IF YOU fancy a really special Christmas break this year, why not book a trip to the beautiful Seychelles?
Posh and Becks, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, are just some of the celebrities to have fallen in love with the lush, tropical vegetation, granite peaks, dazzling beaches and guaranteed sunshine of the Seychelles recently. But this stunning destination actually consists of the oldest ocean islands on earth.
The archipelago was isolated from the mainland many millions of years ago and evolved its own unique flora and fauna – no men or land mammals were present over the centuries. The islands’ human history only began back in 1609 when a small landing party of English sailors exploring the Indian Ocean made the first recorded landing in Seychelles and declared the islands “an earthly paradise”. It’s a perfect description– in essence the 115 islands of the Seychelles are the living embodiment of the luxuriant, tropical paradise that appears in countless advertisements and glossy travel brochures. There are more shades of blue and green in the Seychelles than it is possible to imagine. There are spectacular beaches to laze on, world-class diving, snorkelling and fishing to enjoy, tiny islands to explore and a charming island lifestyle that is reminiscent of an earlier era – the island residents, the Seychellois, are proud of their country, and happy to share it with visitors.
Here are some of
Aldabra is one of the world’s largest coral atolls, and encloses a huge tidal lagoon, where it is possible to spot tiger sharks and manta rays. Aldabra is also the original habitat of the giant land tortoise and there are about 200,000 living on the atoll, as well as thousands of seabirds. As a result, only scientists are allowed to live on the island and only for three months of the year.
Arguably the best beach in the country is Anse Lazio, in the far north of Praslin Island. You won’t believe the glorious white, soft sand and magical turquoise ocean. If you’ve never swum in the Indian Ocean, you’re in for a treat – the water is like a giant bath, shallow, warm and safe.
Victoria, on the island of Mahé, is one of the smallest capital cities in the world, and the only major port in the Seychelles. The best preserved buildings, the courthouse and main post office in the centre of town, have been untouched since colonial times.
Found right in the centre of Praslin island, Vallée de Mai has the Seychelles’ greatest concentration of the famous coco de mer palms – there are almost 4,000 of them. This valley’s prehistoric forest is World Heritage listed and you can also see wild pineapple, wild coffee, allspice bushes and, if you’re lucky, the illusive Seychelles black parrot.
Around five kilometres east of Victoria are the six islands within the Ste. Anne Marine National Park. Moyenne is probably the best island to visit, although you can only get there on an official tour. The island is known for its buried treasures and ghosts, and you can explore the House of Dogs, built at the turn of the century as a home for stray dogs.
What to enjoy
Apart from the stunning scenery, the Seychelles offers visitors the opportunity to sample fantastic Créole cuisine, and there is a huge range of fresh fish and seafood available. Other dishes include daube, a sweet stew, and carii coco, a mild meat or fish curry made with coconut cream. The rhythms, colours and flavours of Africa form a backdrop to the relaxed tropical image, and music and dance is popular in the Seychelles. The moutia is the typical island dance, which features strong African and Malagasy rhythms. Also look out for gris gris practitioners, the local brand of black magic.
Where to stay
There’s no getting away from the fact that hotels in the Seychelles are generally small and exclusive – prices are high and you will definitely get a better deal with a package. Most accommodation is located in beautiful private gardens or right on the beachfront and is often bungalow accommodation. There are some establishments that offer self-catering accommodation, often with an adjoining restaurant as an option, and there are a growing number of smaller guesthouses. Contact PDM to explore the options.
When to go
The Seychelles is four hours ahead of GMT and three hours ahead of British Summer Time, so you will enjoy almost 12 hours of daylight throughout the year. The islands enjoy a year round tropical climate and visitors should be prepared for humidity.
Flying to Seychelles
It may be a remote destination, but getting to the islands is not too difficult. Air Seychelles flies from London twice a week with one non stop flight and one via Dubai. The airline also operates non stop flights from Paris, Rome, Munich and Frankfurt. British Airways operates two flights per week from London via Nairobi. PDM also has packages that fly from Lisbon via Paris or Rome.
PDM verdict: The Seychelles is hard to beat if you’re dreaming of spending Christmas in a tropical island paradise.
Note: Unlike many other destinations in the Indian Ocean, the Asian tsunami did not touch the Seychelles or affect its tourism industry in any way. In addition, the United Nation’s scientific and cultural body has launched a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean region in order to prevent a repeat of December’s disaster. UNESCO is currently organising data exchange between a network of national tsunami warning systems operated by member states, which will be shared by 27 countries. The commission also said it would start work on similar warning systems for the Caribbean, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The December 26 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 176,000 people in 11 countries, and left around 50,000 missing and hundreds of thousands homeless.