Seychelles. It was definitely not on my bucket list.
Have you ever ruled something out even before you are exposed to it? That was me with island holidays. I always said it was not my thing and that I need adventure and adrenaline or charm and history in my travels. But when it comes to travelling, I learnt, don’t rule out experiences before you give it a shot. And I am glad I gave Seychelles a chance. Before my departure I was drowning in work deadlines, study deadlines and mundane bits and bobs. It was exhausting! And a break was really necessary. Seychelles was my first (of many, hopefully) trips abroad this year, having last traveled to Amsterdam last November. It was by far the most luxurious trips that I have been on and my first island vacation (I am usually a travel hustler).
I was really surprised that Seychelles is just four and a half hours away from Johannesburg with Air Seychelles. It is a direct flight that seems shorter than the road trip between Jo’burg and Harrismith- and there is no greasy road food involved too. The flight was a pleasure! I had the luxury of travelling business class, which for a hustler like me is a rare occasion. The plane was really tiny but the comfort in Air Seychelles is incredible and the service was immaculate. I loved that the food was inspired by the Creole local cuisine which involves a lot of tuna! I generally don’t get excited for plan food but pecan pie dessert served with lunch blew my mind away! The airline is aligned to Etihad so expect similar, if not better service. The prices from Johannesburg to Seychelles are pretty reasonable compared to other destinations with a return flight costing under R7000. If you are anywhere else in the world there are two daily flights on Emirates to Seychelles which makes the tiny island state accessible to the rest of the world. A huge, huge draw card for travelling to Seychelles is that you don’t need a visa- a delight really!
Seychelles is made up of a number of islands which have plenty of resorts, guest houses and small boutique hotels. After all, tourism makes up at least 70% of the country’s GDP. But I won’t bore you further. The main island is called Mahe which I recommend to explore for a bit even if you booked a resort on one of the nearby islands. But before I get to what’s on offer, I really recommend you decide what type of holiday you want. You can hustle a little and stay in local B&Bs which are scattered all over the island. Booking.com has some good deals for average places. The great thing about this tiny island is that you will definitely be close to the beach so a sea view is almost a given. So it is worth remembering that if you are on a budget Seychelles can still work for you if you consider guest houses and boutique hotels. Hilton has a Double Tree hotel in the South of the island which is reasonably priced compared to the more luxurious resorts. I didn’t stay at the Double Tree but went to have a look at it and I was quite impressed. If you want to have a good holiday but you are a little cost conscious this is the place for you. Plus, the views are stunning! Then there are the resorts- some bigger than others on many islands. I stayed at two resorts on Mahe and another island called Silhouette– about 45 minutes away from the mainland by boat. You can even hire a car to drive around while you are there but don’t expect any fancy car as the bigger the car, the more you are taxed. Public transport on the island is a little tricky (even for me, a huge advocate for public transport) so I don’t recommend it. I recommend arrange transfers through the resort you are staying at. We were picked up by Hilton which was a blessing because we arrived at night and the thought of trying to get a taxi stressed me out.’
When booking at a resort of your choice there are a few things to consider: How much do you prefer seclusion and privacy? Do you want the luxury of a private pool? Do you want half board or full board? Are sea views a must? Are you taking kids along?
Because Seychelles is a preferred honeymoon destination, privacy and seclusion is often catered for. When I stayed in Hilton Northolme on Mahe- I was blown away by the fact that I had a private infinity pool and my villa was actually perched in the mountain with the ocean crashing at the bottom. Little did I know that in Hilton Labriz on Silhouette Island I would have my own private pool, private deck, private dining pavilion, private out door pool, private garden with a hammock and private walkway to the beach! Being in hijaab, this was a dream come true. The hotel manager said the privacy was often requested by guests from the Middle East and I can understand why. There is nothing more awkward of waiting for a quite time at a resort’s main pool so that I can swim. Having this kind of privacy allows you to do as you please without the restrictions of being in full view. Obviously, this type of privacy comes at a price so you would have to decide if it’s something you really want. I heard that Kate and William went to one of the island’s called North Island for their honeymoon just to be away from the prying paparazzi. They stayed at a six star luxury private resort with no one else on the island besides resort staff. If you have royal wealth, I suppose booking out a private island is what you do.
Food is the most important part of a travel experience for me. I usually can hustle when it comes to accommodation and transport but food needs to be up to scratch. Seychelles is not as vibey as, say, Phuket so street food is ruled out. There are a few restaurants nestled across the main island but if you want a laid back vacation of if you are on honeymoon, I recommend the half board or full board options at the resort you are staying at. Some resorts have varying dinning options- where they take you to different restaurants as part of your package. Hilton Northolme had only one restaurant which was fantastic so we had lunch at Hilton Double Tree where I had one of the best fish I have tasted in my life. At Hilton Labriz, there is about five restaurants varying from local cuisine to Asian fusion to Italian. It was a real delight. Hilton says they import all their meat from Dubai so they claim to be fully Halaal. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that so I stuck to seafood which was probably the best choice on an island. At Labriz the local cuisine was delectable! I had my first octopus curry there.
The nature of your trip is a big deciding factor of where to book. If you are going for your honeymoon then the secluded private villas are what you looking. Think sprawling king size beds, a lounge area and massive and extraordinary bathrooms! But Seychelles is not only a destination for giddy newlyweds. It can be a good family holiday too but make sure to find out if the resort you planning to stay at caters for kids. Hilton Northolme, for example, does not allow kids under 13 years old. But Hilton Labriz fully caters for kids with a big play area, kid’s activities and nanny services as well. Once you decide what type of holiday you taking is a deciding factor of what type of activities you plan to do. We did some touring to the spice gardens which was amazing but chose not to go to the local market. The spice garden is perched in a mountain and is extremely lush full of spices grown on the island as well as a series of medicinal plants. We did a bit of hiking on Silhouette Island where we explored the flora on the island. The deep sea fishing in the middle of the Indian Ocean was something on my bucket list for a long time and it fulfilled all expectations. The waters were choppy but there was something magical of seeing the sun set while being at the mercy of the ocean was breath taking. Being tossed about on a small boat in the middle of the ocean reminds you how we actually don’t control life and that what is meant to be will be. Apart from a few activities and lots of eating, we chilled a lot. You don’t really get tired from using a Jacuzzi in your bathroom to swimming in your private pool to dipping your feet in the ocean. It was pure bliss! Using the resort spa was one of the best things I experienced on my trip. There is no way you can come back not relaxed and stress free after a spa treatment in the middle of a mountain, surrounded by greenery with the sounds of the ocean in the distance!
Whether you decide to visit Seychelles for honeymoon, a family trip or just to get perspective on life- it is a destination worth exploring. What I loved the most about the island state is that the islands are not perfectly manicured to appease tourists. The rawness of its beauty surfaces in the culture and life on the islands which is not far away from the resorts and tourist areas. It is so beautiful in its imperfection and has so much more depth and charm than simply the white sandy beaches and turquoise beaches. That is just an added bonus.