Date visited: November 2015
Post written by Laura
Having spent almost all of 2016 travelling around the world I still consider the beaches of the Seychelles to take first prize as being the most stunningly beautiful! (Although the amazing beaches of the Philippines are a close second…)
Hopefully this post will assist anyone who is considering planning a holiday to the Seychelles. We organised this trip independently which we found to be more affordable and offer more flexibility than booking a package holiday.
In addition there is far more to the Seychelles than beaches! While we enjoy snorkelling, coastal walks and gorgeous beaches, neither of us like to sit or sunbathe on them.
The Seychelles is an African country made up of 115 islands dotted in the Indian Ocean. Only 92,000 (lucky) people live there making this the lowest populated country of Africa. Mahe is the largest island where the capital, Victoria is located. Praslin and La Digue are the next largest and most populated islands. There are ferries and boat trips available to both of these as well as some of the smaller islands.
This was our 2 week itinerary:
Day 1: Heathrow to Mahe (via Abu Dhabi)
Day 2: Fly from Mahe to Praslin
Day 6: Ferry from Praslin to La Digue and back
Day 10: Fly from Praslin to Mahe
Day 15: Fly back to Heathrow
We flew with Etihad which meant a stopover in Abu Dhabi each way. The layover time was short on the way out which meant quickly changing planes in the early hours of the morning. With its excellent service, staff and food, Etihad is one of my favourite airlines and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again.
Upon arrival in Mahe the International and Domestic airport terminals are next to each other so you simply walk from one to the other. If you are flying straight across to Praslin (as we did) you need to have allowed for any delays to your International flight.
We had booked our Mahe to Praslin flights separately with Air Seychelles and fortunately we were allowed to board an earlier plane. Sometimes they charge 10 Euros per person for this. In fact, it’s handy to have spare Euro’s with you for a Seychelles trip as many outlets accept these.
The plane held about 20 passengers. We watched as the staff put some cases in the front boot of the plane and the rest in the back. We were slightly dismayed that we had the oldest looking plane of the fleet but the 15 minute flight was fine and got us safely across the Indian Ocean for the 45 km to Praslin!
Things to do in Praslin
Hire a car: we paid 45 Euros for each day of car hire. Praslin is a small island and you can drive round it in an hour. There are many beautiful beaches and luxury hotels most of which welcome you in even if you are not staying there. During the days we had the car we popped into several different hotels, had a drink and perhaps a snack or lunch and we were allowed to use their beach, bars and pool for the time we were there.
If you don’t hire a car there is a bus network around the island where you can take a short trip for 5 rupees (£0.30).
Vallee De Mai nature reserve: this is a World Heritage Site, open daily and with free admission. The valley contains the largest forest of coco de mer trees in the world. There are several trails and you can follow any of these through the lush green forest whilst looking out for black parrots! We didn’t see any throughout our two and a half hour walk around the longer trail however.
Anze Lazio Beach: Located at the northern tip of Praslin and promoted as the best beach of the island, you can park the car nearby and walk for 2 minutes until you reach the soft snowy white sands with brilliant blue sea. This slice of paradise is a popular beach for snorkelling. We had a drink in the Bonbon Plume restaurant which is located right next to the beach. We only stayed for a drink however as the food was expensive.
Anse Volbert Beach: with its stunning stretch of white sand and clear turquoise water this was one of our favourite beaches. The beach is lined with a string of low key bars and restaurants, perfect for lunch with a fabulous view. This is the beach from which many of the boats leave for day trips to nearby islands.
Constance Lemuria resort: as mentioned, you can drive to most of the islands luxury hotels and have lunch or a drink without booking. This isn’t the case with the 5* Constance Lemuria! It is usually necessary to book lunch at least a day in advance. We treated ourselves to lunch for our wedding anniversary!
Upon arrival you check in at the security gate, then walk past the golf course to the hotel’s reception. Even as lunch guests we were made to feel most welcome as we were taken to the lounge and given complementary iced tea and a cold flannel each. We were told we could use the showers and beach towels as we wished throughout our time there.
The hotel has swimming pools and three beaches, one of which is Anse Georgette, another world class beach! From the hotel it takes around 20 minutes to walk (past the golf course) to Anse Georgette.
