Sey­chelles: New di­rect flights make the is­lands more ac­ces­si­ble

The In­dian Ocean’s small­est and most ex­clu­sive par­adise des­ti­na­tion is get­ting a boost with new di­rect flights from the UK. Sarah Gil­bert de­tails what else is new

Selling Travel - - Contents -

With no air­port and vir­tu­ally no cars – just brightly painted ox carts to ferry vis­i­tors around – bi­cy­cle is the eas­i­est way to ex­plore diminu­tive La

Digue. The sandy streets of this small­est of the Sey­chelles’ is­lands are just a 15-minute ferry ride from Praslin and well worth a di­ver­sion.

I am cy­cling through the vil­lage of La Passe, pass­ing shop signs that read ‘Open Some Days, Closed Oth­ers’, street stalls groan­ing un­der the weight of ex­otic fruits and a man car­ry­ing just-caught fish on his han­dle­bars, on my way to the L’Union Es­tate’s his­toric co­conut plan­ta­tion.

The palm-shaded path leads to one of the world’s most pho­tographed beaches, Anse

Source D’Ar­gent, which is just one in a line of breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful bays, flanked by enor­mous, smooth gran­ite boul­ders that spill into the turquoise wa­ter.

Later, I cy­cle around the north­ern tip of the is­land to Anse Banane and Chez Jules. There’s no menu to speak of but large plat­ters of de­li­cious Sey­chel­lois dishes just keep emerg­ing from his sim­ple kitchen: oc­to­pus in a del­i­cate, co­conut­milk curry, fish fil­let in a rich Cre­ole sauce.

While I eat, Jules teaches me some Cre­ole in his lilt­ing ac­cent, a hy­brid of French, English and West In­dian with its own dis­tinct in­flec­tions. “Manze (eat),” he ex­claims, urg­ing me to use my hands.

I round off with a shot of po­tent lo­cal rum be­fore I free­wheel back down the hill­side by the light of the full moon, to the cry of “Bon­swar – un­til we meet again”

Desert is­lands

This ar­chi­pel­ago of 115 is­lands – many of them un­in­hab­ited – is the ar­che­typal trop­i­cal par­adise and is now more ac­ces­si­ble than ever thanks to Bri­tish Air­ways’ launch on

March 24 of twice-weekly non-stop flights from Lon­don Heathrow to Mahé. With a flight time of just over 10 hours, it will cut around three hours off the cur­rent jour­ney time.

“This year is such an ex­cit­ing time to travel to the Sey­chelles. There’s not only the new BA flights but also the new Four Sea­sons

Re­sort Sey­chelles at Des­roches Is­land, reached via twice-daily flights from Mahé to Des­roches,” says Chris­tine Kim­brell, Di­rec­tor of Sales & Mar­ket­ing at SeyEx­clu­sive.

Its stun­ning beaches are leg­endary but there’s plenty more on of­fer: div­ing and snorkelling, sail­ing, hik­ing, wildlife watch­ing – even golf at the Con­stance Le­muria on Praslin, with

in­creas­ingly var­ied ac­com­mo­da­tion to match. And while vis­i­tors used to fly-and-flop, is­land-hop­ping hol­i­days are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, com­bin­ing one or more of the three main is­lands – Mahé, Praslin and La Digue – with a pri­vate is­land re­sort.

The key to up-sell­ing this kind of multi-cen­tre is get­ting across that each is­land has its own char­ac­ter and that vis­i­tors can have two or three very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences on one trip.

“It’s worth mak­ing the ef­fort to ex­pe­ri­ence the is­lands’ di­ver­sity,” says Iain Raeper, If

Only…’s In­dian Ocean Prod­uct Man­ager.

“Per­haps an es­cape-from-it-all beach re­sort like Con­stance Ephélia on Mahé, then tak­ing a short flight or ferry to one of the other is­lands. Bird Is­land, for ex­am­ple, is an or­nithol­o­gist’s dream that of­fers a su­perb back-to-na­ture ex­pe­ri­ence with un­touched habi­tats for many species of wildlife and un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­ni­ties for sail­ing, fish­ing and div­ing in places where few have gone be­fore.”

