Locked down for months and with scenes of overcrowded beaches close to home, many of us could only daydream of distant castaway shores. Now that fantasy is finally closer to becoming reality as the otherworldly tropical beauty of the Seychelles is set to reopen for UK tourists. With ample paradise beaches, spacious resorts, and breezy coastal guesthouses, it is a classic example of a destination that achieves social distancing without even trying. Here is all you need to know before embarking on that dream holiday.
The string-of-pearl Seychelles islands sprinkled across the secluded western Indian Ocean were described as the original "Garden of Eden" by the earliest explorers. Since then, the 115-isle archipelago of pristine platinum sand and crystalline water flanked by smooth granite boulders and verdant virgin peaks inhabited by strange exotic creatures has remained relatively undisturbed. With ample castaway beaches, spacious resorts, and breezy coastal guesthouses, it is a classic example of a destination that achieves social distancing without even trying.
The largest island, Mahe, is the main gateway to the Seychelles. An international airport in the country’s capital Victoria is served by direct flights from the UK, which take around 10 hours. Most of the Seychelles’ small population is concentrated on the island, with exclusive beach resorts and quaint guesthouses dotted along its magnificent coastline. However, many visitors make the short hop to the second largest island – Praslin – to revel in its natural treasures, while quaint La Digue – the third largest island – and pocket paradise Silhouette offer boutique hotels and desert island bliss.
All you need to know to visit the Seychelles
As the archipelago prepares to reopen for UK tourists very soon, here’s all you need to know before you go, so you can be sure of a smooth holiday to the Seychelles that ticks all the boxes.
Space to breath
The ideal idyll for a socially distanced break, islands such as the Seychelles are the current destination du jour, with easily monitored gateways, a tiny local population, and boutique island resorts with plenty of room to breathe.
For a high-end heavenly haven, Kempinski Seychelles Resort Baie Lazare between a beautiful bay and jungle-tangled peaks in Mahe is sure to deliver, while Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa occupies a location so stunning it served as inspiration for James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The island itself is a nature-lover’s paradise of forested ravines and glorious sandy shores best discovered via the winding hiking trails of Morne Seychellois National Park.
Praslin shares Mahe’s natural beauty, but the pace is even more relaxed with vast swathes of ancient rainforest carpeting its protected hills. A UNESCO-protected eco reserve, Vallee de Mai, featuring the famed endemic "Coco de Mer" tree with huge seeds shaped like a lady’s derriere, is perfect for walks in pristine nature. The island’s beaches are feted as the most glorious in the world and all are accessible to the public. Do not miss Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette overlooked by the gorgeous Constance Lemuria resort.
Best known for its luxury beachfront hotels, the Seychelles’ remote tropical islands are a favourite with privacy-seeking royals and A-listers, with Hollywood actor Leo DiCaprio even supporting the establishment of two new marine reserves in the archipelago. The local government even allowed private jets to arrive to small islands from Europe in June and July as a trial run for the reopening of its main airport.
Seychelles on a shoestring
But not all the private islands are inhabited by actors or billionaires. In fact, these remote and exotic islands are home to rare wildlife, not least indigenous giant tortoises, which are especially endearing to children and animal lovers. Visitors will be amazed by the variety and beauty of Bird Island, where feathered creatures rule the roost. Close to Praslin, Curieuse Island is the hideaway for nesting hawksbill turtles, rare black parrots and more than 300 indigenous tortoises.
One very special islet, Moyenne Island, was developed into a sanctuary by conservationist Brendon Grimshaw for the archipelago’s native giant tortoises. This little patch of paradise reached by boat has been declared a National Park in its own right, open to visitors by prior arrangement.
A trip to the islands need not require a celebrity bank balance either. Affordable accommodation is commonplace, particularly in the rustic haven of La Digue where bicycles are the main mode of transport. Charming guesthouses such as Bois d’Amour, nestled between the woods and the water close to Anse Reunion beach, make it possible to do the Seychelles on a shoestring budget. Direct flights to the islands are surprisingly affordable and once you are there, natural treasures including some of the world’s best beaches, snorkelling, and hiking trails prove the best things in life are free.
See the Seychelles from the seashore
Immersing in nature and island-hopping is a huge part of the archipelago’s appeal, so before reopening for international visitors post-Covid, the Seychelles put a plan in place to ensure that tourists can safely explore the islands. There are regular boat services between the three main islands, and hotels can also help you arrange small group tours and private boat and catamaran charters with a skipper, so you can choose your own adventure and channel your inner explorer.
Calm crystal-clear seas from September to November make this a prime time for island-hopping, snorkelling, and scuba-diving. The Seychelles is just as beautiful beneath the waves as above. Peering into the deep around the inner plateau reveals some of the most startling underwater topography in the Indian Ocean, with coral-encrusted canyons haunted by colourful marine creatures.
A snorkelling trip to Ile Cocos Marine National Park offers a window on some of the Indian Ocean’s most exotic coral gardens, as well as a glimpse of some the archipelago’s most-photographed granite islets. Guided tours and taxi boats to the shallow protected waters are easily arranged from Praslin and La Digue.
The Seychelles, what you need to know before you go
Health and safety in travel is paramount right now. For most long-haul destinations, you will need evidence of a negative covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel, plus evidence of where you are staying, which must be on the Seychelles list of certified accommodation. Other health checks such as questionnaires and temperature screening will be carried out at the international airport.
British Airways is set to resume its direct twice weekly service from London Heathrow (LHR) to Mahe (SEZ) next month. Coronavirus testing is now available at London Heathrow Terminal 2 for a small fee.
The Seychelles is on the UK’s travel corridor list, meaning travellers will not need to quarantine upon their return to UK. Unfortunately, the arrangement is not reciprocal, with the UK not currently making the Seychelles list of low and medium-risk countries’ residents permitted entry. However, the list is reviewed periodically, and the tourism ministry hopes to welcome back UK travellers in the very near future.
Major luxury hotel chains such as the Kempinski and Hilton as well as smaller boutiques and guesthouses have all been certified Covid-safe, and you can be assured that Kenwood’s collection of the finest Seychelles hotels follow all the relevant protocols. Once you have arrived in Seychelles, you cannot stay in more than two places of accommodation for the first seven days.
At Kenwood Travel our resident Indian Ocean experts will guide you through the specifics to ensure you have a smooth and relaxing trip to the Seychelles. When you book today, you can take advantage of our super low deposits from just £99 per person and we will even send you a complimentary face mask. Simply call 020 7749 9241 to speak to a travel consultant.