Day trip to Curieuse Island:
From our apartment we were collected at 9:15 by Sagittarius tours who drove us to Anse Volbert where we handed over the equivalent of £50 in cash for both of us which included the car transfer each way. We were shown to the small speedboat and once another two passengers got on the four of us were taken to Curieuse Island. We had to pay another 400 rupees (£20) for both of us to enter the island. 300 giant tortoises roam freely on the island and they have a conservation pen for baby giant tortoises.
We then set off along the mangrove trail where we had a slow walk in the heat through the mangroves and spotted plenty of crabs. The path went up and down as it twisted and turned towards the Doctors House where the speedboat would pick us up at 13:00 (giving us 3 hours on the island). The Doctors House was previously a leper colony but is now an interesting visitors centre containing information, photographs and artifacts.
We arrived at the amazing Anse St Jose beach (next to the Doctors House) at 11:30 and did some snorkelling until we were picked up at 13:00. The other people were being picked up later (you can specify your own time schedules) so the boat driver took Chris and me to the next islet, St Pierre for snorkelling. The snorkelling was amazing and we saw a huge abundance of fish (but didn’t have the Go-Pro then so no underwater pictures…)
We were there for an hour or so before being picked up and taken back to Anse Volbert. What an excellent trip!
Day trip to La Digue: La Digue is a beautiful traffic-free island and an easy ferry crossing from Praslin. We made our way to the Cat Cocos ferry port in Praslin and waited for a short time until it opened at 08:30. We purchased our return tickets which were about £40 for both of us. The 09:00 ferry left on time and arrived in La Digue at around 09:20.
As we disembarked from the ferry locals ask if you want to hire a bike, the most popular method for exploring the island. We checked the ‘going rate’ in the port’s tourist office who confirmed this was 100-150 rupees per person for the day.
As we left the tourist office we were approached by another local who offered us two bikes for 100 rupees (£6) each. We followed him to his bike shack, handed over 200 rupees and were given two bikes. No forms or deposit or anything.
After picking up some water and snacks from one of several grocery shops we set off in the direction of Anse Source D’Argent allegedly one of the world’s most photographed beaches. After paying a small entrance fee we cycled through the tropical plantations of L’Union Estate awaiting our first glimpse of the beach.
We were not disappointed… our first sighting of the beach was breathtaking! We left the bikes and had a quick dip in the sea then continued walking along the rainforest path and around the giant granite boulders to the main beach. Unfortunately, as a world famous beach, it wasn’t empty and we had to share it with other tourists…
From Anse Source d’Argent we headed back towards the port. After a somewhat expensive snack in the fabulous hotel L’Orangerie we continued cycling towards the north of the island. The cycle path hugged the coastline with the beach on our left as we cycled up and down a couple of steepish hills.
The path suddenly stopped before we reached the northern tip and turned into a rocky slopey foot path and it was impossible to take our bikes any further. We decided to turn back and cycled back to the ferry port area which only took about 10 or 15 minutes.
We returned the bikes but other than a group of locals sitting drinking beer there was nobody to collect them. The locals ignored us so we left the bikes outside the shack and walked back to the ferry port for 4:30 pm ferry back to Praslin.
We had an amazing day on this gorgeous island. In hindsight, rather than having a day trip as we did, we would suggest staying for a couple of nights to explore more of the fabulous La Digue.
Some more of the Praslin restaurants we visited…
Paradise Sun hotel: with its gorgeous beach side location and open air view we had two or three tasty lunches in here. One evening the hotel held a fabulous beach barbeque and buffet which, even though we were not staying we were able to pay for as guests.
Cafe Des Arts: at £97 for both of us, and not including starters, this was the most expensive meal of the entire trip! However we blew the budget for our last night in Praslin and had a wonderful and classy meal, sitting next to the beach where we could hear the sea.
Raffles Hotel: we had an incredibly warm welcome when we had lunch in Raffles. We were collected from the entrance in a golf cart and driven to the main part of the hotel. The lunch was excellent as were the beach and pools. We were taken on a personal tour of the gardens and offered a sun bed and beach towel each which was perfect for some afternoon snorkelling!
