled on the island at Diva on Praslin. The restaurant also offers a sommelier wine room experience that pairs drinks with light bites.
To plan your escape 800-CONCIERGE