With the Seychelles having successfully sped through its Covid-19 immunisation programme, its pristine paradise resorts are ready and raring to welcome back holiday-starved British visitors, just as soon as they’re free to travel again. In fact, such was the rapid success of its comprehensive, two-dose vaccination programme, launched back in January 2021, that the far-sighted Indian Ocean nation has been open to international visitors since March 25.
Rest assured, then, that local operators have had ample time to prepare for your visit. And with no quarantine requirement, no minimum stay in establishments upon arrival and no restrictions of movement once there (just a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure), visitors are free to savour the Seychelles’ signature tourism offering unfettered. What’s more, given the Seychelles’ focus on small-scale responsible travel you’ll struggle to find a safer place to be right now.
UK travellers can choose from a plethora of flight services, from Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways to Turkish Airlines, Aeroflot and Ethiopian Airlines. Once there, getting around is remarkably simple, too. From private boat transfers and local ferry services to helicopter or small plane transfers, island hopping is a cinch, especially among the ‘Inner Islands’ such as Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. This enables the more adventurous to tick off local experiences with ease (once they’re ready to drag themselves away from the restful resorts and dreamy beaches, that is).
Scattered among the idyllic waters of the Indian Ocean, east of Africa, the 115-island archipelago is home to some of the world’s best beaches, their bone-white, sun-kissed sands accented by smooth granite boulders, flanked by lush forests and caressed by gentle turquoise waters. If you’re looking for destination inspiration then sandy stretches such as Anse Georgette, on Praslin, or Petite Anse, on the main island, Mahé, speak for themselves.
While some favour the five-star offerings of international hotel brands such as Raffles, Hilton and Four Seasons, others gravitate towards the more local-style private island resorts such as Denis Island and Bird Island, with their timeless approach to barefoot luxury and nature conservation. In such times, the exclusive sanctuary offered by such ‘one island, one resort’ offerings has never seemed more attractive, with other aspirational offerings including Fregate Island Private and North Island, long a magnet for high-profile honeymooners such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Not that you need to break the bank to ‘get away from it all’. Take diminutive La Digue. Stepping foot on the sleepy, unhurried shores of this refreshingly carefree, and largely car-free, island, easily accessible from Praslin or Mahé, is like journeying to a simpler, more innocent time – albeit backed by world-class beaches and resorts.
Among the Seychelles’ other big draws sits the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, on Praslin. Even in an archipelago so awash with jaw-dropping pristine natural habitats the biodiverse Vallée, a Unesco World Heritage Site, stands apart, a unique habitat home to towering, prehistoric-looking vegetation such as the Coco de Mer palm – its distinctive nut being one of the nation’s most recognisable symbols.
Offshore, the calm, dreamy waters of the Seychelles’ protected marine biosphere support activities ranging from catamaran cruises and kayaking to snorkelling and diving. Among those with a particularly strong active focus is the recently opened, family-friendly Club Med Seychelles, on Saint Anne.
The Seychelles’ vaccine rollout
The Seychelles began its vaccination programme back in January 2021, targeting 70,000 adults among its total population of 98,000. As of May 3, 97 per cent of the targeted population had received a first dose and 85 per cent a further second dose. For more updated travel advisory info see tourism.gov.sc
While some of the Seychelles’ natural wonders can be remote, such as the Aldabra Group among the Outer Islands, home to a population of giant tortoises and the recently launched Cosmoledo Eco Camp, most are refreshingly accessible. Easy walks such as Grand Barbe trail on Silhouette Island and Mahé’s Salazie Nature Trail, for example, offer an immersive appreciation of the archipelago’s untouched majesty, while one of the best ways to experience La Digue is to grab a hire bike and pedal, walk or hitch a ride on a passing ox cart en route to secluded beaches such as Anse Cocos.
Another strong selling point is the resolute approach to responsible tourism adopted by the government and local operators, the pioneering work in sustainability and conservation by properties such as Denis Island carried on by later ‘eco-chic’ entrants such as the solar-powered Alphonse Island.
Finally, no Seychelles trip is complete without time spent in Victoria, the compact capital on Mahé. Its shops, bars, restaurants and museums offer a great way to pass an afternoon or evening, experiencing the authentic Creole culture and cuisine alongside the locals, or interacting with giant Aldabra tortoises at its sumptuous Botanical Gardens. Mahé also hosts major annual events such as the Creole Festival, and the staggeringly scenic marathon, held on the last Sunday of February. Being home to a smattering of more affordable, mid-scale properties the island also attracts those on a budget.
Digital nomads looking to tweak their work-life balance, meanwhile, should take note of the government’s new Workcation Retreat Programme, aimed at enticing long-term remote workers for up to one year (workcation.seychelles.travel). Whatever your reasons for visiting though it’s high time to book and discover for yourself why the Seychellois say their home is your sanctuary.