Villas de Mer Hotel: this was next to our apartment and we could walk a short distance along the beach to get there so we had breakfast in here two or three times. Dinner was of good quality and not expensive for the Seychelles. For example one night we had a carafe of wine with two delicious curries for around £35.
After 8 fantastic days we flew from Praslins’ modern comfortable airport and back to the ancient shack of Mahe domestic…
Throughout our three full days in Mahe we explored the south, the west and the north of the island by car, again stopping in luxury hotels for snacks and drinks along the way. Driving was relatively easy although, complete with its large crack across the windscreen, the hire car was by no means a luxury vehicle!
These are some of the places we found:
Day 1: south of Mahe
Le Jardine du Roi: this is a spice garden and nature trail in a Seychelles tropical plantation full of rare plants. There is also a small museum, shop and a cafe.
Kempinsky hotel: great to call in for a refreshing mocktail made with fresh local ingredients which you can sip as you overlook the sea!
Maria’s Rock Cafe we stopped for a drink in this weird and quirky place which felt like being up in a big treehouse!
Intendance beach: (above) one of the most famous in Mahe and often described as ‘wild and beautiful’. You need to drive along a muddy and very bumpy track where you can park near the beach in a car park. There was a little circle of tourist cars and a few people on the beach, but not exactly what you might consider ‘crowded’. There is no reef here so the Indian Ocean waves crash directly onto the beach and it was indeed wild and beautiful.
Chez Batista What a lovely place. We had a table where we were both looking out and had an amazing view of the beach. The tuna steaks and chilled rose were awesome too!
Day 2: Victoria and the north of Mahe
Victoria: the capital of the Seychelles… We arrived in Victoria in grey, dull and slightly rainy weather at around 10:30 and parked the car in a central car park. The car park ticket is the equivalent of £0.50 for half a day and this is purchased from a small shop next to the car park.
We walked out of the car park and immediately came across the ‘silver clock’, the memorial Queen Victoria clock where apparently there is a replica near London’s Victoria Station. We walked around Victoria for a short time but to be honest we didn’t find any ‘wow’ factor so headed off in the car to the next place…
From Victoria we drove around the north of the island to the Hilton Seychelles Northolme resort where we had a pleasant lunch overlooking the sea. Thankfully the weather had brightened up a bit! We found a Cannonball tree in the grounds of the Hilton (above). These are native to Central and South America and its huge spherical fruits resemble cannonballs!
From the Hilton we drove to Beau Vallon, which is supposed to be the most popular beach in the Seychelles. It was disappointing, had a few people and other than the dark green mountainous back drop I didn’t think it was anything special at all (although it didn’t help with the cloudy weather). We had a drink in the Boat House bar which was an OK tourist trap kind of place.
Day 3: west of Mahe
Today was a gorgeous hot sunny day and very picturesque as we drove along the west of Mahe heading north towards the Port Launay marine national park.
We drove up to Port Gaude then along a narrow single track twisty road until the road ended at the national park. We parked the car and and had a walk along the wetlands nature reserve.
On the way back we called into the Constance Epheria Resort and were allowed in to have a drink. We parked the car and walked through the lovely interior to a bar where we made ourselves comfortable with a white wine with cassis spritzer.
On one side the resort overlooks the gorgeous Anse L’Islette beach where we walked ankle and knee deep to sand banks right across the bay and even saw a small shark near the rocks!
Lunch was something of a shambles in this hotel! We were given the wrong drinks and waited ages for deep fried vegetable spring rolls which were cold in the middle. However the staff were most apologetic and when given the bill, they hadn’t charged us for the spring rolls and offered us free use of the facilities, pool and towels.
After lunch we decided to have a look around the huge resort and were picked up on a golf trolley and taken through the mangroves to a different beach at the other side of the peninsula. We didn’t stay long as it was quite busy and started to walk back to the reception when we were picked up by another golf trolley.
