September 29th 2014
The Seychelles is a group of islands carved out of granite and scattered like jewels in the Indian Ocean just 4 degrees south of the equator and near to Madagascar. Despite no direct flights from the UK you can fly with Emirates or Etihad via Dubai or you can twin it with an African safari. I’m told there are 159 islands, the biggest of which are Mahe and Praslin but there are also loads more worth a visit whilst you are there.
If you are thinking of going to the Seychelles I’d say the best way to do it is to island hop. Start off on either Mahe in Four Seasons or Maia or visit Praslin and stay at Raffles and there you can also visit the Coco de Mer forest Vallee de Mai, then finish off on one of the private islands like Denis Island, Fregate, North Island or Desroches. You can also helicopter, ferry or fly on one of the twin propeller planes for a day trip to the other islands such as La Digue which as some of the best beaches in the Seychelles. Thanks to Carrier and Mason’s Travel we also took a catamaran to the gorgeous Moyenne Island where we did some snorkelling and walked the shallow waters between islands.
Top tips: They will accept Seychelles Rupees but also Sterling or Euros. They also have English 3 prong plugs.
First stop was the Four Seasons on Mahe which is set on a hillside as so many of the Seychelles hotels are. The best accommodation here if you are a family is the Presidential Villa which has 2 bedrooms and is located right next to the beach and most importantly within walking distance to the kids club which is very much about interaction with the kids rather than just sticking them in front of a TV or laptop. They will also get the kids involved with activities like painting and cooking.
The fact that you are on a hillside means you need to rely on the many buggies they have and all the hills and windy roads mean it’s definitely not a self-drive resort. However there are plenty of staff on hand and a phone call to reception will get you a driver to your door whenever you want to move around the resort. The hillside villas are lovely and a family of four can take a one-bedroom which has 2 queen beds if you are happy to share with the kids. If you prefer to have privacy then you would definitely need a 2 bedroom. As with all Four Seasons, the beds are tremendous.
Each of the villas has a small pool overlooking the horseshoe bay and the hotel can erect a safety wall around the pool.
The spa is set high on the hillside with a great view of the bay and is designed to open your senses. They use locally grown cinnamon leaves in the spa for foot scrubs and you can watch the huge fruit bats in the surrounding mango trees as you have your treatment. There is also a dive centre where you can get your PADI certificate, or do paddle boarding and/or kayaking which is free plus you can snorkel in the coral reef which surrounds all of the Seychelles’ islands. Another great thing to do would be to take a helicopter to the stunning, and challenging golf course at Lemuria Resort Golf Course on Praslin.
The pool and beachside bar is great place for sundowners and you have a choice of restaurants. Another thing to note is that the sand is of the finest texture I have ever come across due to the parrot fish who digest it and poo it out, not the most romantic but very effective! The water is also clear and turquoise.
Next up was a completely different kind of experience…Denis Island. This is one of the private island experiences available and is definitely less expensive than Fregate or North Island but also less polished. We took a twin propeller jet which holds around 20 people and a small amount of luggage to this beautiful island which has a forest clearing for a runway.
Denis is not only a holiday destination but gives you a real understanding of what it is like to create a self sufficient (almost) environment with it’s own farm which is run by the owner of the island which contains thousands of animals including chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs and cows. On landing you enter the main building and hub of the island which contains the reception, library (only place to get wi-fi) bar and restaurant plus a pool.
Around this hub are all the beachside chalets, one of which has it’s own private pool. Each one has a rustic and contemporary charm with it’s own view on to the beach. I was in number 10 which was called a spa villa with it’s own spa bed in the back and a lovely day bed on which to relax on the beach.
I have to give warning at this point that all the bathrooms only have 3 walls so you bathe or shower in the elements. The wall in the back garden protects you from prying eyes and I thought it was a wonderful experience but coupled with the fact that the island has a no key policy I get that this kind of holiday might not be for everyone.
The island is family friendly If you wanted to bring the kids, but don’t expect the usual kids club. Here, you can take the kids to the farm to see where their dinner comes from as well as going to see the giant tortoises, one of which is 95 years old! Andree is the conservation expert on the island and he does daily tours where he buggies you around the island pointing out all the different exotic birds who have been brought to the island. In addition, you can go deep sea fishing in the Indian Ocean which as absolutely choc-full of amazing fish or go snorkelling or scuba diving from the dive centre.
The food is renowned for being the best in the Seychelles and no wonder when everything is so fresh. You can eat what you caught that day. We also had suckling pig which had been killed and butchered that day and I’m sorry to say it was absolutely delicious! One thing to note is that they have a Full Board and All Inclusive option however the all inclusive only includes local beers, wines and spirits so those that prefer premium drinks should go full board and pay for drinks.
My final top pick is the romantic Maia Resort back on Mahe. On entering the resort you feel like you automatically relax as it has a real feeling of serenity. There are 2 location options here, one is the beachside villa which is more family friendly although all beaches in Seychelles are by law public beaches so this option is perhaps less private. Or you can stay in one of the hillside villas which offers fabulous views over the bay. The Signature villas are the best category specifically villas 205 and 221 which offer the best views. On arrival you are assigned a butler who will be on call to meet your every demand whilst you are there and who can be reached by mobile, if you are there with 2 small children, for example, they will assign you 2 butlers! Most of the staff here are from Indonesia as they are renowned for their levels of service. My butler, Anton, came and made me a white Americano on the coffee machine in my outdoor bar/kitchen, set up AirPlay on my phone so that I could play all my favourite tunes on the sound system which covers inside and out. The shower was an amazing rain forest shower with glass surround looking out to the forest. The Signature villa I stayed in was huge and had it’s own outdoor area which is where you hang out. There is an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the view with 2 sun beds situated in shallow water and an outdoor tub. The huge sofa and bar/kitchen area is also great for lounging. Again if you want to visit the restaurant/bar/pool area you need to call for a buggy.
From 1st November, 2014 the resort will offer all inclusive packages which will create better value for clients. For Signature Villa clients this will also include an in-villa barbecue all freshly cooked by your butler. In fact, one of the key benefits of Maia it’s whatever, wherever, whenever dining concept…basically if you fancy bacon and eggs at 3 in the morning, your butler will come and cook it for you and there are generally no fixed timings for breakfast. Again there isn’t a kids club but they run activities for children such as treasure hunting and painting. Again you can do all the activities mentioned above and they have their own helipad which is not used for airport transfers as it’s too short a distance but can be used take trips to other islands.
All in all, the Seychelles is a really beautiful spot with fab food, scenery, watersports and an air of romance.
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