Kate Morfoot finds paradise on Alphonse Island in the Seychelles
Kate Morfoot, leading travel writer from LoveToEatToTravel.com, discovers the incredible Alphonse Island in the Seychelles.
Alphonse Island is a luxury private paradise destination in the Seychelles located 400km south-west of the mainland Mahé. With unblemished white sand beaches, lagoons and sea flats; it is the perfect place to relax and explore or to take part in the many activities it has to offer. To travel there you take a private charter flight, just an hour’s flight from Mahé which is arranged by the Blue Safari Alphonse Island reservations team.
On our approach to the island we could see the alluring island surrounded by emerald blue Indian Ocean. The Beechcraft 1900D aircraft landed on a concrete strip and pulled up outside the welcome area. We were met by the welcoming Alphonse family and offered fresh coconut in the open air bar by the sea. You soon realise that you’ve arrived in a luxury paradise!
There are 22 Beach Bungalows and five beach suites available. Apart from the guests the island is mainly inhabited by enthusiastic staff all on hand to make sure your stay is special.
Our resting place for five days was our Beach Bungalow and it had all that you would expect of a paradise haven. It was right next to the sea and being just 16 metres away there was no excuse for not having an early morning swim, unless of course you fancied the sunken bath instead or a refreshing outdoor shower! The bathroom was also spacious and included double sinks and an endless supply of L’Occitaine products. Our air conditioned bedroom was spacious with a large and very comfortable bed. Tea and coffee making facilities were provided as well as a well-stocked fridge and fresh milk. The deluxe accommodation is authentic and fits well in its location. I wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t a television or internet available in the accommodation, their ethos is to enable you to switch off and ‘step into another world’ for your holiday. You can of course find Wi-Fi if in the common areas. An outer island sanctuary has been created where you can forget about the outside world and immerse yourself in nature, relaxation or whatever ticks your box.
There are many advantages to Alphonse where organised activities for couples and families are available. You can do as little or as much as you wish during your stay. You may want to take advantage of the new Azure Spa, swim in the pool, play tennis or snooker or throw yourself into the experience-led activities offered. You can choose from an exciting programme that includes snorkelling and diving to joining a nature safari. On the safari you will learn about the island’s conservation work including giant tortoise and turtle nesting programmes.
On the top of my ‘to do’ list was to try scuba diving again and having not done this for twelve years I enrolled on a PADI Scuba Diving Program with Bryon, one of the dive professionals. Diving here is unique in terms of its remoteness, small dive team numbers and vibrant colourful coral. It has to be said the variety of fish and diversity of marine life is breath taking. Diving in the emerald seas of the Indian Ocean through schools of brightly coloured fish in the warmest clearest waters you feel you are in another world.
I saw and endless amount of dazzling sea life including the star – a Hawksbill Turtle and an assortment of other fish included eagle rays, unicorn and emperor angelfish, permit fish, emerald parrot fish, sissortail sergeant, a sleeping nurse shark, oriental sweetlips, shoals of humpback red snapper. There are 30 excellent dive sites and it is not uncommon on a dive where you can spot schools of dogtooth tuna, chevron barracudas and various species of shark. There are high and expansive vibrant coral walls where you can discover pink, orange and white sea fans and whip corals.
Non divers will also appreciate the abundant colourful sea life. We spent much of our time snorkelling at the House Reef where there are century’s old porites and Goniastrea coral. We found eagle rays, large groups of bluefin trevally and surgeonfish. The team offers guided snorkelling excursions at Alphonse or to the nearby islands of St Francois and Bijoutier.
We enjoyed a 45 minute speed boat ride with Sam Balderson to St Francois Atoll where we were to learn about its wildlife and ecosystem from him.
On arrival you realise that this hike is like no other, you start walking along the beach watching magical pairs of fairy terns soaring in the air; you wander through forests to see hundreds of red crabs scuttling along the ground. Passing through flooded basins of Mangrove trees then on to reef flats where you will see shoals of fish, rays and lemon sharks. You will see frigate birds gliding on the thermals and basking in the trees and Seychelles’ large concentrations of waders including whimbrel, ruddy turnstone and grey plover. Interestingly, large numbers of hawksbill and the endangered green turtles nest here.
