By Glynn Burridge
Seychelles’ natural beauty has fascinated travellers for centuries, but this archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean – many of which still slumber in their original, pristine state – offers more than just beaches (though they are a great place to start). From aquatic adventures to lip-tingling Creole cuisine, local writer Glynn Burridge reveals six reasons to visit this tropical paradise.
The Seychelles’ pristine stretches of sand are regularly ranked among the most beautiful in the world – and with minimal crowds, warm waters and blindingly white sands, it’s easy to see why. Anse Lazio on Praslin Island is an eternal favourite among the island’s sun worshippers for its ‘away-from-it-all’ setting and snorkelling opportunities, while La Digue’s Anse Source D’argent is famous for its picture-perfect dappled turquoise waters and granite boulders.
The main island Mahé, has 65 beaches of its own. Topping the list are Anse Intendance, with its 2km strand and impressive breakers; laid-back Carana beach; Beau Vallon – which is very much the place to see and be seen – and the local’s favourite Anse Royale in south Mahé. Top tip: whichever beach you end up at, be sure to check the surroundings for a beachside restaurant for that ultimate feet-in-the-sand dining experience.
Love is in the air
Prince William and Kate Middleton’s choice of Seychelles for their honeymoon catapulted the islands to fame as the ultimate romantic getaway. With a wild, natural beauty and year-round tropical warmth, it’s difficult to imagine a more perfect destination for weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries or even an impromptu romantic break. Being so close to the equator, the Seychelles has some of the most magical, coral-coloured sunsets, and if you head down to a solitary beach such as Mahé’s Grand Anse, you can enjoy it with few people around. Top it off with a romantic dinner for two at Delplace’s Restaurant, which has a bewitching panorama of an inland lagoon surrounded by a horseshoe of pretty islets.
Seychelles is home to a spectacular array of flora and fauna, including some of the world’s rarest species. Don’t miss a trip to Vallée de Mai – a Unesco World Heritage Site – on Praslin, where the world heaviest nut, the coco-de-mer, grows on ancient palms in a hidden valley. Back on Mahé, the Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of the capital, Victoria, offer a bite-sized experience of Seychelles’ natural world and an impressive collection of endemic palms, the famous cannonball tree, and an old orchid garden. Nature lovers will also want to make the most of the network of walks and trails criss-crossing the islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue – but it is always advisable to take a guide and avoid the midday sun.
The saying goes that God made the Seychelles with sailors in mind, and viewing these islands from the ocean is difficult to beat. Start with a trip to Praslin or La Digue on the fast catamaran, Cat Cocos – you might even spot a dolphin or whale. Excursions are available from the main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue to surrounding islands for swimming, snorkelling and beach barbecues. For the more adventurous, there are great thrills to be had on deep-sea fishing or diving expeditions. It’s not uncommon to see up to 800 different species on a dive, including turtles, several species of ray, grouper, parrotfish, hump-head wrasse and a kaleidoscopic array of coral reef fish.
Seychelles’ capital, Victoria, is easily explored in half a day. Start with an early morning visit to its traditional market to see the Seychellois Creole way of life – you’ll spot locals doing their weekly shopping for fruit, vegetables, spices and fresh fish. Discover hidden art galleries like the ones on Market Street, where you can view paintings by local artists as well as find shops selling silk screens, colourful pareos (sarongs) and tropical shirts with island motifs. The capital is also home to a few museums – the Museum of Natural History is a great place to get a sense of the island’s history, and is home to a collection of artefacts dating back to the island’s earliest settlers.
Food for thought
French cuisine was brought to the islands by the first settlers and later added to by English colonists and influences from immigrants from India and China, making Creole cuisine a melting pot of cultures. Sample some of the best at Auberge Chez Plume, where the specialities including ginger crab and filet au capitaine (a coral reef fish similar to a bream) in a passionfruit sauce. For fine dining, book a table in advance at La Grande Maison, a totally refurbished old plantation house with beautiful gardens and an ambiance to match. Don’t miss the freshly cut palm-heart salad with truffles and curry leaves (or the selection of fine rum). The island’s night bazaars are also a great place to taste homemade local food and drinks, such as cassava chips, boudin (blood sausage), and bacca, a local sugarcane liquor.