By Kathryn Liston | June 2016 | 15 minute read
Offering islands of different characters, wildlife, dreamy beaches and boutique hotels, the Seychelles is positioning itself as the place in the Indian Ocean to fly and hop.
"As other islands in the Indian Ocean become more popular, the Seychelles’ unique selling point is that it still has an untouched paradise feel that clients who island hop can experience on many different islands.”
DEBORAH WADHAMS, SENIOR PRODUCT MANAGER INDIAN OCEAN, TRAVEL 2
Turtle watch: Booklets and ‘turtle wardens’ at hotels teach visitors about turtle nests, habitat and egg-laying habits
Go barefoot: With so many gorgeous beaches it’s hard to choose the best. On Praslin, Anse Lazio has been rated by Giorgio Armani as one of the best in the world
Wedded bliss: Palm-fringed, deserted beaches, frothy turquoise seas and gigantic granite boulders provide a stunning backdrop for wedding photographs – and wedding organisers can arrange the perfect day
Hopping mad: With 115 islands to choose from your clients would be crazy to stay on Mahé and miss the charms of Praslin, La Digue and Fregate, to name a few. Inter-island flights fill quickly, so book early
Zone out: Zen spas, vanilla-infused treatments, Balinese massages and yoga on the beach – there are lots of luxury spas offering pampering treatments
Snorkelling hotspots: On Desroches Island, The Aquarium and Passe Tambi are great places to spot turtles and stingrays. Visibility is best from September to May
Unique and UNESCO: The Vallée de Mai on Praslin and Curieuse are the only places in the world you can see naturally-growing Coco de Mer trees, replete with their enormous female-shaped fruits
Time for tea: Tea is still grown on the slopes of Morne Blanc, Mahé. Try local blends (hot or cold), with mint, cinnamon and other spices at the Tea Tavern onsite
The scent of vanilla: The Seychelles is one of the cheapest places to buy vanilla pods pollinated by hand. Sniff out a bargain at the market in Victoria on Mahé
Handmade crafts: Sir Selwyn Clarke market in Victoria, Mahé, is the best place to buy batik work, woven baskets, straw hats and beautifully-crafted wooden ornaments and model boats
Hop to it
Unlike its Indian Ocean neighbours, the Seychelles has both granite and coral islands. This means your clients can enjoy picturesque mountains as well as sandy beaches on Mahé, Praslin, Silhouette and La Digue, or kick back on beautiful flat coral islands such as Bird, Denis and the outer islands.
Mahé, the biggest of the 115 islands, draws the lion’s share of visitors through its variety of hotels, shops, restaurants and nightlife. It is often twinned with Praslin, 15 minutes away by air or an hour by high-speed catamaran. Praslin is a quieter island with amazing beaches.
Sleepy La Digue is a popular day trip from Praslin. It takes just 15 minutes by ferry but it is worth stopping over to experience the tranquility and slow pace of life.
Mahé and Praslin offer the biggest variety of accommodation, everything from luxury international hotels such as the Banyan Tree and Raffles to the four-star AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa – one of Travel 2’s top-selling hotels – and family-run guesthouses.
Mahé’s Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa has long been a source of inspiration to the creative mind. Clients will instantly understand why the natural surroundings inspired Ian Fleming to pen one of his most famous 007 stories, For Your Eyes Only.
The Seychelles Tourist Office’s ‘Affordable Seychelles’ campaign, which focuses on inexpensive family-run accommodation, has been breaking down perceptions that the islands are expensive and just for the rich and famous.
The current focus on affordability and an increase in air capacity by Emirates and Etihad Airways from Birmingham and Edinburgh airports seems to be paying off: the Seychelles received a 32% increase in UK visitors to 16,472 last year.
My Seychelles experience
I usually prefer my eggs poached but I am about to experience some rather different fresh eggs as I place my order for breakfast at the Constance Lemuria Resort on Praslin.
