Escape to the sun – the Seychelles

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What’s the first image that springs to mind when someone mentions the Seychelles? Is it long, thin palm trees reaching enthusiastically into a sapphire sky or soft, powdery sand so white it gives our beloved Shell Beach a serious run for its money? Is it shallow topaz bays that beg for a float, cocktail in hand, or the smell of heavily spiced Creole prawns sizzling away on the BBQ? Whatever form of tropical paradise you’re conjuring in your mind, the reality isn’t far off. In fact it’s pretty spot on. Cue sigh…

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The Seychelles is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean and most of the 115 islands are unoccupied nature reserves. Its home to 92,000 people, numerous beaches and coral reefs, as well as rare animals such as giant Aldabra tortoises. These majestic creatures seem to belong to another lifetime or a Jurassic Park movie set perhaps? With an average weight of 250kg, they’re certainly something to behold, and not too shy either.

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The islands have been uninhabited throughout most of recorded history. A transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, they were frequented by pirates until the French took control in 1756. The British controlled the islands between 1794 and 1810, before the Seychelles became a crown colony in 1903.

Mahé is home to the Seychelles’ capital, Victoria and approximately 90% of the population. This largest island boasts the impressive mountain rainforests of Morne Seychellois National Park and numerous stunning beaches, including Beau Vallon and Anse Takamaka. From here you can access other islands such as Praslin or La Digue.

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The Seychelles are renowned for their success stories in protecting local flora and fauna. Particularly well-known is the coco de mer or “love nut”, the fruit from a species of palm that grows only on the islands of Praslin and neighbouring Curieuse. The shape of its fruit is responsible for the nickname which, with the husk removed, presents a “double” coconut resembling buttocks. Ay ay captain!

The marine life around the Seychelles, especially the more remote coral islands, is spectacular. Divers are spoilt for choice, with colourful coral, turtles, manta rays, reef sharks, giant groupers, stingrays and over 1,000 species of fish inhabiting the waters. A decent snorkel and mask is a must for every visitor. There’s also the opportunity to swim alongside the largest fish in the sea – the whale shark. Some of the earliest scientific records of these magnificent creatures came from the Seychelles, with Mahé being the best place to spot them (peak sightings in October).

It’s not just the remoteness of the Seychelles that appeals to sun, sea and sand chasers (it takes four flights from Guernsey if you are staying on one of the smaller islands), but the sense of luxury without all the fast paced mod-cons. Although there are many hotels backing on to popular beaches such as Côte d’Or on the island of Praslin, there are also miles of beachfront with only palm trees and green jungle for company.  You can have your pina colada and drink it too! You can stay in ultimate luxury, at Raffles or The North Island Resort for example, but also go low-key and visit the small island of La Digue where you can cycle among the coconut groves and farmland, stopping to feed tortoises along the way.

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No beating around the coconut grove though, the Seychelles is expensive. It’s hard to come by the all-inclusive deals which appeal to many holiday makers and honeymooners. The islands however remain predominantly unspoilt by tourism and maintain their reputation as one of the most romantic getaway spots. There are busier areas sure (Anse Source d’Argent beach on La Digue and Bel Ombre beach on Mahé), but if you’ve ever been to the Amalfi coast in August, these will seem relatively deserted.

We were lucky enough to have a fantastic local travel agent (Jenny Grut at World Travel) who found us the perfect non piggy-bank breaking 10-day-getaway. We stayed half-board at the boutique hotel of Domaine de la Reserve on the island of Praslin and would thoroughly recommend it to young couples and families wanting a taste of the Seychelles without having to rob a bank to do so.

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Another option is to stay at one of the many self-catering guesthouses. We saw so many of these and with fantastic restaurants everywhere, you don’t have to go down the resort route. I would contact local self-catering establishments direct or even see what websites such as AirBnB have going.

After almost 24 hours of travel and despite feeling a little groggy, the air-conditioned ride to our hotel and refreshing mocktail on arrival were just what the doctor ordered. Before long, our hillside accommodation came into view like a mirage. But this was no illusion. The view across the bay was utterly breath taking – just what we’d imagined. Within minutes we were popping our complimentary champagne on the balcony as a fiery sunset blazed before us. It was like something out of a movie and I think a honeymoon calls for a dash of Hollywood magic don’t you?

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After a few days of total relaxation at our hotel, we decided it was time to venture further afield. I’d definitely recommend getting out and about on your island and the ones nearby. First up was a trip to Anse Lazio beach on Praslin. Most local beaches are open to the public and are easily accessible by local bus. Just don’t expect the buses to run on time or according to any form of speed limit. The rides were pretty hairy, but all part of the fun if you buy into the experience.

Anse Lazio is quite simply stunning. It comes as no surprise that it often turns up in lists of “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”. The hilly 20 minute walk from the bus stop will get you sweating, but when the bay materialises like a picture perfect postcard, you’ll forget all that. All you can think is… turquoise. Despite its popularity, it never feels crowded, but watch your valuables. I’d take a packed lunch as the beach bar food is pricey, but make sure you splash out on cool beers after swimming. That’s what I call paradise.

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Sand on the toes and hops on the lips. After breakfast the next day we walked the length of Côte d’Or beach, also on our island of Praslin, where you can take a peek at other hotels whilst swimming along in the shallows.

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Taking the ferry over to La Digue is a must. The harbour waters are beautifully transparent and colourful boats bob alongside the jetties.

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The vibe is low key and quaint. You’ll be greeted by lots of locals, most trying to persuade you to hire bikes. Wait until you’ve walked to where they’re all parked and choose your bikes from there. We opted for pastel blue ones and got on our way. The day was spent exploring idyllic beaches, ending at Anse Source d’Argent – the perfect spot to cool down after a day ‘sur la plage’.

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So, when’s the best time to jet off? The temperature varies little throughout the year, usually between 24 to 30 °C, so it’s always a good time to visit. The cooler months are July and August (when we went), but it’s still lovely, definitely what you’d consider ‘a hot holiday’… and I’m a real sun worshiper. March and April are the hottest months with temperatures usually 30 °C and above.

What’s for supper? Staple foods include fish, seafood and shellfish dishes, often accompanied by rice. The curries are also fantastic. Additional food staples include coconut, breadfruit and mangoes. What’s not to like?

What do you need to pack? I’d recommend light clothing suitable for the Seychelles’ warm tropical climate. Bring hats, sunglasses and adequate UV protection – SPF30+ for your body and SPF50+ for your face. A decent camera is an absolute must. Having one you can use in the water is also a bonus. This is where a GoPro comes in handy. Something to note; it’s expected in most resorts for men to wear long trousers in the evening, sorry chaps. It does make you look very dapper though.

Lonely Planet has dubbed the Seychelles the ‘ultimate haven’ for honeymooners. Indeed, it’s where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and George Clooney and Amal Alammuddin escaped for their lunes de miel. Obviously not too shabby then? I would imagine a visit to the Seychelles might be on most peoples’ dream bucket list – I still pinch myself when I look back. But hey, we figured our honeymoon was the perfect time to start ticking.

Need a pen?

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Until next time….

This article was published in the November 2016 issue of Guernsey Now magazine and on the Le Nautique Seychelles Facebook Page. PDFs available – 1, 2.

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For more information

www.worldtravel.je   Tel: 01481 252211

www.lonelyplanet.com/seychelles

www.seychelles.travel

www.seychelles.travel/plan-your-visit/accommodation/self-catering

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