A visit by boat nearer to Alphonse lies the ‘jewel in the crown’, that is the small and pretty island of Bijoutier, meaning jeweller. Just one hectare in size, this island paradise is only habited by visiting turtles and birds. Bijoutier is not only a spectacular looking paradise island it is also an important nesting site for turtles
The Island Conservation Society (ICS) monitor and look after the conservation programmes on Bijoutier as well as St Francois and of course Alphonse Island itself.
The magic and excitement that is generated on a holiday on Alphonse is broadened by the fact that every day is different. With so much on offer you can take home memories for life, whether it is catching your dream fish, trying a new hobby, such as Stand Up Paddle Boarding or learning about the island’s giant tortoises or simply watching turtles in the sea and spotting amazing bird life.
During our time on Alphonse we felt privileged to snorkel with two beautiful hawksbill turtles. It’s a mind blowing and unforgettable experience to meet these incredible creatures in their natural environment.
On the island excursions to St Francois (around a 45 minute speed boat ride) or Bijoutier (around 25 minutes) there is also an opportunity to see dolphins. On our boat ride back from Bijoutier, we were lucky enough to encounter a shoal of spinner dolphins, the boat stopped and I was given the chance to swim with them.
I jumped in with my snorkel and mask to watch the amazing shoal in front of me while another twenty or more swam past me. For me it was a dream come true to swim with my favourite mammals!
In the evenings, everyone gathers in the central dining and bar area where you can socialise and swap stories about your experiences while having a coconut cocktail or a delicious Seybrew beer.
Dining experiences are varied with lunch on the beach side or dinner under the stars eating Creole inspired food including catch of the day which could be wahoo, job fish, red snapper, grouper or yellow fin tuna and of course, BBQ grills. Over fifty per cent of their vegetables and delicious salad crops are home grown on the island.
A short bike ride away is the new and fun Beach Bar with a cool reggae vibe serving cocktails and beers from 3pm to 6pm. Here you can relax and sunbathe on the pristine beach. Equally it’s a beautiful place to view the sunset and spot turtles swimming past. The Alphonse team arranges ‘Sundowners’ with drinks and tapas each week for a chance to get to know them and to meet the other guests.
The best way to get around the island is by bicycle. We took an Island Cycle Tour to learn more about the island. It has an impressive conservation programme. You can visit the wedge-tailed shearwaters nesting colony and the baby tortoise area also visit the extensive kitchen garden with its banana trees. It was interesting to learn more about the history of the island and visiting the former prison and small cemetery. The island also arranges beach clean-ups where guests can do their bit in ensuring the island is pristine and kept clear of plastic and bottles that are sadly being washed up from other parts of the world.
The Alphonse Group is famous for some of the best fly fishing; it has a world-wide reputation for both bone fishing and deep sea fishing. For the first time I tried my hand at fly fishing. After a few practice attempts I did very well, apart from one cast when I managed to hook my neck (luckily it was a barbless hook). After being unhooked, I had a few more casts with the help of my co-fisherwoman Jordyn and caught a beautiful tomato grouper Balderson which we hastily returned back to the sea.
Our final excursion from our paradise get-away was the much heralded Reef Flats Lunch which took place just off St Francois. Our boat dropped us off and we waded through the crystal clear waters to reach the sand flats where the staff had prepared a delicious BBQ lunch of grilled fish, meat and salad all waiting for us in a truly sublime setting. Other boats arrived to join us with a deep sea fishing party making a party of around 30 of us having lunch in a surreal and remarkable location.
If you are looking for an unforgettable experience or a romantic get-away on an idyllic island, Alphonse exceeded our expectations. I didn’t win any prizes for catching a fish, but I know I have had some amazing and unforgettable life experiences, let’s just say, I’m hooked on Alphonse!
How to Book – Alphonse Island
A 7 Night Package in a Beach Bungalow from US$6000 per person includes: Accommodation / Flight Mahe / Alphonse / Mahe / three meals per day and communal excursions.
Alphonse Island | Tel: +248 422 9700 | +248 422 9030 | Skype: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: alphonse-island.com | Email: email@example.com
(This excludes direct flights from British Airways to Mahe or with Emirates to Mahe via Dubai).
For more information about the Seychelles contact: Seychelles Tourist Office, 130-132 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 9SA London / 0207 730 0700 / firstname.lastname@example.org / seychelles.travel