The mere mention of the Seychelles conjures up images of sundrenched beaches with powder-soft-sand and turquoise blue water. It isn’t surprising that Irish brides Jennifer McGuire and Rosanna Davidson choose to enjoy their post nuptials on this delightful archipelago in the Indian Ocean. However, my husband and I are under no pretence that we are embarking on a second honeymoon, as we set off with our ten-year-old daughter, Nicole and teenage son, Mark to see what the Seychelles has to offer families. The kid’s first question – where is the Seychelles? One-thousand miles from Africa’s east coast and a couple of degrees south of the equator. Our mission as a family is to Island hop around four islands and get to meet some giant tortoises. The excitement mounts as I inform the kids that one of the islands we will be visiting is where the Thunderbirds movie was filmed.
We spend our first three nights on popular Beau Vallon Beach which is a good base to explore the Seychelles largest and most populated Island, Mahe. The five-star Savoy hotel boasts the largest swimming pool in the Seychelles, which ticks the boxes for the kids and the adjoining rooms mean privacy for parents! The kids get to fish and try their hands at kayaking but for the more adventurous diving and paragliding is also on offer.
The capital, Victoria, is only a few kilometres away and our first excursion en famille. Named after the British Queen who ruled over the islands in the nineteenth century it’s a thriving town, with high activity around the replica, silver Big Ben clock in the middle of the main street. “It’s a present from the British,” our guide Chris informs us. He’s kitted out in a Liverpool shirt and bonds instantly with my son who has found a kindred spirit. “You should see this place at carnival man…the whole town goes crazy.” Victoria plays host to a colourful carnival every year that rivals Rio. Twenty five countries took part in the festivities last year and it is ever growing. Next year it runs from 24th – 26th April and three days of fun filled action for all the family is guaranteed. Chris describes the beautiful girls from around the world wearing little more than feathers and my son already has plans to return someday. “…and we drive on the left side of the road too like the British.” The plug sockets are standard three pin as in the UK and Ireland so there’s no need for a continental adaptor.
First stop is Victoria Market – a bustling centre for all culinary delights. The kids watch aghast as a shark is portioned up at a fish stall. A variety of exotic fruits and foods are on offer and the trip is proving to be an education, even for the adults. The Seychelles is a matriarchal society, with women making up fifty percent of the government and children are adored and well catered for. The locals speak good English, but my son and I can make out a few words of the local Creole, which is a mixture of French and English.
A colourful Hindu temple catches Nicole’s eye as we leave the market. With her camera in hand, she excitedly captures the ceremony being performed by the holy men inside. Most of the Seychellois were converted to Catholicism after the erection of a mission, established by the British in the mid-nineteenth century. The lodge, on one of the islands highest points, is no longer standing but the remaining site is one of the best viewpoints on the island and Chris insists on taking us there – which doesn’t disappoint. A short drive down the hill brings us to Seychelles tea factory on Morne Blanc. Here the kids get to see the entire tea process from picking to blending and bagging in the factory.
After three days we embark on our first island hop. The journey to Praslin, the Seychelles second largest island, takes one hour on the high speed Cat Cocos catamaran. Home to the UNESCO heritage site of Vallée de Mai, the suggestion by some that Praslin is the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden comes as no surprise. This is the only place on the planet where the legendary Coco-de-Mer tree grows in abundance. The kids are quick to point out that the unusual shaped fruit bears a striking resemblance to certain private parts of the human anatomy. Praslin is paradise. Coconuts hang lushly from spindly palms and tiny orange birds, the red-headed forest fody, jump from perch to perch. On arrival at our hotel, La Domaine de La Reserve, one of these little birds lands on our porch and sings a welcoming tune. It is this kind of interaction with nature that makes us feel instantly chilled. Nicole squeals with delight as a tiny bright-green-lizard, scurries up the wall of our porch.
La Reserve hotel has four special family rooms which are stylishly kitted out with prime views of the private coral beach. Three small steps outside our veranda and we are walking on the coral sand and picking up colourful shells from the turquoise water – a shoal of silver fish brush by our ankles. This hotel is set among unique conditions that are perfect for snorkelling in safety and privacy. Wifi is on offer around the hotel but with a huge swimming pool open all day and night the kids don’t have time for social networking. Night time is spent watching out for shooting stars outside our veranda. With a half board option of varied cuisine the kids love the food. Entertainment follows dinner each evening and our favourite is the Creole evening where the entire family go native and get involved in coconut shelling and traditional dancing. The hotel offers free bike hire and we set off for some wave jumping on Anse Lazio, on what is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in the world. The south east monsoons make May to October the windiest months but it is also the least humid time of year and perfect for the kids.
After two nights on this paradise we set off early with Creole travel on an excursion to Curieuse Island. We are met by ranger Paul – a man who loves his job, and who can blame him. He is guardian of the 200 giant tortoises who roam this once leper colony. Since 1969 it has belonged to the animals and he takes us on a trail of the mangroves and hills from one side of the Island to the doctor’s house on the other side. On route we feast on husks of coconut and berry, while hermit crabs and giant millipedes cross our path. “I made a good crab curry with a fellow like this last night,” Paul beams. We can tell that it was delicious by his description. The already digested bodammier fruit however does not appeal. The giant tortoises feast on this small purple fruit when it falls from the trees but the centre nut is left intact and apparently delicious. However, even the kids are satisfied just to take Paul’s word for it and not tempted to taste when he rips it from the tortoise pooh!
The catamaran anchors for a delicious Creole BBQ and some snorkelling before leaving us off on La Digue. At the end of an exhilarating day we have arrived on our fourth island. The rock formations on La Digue are famous. Pale pink and ochre granite forms, they rest along the crystal shoreline and look like Dali himself sculpted them for our personal pleasure.
Breadfruit hangs on every road verge, ripe for the taking – a versatile fruit that can be compared to our own potato. The breadfruit proves a big hit with Nicole. It can be chipped, boiled, fried, eaten as salad or dessert and lies scattered on the ground. Legend has it that if you eat the breadfruit you will return to the Seychelles – needless to say we schoffed bags of the crunchy fruit that are bought for 60cents each and taste like an exotic crisp. We stay in a small but exquisite family run guest house on this island that is only 5 km long and easily walked around in less than a day. The Cabanas des Anges guest house has a small swimming pool but our crew love the fact that it is right outside our veranda.
The fairy terns dive and swoon in pairs around the clear blue skies – as much a symbol of love as nature can provide. We lose ourselves in this primitive paradise where the locals commute on foot or by bicycle. The alternate mode of taxi is ox and cart and possibly the slowest but most fun way to get around the island. We explore the famous Anse Source d’Argent beach and wonder how so many beautiful beaches can be on such a small island. Anse Source d’Argent is also the setting for those dreamy adverts for the Bounty Bar that pop up on our TV on cold winter nights. It’s easy to find a spot to ourselves and suddenly we are the Swiss Family Robinson. While Nicole and her brother play x’s and o’s on the sand with a piece of driftwood, hubby and I kick back on the sand and pretend we are on a second honeymoon.
The Seychelles is an incredible destination and worth paying that bit extra to experience something truly special for the whole family. With idyllic weather that doesn’t drop below 26* or rise above 33* every month is a perfect time of year to visit. We travelled through the night and with a convenient one stop commute to Dublin airport there were no complaints from the kids. On the cold winter nights the memories of our special time on the Seychelles will keep us warm and the Bounty Bar advert will undoubtedly bring a smile to our faces when it pops up on TV.
Seychelles Tourist Office for UK and Ireland
Tel: + 44 (0) 207 730 0700