The Seychelles is probably on everyone’s bucket list. As part of an Archipelago, it offers great diversity with each Island providing it’s own individual appeal. The French are infatuated with La Digue, riding around on their bikes as if they are at home on the sleepy Islands of Noirmoutier or Ile de Ré. Praslin and Mahé have larger Island appeal and there are several small Islands set aside for conservation where you can hike and enjoy the wildlife. The surreal scenery, remote location and gorgeous water are worth every ounce of hassle that it takes to get there.
The Seychelles are not all exactly the ‘Desert Islands’ that many might think they are, unless you are staying at the divine but costly North Island–where Will and Kate honeymooned, or Fregaté, another exclusive Island resort–you may wind up disappointed. So long as you are realistic, the larger Islands offer slices of paradise; you just have to do some research and leg-work in order to seek these special locations out.
When you visit the Seychelles, plan on staying a while. This is a place that is hard to get to. (Look for an upcoming travel guru post on this! The truth is, once you make the effort to go once, you probably won’t go back. I, for one, arrived totally exhausted and could barely drag myself off my sun bed (or away from the beach for that matter) for about five days. Weather in the Seychelles is highly unpredictable. Heavy rain and hot, humid weather can really bog you down. Travel Guru suggests visiting in June, July and August. These months have the least rain; we went in November and it only rained for a couple of days, in short heavy bursts, although it was often overcast. If you are thinking of Christmas, apparently December is wet. This is not really a destination you should go to for just a beach holiday. There is so much in the way of nature to explore, that as long as you look at this as an ‘exploration vacation’, you won’t be disappointed, rain or shine.
Choosing the of hotel is always a dilemma. Many believe that the hotel is just a room; you are out all the time so why bother shelling out for a fancy resort? Well, this depends on the resort. The right resort (not necessarily the most expensive) will offer accommodation in tune with the landscape that surrounds it and hopefully the combination of nature and a tad of luxury will coax you to rest and absorb the environment slowly, allowing the vibes to sink in.
The vast majority of the villas at the Four Seasons Hotel, Mahé are set high on the hill amidst lots of lush foliage and surround you with a feeling of coziness not claustrophobia. The designers of the Four Seasons, Mahé have created a tangible ethos combining architecture with nature. In comparison with the view of the resort from the beach, our arrival at The Four Seasons was underwhelming. The grounds are lovely but we were not impressed by the design of the lobby area and as usual with most hotel stays, we had to change rooms… (angry growling sound). Eventually we found the right room. Actually, it was one of the best hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in. Mainly due to the view but also in it’s comfort level and ‘want to stay in the room’ desirability!
I love indoor/outdoor living. All of the rooms have this feature but the rooms with the plunge pools really are the ‘G’. Normally I like totally minamal to look at, but to live with, you actually want comfort; and these rooms work. I loathe tile floors. The floors here are wood. Wood makes you want to linger; tile makes you want to leave.
At the Four Seasons both the food and decor at the restaurants are ‘so so’. The main restaurant has a lovely over water pool feature and super sushi bar. However the fine dining restaurant is not completeley separate from the ‘everyday’ restaurant and unfortunately the identity of the design loses kudos. Due to the lack of interesting food choices, we approached the restaurant staff and asked if they could make us a simple curry one night and a ‘basic’ lobster feast another evening. Both were far from simple and were totally outstanding. There was an amazing young Chef from India here that really was a gem and prepared the meals using the freshest ingredients. All of the staff in the Hotel were always most accommodating and ‘top notch’.
The Hotel is too far way from town to go there for dinner, and honestly, I can’t think of anything worse than eating dinner in Victoria. The good news is that the Banyan Tree is very close and has an amazing Thai restaurant, Saffron. We ate there three times. The Banyan Tree also has the best bar in the Seychelles for old world ambience. The Colonial style of the Hotel brings a bit of glamour to your evening; the porch is lovely for a drink also.
One thing to note about the Banyan Tree, driving in the Seychelles is on the left (civilized). In the dark this particular drive gets interesting as there is a sharp drop to the sea, which is right next to you on the way back, with no lights or barriers. Best to get a taxi if you are planning on drinking. I never saw The Banyan Tree in the daylight but the sound of the waves crashing made me believe this beach may get some surf, on our beach there was only the sound of gently lapping waves.
When you are ready to explore further afield, the Island of Mahé has a bustling and busy town, Victoria, which is actually the smallest capital city in the world even has a small port. We headed out to drive up the North Coast to Victoria. I’m not in love with the North Coast or Victoria. You are supposed to be able to find beauty in any location but it wasn’t happening for me! There is a market here every day but it’s thronging on Saturday and hot, humid, sticky weather turned this visit into ‘battle of wills’ but we stuck it out and survived. However It’s stll worth checking out the local produce and having a snack– if you don’t mind being hot sweaty and irritiable. Victoria itself was underwhelming and although I was desperate to explore, I wished we hadn’t left our idyllic resort.
