‘The Paradise Islands’; The Jewels of the Indian Ocean’; these might be appropriate descriptions for the Seychelles, and they certainly are both. But (and I admit this is a somewhat controversial opinion) I think I could actually get tired of the white sands, azure waters and impeccable service of a luxury resort on Mahe or Praslin in the Seychelles. More to the point, to base yourself on just one island and spend your days sunbathing on the beach would be to miss out on much of the wonder and the extraordinary beauty of the archipelago.
The solution to this is to join an eco-cruise aboard a small yacht or charter a crewed yacht or catamaran and spend a blissful week hopping between islands, mooring in deserted bays and swimming on pristine beaches well away from the resort-based tourists. The best (and most surprising part) about this idea is that you’ll see by the sample package prices at the bottom of this post that travelling by yacht can be significantly cheaper than staying in a resort, so you can enjoy a taste of the jetset lifestyle in one of the world’s most exclusive island archipelagos without having to take out a second mortgage.
When you go ‘beyond the resort’ on an island cruise you can truly see the remarkable individuality of this magical scattering of islands and to absorb their varied fauna and flora and separate characters. Comparable in price to a mid-range resort, there are several 4-7 night set-departure cruises available year round, aboard small yachts ranging from 8-21 cabins. Groups or families of eight or more will find that crewed charters also work out to be really cost-effective options, and offer unlimited itineraries. If you’d like to combine a bit of action with absolute relaxation you can still add a resort stay before or afterwards, of course.
You probably already know about the main islands of Mahe and Praslin. But in fact that the islands of the Seychelles are made up of a number of archipelagos which together cover a huge area of sea. Some, like the coral atoll of Aldabra, are way off on their own, to be visited by only the keenest naturalists and bird watchers. But the Inner Islands make a superb region for island hopping, and comprise a mixture of inhabited and gloriously uninhabited isles. These are the ones they call the ‘granite islands’, last vestiges of an ancient continent rising from the ocean. Yes, there are white sandy beaches and yes, there are palm trees, but there is so much more, and no time to be bored when you are exploring a new island every day.
On the Island of La Digue, for example, you can see the old coconut copra factory and its plantations, and La Digue also offers probably the most unspoilt coastlines I’ve ever seen, with rows of beaches with no hotels, no traffic, no noise other than the gentle susurrus of the waves and the wind in the trees. That really is paradise.
Or moor in St Anne’s bay at the southern end of the Island of Praslin. From here there’s a lovely walk to the World Heritage Site of the Valle de Mai, where there is a pristine palm forest. Among its deep, verdant shadows are the indigenous Coco de Mer palms, one of the only places they still grow. You can spend several wondrous hours walking through this fascinating National Park.
Admittedly, both these islands can be reached by Inter-Island ferry from Mahe, and if you prefer to base yourself on one island then you still have the option to visit them on day trips. But there are also lots of tiny islands which you can’t get to by ferry, and only those on a cruise will see them. A short distance from Praslin lies the island group of Les Soeurs, the two sisters. Grande Soeur is a private, protected island offering a chance to absorb the ecology of the Seychelles in seclusion. Nearby is Coco Island, surrounded by fascinating coral reefs – ideal for snorkelling in the warm equatorial waters teeming with colourful marine life.
From there, it’s only a cruise of an hour or so to the Island of Curieuse, once a leper colony but now another natural wonderland. Beneath its rising hills are many more totally unspoilt white beaches with waving palms, with rare giant tortoises wandering among the granite boulders and along its white sands. You might persuade the captain to arrange a beach barbecue for you while you explore the trails through the wooded slopes of the island, or snorkel on the reefs.
Another gem is the island of Aride, a magnificent bird sanctuary, where you can get up close to tropic birds, brown noddys and the rare magpie robins. It’s a specially protected island with remarkable natural features, from the huge number of Hermit crabs scuttling under your feet to the skinks which flick in and out of the leaves along the paths.
To my mind, cruising from one island to the next, one magical encounter after another, is the very best way to experience the Seychelles. Waited on by a friendly Seychellois’ crew, with meals prepared by the excellent chef on board, you can choose the pace of your visits. Spend your days making the challenging decision of selecting which uninhabited beach to walk on, deciding if you want to snorkel to see the tropical fish, or just sun-bathe for an hour or two. It’s still paradise, but it’s absolutely never boring, and it’s significantly more affordable than you might think.
Temple World offers a range of 3, 4 and 7 night set-departure cruises in the Seychelles. Prices for four night cruises start from £1690 per person sharing twin/double cabin including flights from London with Emirates. Fully-crewed yacht charters start from £1700 per person including flights from London, based on a group of eight sharing a four cabin catamaran.
Call our Indian Ocean specialists at Temple World on 0208 940 4114 to start planning your dream holiday today.