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Seychelles : Paradise Unplugged

Seychelles : Paradise Unplugged

March 15, 2019



Strung out across the Indian Ocean like a string of rather beautiful pearls, the 115-island nation of Seychelles is one of those rare destinations where rumours of paradise are pretty close to the mark. Seychelles is what you get when you cross the honeymoon-starred luxury of the Maldives with the rare natural beauty of the Galapagos. Even the name seems to evoke the sound of turquoise waters lapping quietly upon the sands of some deserted tropical island.

Some of the more remote islands aside, parts of Seychelles are most definitely not deserted. The main island of Mahé, home to the vast majority of Seychellois (people from Seychelles), is a curious mix of idyllic beaches, forested mountains and small settlements. The capital city, tiny Victoria with its population of close to 25,000, has a peak hour that lasts for around 15 minutes, but elsewhere small settlements hug the coastline. Even so, population numbers are so small that these villages soon peter out, yielding to palm-fringed arcs of perfect white sand that are very often deserted. In some corners of the island, a resort will have a perfect beach all to itself.


Local Creole culture finds expression in family ties, hip-swaying music and glorious food; come the weekend, and these simple tenets of local life come together as Seychellois head to the beach for a barbecue with friends and family. In restaurants, fresh fish, grilled without too much elaboration just the way it should be, shares menus with octopus and crab – in a spicy curry or dominating a salad – which are both national obsessions.

Beyond Mahé, the islands fall quieter by degrees. Pretty Praslin has a small population but life moves at a slower pace and its beaches are rarely crowded. Anse Lazio often appears on traveller lists of the world’s most beautiful beaches – you walk barefoot past giant tortoises, beneath an honour guard of palm trees and onto a near-perfect beach of near-perfect-white sand, gin-clear waters and granite-boulder bookends. These vast granite balls that must once have tumbled down the mountainside to the water’s edge, are the defining feature of Seychelles’ beaches. A few headlands west of Anse Lazio, tiny Anse Georgette is accessible only via a forest path and looks like a film set – if you could design a beach, this would come close to what you’d create.


By the time you reach La Digue, a short hop across the water from Praslin, all echoes of the modern world and its noise have disappeared. Save for the occasional taxi, La Digue is mostly free of cars, and there is very little to distract you from beaches of astonishing beauty, turquoise waters watched over by fabulous granite shapes. What to do on a La Digue? Walk through the forest to the beach at Anse Source d'Argent and contemplate whether you’ve died and gone to heaven? Rent a transparent canoe through Crystal Water Kayaks and marvel at having the equivalent of your own glass-bottom boat? Or snorkel in waters so clear you won’t need a mask? Then again, you could just stay by the pool at your luxury resort and nurse a cocktail and decide never to leave.


There are more islands, of course, but these are a beguiling mix of a nature reserve, blissful isolation and world-class resort. To reach most of these – North Island and Frégate Island, for example – you arrive by helicopter. Elsewhere, giant tortoises, like those from Galapagos, wander past your room, while beaches are home to nesting sea turtles and birds saved from the brink of extinction.

Here, and, in truth, wherever you happen to find yourself on Seychelles, you reach a point, usually at the end of each day, where you just have to ask yourself: why can’t life always be like this?


 

Here is our list of everything you need to know to enjoy the Seychelles...

 


WHICH ISLANDS?

  • Mahé The largest and most populous island, Mahé has dramatic scenery running along its forested spine, stunning restaurants, a handful of top resorts, and some glorious beaches. It’s also the busiest of the islands. Mahé will be your entry point to the Seychelles, and it’s worth exploring, but you’ll leave disappointed if that’s all you see of the country.
  • Praslin A quieter version of Mahé (which is a 15-minute flight, or 60-minute boat ride from Mahé), Praslin is known for its sedate pace of life, for its sexy plants (the coco fesse seeds from the coco de mer plant are the stuff of legend) and gorgeous beaches. Take an excursion just across the lagoon to Curieuse Island to walk amid giant tortoises.
  • La Digue The beaches here are some of the prettiest on earth, with that signature Seychelles combination of Dalí-esque granite boulders framing near-perfect arcs of sand and tropical waters, warm and transparent.
  • Silhouette Island This pyramid-shaped island is both nature reserve and exclusive island hideaway, a stunning Hilton resort and spa, backed by steep forests and yet without the price tag of the more remote Outer Islands.
  • Other Islands North Island is achingly luxurious (transfers here take place by helicopter), wonderfully remote and home to all manner of wildlife, including sea turtles. Denis Island is similarly exclusive, made entirely of coral, and home to giant tortoises. Frégate Island has the same feeling of having washed up in paradise.

 

TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS


  • Go parasailing from Beau Vallon Beach on Mahé – the views are simply magnificent.
  • Swim with whale sharks off the coast of Mahé.
  • Sample Indian Ocean rum at Mahé’s Takamaka Bay Distillery.
  • Hike to the summit of Seychelles in the Morne Seychellois National Park on Mahé.
  • Explore the Vallée de Mai on Praslin, looking for strange plants and rare bird.
  • Visit Anse Lazio, often voted the world’s most beautiful beach, on Praslin.
  • Track down the beaches of La Digue or go sea-kayaking in a transparent boat around the island.
  • Commune with giant tortoises on Curieuse or Bird islands

 

BEST BEACHES


  • Anse Cocos, La Digue
  • Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue
  • Anse Marron, La Digue
  • Anse Lazio, Praslin
  • Anse Georgette, Praslin
  • Anse Soleil, Mahé

 

BEST-KEPT SECRETS


  • Anse Major One of the most beautiful beaches on Mahé, and accessible only on foot
  • The Station High in the hills and with superlative views, this spa and café is the venue for ‘Letting Go Saturdays’, Mahé’s classiest party.
  • Le Jardin du Roi Every herb and spice imaginable grows in this verdant little oasis with a crepe café.
  • Curieuse Island Free-ranging Galapagos-style giant tortoises and ruined buildings slowly returning into the earth.
  • Anse Mondon Another remote and deserted beach accessible only to those who hike, on Silhouette Island.
  • Bird Island Well-priced resort out in the middle of the ocean on an island you’ll share with breeding sea turtles and abundant birdlife.

 

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK


  • La Grande Maison (Mahé) Home kitchen of the decorated Christelle Verheyden in a sophisticated Creole-style mansion. Fruit bat anyone?
  • Del Place (Mahé) Order an octopus or crab curry, linger over a cocktail, the swim out to an island just off the deck.
  • Oscars - The Bar & Grill (Mahé) Rustic beach-side setting and an endless array of fish (red snapper, grouper, tuna…) cooked fresh off the boat.
  • Kafe Kreol (Mahé) Sublime octopus curry in a beachside setting that catches the breeze.
  • Rockpool (Mahé) Magical ocean views from a perch high on the hills.
  • Café des Arts (Praslin) Chilled space with laid-back beach vibe, a drinks list well-suited to long and lazy afternoons and appealing dishes such as red snapper in passionfruit sauce.




 

 

 

Anthony Ham is a travel writer, based in Melbourne he knows where to go + what to d




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