Africa, Seychelles

A Guide to Visiting the Seychelles

Have you got a tropical island on your bucket list? Is it somewhere you’ve relegated to the lottery win destinations? Places like the Caribbean, Maldives, Seychelles seem to be the stuff of daydreams but why should they be? I once made a list of places I’d like to visit ‘one day’ and honestly, I never looked at it. I wasn’t trying to make it happen. These places were fantasy destinations and as such were never going to happen. A few months ago, when I won tickets with Qatar Airways, I decided why the hell not? I looked up the Maldives and Seychelles as destinations and flying through Doha meant Seychelles was the most affordable option.

Geo blurb

Here’s a quick geography blurb about Seychelles in case you were wondering. It’s an archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean, self-governing since 1976 and lies about 1500km east of mainland East Africa. It is an African nation and was occupied by both France and Great Britain over the years. The inhabitants speak French, English and Seychellois Creole and the currency (it’s a closed one) is Seychelles Rupees.

seychelles flag

How to get there

While I didn’t pay for my flights you can get good deals with Qatar Airways even at peak travel times and their long haul, economy seats seem to have more leg room than usual flights (pitch 32inches and width 18.7inches in comparison to Aer Lingus who offer 30-inch pitch and 17-inch width). Food wise, Qatar Airways is not my favourite, by any stretch but economy airplane food is always a little grim, am I wrong? The flight from Dublin to Doha was about 8hours and we had a 2-hour layover in Doha airport followed by a 5-hour flight to Mahé Island. You can also fly with Emirates and this seems to be a longer but potentially cheaper route via Dubai so decide which is best for you.

 

Accommodation

I feel like the choices made re accommodation and tours reflect a realistic, middle of the road type of traveller. If you too are contemplating Seychelles as a holiday destination then you came to the right place for info on a hotel break to paradise. So, keeping budget in mind (and assuming flights for 2 pax cost approx €1,600) then I didn’t want to go over €2k for our accommodation. Price coupled with location was a huge factor in our decision to book Eden Bleu Hotel on Eden Island. Yes, there are some beautiful looking hotels in that price range on booking.com but when I was doing my research and reading the reviews so many came with a ‘pretty but dated décor’ warning. I didn’t want to run the risk of having paid a fortune to go to a place and have it feel like it was stuck in the 70s. So, Eden Bleu, which was opened in 2012 won out. It’s a modern, chic, 4-star hotel, 5mins drive from Victoria with plenty of amenities on its doorstep like Eden Plaza and the marina. Another plus with this hotel is that while it doesn’t have access to its own beach, it does have a private pool and a free shuttle that takes you to Beau Vallon beach on the other side of Mahé. There are a number of renowned beaches on the main island but a pool and a free shuttle suited me just fine. If you choose to Airbnb and want a more casual vibe, check out my link for deals on self-catering options in Mahé and Praslin.

 

Transport

Some hotels on Mahé offer a shuttle service to guests. Some say if you book on their website you get a free shuttle ride, with others the service is included in your package. Contact your hotel to see if it is. If not, it’s handy to know I paid €25 to my driver upon arrival for a pre-arranged pick up from the arrivals area in the Seychelles airport to my hotel, a short 10-minute journey away.  I kept my driver’s card and called him again to go to Victoria and back another day, so holler at me if you need Patrick’s deets!  We were warned taxis are pricey on the island so factor that in if you are planning on exploring the island. It may be worth your while to rent a car for a day or two. I felt that being on the port side of the island for day trips and having the free hotel shuttle meant our taxi costs were reduced. Just a little something to bear in mind.

 

Food and what to expect

If you are staying at a hotel or resort, chances are they have inhouse restaurants for you to choose from. I’m sure even if you’re not a guest you can get a taxi to some hotel restaurants to dine. I hadn’t researched hotel restaurants so I am no help to you there but I did check out a few eateries around the island starting with a beach lunch at Beau Vallon. La Plage restaurant (there are terraced seats overlooking the beach and you can order drinks to beach seats from what I could see) has a variety of western dishes and desserts to choose from and you pay the high prices for an indoor sit-down meal. If you fancy something a little more casual, Baobab Pizzeria, which is a no-frills pizza restaurant on the beach is nearby.  The prices here are reasonable and about €9-10 up to about €15 for a pizza.  There were a few food stalls along the main thoroughfare with grilled corn, hamburgers and chicken curries to take away but I can’t vouch for those, as I didn’t try them. They were waaaay cheaper, needless to say.

This cost about €50, just saying.
Food on Eden Island

We stayed on Eden Island and there are a few restaurants here to choose from if you find yourself there. Let’s start with the top, in my opinion. The Maharajahs Indian Restaurant was delish and good value for the area. The staff is friendly and the surroundings pretty. Seychelles’ restaurant prices reflect the import charges levied on the foods imported. I imagine Creole food doesn’t have to be sourced from as far away so doesn’t cost as much.  Tamassa on Eden Island wasn’t bad either if you are looking for the pizza, pasta, burger, western style of cooking. Decking locale near a local brew shop and views out over the marina. Not too shabby. I did not enjoy Bravo Restaurant which is another offer on the Eden Island Plaza tray. If you want cheesy, 90’s pop in a shabby chic style eatery then maybe this is for you. The food options were pricey for the quality but the portion sizes were substantial. So, if you are feeding a hungry horde this may be good value for sharing plates but don’t go expecting anything more than mediocre cuisine.

