A guide to island-hopping in the Seychelles

A guide to island-hopping in the Seychelles

From beach idylls to granite mountains, this African archipelago is a sight to behold. Spend two weeks around its main islands and remote outposts to see tropical wildlife and catch fiery sunsets by the water. 

Published September 9, 2023

9 min read

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

The Seychellois routinely refer to their home as ‘paradise’ and, frankly, it’s difficult to disagree. Among the many beauty queens of the Indian Ocean, this collection of 115 islands off the shores of East Africa has strong claims to the overall crown. Merging the fabled beaches and turquoise hues of the castaway Maldives with the rugged, jungled peaks of volcanic Mauritius, the archipelago blends sybaritic excess with tropical adventure. Add to the mix local Creole culture and endemic flora and fauna — including the world’s largest palm tree and free-roaming giant tortoises — and you’ve got yourself a winner. 

Mornings might be spent hiking the hills. followed by afternoons swimming in the aquamarine sea. And while you could happily spend a week or two on a single island, that means missing out on the diversity the Seychelles has to offer. Island-hopping is an easy way to get around thanks to an efficient ferry system, and on the popular isles of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, guesthouses and resorts cater to every pocket. With over 50% of the country protected by reserves, there’s plenty to explore — all that’s needed is a plan. Here’s how to spend a perfect fortnight island-hopping the Seychelles.

Seaside & scenery

Days 1-4

International flights land on Mahé, but for the full paradisal introduction, escape to Praslin, a 15- to 20-minute flight away. The scenery on the Seychelles’ second-largest island turns Jurassic Park-esque in Vallée de Mai. Keep an eye out for coco de mer: the world’s largest seed grows high up in the towering palms. After the jungle, kick back on Praslin’s beaches. Try Anse Lazio in the north west, framed by granite boulders, or powdery Anse Georgette. In the east, gently shelving Anse Volbert is great for families and is walking distance to supermarkets. Stock up on SeyBrew beers for sunset hour, or groceries, should you opt to self-cater at beachside properties like Les Villas d’Or.

Day 5 

Ask your accommodation to book the brief boat ride to Curieuse, a nature reserve known for its giant tortoises. There are hundreds on the small island and, on a half-day trip, you’ll be able to spot them roaming freely. Nature trails snake their way around this wild isle, and you can hike through gnarled mangroves — where crabs scuttle and endemic birds call — all the way to the opposite shore. Curieuse was used as a leper colony for part of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the doctor’s house serves as a small museum and visitor centre. If conditions are good, ask your skipper to take you to nearby St Pierre. This tiny uninhabited island is surrounded by a reef, and shoals of stripy sergeants and rainbow parrotfish dart past as you snorkel.

Days 6-8 

La Digue is a 15-minute ferry ride from Praslin and could be seen in a few hours, but spend two nights here at Le Repaire, a boutique hotel on the northwest coast, to discover it at a laid-back pace. Cycling is the transport mode of choice — no cars are allowed unless they provide a public service; bikes are available near the ferry port. Spin up to Anse Patates beach on the north coast or over to Belle Vue, a hilltop viewpoint, before making for sandy Grand Anse. Rough waters mean swimming isn’t allowed here; for that, head south to Anse Source d’Argent, a calm stretch with a seagrass garden. Access it through L’Union Estate Park, home to an old coconut mill.  

City life & culture

Day 9

Take the ferry back to Mahé: after the tranquil pace of La Digue, you’ll be energised to explore Victoria, one of the world’s smallest capitals. Situated below a mountainous landscape of banana plants, bougainvillea and palms, it has a market and a silver-painted clock tower inspired by Big Ben. Spend a morning here, then head north west towards the beachfront resort of Beau Vallon for sunset. Book in advance at Beach Shak bar, right on the sand, to catch the best views. Alternatively, Morne Seychellois National Park encompasses 7,525 acres of mountainous jungle and mangroves — an impressive 20% of Mahé’s total land surface. A network of hiking trails snakes for over nine miles, including to the top of Morne Seychellois, the Seychelles’ highest point.   

Days 10-11

Away from the capital, the secluded south of Mahé is lush and quiet, with roads leading up hills and to small coves. Stylish Mango House hotel overlooks a lick of golden beach on the western coast, but before you settle into the lounger, there are various historic estates to tour. Domaine de Val des Près has artisanal craft boutiques set around a plantation house dating to around 1870. And, at the restaurant of the Jardin du Roi spice garden, high above the coastline, you can try curries featuring fresh herbs from the surrounding grounds. If you prefer your heritage tour with a knee-wobbling cocktail in hand, make for the Takamaka Rum distillery at La Plaine St André. See sugarcane growing, view the stills and enjoy a tasting.

Days 12-14

Head on to mountainous Silhouette, a nature reserve dotted with endemic palms and cinnamon trees, where even the surrounding waters are a protected conservation area. The archipelago’s third-largest island was once owned by the Dauban family, but aside from their 1860s house, the only sign of settlement is the Hilton Labriz resort, which stretches out alongside easterly Anse La Passe beach. Hiking guides take hotel guests and day visitors on treks: opt for the moderate Jardin Marron route, which follows trails carved by escaped slaves. On the way you’ll scramble over mossy rocks, traverse tree branches and scale slopes. The island’s trump card is snorkelling. Look out for pufferfish and octopus — a final encounter with the Seychelles’ colourful wildlife. 

Published in the Sept 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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