When it comes to an Indian Ocean beach paradise, most people's first thought will be of the Maldives. However, if you're looking for a desert island that packs a bit more punch, the Seychelles will not disappoint.
Wilder and slightly less glossy than its neighbours this archipelago of 115 granite and coral islands lies around 1,000 miles off the coast of Tanzania and holds the allure of lush forests, Creole heritage and some of the best talcum-powder beaches in the world. Not reserved for romantic honeymooners, families as well as couples will adore exploring the exotic flora inland, swimming and snorkelling off shallow shores and meeting the islands’ wonderful wildlife.
Head to the largest island of Mahé for tropical walks, top hotels and Creole culture; beach bunnies and nature lovers should try middle-sized Praslin with its top beaches and UNESCO national park; hippy chicks will love tiny La Digue, home to a population of giant tortoise and a laid-back vibe. Can’t chose? A twoweek island-hopping holiday should do the trick!
Beach life really doesn’t get any better than in the Seychelles and choosing your favourite sandy stretch is like picking the shiniest diamond from Tiffany’s window display they’re all so good. Anse-Source d’Argent on the island of La Digue, is reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world. Anse-Lazio Beach on Praslin regularly hits the world’s top ten and it’s not hard to see why – bordered with large granite boulders, its pristine white sands roll into crystal clear topaz waters.
Nature lovers will also be spoilt rotten. Vallée de Mai on Praslin is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to over 6000 rare Coco-de-Mer palms, only found in the Seychelles. There are hiking trails that weave you through the foliage but book yourself a private guide to really bring the Vallée to life. The park is also home to an array of birds, including the endangered black parrot. L’Union Estate on La Digue and its population of giant tortoise is another not-to-be-missed experience. Hire a bike and cycle around this petite 3km by 3km island, visiting the old coconut plantation house or the sleepy tropical port of La Passe.
Going underwater is another favourite Seychelles pastime. Waters are calm, clear and teaming with life. Diving and snorkelling amidst its impressive granite outcrops, shallow shelves and colourful coral gardens is a must, with some of the best dive sites north of Mahé island. Most hotels have dive centres or access to snorkelling and cater for all levels, including children.
The islands capital Victoria on Mahé is charming and compact with colonial architecture, a bustling market, where the aroma of cinnamon, ylang-ylang and a myriad of other spices hang in the air, and an immaculately manicured botanical garden that’s worth a turn.
With such an idyllic setting it’s not surprising that jetsetters have been frequenting these islands for decades and ultra-luxury resorts and honeymooning couples are plentiful. However, this tropical paradise is more affordable than you think and, while its year-round temperate climate gives it a boost up the winter sun bucket lists, its’ best weather coincides perfectly with our summer holiday season so please don’t leave your children at home they’ll love it!
Travel Bureau’s Top Hotel Picks
The Four Seasons on Mahé is truly luxury at its best. Built into a hillside forest above a crescent-shaped white beach this serene and sophisticated hotel offers top-quality facilities, sensational dining and first-class service. Every villa faces the ocean, each with its own private pool and the private residences are fantastic for larger families or groups of friends.
Le Domaine de l’Orangeraie on La Digue is a small hotel with just 63 tree-house style villas built amongst tropical gardens stretching up the hillside. The higher you go the better the view! Just a few steps to the beach and the offshore coral reef offers great snorkelling.
Constance Lemuria on Praslin has just 105 suites and villas but with an 18- hole championship golf course (green fees included for residents), marvellous spa, three-tiered infinity pool and three beautiful beaches it’ll bowl you over. It’s kids club and sports activities make it a great choice for families.