Creole food

I do want to mention Marie Antoinette’s; a famous Creole restaurant in Victoria on Mahé. Opened in 1972 this menu hasn’t changed and it offers quality, small plates that let you sample a variety of traditional dishes for a set price. We got deep fried parrot fish, tuna steak, aubergine beignets, chicken curry, mango salad, apple chutney and rice. A side of chillis come standard with all Seychellois/Creole dishes so you can make it as spicy as you’d like.  I made a reservation for 6:15 pm on a Wednesday and the place was empty. Perhaps it gets busier later or maybe it was shoulder season. Whatever the reason the service was good and the set menu was about 300Rps which is about €20 a person, not including drinks.  You can pre-order fruit bat but we did not and perhaps luckily as our driver said he used to catch them when he was a teen and they’re notoriously boney. Hmm, hard pass thanks.

Day trips

I had done plenty of research on day trips as I was determined to see Praslin and La Digue islands. There is obviously the option to get the ferry on your own and look for a taxi or join a group wandering about once you disembark but I chose to go with a tour guide led group as I wanted the extra info from a local perspective and would highly recommend this option. I booked both of my day trips with Seychelles Excursion and chose St Anne’s Marine Park/ Moyenne Island day trip and a Praslin/ La Digue combo day trip. The costs included lunch, water, entry fees, a guide with you all day and ferry tickets.

Moyenne Island

Moyenne Island (€120pp) is a former privately owned residence that has been given over to the Seychelles trust as a nature reserve.  There are giant tortoises on the island and a conservation project running to educate people on them. There were over 35 baby tortoises in the sanctuary the day I visited as well as about 9/10 older tortoises. I honestly don’t know if there are any ethical issues regarding this as the tortoises did not originate on that island but were brought over and seemed to be ok. No touching or pestering them went on while I was there. Our guide brought us to the island and had so much information to share about the history, former inhabitants, local area and flora on the island. There was also time to snorkel and swim with tropical zebrafish as well as a traditional barbeque lunch on the beach.

Praslin and La Digue

Praslin and La Digue islands (€230pp) are a ferry ride from Mahé and many visitors choose to spend a few days on either or both during their Seychelles trip. Honestly, I didn’t see the point as a day trip was sufficient and I didn’t want to be changing accommodation during a week-long visit. But you do you. The first ferry from Mahé to Praslin departs Mahé port from 7 am. Our ferry left about 8 am ish. Check the link for info on ferry times.

Let me offer a top tip for the ferry; if it is at all choppy, and it can be, go up to the roof deck.

La Digue

The fresh air is better than being below deck as there were many unfortunate passengers whose sea legs had not kicked in and it made for an unpleasant journey for them. The 60-70 min ferry journey brings you to the port in Praslin and we jumped straight onto the La Digue ferry, which takes about 20mins or so. Depending on your tour company you may visit Praslin island first and then La Digue. The fourth largest of the Seychelles islands, La Digue is about 10km sq and with so few cars on the island bikes are the transport of choice. you get to check out the coconut plantation and learn about the multitudinous benefits and uses of the coconut.

Then it’s downtime on Anse Source D’Argent and the 150 other tourists there that day. This beach is reputed to be the most photographed in the world and was used in Bounty and Malibu ads, so I was told.

Yes, it is utterly stunning to see those huge, granite rock formations dotted around the beach and the waves breaking out past the reef means the warm, lapping water is perfect for paddling but if you want the beach to yourself you are going to have to get up early.

La Digue welcomes you
Coconut husks
Praslin

On to Praslin means back on the short ferry hop and a visit to the Valleé de Mai palm forest to see the protected coco de mer plant and the rare black parrot. This double coconut or sea coconut is the oddest-looking thing I had seen and it is endemic to Praslin and Curieuse Islands in Seychelles. They were almost harvested to extinction but are now a protected species fetching up to €500 per nut. They can only be sold by authorized vendors and must have the government stamp and export licence otherwise you’re looking at a fine or prison time. You’d be nuts to risk it. Last stop on Praslin after a traditional lunch was Anse Lazio beach for some swimming and chilling and soaking up the pinch me feeling a little more. Honestly, if you do no other day trip when visiting Seychelles make this the one it.

What else is there to do?

I chose Seychelles as a tropical island paradise to relax and enjoy the sunshine. I also like to check out the places I visit and see as much as I can especially considering I doubt I’ll make it back to these islands. I’m not into deep sea fishing but if you are there are excursions to tempt you. Since it was so hot I chose not to look into the zip lining activity on offer in the SMAC adventures centre, however, if this is more your style do check it out. You can dive and snorkel and sea swimming is always an option. The main town, Victoria has a few museums and there is a large Hindu temple but very little going on inside from what I could make out. It is best to see the market in the morning when there is more produce to see and the meat and fish haven’t been out all day. I didn’t find there was much to buy in terms of souvenirs. I like a piece of art from a place I visit; a sketch or a piece of pottery. These were not easy to come by. Perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right places.

If visiting Seychelles has been on your bucket list for years then I do urge you to go. It is incredibly beautiful and the people are among the friendliest, most relaxed and unobtrusive I have come across in a tourist-driven destination. The water really is that clear and blue and the sand is deliciously soft underfoot. These islands are made for relaxation and splurge. I did feel that the money kept pouring out of my pocket and some costs; restaurants in particular, were overpriced. It felt a bit like Switzerland or Iceland in its pricing and that was the downside. Don’t think that once you have saved up for flights and accommodation that the rest of the trip will be cheap. It won’t. However, it doesn’t have to break the bank and you can visit a totally tropical paradise on a teacher budget during school holidays.

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