Marie Claire's Beauty & Style Director falls in love with these balmy Indian Ocean islands
Marie Claire’s Beauty & Style Director falls in love with these balmy Indian Ocean islands
Why go? If you’re looking for somewhere that screams romance – think diamond-bright water, dramatic deserted beaches and lush tropical vegetation – the 115 islands that comprise the Seychelles is your place. Given the royal honeymoon seal of approval by beautiful-beach aficionados Prince William and Kate Middleton back in 2011, the country is also worth visiting for its natural wonders. You can flit between granite and coral islands admiring tortoises, exotic birds and fabulously coloured fish, and there is a lovely mix of influences from neighbouring countries like India, Madagascar and Mozambique – most people speak at least three languages, with the main one being Creole.
Spice island: get shopping in the market in Victoria, Mahé
When: September to November and April to June are good times to visit. If you prefer cooler climes August is perfect, while November is the quietest period. December and January are quite rainy and mosquitos rife, so take an organic, non-toxic spray like Incognito (lessmosquito.com). April is the driest and the hottest time of year and also when the Seychelles Carnival kicks off. Close in feel to the Notting Hill Carnival, it’s a lot of fun and happens on the main island of Mahé – the nearest beach town is Beau Vallon where you can find good, clean accommodation from £25 a night.
Stay at: On the gateway island of Mahé, the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles in Petite Anse (from £996 in August, fourseasons.com) is famous for its French colonial treehouse-style wooden villas set amongst the cinnamon and frangipani trees with views over lush jungle and dazzling turquoise waters. Here you can wake up to birdsong and watch the sun set with the fruit bats swooping the skies. Each villa has a bedroom, an open deck, indoor and outdoor dining areas and an infinity pool.
Killer villa: the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles
There’s a beautiful white sandy beach bay at the resort, which is very calm – no doughnuts, kite surfing or jet-skiing here, so kick back and enjoy the view (and maybe a cocktail or two). The spa is elevated at the pinnacle of the mountain over-looking the whole bay – I almost couldn’t bring myself to lie face down on a bed as the view is so breathtaking. I’m glad I did, though – the massage I had melted away all the knots I’d accrued on the long flight here. Make sure you try the cinnamon tea after your treatment as it’s great for de-stressing and aids digestion. If you like more action, you can enjoy excellent snorkeling with knowledgeable instructors, and there’s also surf lessons, stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing, a yoga program and Creole cooking classes. The resort is big on sustainability, too – the golf course has special balls where the outer shell bio-degrades in less than 48 hours, releasing fish food into the water.
Lucky dip: a villa pool at the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles
Dine at: Breakfast is buffet style and incredible – there’s no desire that can’t be satisfied (my request for coconut water meant a tree climb for one of the very willing team!). There are two restaurants – Kannel, which has a Creole as well as Asian influence utilising the incredible spices grown around the island, and ZEZ, which serves freshly-caught fish and sushi.
Just outside the resort, there are also some great local restaurants. Maria’s Rock in Baie Lazare is a bit shabby chic, but a good insight into how the locals live, or go to Chez Plume (aubergeanseboileau.com) for some authentic cuisine – you can get a taxi from the hotel for £14 each way.
Enchanted garden: the Vallée de Mai, Praslin
You really must: Go island-hopping! Mahé is just the starting point for a Seychelles adventure. I highly recommend taking a ferry from Victoria (a 20-minute drive from the Four Seasons) to the neighbouring island of Praslin, where there are beautiful beaches and the enchanting Vallée de Mai forests, a World Heritage site. Here you can live in luxury fairly frugally, while the next-door island of La Digue is smaller with an eclectic mix of people and a variety of rustic guesthouses and restaurants. Cycling here is a must and you can rent bikes for around £5 a day. Stay at Etoile Labrine (£90 with breakfast, etoile-labrine.com), a pretty guesthouse away from the busier, main part of the island with friendly staff and good breakfasts. Or if you’d like a little more privacy and independence, Le Relax Self-Catering (£90, lerelaxhotel.com) has self-catering rooms and gardens. For more places to stay check out Seychelles Secrets (seychellessecrets.com).
Just for us: the couples treatment room at the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles Spa
Bring home: The Four Seasons wicker basket is a show-stopping, timeless accessory (£28), and bring back some organic Yi-King beauty products from the hotel’s spa – the aromatic remedies are sourced locally in the Seychelles (yi-king.com). Buy some coco de mer seeds, too – the famous lingerie boutique (coco-de-mer.com) gets its name from the huge bottom-shaped seeds that can only be found in the islands. I brought them back in droves – key-rings, stress relievers, you name it they come in it – they’re the perfect gift for family and work colleagues.
Book now: Air Seychelles (airseychelles.com) flies from London Heathrow to Mahé via Abu Dhabi, from £1,077 return in August. Transfers to the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles cost from £29 each way. Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com) offers packages.
Info: Marco Polo Seychelles (£6.99, Mairdumont) covers the islands, and see seychelles.travel.