I started to feel resentful with each passing second and inevitably this resulted in some heated car arguments on the way home (!). Inevitably you will come across run of the mill and semi ‘industrial’ scenery and the squalor that you often find on Caribbean Islands. Breathe as you pass by the nasty parts.The deserted beautiful parts are there in between the rest; you just need to look out for them and be willing to explore. Be sure during your visit to the Seychelles to include a day trip to Silhouette, Curieuse or Cousine Islands where you can find rare, re-introduced tortoises, hike and experience the Seychelles nature and wildlife up close.
We got some great shots of the South Coast near to The Four Seasons, however when you leave make sure you take note of the direction you came from. The signage for the hotel is appalling and there are many turns involved to get there. I never loose my way but the first time we ventured out, we had a problem finding the hotel the way back, although we were only minutes away. Frustrating, to say the least.
The area near The Four Seasons was really tranquil. These settings were peaceful, undisturbed and indicative of true Seychelles life. Here is a link to a map of Mahé to help you see the ‘lay of the land’.
Heaven forbid there could be a better hotel, restaurant or beach that I didn’t know about. There wasn’t on the north coast– so now I could relax, until it was time expolre the nothern part of the South Coast! Note to self: remember you always enjoy a place more the second time, after you’ve put in the legwork and scoped it out.
Back to the refuge of hotel and beach. Happy sigh. The pool scene at The Four Seasons is very ‘family’ but let me be clear there were hardly any families here, the ambience feels ‘family’ and the bar at the pool is ‘so so’. I suggest ordering a bottle of Rosé for the beach and avoiding the pool. Perfect.
After the beach has been fully explored head back to your indoor/outdoor bathroom and plunge pool. Ours had a dizzying view.
Even from the bathtub you could soak and luxuriate while enjoying the view.
The sun starts to go down…
I hate to worry about costs when on holiday but realistically the hotel champagne and cocktail costs were crazy. The good news is on that non-descript road to Victoria there was at least a liquor store and we purchased some champagne and Cosmo ‘fixings’ to avoid extortionate hotel costs. It felt pretty good knowing how much we were saving adding extra warmth as we sipped our drinks on the glowing sunset perch.
As we watched the sun set we were rewarded with the most gorgeous colors mixed with extrodinary cloud formations.
I was loath to leave the resort again but the rest of the south coast had to be tackled. We drove up the coast to the Constance Ephelia resort and beyond, right to the top of the Island. I hadn’t planned on going to this resort but it was the only place I found worth stopping at for lunch. There is a cute, locals lunch place right near the Four Seasons on the beach but we were headed further afield. The Ephielia is nicely laid out with a nice selection of lounge and restaurant areas. It was, in my opinon, a bit sterile although it had super lobby areas it is built on a very flat piece of land; which wasn’t great as there was no ‘nestling in’ to the property. We had a sushi for lunch at Corossol with a view of the fabulous beach and pool.
The beach view looked onto some cool rock groupings and the water was shallow, perfect for wading quite far out! Heaven.
The pool and beach at The Ephelia were not packed. Both areas had a nice aura, however as the Hotel itself is on a flat piece of land, I found it lacking in interest. The beach is also difficult to access for non-residents, this is a big plus and is due to the fact the grounds are set on a sort of ‘lobe’ with beach on all three sides. I wasn’t keen on the lay out of the rooms and there were are no views from the interior villas.
The next excursion away from The Four Seasons was for three days. We went to Praslin, which incidentally is 14.67 sq miles and La Digue, 4 sq miles. Mahé by the way is the largest of the Islands at 59.85 sq miles. We were supposed to stay four nights but I really disliked our hotel and was longing for my beach. We flew to Praslin from Mahé on Air Seychelles just a 15 min flight. Do not take the catamaran. You will, inevitably vomit. Everyone does. Not fun. From there we hired a taxi to go to the ferry and then over to La Digue which was a 15 minute ride from Praslin. All easy.
Here is a link to the useful info on the Islands/Ferries.
La Digue. Nice, very nice, gorgeous beaches but it’s not my idea of paradise. La Digue is a bit scrawny and a touch tatty. As far as the ‘Herd of Giant Tortoises’ — do the guidebooks mean the herd of tortoises in the breezeblock built enclosure? Instead save another day to go to the small Island reserves in the Seychelles where tons of research and huge efforts have been made to allow these wonderful creatures to exist in a more natural environment. You go to La Digue for the rocks and beaches. One day is possibly enough.
There are numerous ways to get around La Digue. There are no cars here– this allows you to connect to the Island in a special way. When you arrive by ferry, you will immediatley see that there are a few bike places right there, or you can get an Ox and Cart. Yes, Ox and Cart. I wasn’t prepared for this and although tempted eventually decided it was a NO. They move super slow and we were only here for the day.
Many opt not to hire bikes and walk the Island. Quite frankly there is nothing to see on the interior of the Island; the idea is to get to the beaches, fast. We grabbed bikes stopped at a local store for water bottles and headed out to photograph the most divine rock formations.
The Island is relatively busy if you wanted to stay in La Digue over night, you would need to book. I’m not sure where everyone is staying. The Island is teaming with the French and they look settled, so they must be staying somewhere but I can tell you it’s low budget, low asthetic accommodation only. I looked really hard in every nook and crany and really didn’t see anything that charming. I’m sure there must be hidden gems???