While cou­ples and hon­ey­moon­ers are still the main mar­ket (Prince Wil­liam and Kate chose the ex­clu­sive, pri­vate is­land re­sort of North Is­land for their hon­ey­moon in 2011 and the Four Sea­sons Re­sort Sey­chelles at Des­roches Is­land is of­fer­ing a baby­moon pack­age) op­er­a­tors are see­ing a growth in the fam­ily mar­ket, with ac­com­mo­da­tion to suit every­one, from multi­gen­er­a­tional fam­i­lies to groups of friends.

The Alphonse Group be­long to the Outer Is­lands of the Sey­chelles, around 250 miles south­west of Mahé. A new mar­ket­ing brand, called Blue Sa­fari, has been cre­ated to spread the word about the four is­lands: Alphonse, As­tove, Cos­melodo and the Ami­rantes.

Un­der the tag: “Where Ex­pe­ri­ences Are our Lux­ury” the con­cept will fo­cus on ex­plor­ing the lesser-known is­lands. Guests will be en­cour­aged to par­take in var­i­ous con­ser­va­tion ef­forts to pre­serve the frag­ile atolls.

Alphonse Is­land of­fers fun for all the fam­ily with Kids Haven op­er­at­ing a pro­gramme of ac­tiv­i­ties that en­cour­ages the lit­tle ones to in­ter­act with na­ture and get in­volved in ac­tiv­i­ties such as div­ing, snorkelling and fish­ing.

Amanda Lang, Mar­ket­ing Man­ager for Alphonse Is­land, said: “With miles of un­blem­ished shore­lines, la­goons and sea flats Alphonse is the Sey­chelles at its most au­then­tic.

“It is a des­ti­na­tion for the trav­eller who craves ex­clu­siv­ity. Our ac­com­mo­da­tion is lux­u­ri­ous but the fo­cus is very much on the sur­round­ing nat­u­ral beauty. We also cater for guests who would like to get in­volved in our Is­land Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gramme, which in­cludes marine and land-based projects.”

Per­fect ten

Beach bum­ming: Post­card-per­fect beaches in­clude Anse Lazio in Praslin and Anse Source d’Ar­gent in La Digue – both ap­pear reg­u­larly on the world’s best beaches lists.

Bare­foot lux­ury: The Sey­chelles has some of the world’s most lux­u­ri­ous pri­vate is­land re­sorts, where con­ser­va­tion projects mean you don’t have to sac­ri­fice style to go green.

Trop­i­cal par­adise: Just a few de­grees south of the Equa­tor, the ar­chi­pel­ago is a year-round des­ti­na­tion, with tem­per­a­tures hover­ing around 25 de­grees Cel­sius.

Is­land hop­ping: Ex­plore its many di­verse is­lands by boat, from in­ter-is­land fer­ries, to day tours on a cata­ma­ran and more ex­tended cruises.

Wildlife watch­ing: The ar­chi­pel­ago’s flora and fauna in­cludes more than

“The Sey­chelles is per­fect for is­land hop­ping. Ev­ery

is­land has some­thing dif­fer­ent to of­fer, from white sandy beaches to UN­ESCO

World Her­itage Sites, such as the Val­lée de Mai

Na­ture Re­serve”

Sarah Gatt, Prod­uct and Pur­chas­ing Ex­ec­u­tive, Kuoni

200 species of birds – Cousin Is­land alone, just one-kilo­me­tre in di­ame­tre, sup­ports more than 300,000 nest­ing seabirds.

Nat­u­ral won­ders: It’s home to two UN­ESCO World Her­itage sites, Praslin’s Val­lée de Mai Na­ture Re­serve and the re­mote Aldabra Atoll, with the world’s largest pop­u­la­tion of gi­ant tor­toises.

Marine life: Have close en­coun­ters with gen­tle gi­ants like whale sharks, dol­phins and hawks­bill tur­tles.