A loud shout goes up and people start moving to the beach. Is it a celebrity? No, it’s a much more important VIP guest than that. A huge female hawksbill turtle hauls herself out of the sea onto the beach and digs a hole in the white-powder sand right by a sunbed. She then begins to lay her eggs.
One by one, small translucent jelly-like eggs plop out every few minutes into the hole. This goes on for ages and I am transfixed by what I see. Finally, she cups her rear flippers and shovels clouds of sand over the hole, obliterating any trace of the eggs she has just laid. She looks exhausted but manages to haul herself back down the beach before disappearing into the waves.
This is just one of several amazing sights I witness in the Seychelles.The day before, at the nearby UNESCO-listed Vallée de Mai, I marvelled at the sheer size and beauty of Coco de Mer seeds shaped like a women’s lower torso. They are the largest seed in the plant kingdom and endemic to the Seychelles.
Over in nearby La Digue I relaxed on beautiful Anse Source d’Argent, flanked by gigantic granite boulders. Then, returning to Mahé, I overdosed on picture-postcard views of mountains and frothy seas.
What the experts say
“This year we will continue to focus on the affordability of the islands with the Seychelles Secrets campaign which features niche hotels that are family operated.
“We are making a push for visitors to be out and about, which means clients don’t always need a big five-star hotel.
“Families are also increasing because more hotels are offering interconnecting rooms and activities and we will be raising more awareness of this business.”
“A 32% increase in UK visitors – to 16,472 last year compared to 2014 – is due to a variety of reasons. Air capacity has increased tremendously from the UK, particularly out of the north. Etihad introduced flights from Edinburgh to Abu Dhabi late last year and Emirates increased capacity to Dubai with an Airbus A380 out of Birmingham.
“We are also continuing to focus on training and incentives for the travel trade. Our annual roadshow will take place in four UK cities between October 31 and November 3.”
TINAZ WADIA, MANAGER, SEYCHELLES TOURISM BOARD
Accommodation: Six Senses Zil Pasyon will open on Félicité in September with 28 one- and two- bedroom villas, all with private pools. Prices start from E1200 (£64) a night B&B.
Banyan Tree Seychelles has introduced a new Spa Sanctuary Villa category which includes unlimited massages for guests. Daily yoga classes, including a sustainability session which donates $10 to wildlife conservation, have also been introduced.
Hilton Seychelles’ three properties – Northolme Resort & Spa, Labriz Resort & Spa and DoubleTree Resort Allamanda – have relaunched their spas under the Eforea brand. The treatments feature local ingredients such as coconut oil, white clay and aloe vera.
Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort recently opened 16 Grand Oceanview pool villas and a two-bedroom Presidential pool villa.
Complimentary wifi access is accessible throughout the Eden Blue Hotel on Eden Island, just off the coast of Mahé.
Children between eight and 15 stay free on a B&B basis when sharing their parents’ room at the Enchanted Island Resort (jaresortshotels.com) in the Sainte Anne Marine Park.
The luxury Constance Lemuria Resort on Praslin is undergoing a $11-million renovation that is due to be completed by November.
Attractions: A fish pond featuring sharks, sea urchins, eels and red snapper has opened at Dan Goulo, just off the coast of La Digue.
Where to book it
Anatolian Sky Holidays offer a seven-night full-board cruise aboard M/Y Pegasus which visits nine islands, including Curieuse and Cousin Island, and starts from £2,199pp. The deal includes return flights and transfers. Departures are available on selected dates until October 29 2016.
Seven nights’ B&B at the four-star AVANI Seychelles Lemur Resort & Spa, Mahé, starts from £1,339pp with Travel 2, including return flights and transfers.
Just Seychelles offers a complimentary upgrade to a sea view room at the Kempinski Seychelles Resort, Mahé, until July 15 2016. Seven nights’ B&B start from £1,409pp, including flights from London and private transfers.