Head to Loutier Coco restaurant on Grand Anse beach. It’s rustic but lovely. Enjoy grilled fish and a Creole buffet. I loved the bar. Here is a link so you can view the restaurant location and also see a map of La Digue.
The approach to the restaurant is a slice of that perfect paradise that you will find here (in spots). So lovely to be walking through almost deserted, desert island territory and stumble across the perfect beach bar and restaurant. Now I was happy.
BTW: Quote from Seychelles site “Avoid the spots where dried sea grass lies on the beach: sand flies lay their eggs there. Don’t scratch the itchy skin, although it’s easier said than done: scratching often leads to infections. Use insect repellent.”
Personally I left any kind of extensive beach time for our resort, they deliberatly remove every scrap of sea grass from the beach so as to discourage sand fly infestations! No brainer. (I hope those gorgeous tanned french girls are infested with sand flies.) JK?
Our next stop was to our Hotel on Praslin. Remember if you decide to go to Praslin all International Transfers arrive at Mahé International airport. You, or your hotel, will need to arrange transport to your accommodation. To reiterate; do not take the Catamaran, you will vomit. While you are in Praslin one of the first things to do is take a hike through the Vallée De Mai, a Unesco World Heritage site. Here you can see the Coco De Mer palm, which has the largest seed in the world, and is quite a controversial shape! Rare Black Parrots can be seen here. The highest mountain in the Seychelles is also in Praslin, Fond Azore at 1224ft.
We stayed at Raffles Hotel. Primarily because it was the newest hotel with a successful contemporary design. It is well positioned on the Anse Takamaka on the northeastern tip of Praslin with a view toward Curieuse Island. The main building and terraces were well designed and they have a proper bar and super restaurants. I have to mention that the food at the Hotel was very good, well prepared and delicious. The rooms however are way too small and extremely close together offering little privacy from neighbors.
We left Raffles during the day to explore the Island. The Vallée de Mai was a worthwhile experience but rainy for us. Sadly no photos. 🙁 I wasn’t totally thrilled about the rest of the Island and Raffels had a nice position so we hung out there when not out and about. We had intense rain on Praslin and the weather got in the way of checking out all the good spots. Anse Lazio Beach, however, was worth visiting. Bon Bon Plume restaurant is on this beach situated on the waters edge and offers basic Creole cuisine. Perfect for lunch, rustic but they have good wine and ice buckets. A couple of great hours were spent at this spot. I’m all about European length lunches!
Anse Lazio beach on Praslin is divine, the rocks are sensational. You will get great shots here; I hope you have good weather.
Sadly during the construction of Raffles most of the foliage, trees and shrubbery were aggressively cleared, it will take years for the surrounding area to recover and it makes a harsh backdrop for the Hotel.
The view from above Raffles was gorgeous, looking out to a small deserted island and also across to Curieuse Island where you can see the giant tortoises. Here is a link to a map of Praslin.
We would have liked to have visited Anse Volbert and Baie Ste. Anne but Raffles is on the opposite end of the Island but we had already squeezed in so much, not allowing enough down time. La Digue and Praslin had been our main focus and although they are not exactly the ‘wilderness’, they lived up to the hype, in a totally unexpected way. We were only here for a few nights and had enjoyed the exploration but were ready to return to The Four Seasons on Mahé. We were excited to re-experience our sunset perch with sweeping views.
When we returned to the hotel we were happy to be back in paradise. ‘Paradise’ has a different meaning for every traveler but the term is most apt for me when most of my expectations have been satisfied, the exploring is under my belt and I have returned to the sun bed. How smart that we had planned to be here for a few days at the end of the trip, several more glorious days to experience The Seychelles and we were not going anywhere. Heaven.
On our last morning the beach was particularly beautiful. I did shed a tear to be leaving such a beautiful place.
The shells at The Four Season’s beach were fabulous; the best I have ever collected! HOWEVER, Cone shells, which the island is famous for and I did find, are best not picked up if they are alive as they can inject a seriously nasty poison into you. Also I found live Cowrie shells so obviously don’t take those! I honestly developed back spasms from all the shell seeking. Check out this link for information on the Cone shells.
The last evening on the blissful deck.
I have to say, this was an amazing vacation. Now, mostly due to wanting to use our air miles, we were facing 35 hours of travel, involving several connections, to get home. Some flat, some not. Still grueling. I don’t remember much about the return journey; gratefully it’s all a big blur.
To quote a Seychelles website, “high tides are advancing on the Islands and erosion is taking over”; so don’t leave it too long. (Although I can’t imagine the granite and high hills going away anytime soon but I can see that the beaches will eventually deteriorate.)
This is a special group of Islands; keep it on your bucket list. When you do go try not to constantly rush about, forcing yourself out every minute! You actually don’t absorb as much of the ‘aura’ or unique ‘sense of place’ that the Seychelles exudes unless you sit still at least some of the time. Soak up the sounds and smells and just BE! You may miss something but the memories you do have will be more vivid. Hopefully, one day, I will learn to follow my own advice 🙂