Get ac­tive: Take to the wa­ter by kayak­ing, kite surf­ing, wind­surf­ing and wake­board­ing, or take on the big game fish. On dry land, hike the trails in its na­tional parks.

Vil­lage life: Make time to see the sights of Vic­to­ria on Mahé, one of the world’s small­est cap­i­tals, in­clud­ing the ex­otic pro­duce in the Sir Sel­wyn Sel­wyn-Clarke Mar­ket.

Foodie fun: Sey­chel­lois cui­sine is a flavour­ful fu­sion of African, French, Chi­nese and In­dian in­flu­ences, and Mahé’s Le Jardin du Roi is a taste of its spice-trad­ing past.

What’s new

Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways (ba.com) launches the only non-stop ser­vice from the

UK on March 24, de­part­ing Heathrow

Ter­mi­nal 5 on Wed­nes­days and Satur­days, re­turn­ing on Thurs­days and Sun­days.

Ho­tels: Four Sea­sons Re­sort Sey­chelles at Des­roches Is­land (foursea­sons.com) opens on March 1 2018. It is the only re­sort on the is­land. French group Club Med (clubmed.co.uk) has taken over the Sainte Anne Beach­comber re­sort. Re­de­vel­op­ment is ex­pected to con­tinue un­til the end of 2019.

In­fra­struc­ture: The re­con­struc­tion and ex­pan­sion of Sey­chelles In­ter­na­tional Air­port and the do­mes­tic ter­mi­nal is un­der­way and ex­pected to be com­pleted in 2019.

Tourist of­fice: The UK tourist of­fice will run a six-per­son fam trip in the sec­ond half of this year. It is also tak­ing its ‘Sey­chelles Dis­cov­ered’ road show to Winch­ester, Buck­ing­hamshire and Nor­wich from March 13-16, with the chance to win a trip to the Sey­chelles (more UK des­ti­na­tions will be vis­ited later in the year).

Tourism talk

“The UK is one of our fastest-grow­ing mar­kets, end­ing 2017 with a 16% in­crease in vis­i­tors. The di­rect flights from Bri­tish Air­ways, the only non-stop route from the UK, is sure to give the mar­ket a boost.

“Part of our strat­egy is to show that the Sey­chelles has never been more ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able. Though it’s renowned for be­ing the per­fect choice for hon­ey­moon­ers, we’re also very much a fam­ily-friendly des­ti­na­tion with ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren of all ages.

“Few des­ti­na­tions are able to of­fer a hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence so in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the easy rhythms of is­land life and to the culi­nary tra­di­tions and vi­brant cus­toms of its peo­ple.

“This is a place to do as lit­tle or as much as you like – en­joy a sun, sea, sand and spa hol­i­day, or in­dulge in some world-class div­ing, sail­ing, sport fish­ing, hik­ing, horse rid­ing and golf.” Chris­tine Vel, Di­rec­tor, Sey­chelles

Tourist Of­fice – UK & Ire­land

Where to book it

IF ONLY… – 0141 955 4000 Seven nights in a Ju­nior Suite at the Con­stance Ephe­lia in Mahé starts from £2,349pp half-board, with Bri­tish Air­ways flights from Heathrow, pri­vate trans­fers and air­port taxes. ifonly.net

“En­cour­age clients to fly be­tween Mahé and Praslin. The con­nec­tion be­tween in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic flights is easy, the views from the plane are spec­tac­u­lar and it’s more com­fort­able than the ferry” Zoe Saun­ders, Se­nior Prod­uct and Mar­ket­ing Man­ager,

In­dian Ocean, ITC Travel Group

Pre­vi­ous page: Sun­set from Koko Bar, Six Senses Zil Pasyon. This page, clock­wise from top left: a Coco de Mer nut, en­demic to the Sey­chelles; meet­ing a gi­ant tor­toise; ad­vo­cado hair mask at Six Senses; Anse Source d’Ar­gent beach, La Digue

Clock­wise from top left: The new Four Sea­sons Des­roches; a Hindu tem­ple in the cap­i­tal, Vic­to­ria; aquatic won­ders; yoga with a view on Mahe Is­land

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