The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are back from their honeymoon in The Seychelles. Now it’s your turn to slip off to these exclusive islands in the Indian Ocean. But should you follow in their sandy footprints or make some of your own elsewhere in the archipelago? An Africa travel specialist, Yvette De Vries shares lots of great information about the islands to help you think about a trip of your own.
FarewellTravels: With all the places in the world to chose from, why do you think Prince William and Kate Middleton chose The Seychelles for their honeymoon?
Yvette De Vries: It’s possible to guarantee total privacy here, especially on North Island, where the newlyweds honeymooned. Wilderness Safaris, which owns the island, are known for their environmentally-sensitive developments throughout Southern Africa. Here, they’ve completely restored the pristine condition of the island and intelligently designed the property in a way that makes it very private, offering a supremely intimate experience. Truly royal treatment for any guests.
FarewellTravels: Can celebrities like them really get privacy there, or would paparazzi stalk them from boats?
Yvette De Vries: In general, The Seychellois do not get overly excited by the presence of celebrities, and paparazzi would simply not be allowed anywhere near North island, which lies 20 miles northeast of Mahé, the main island in the archipelago.
FarewellTravels: The country has 115 islands. How many of those are habitable, and how do you chose which ones to stay on?
Yvette De Vries: Only three of the islands are inhabited and then there are another dozen or so one-resort islands, including North Island and Desroches (which the royal couple had visited on another occasion).
The three inhabited islands have distinct personalities of their own. Mahé (where the international airport and capital "city" Victoria are located) tends to receive the bulk of tourists, traditionally by and large from the UK and Europe. It’s the only island with any nightlife and a bit of shopping and it has a full range of accommodations, from self-catering bungalows to boutique hotels and international franchise resorts.
My favorite island, Praslin can be reached by air (15 minutes) or high-speed ferry (45 minutes) from Mahé. It is home to Anse Lazio, regularly listed as one of the top beaches in the world, and the World Heritage Site Vallée de Mai - a primeval forest and the only place on earth where the Coco de Mer Palm fruit grows. Supposedly, though I’ve never seen one, it’s also home to the extremely rare black parrots. Other than the fabulous Lemuria hotel and golf course, there are mostly independently-owned hotels and resorts on Praslin. I’m particularly fond of La Reserve, with its restaurant on a long jetty over the ocean. I saw parrot fish, lion fish and even a couple of stingrays right from my breakfast table.
La Digue is the smallest of the inhabited islands. It’s a very laid-back island which you can only reach by ferry from Praslin (about a 30-minute trip). I recommend spending a day exploring the island by bike or ox-cart (no cars allowed). It is home to one of the most photographed beaches in the world, Anse Source d‘Argent (The Source of Silver), with it's famous dark granite boulders in the soft white sand. If you want to picture it - the island was the setting for the movie Castaway, with Tom Hanks.
FarewellTravels: So would you recommend staying on one island or dividing your time between a couple of them?
Yvette De Vries: A smart way to enjoy The Seychelles is to be based on Praslin and take daily excursions from there. Curieuse Island, for instance, has been declared a Marine National Park in order to protect the giant Aldabra tortoise, 300 of which live at the Ranger's Station and approximately 200 in the wild. You can also be taken by boat to other small uninhabited islands for lunch on a beach and snorkel offshore.
FarewellTravels: Do you need to be a diver or snorkler to appreciate The Seychelles, or will landlubbers also appreciate the destination?
Yvette De Vries: I think you’ll appreciate The Seychelles more if you do snorkel or dive, but you can certainly enjoy them regardless. Some islands are geared for families, others for honeymooners, and a few for fishing (Alphonse Island is renowned for its bone fishing, for instance). Best to discuss with your travel specialist what’s the best for you.
FarewellTravels: Would you combine a visit to the Seychelles with an African safari?
Yvette De Vries: It is not uncommon, but it can be tricky. The Seychelles are some distance from the African continent so it’s not as easy as one might think. From Nairobi, it’s a 3 hour flight and from Johannesburg, a 5-hour flight.
FarewellTravels: How do you reach The Seychelles?
Yvette De Vries: One of the easiest ways to reach them from North America is to fly Emirates to Dubai (12 hours). From there, it’s another 4-hour flight to Mahé. You can also find connecting flights in European hubs such as Rome, Paris and London.
FarewellTravels: Best time of year to go there?
Yvette De Vries: The Seychelles are just 7° degrees south of the equator, which means the weather is quite consistently hot and humid (75°F to 85°F) year round.
Photo credits: Courtesy of North-Island.com