Island discovery in the stunning Seychelles: Kate Morfoot visits Mahé, Praslin & Bird Island
Kate Morfoot, leading food and travel writer and founder of lovetoeattotravel.com goes on a journey of island discovery to Mahé, Praslin and Bird Island in the Seychelles.
The tropical Seychelles in the Indian Ocean consists of 115 islands. It is a safe and a perfect destination for couples, families and lone travellers where there is a lot to enjoy for those who either want to relax or for those seeking more adventure.
I flew from Heathrow to Seychelles International Airport landing at Mahé. It’s the largest island in the Seychelles and Victoria, the smallest capital in the world throws a spectacular carnival of celebration every year inviting over 20 countries to take part.
A twenty minute drive from the airport gets you to the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa at Beau Vallon where there is an intimate haven of luxury with personal service.
The brand new Grand Oceanview Pool Villas are spectacular; the interiors are modern and luxurious. The king-sized bed overlooks the blue Indian Ocean with a view of Silhouette Island. No wonder it inspired Ian Fleming to write ‘For Your Eyes Only.’
A Jacuzzi bath is perfectly placed for you to relax looking out to sea. There’s a fabulous open shower, two large double sinks, soft robes and slippers to unwind in.
Your private pool and decking furnished with sun loungers are perfectly positioned to provide privacy.
The Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort is well known for its spa. The Eforea Spa offers a range of interesting and restorative treatments from Healing Earth facials to reflexology.
Les Cocotiers Restaurant serves Creole specialities that include grilled meat, fish and seafood. Head chef Eddie Sharkey prepared a seafood feast starter of fishcakes followed by Red Snapper and Job Fish.
The Hilltop Restaurant serves breakfast and is renowned for its signature buffets. At the Creole buffet evening it gave me the perfect opportunity to try the local flavours including smoked marlin, local black pudding and papaya chutney.
The coral reef by the hotel is fantastic for snorkelling and the waters are very safe to swim in.
Enchanted Island Resort was created by the Shah family on Round Island located in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park. It was to be my next island adventure! The exclusive resort is a ten minute boat journey from Mahé, making it a very accessible retreat. I had a feeling of stepping back in time as I discovered the Castaway Bar where I enjoyed a cold drink before the short buggy ride to my luxe villa.
With only ten villas on this island, each one with access to its own beach, you can tell this dream resort was designed and built with pride and passion.
It is the brainchild of Sunil and his late father Anant Jivan-Shah who lived to see and enjoy their creation completed. Many special plants and trees were cultivated in a nursery on Mahé and overseen by Sunil were shipped over to Round Island where there is now an abundance of colourful and sweet-smelling flowers.
There are eight signature villas and two unique villas. My Private Pool Villa ‘Villa Kopayi’ was a delight. The home-from-home features include a king-sized bed, quiet air conditioning, a LED screen TV with satellite programming, complimentary WIFI and a DVD player. Interestingly there is a lovely antique writing desk and handmade copper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The original outdoor bath tub is luxuriously lined with mother of pearl and spacious enough for two people. The power shower and toilet are also outside! Privacy and seclusion is what you have here, so there’s no need to be shy!
Outside there’s a private veranda and a private swimming pool with sun loungers. It is a short walk down the garden path where you reach a private beach and more comfortable sun loungers overlooking the sapphire sea.
Round Island has hosted many celebrities since its opening. Ronny Woods from the Rolling Stones and his wife Sally stayed for three weeks. Their Signature Villa showcases the Creole inspired design having access to three beaches and an infinity pool.
Breakfast is served in the Bounty Restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean. It’s not buffet style but more to my taste, each dish is cooked to your preference from the breakfast menu.
There is a lovely bar menu and a varied evening meal menu. I tried the crispy squid tempura served with Creole coconut mash, sliced radish, and pineapple coriander followed by Seafood Bouillabaisse of fresh fish with shellfish in a saffron broth with cherry tomatoes and baby potatoes was fresh and tasty.
For a wonderful holiday of relaxation and rejuvenation visit the Serena Spa or yoga pavilion. There is a modern gym and even a library.
For those who like to venture out and explore, ten minutes paddling in a kayak takes you to the National Park of Moyenne Island where there are giant tortoises and amazing viewpoints on a scenic nature walk.
Praslin, known as the ‘Garden of Eden’ is an hour’s ferry journey on Cat Cocos from Mahé. This is the second largest island and was next on my island hopping adventure.
It is famous for the Vallée de Mai, the home of the sea coconut. The famous ‘Coco de Mer’ is the largest seed in the world with a diameter of half a metre. A visit to Praslin is not complete without taking one of their enthusiastic tour guides to show you the wonders of this UNESCO Heritage site. Here you will find some of the tallest palm trees in the world and if you’re lucky gazing skywards you may also see the rare Seychelles Black Parrott which is unique to the area.
