Source: OK! Magazine, Issue 1085, May 30 2017
With wedding season in full swing, the Seychelles – an archipelago of 115 idyllic tropical islands scattered across the Indian Ocean – is a firm favourite with honeymooners. As well as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – who have holidayed there twice – celebrities such as George and Amal Clooney and Frankie and Wayne Bridge have all chosen the Seychelles for their honeymoon. So perhaps Kate may have suggested that this would be the perfect spot for her sister Pippa Middleton and her new husband James Matthews to celebrate their recent nuptials.
Blue skies, crimson sunsets and turquoise waters combine with white sands and swaying palm trees to make these islands super-romantic retreats. The most taxing question is which island to choose. The inner islands of Praslin and La Digue are more developed as they’re the closest to the capital Mahé, while the outer islands are less accessible and you’re probably more likely to bump into a giant tortoise than a human! Taking advantage of the new Etihad Airways flights to Mahé, OK!’s Lina Darton went to see if the islands lived up to their hype…
Where can I stay?
Connected to Mahé by a 300m bridge, Eden Island is home to glitzy condos, hotels, boutiques, a casino and the International Marina. After a ten-minute drive from the airport, OK! arrived at the Eden Bleu hotel, which comprises 75 deluxe rooms and 12 luxury suites that overlook the marina, with OK!’s room boasting blissful ocean views from the balcony. After island hopping by day, we enjoyed watching the sun set by the infinity pool while sipping the hotel’s signature Bleu cocktail. At the Marlin Bleu restaurant, we loved the watermelon gazpacho with mango bruschetta, grilled red snapper with breadfruit croquette and the coconut delight dessert – a heavenly chocolate palm tree-shaped creation with coconut ice cream.
What can I do?
A short ferry ride took us from Mahé to Praslin, where we discovered the Vallée de Mai, a beautiful UNESCO-listed nature reserve home to a dense population of giant coco de mer trees, famed for its distinctive suggestively-shaped nut. It was so peaceful under the tree canopy, where we spent some time trying (unsuccessfully) to spot the endangered black parrot. Our next stop was Anse Lazio beach. We’d never seen a stretch of sand so picture perfect and the water was so inviting that it didn’t take a second for us to dive in.
Our next trip was to La Digue island, where we enjoyed a traditional Creole lunch of job fish with noodles and dhal at the Fish Trap restaurant. The island’s roads are so narrow that the best way to explore them is on a bike, although we did have to watch out for the slow-moving speed bumps in the form of the rare giant Aldabra tortoises! Our final stop of the day was at the photogenic Anse Source d’Argent beach, which is bordered by gigantic granite boulders.
Where else can I stay?
From Mahé, we boarded a seaplane for the hour-long journey to Alphonse Island, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the Seychelles, around 250 miles south west of Mahé. Comprising 21 beach bungalows and five beach suites, this really is a secluded island paradise, with no TVs in the rooms and no Wi-Fi connection. After a refreshing coconut drink, OK! was shown to our dreamy rustic-chic beach bungalow, just a few steps from the Indian Ocean. Each one comes with a bicycle so you can explore, and we were told to keep our eyes peeled for the island’s oldest inhabitants, George and Ivan, the free-roaming Aldabra giant tortoises. For stargazers, the island is the perfect spot to lay on the beach and marvel at the dazzling Milky Way. If you stay up late enough you may even be able to spot the Southern Cross constellation.
What must I do on Alphonse?
A kaleidoscopic marine kingdom awaits, with 15 dive sites surrounding Alphonse. And, although we’ve snorkelled before, nothing compares to spotting some of the many species of fish that inhabit the waters of this archipelago. After heading to the hotel’s fully equipped PADI dive centre for flippers and a mask, OK! spotted angelfish, clownfish and pufferfish, as well as giant manta rays, turtles and an octopus.
We also signed up for an island cycle tour with a lovely guide called Sam, who took us to secluded beaches and told us all about the island’s history, flora, fauna and wildlife.
Conservation is a key aspect of life on Alphonse and, during our stay, OK! helped to rescue a baby hawksbill turtle who had lost her way. The hotel also grows some of its own produce and, on our bike ride, we sampled several smoothies using the produce.
One day, we took a 30-minute speedboat ride to St François, a tiny uninhabited atoll, where we embarked on a nature walk. As we trekked through the mangrove forest, Sam pointed out hermit crabs, frigate birds and even baby sicklefin lemon sharks and stingrays swimming in the shallow waters.
Where can I eat?
If you want to hide away at Alphonse you can, but there’s a real communal feel to staying there, with guests mingling over drinks before having dinner at the beachfront Le Lys restaurant. Fish is a menu staple and, each night, the arrival of the catch of the day is celebrated with a Milk Tart shot (vodka and condensed milk).
Menu favourites were the grilled tuna and pan-fried wahoo fish accompanied by local butternut squash and aubergines.
A definite trip highlight was the resort’s famous ‘flats lunch’ on a deserted atoll – and we could smell the barbecue long before we arrived on the island! Afterwards, we sat with the waves lapping at our feet, thinking that a stay on Alphonse is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime, must-do experience.
How do I get there?
Etihad Airways (www.etihad.com) flies from London Heathrow via Abu Dhabi to Mahé four times a week. Return economy fares start from £758, while return business fares start from £2,832.
Seven nights full-board, including inter-island seaplane transfers, staying in a beach bungalow on Alphonse Island (www.alphonse-island.com) costs from £9,700 per couple. A seven night stay on a B&B basis in a deluxe room at Eden Bleu (www.edenbleu.com) costs from £2,310 per room. Price based on two sharing.
Report By Lina Darton
Edited By Annabel Mackie, OK! Travel Editor