By Ben West
Scattered like pearls across the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles offer that self-contained island escape that locked-up clients have been dreaming of.
Sunsets and seclusion
I am at Beau Vallon, one of The Seychelles’ most popular beaches, yet you wouldn’t know it as there are very few people about. And there’s a further 65 or so beaches I could have chosen on this island, Mahé, alone.
That’s not to say there’s not plenty to do. I’m about to tackle a not-too-demanding hill hike taking in freshwater streams and huge granite boulders.
I will be rewarded by the most breathtaking views of some of the archipelago of 115 islands that comprise The Seychelles, peppered among the seemingly endless Indian Ocean.
There’s been a lot of focus of late on the Seychelles. Implementing one of the world’s most successful Covid vaccination programmes has made it possible for it to currently allow people from the UK to visit, irrespective of vaccination status. Visitors are only required to present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure, and there is no quarantine requirement.
“Travellers’ journeys to the Seychelles continue uninterrupted and the islands remain safe for travel despite a recent rise in community Covid-19 cases, which in May prompted tighter health measures,” says Sherin Francis, CEO, Seychelles Tourism Board.
“Aside from its pearly white beaches surrounded by turquoise waters and emerald rainforests, the archipelago offers visitors an array of wonders. Travellers can easily hop from one island to the other. Each of these tropical gems possess unique characteristics. Nature sanctuaries, historical sites, cultural villages, culinary adventures, aquatic activities, hiking trails, luxurious establishments, rustic guest houses, all at a single stop. We share the true meaning of the Creole spirit and island living with them.”
Islands of choice
Accommodation varies from one-resort island retreats to bigger, less exclusive family-friendly options. Although a direct flight from London, at around 10 hours, is about the same as for the Caribbean, the time difference is more beneficial in the Seychelles as there is not the jet lag a trip to the Caribbean can entail.
And although there are monsoons, the Seychelles does not suffer from the extreme weather patterns seen in the Caribbean, which has a hurricane season that can run from June to November. It enjoys stable weather throughout the year, and the islands are free from earthquakes and active volcanoes.
“Alphonse Island and the more remote outer islands of the Seychelles, where people can feel even more removed, are selling well at the moment,” says Matt Shock, Travel Specialist at luxury travel company Original Travel.
“Remote destinations that offer a degree of safety like the Seychelles are definitely on the radar for clients,” agrees Ocean Independence Managing Partner, Nicholas Dean.
“Island time is a real thing. You can enjoy all the joys of a bustling town, but away from there discover stunning, mostly uninhabited, islands.”
Adds Shock: “An island holiday has always been appealing to those who seek true escapism and a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience. The popularity of island escapes has increased since the pandemic as people seek places that are less populated, less crowded, offer more freedom and a safe and secure environment.”
Hotels: Centrally located on Mahé, L’Escale Resort Marina & Spa is a new luxury boutique resort at the site of the former Wharf Hotel. Accommodation at the resort comprises 25 rooms/suites (from standard to deluxe), a royal suite, spa pool villas, the Penthouse and the Presidential Villa. The Marina has been upgraded to accommodate superyachts.
Club Med Seychelles opened in March, a brand new destination for the company and the first time the brand has opened a resort on its own private island – Sainte Anne. There are kids’ clubs, two restaurants, three bars, a spa area with 11 treatment rooms, and a Zen hideaway with a calm pool, yoga and meditation classes.
Full-board, open bar, activities, entertainment and kids club are included in packages.
Newly refurbished facilities, including upgraded public areas, updated accommodation, two new restaurants and a new pop-up Gin Bar, are all features at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme.
Having unveiled Mahé’s first artificial reef in 2018, guests are invited to get involved, such as snorkelling to see the positive impact of this work, or by adopting a piece of coral to track its growth and development after they’ve left the hotel.
Monthly ‘Sustainable Days’ encourage guests to get involved in activities from beach cleans to swapping the gym for a local Seychellois Moutya dance.
Having a rum time: A visit to the charming Takamaka rum distillery at La Plaine St. Andre, built in 1792, can include a distillery and garden tour followed by a rum tasting. Sample the unique Creole cuisine at the restaurant and bar, or simply purchase the fine rums at the shop. takamakarum.com (currently closed due to Covid)
Island hop with a yacht charter:
In these Covid times a yacht is one of the safest ways to enjoy tailor made, “bubble” travel, without having to mix with crowds. For those with big budgets the 65-metre Sea Rhapsody is based in the Seychelles and available for private charter to explore the many isles and islets, fishing, diving, discovering the exotic wildlife or just lounging on the pristine beaches between sailings.
Explore and conserve: From May to September 2021, Alphonse Island, 400km north of Mahé, will be running a Explorer Season Conservation Experience. Encompassing a series of conservation projects, from beach clean-ups and tree planting to turtle monitoring and underwater wildlife photography, dedicated environmentalists and marine biologists will navigate guests through the island’s exotic ecosystem.
Immerse yourself in the market:
Victoria’s market on Mahé is a photographers’ dream, and it isn’t touristy. Join the locals shopping there for an array of fish, fruits, vegetables, spices and much more. Outside Victoria, Domaine de Val des Près (craft village) has colourful huts displaying locally made items like textiles, carvings and clothing.
Where to book it
Kuoni offers seven nights in a beachfront villa at Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, with Emirates flights from London Gatwick. From £1,949pp for selected dates in November 2021.
Learn to free dive with Christian Burger, Zimbabwean free-diving record holder, at Alphonse Island. No previous diving experience/equipment is required. From £7,220pp for seven nights at Alphonse Island in a beach bungalow, full board. The deal includes international and domestic flights, two day of tuition, a night at Eden Bleu and transfers.