We left the resort and drove slowly south for about five minutes looking for a waterfall. A local flagged us down offering to be our guide to the waterfall… We had already been asked this a couple of times during the day and while this was slightly random we realised this is what you need to do if you want to see the waterfall…
We followed him as he ran up the road for about 100 meters, turning down a small road we had just passed. We followed the guide and had to hand over 100 rupees (£5) for both of us to a woman who granted permission to go through her garden! A French couple were doing the same thing just in front of us which was a little reassuring…
We followed our guide through the garden and into the jungle beyond. He explained that he and his friend created the jungle path to the waterfall about 8 years ago and they take tourists there each day. We would never have found it by ourselves and it was totally un commercialised. He cut off a piece of cinnamon bark which smelt lovely and showed us vanilla leaves and pointed out a plant with poisonous leaves. We crossed over a river as well as climbing over rocks and boulders.
After about 15 minutes we came to the waterfall which was quite impressive and perhaps about 40 metres high. There was a deep pond at the bottom and a few locals were running around in their underwear climbing up the side and jumping in! We stayed for about 10 minutes then returned to the car.
Eden Island is an island being used to build international complexes and properties aimed at foreigners. We parked in the modern underground car park and walked through the small shopping centre to the marina (which reminded us of Lagos in the Algarve or Puerto Banus in Spain).
We returned later that evening and had a lovely meal in a modern restaurant overlooking the harbour.
Where we stayed
Ocean Jewels apartments – On Praslin island and only three minutes drive from the airport. The owners, Paul and Brenda were first class hosts and gave us a great deal of assistance in organising our car hire, booking tours and assisting us throughout our time here. The beach at Grand Anse wasn’t one of the best and the location was a little ‘out-of-the-way’ but we had a car so this wasn’t a problem for us. There was a handful of restaurants within walking distance although a torch is necessary as the road is pitch black at night.
La Villa Terese – In Mahe… this was a huge apartment complete with full kitchen and washing machine! We had free transfers to and from the airport and each morning the owners brought breakfast round to our apartment on a covered tray. Each breakfast was slightly different and included for example fresh fruit, toast, cheese and ham. Again, the location in Anse Royale wasn’t the best spot in Mahe but we hired a car for our 3 full days which enabled us to set off exploring.
The Seychelles are not a cheap destination and even though we were trying to keep our costs down we were still spending an average of £150 per day for both of us, excluding the cost of accommodation.
So, if I did this trip again, in my view the perfect 2 weeks Seychelles itinerary would be:
Day 1: International flight to arrive in Mahe; stay on the island of Mahe for 4 days
Day 5: Ferry from Mahe to La Digue; stay on La Digue for 2 days
Day 7: Ferry from La Digue to Praslin; stay on Praslin for 7 days
Day 13: Flight from Praslin to Mahe; stay in Mahe for 1 day
Day 14: International flight home from Mahe
This would enable you to see the largest 3 islands and have time to explore both Mahe and Praslin and to island-hop to smaller islands. Being less commercialised I preferred Praslin to Mahe so would spend longer there.
- Take a torch as there are no street lights on Praslin.
- Take an umbrella! We had a couple of spectacular rain storms.
- Its handy to have some Euros as these are widely accepted (although ATM’s dispense local Seychelles currency so Euros are not essential).
Finally, on our way home we had a 5 hour stopover in Abu Dhabi! Rather than waiting in the airport with our fellow travellers we went through the immigration, withdrew 300 AED from an ATM, left the airport, grabbed a taxi and drove for 17 minutes to have a look at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
We were directed to a lift where we had to go down from floor one to ground where, as we were ‘unsuitably dressed’ we had to wear robes. Mine was called a black abbeya robe and Chris had a white robe.
There were no queues and very few people at this time of the night. We were directed through an empty underground car park (feeling like we were in a shopping centre) and found the door to an area where we had to get an escalator up to the next level.
We were now just outside the impressive mosque and made our way to the mosque entry point. The structure was amazing… Really impressive… There was a huge courtyard which we walked through to get to the actual entrance. We had to remove our shoes to enter the mosque building. The interior was huge and apparently it had the worlds largest carpet and chandeliers.
We had a fairly quick look round as the mosque was not near the main shops or malls and I didn’t want us to be stranded without a taxi back to the airport. We collected our shoes and made our way back through the courtyard.
We gave our robes back, found another taxi and went back to the airport terminal arriving by around 10 pm. This time the taxi was only 38 AED and entrance to the mosque was free.
An Abu Dhabi wow factor to end our fabulous holiday!