The Seychelles: more than sun, sand and sea


Nestled in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean lies Seychelles, an archipelago that enchants travellers with its pristine beauty and tropical allure.
Renowned for its idyllic white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs, this collection of islands beckons visitors to experience its natural splendour.
While the sea and shells may be the first images that come to mind when thinking of Seychelles, the islands have much more to offer international tourists. writes Kim Thomson.
Let’s unravel some of the secrets that make these islands a sanctuary for those seeking an unforgettable tropical escape.
When we landed in Mahé, the largest island in the Seychelles archipelago, I was mesmerised by the breathtaking views: verdant hills stretched on one side, while the boundless blue ocean extended on the other.
A 40-minute drive later, we arrived in the five-star The Constance Ephelia Resort. Here, we were welcomed by Bernadette Willemin, Director General for Destination Marketing, who said: “Tourism Seychelles together with its partners are excited to be able to stage this familiarization trip that promises to showcase some of the cultural discoveries our destination has to offer.
“It is not just a trip; it is an immersive experience designed to deepen your understanding of the unique offerings that sets destination Seychelles apart. From picturesque landscapes to vibrant culture, we aim to and equip you with firsthand knowledge that will elevate your ability to create extraordinary journeys for our visitors.” 
At the property was also Sherin Francis, Principal Secretary for Tourism, who called us – the group of representatives from 65 travel agencies and press partners – important for Seychelles. Welcoming us, she said: “Seychellois are naturally warm, friendly people. You’ve probably already started experiencing that with our team members and trade partners who welcomed you at the airport. You are very important for our business. We are among one of the few destinations in the world who are able to get quite a sizable amount of our business from travel trade professionals and I thank you for that, and for the work that you do together with our local destination management companies (DMCs).”
The Constance Ephelia Resort is part of Contance Hotels & Resorts, which has nine properties within the Indian Ocean area. The resort covers 120 hectares of land and is nestled among two beautiful white sand beaches on the island of Mahé.
It overlooks the marine national park of Port Launay. It has 313 rooms – including tropical garden view rooms, junior and senior suites, family, beach and hillside villas, and the Presidential suite.
There are five restaurants to choose from at this hotel – and each has a child-friendly special menu. The resort also has a kids’ club with activities including feeding giant tortoises. For adults, Constance Spa offers treatments with natural ingredients in addition to fitness and wellness programmes such as yoga. There is also an adult-only pool. Available at the fitness centre are activities such as curated nature walks, where you will see more fantastic views. You can walk the full resort or call a buggy to take you where you need to go. Don’t worry if you start walking and feel tired, a buggy is never far away.
Seychelles is a nation rife with influences from the Arab world -which was one of the first to discover it – the Portuguese, the French and the English. The multinational island speaks English, French and Seychelle Creole, a French-based language.
It’s home to beautiful beaches and the sea, but there’s so much more to see and do here. In Seychelles’ capital, Victoria – which is on Mahé island – for example, you’ll find The Sir-Selwyn-Selwin local market, which sells fresh fish, vegetables, spices and crafts.
Seychelles is predominantly Christian and there is a beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral in Victoria. There is also a Hindu Temple (Hinduism is the second-largest religion here). Situated on the main thoroughfare of Victoria is the famous Clock Tower, a miniature of the Vauxhul Tower of London.
The food here is influenced by African, Indian, French and Chinese cuisines to name a few; fish is one of the staples. One of the must-visit eateries in Victoria is Marie Antoinette Restaurant, named after Queen Marie-Antoniette of France, which was opened in 1972 by the late Kathleen Finsekais.
We didn’t have much time in the capital – but I would recommend spending at least a day.
One place for the best views of Mahé’s west coast is Mission Lodge, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 
Originally known as Venn’s Town, missionaries established a school there for liberated Africans who arrived in Seychelles after 1861. The ruins serve as a reminder of Seychelles’ role in the region’s campaign to eradicate the slave trade following the abolition of slavery in 1834.
The View Lodge, which is also in Venn’s Town, was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II after she inaugurated Seychelles international Airport in March 1972. Here, you can follow in the footsteps of the late Queen Elizabeth and the late Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip.
Looking for gorgeous views of nature? Visit the 60-hectre Cap Lazre Nature Reserve in Baie Lazure, in southern Mahé, where we spent our last day. Here you’ll find local artists and craftsmen displaying their wares.
You will also find that not only can you go on nature walks with spectacular look out points, enjoy a private or group yoga class, sip on bubbly and watch the sun go down, and enjoy farm-to-table local cuisine, but also see giant land tortoises roaming free. These giant creatures are friendly and love being stroked, but just watch out for their mouths.
The Seychelles is one of only two places in the world where you can find the giant tortoise, so they are well loved and protected. Another unique opportunity Cap Lazre offers is Moutya, a traditional Seychellois dance around a bonfire. (Cap Lazre Nature Reserve is only bookable through the DMC Creole Travel Services)
Accommodation in the Seychelles ranges from guest houses to five-star hotels – so you’ll always find something within budget.
The Seychelles’ archipelago is made up of 115 islands, less than half of which are inhabited. I only had the chance to visit two: Mahe, and Silhouette. When we visited the latter, we stayed at The Hilton Hotels and Resorts’ Hilton Labriz Resort and Spa after enjoying sundowners at Hilton Northolme Resort on the north side of Mahé.
Hilton Labriz Resort and Spa is the only resort located on Silhouette Island. With 111 villas, there are plenty of options to choose from – there are villas with private pools and even a two-bed Silhouette Suite that can sleep six and has a private beach, private butler and much more. There are five food and beverage outlets, and bed-and-breakfast packages and half- and full-board rates are available.
 The Efora Spa, built into the hillside, offers signature treatments using the Elements products, which uses natural ingredients. It has an infinity pool with views overlooking the Indian Ocean, offering total tranquillity.
With the island being 93 per cent natural park, hikes and nature walks are a great way to spend the day.
Hilton Northolme Resort is just 7 km from Victoria and has 57 villas nestled among the green mountainside with views of the Indian Ocean. This resort is for adults and children over 13 years old.
The Hilton Hotel & Resorts is scheduled to open a Waldorf Astoria on Platte Island in February 2024, so the options are only set to grow.
 No matter where your guests stay, ensure they embrace all that the Seychelles has to offer – take advantage of the nature walks at the hotel or what the DMCs have to offer and get a glimpse of local life.
DMSs that provided the ground handling are: Creole Travel Services, 7-degree South, Masons Travel, and Summer Rain Tours.