The Raffles Praslin hotel team of enthusiastic staff bring a new dimension to service levels with attention to detail! This is the hotel to head to if you like indulgence! Chris Meredith the Executive Chef with General Manager Joerg Roterberg focus on ensuring the Seychellois culture and cuisine lies at the heart of the hotel. Chris makes the most of Praslin’s fresh fish selecting it from the local fishing boats.
Raffles has an excellent Sushi Restaurant, run by Sunil, the acclaimed chef de cuisine. I tried the Curieuese Sampler menu which included chicken and beef satay and Vietnamese spring rolls with a sushi selection of Yellow Tuna, Captain Jack fish, Job fish.
My villa was spacious, located in a tropical setting with palm trees swaying, perfectly located overlooking Curieuese Island. There was an outdoor swimming pool and lounge area. From the comfort of your king size bed you have a fantastic view overlooking the Indian Ocean.
There are full time beach attendants to look after you and the hotel boasts the two longest infinity swimming pools in the Seychelles!
The fantastic spa has experienced therapists including Elizabeth who I found to be a great masseur.
Breakfast in the Losean Restaurant is outstanding. The chef prepares homemade noodles, stir-fry’s and waffles made to order. There’s freshly home baked bread and cakes together with an array of fruit and juices available. Meats served are sourced from local farms. Their team work hard to maintain award winning food, all served with a cheery smile!
My thirty minute Twin Otter flight from Mahé touched down on Bird Island, the most northerly island, 100 km from the mainland.
“Mind your head! Welcome to Coconut Terminal!” Roby Bresson, the island’s Conservationist greeted me off the aircraft like an old friend.
He beamed an almighty smile and my bags were whisked away. This was my kind of airport, a grass runway with only a short walk to my wooden chalet, just steps from one of the top beaches in the world.
Collapsing in the hill-billy style chair on the wooden veranda, I looked out at the sweet scented flowering Frangipani and coconut trees.
I was enveloped by bird songs and my eyes tuned into the abundance of life around me. There are no predators, no cats, no rats on Bird Island and the birds are not frightened by visitors. In fact many species nest on the ground.
Taking a short stroll to cool off, I swam in one of the world’s most untouched beaches and was lucky enough to swim with a Green Turtle. I was ensconced in the world of birds. Flying above me were White Fairy Terns dancing and the Sooty Turns and Brown Noddy birds were skimming the surface fishing for food for their chicks. You feel a deep realisation that this is their world and you are privileged to be part of this natural wonder.
There are currently 121 ground nests of the endangered Hawksbill Turtle, 39 Green Turtle nests and 27 resident Giant Tortoises.
Just before dawn, I walked to the north of the island with Roby for a spectacular nature performance. Colonies of hundreds of thousands of birds flying high in the sky could be seen and the sounds of the birds was like being in a noisy stadium as the 850 thousand pairs of Sooty Terns with a sprinkling of Frigate birds soared above us.
The Guinness Book of Record’s heaviest giant tortoise, the legendary Esmeralda, weighing in at 308 kilos is reported to be the oldest living giant tortoise and whose home is on Bird Island.
The restaurant served a buffet of excellent home cooked traditional Creole food. The catch of the day was Red Snapper, caught just that morning, served with home grown fresh vegetables and coconut rice.
The bar has a drinks list that includes original cocktails so I enjoyed a Bird Island Passion at the bar before heading back to my king sized bed for a songful night’s sleep.
The birds were singing their bedtime melodies and I was in heaven.
For more information about the Seychelles visit: www.seychelles.travel
When to go: The Seychelles is pleasant to go all year around with minimum temperatures of 28 degrees. Dry Season – end of February to June and October to early Dec.
Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa at Beau Vallon, Mahe Island
Turquoise Holidays offers a 7 night stay (for the price of 5) in a King Hillside Villa at Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa from £1799 per person including breakfast, transfers by private car and international flights from the UK to Mahé with Etihad Airways. To book call 01494 678400, visit turquoiseholidays.co.uk or email: email@example.com.
Seyexclusive offers a 7 night stay with international flights and all transfers by speed boat from Mahé to Round Island return, b&b, Private Pool Villa £2159 pp. Without flights all transfer, bb, private pool villa £ 1555 pp.
To book call 0844 800 9722, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit seyexclusive.com
Seyexclusive offers a 7 night stay with flights and private transfers, B&B, Garden View Pool Villa, From £1999 per person.
To book call 0844 800 9722, email: email@example.com or visit seyexclusive.com.
Flights with Emirates from Heathrow to Mahé from £650 each. Flights are £323 per person from Mahé to Bird Island return. 1-6 nights £301 per chalet including all meals, a nature tour, use of snorkeling equipment, excluding drinks.