The sparkling Seychelles is embracing its natural beauty with green initiatives and family-friendly fun, reports Carolynne Dear.
The powdery sands of Grand Anse beach.
The Seychelles enjoyed a busy summer in 2021, despite the pandemic, and is now looking forward to an even busier 2022.
The Indian Ocean nation welcomed more than 80,000 sun seeking holidaymakers last August alone.
As a tourism-reliant economy, the country has worked hard to provide a safe environment for the return of guests quarantine-free as early as the summer of 2020, albeit with social distancing requirements.
The Seychelles launched its vaccine programme in January 2021 which was met with a strong take-up from local residents. By the spring it was on track to becoming one of the first countries in the world to achieve herd immunity.
According to principal secretary for Tourism, Sherin Francis, the subsequent visitor numbers have been “very encouraging” and reflect optimistic predictions by Tourism Seychelles made at the beginning of the year.
“Demand for travel remains high. Although,” she noted, “travellers are still faced with plenty of uncertainty.”
A confident reopening
So just how did the Indian Ocean nation mastermind a successful reopening while the rest of the world struggled under closed borders, heavy restrictions and lengthy quarantines?
As with hundreds of other destinations around the world, all holiday makers must take a test on arrival and resorts must follow mandatory health and safety guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health. But of course many Seychelles’ resorts of course also boast the natural advantage of occupying a private or sparsely populated island.
“And most guests are now vaccinated as well,” said Tim Bilfinger, general manager of Six Senses Zil Pasyon, who believes reopening in August 2020 was a wise decision. “Tourists, hungry to travel again, saw the opportunity to travel to the few tropical destinations that were open to them.”
Kayak fun at Six Senses Zil Pasyon resort, Seychelles.
Six Senses Zil Pasyon reopened its doors in mid-October 2020 with November the first full month of operation. The property is the only resort on the island of Félicité, surrounded by the neighbouring islands of Grande Soeur, Petite Soeur, Coco and Marianne. For additional protection, pandemic-stressed guests can even catch a private helicopter for the 20-minute flight from Seychelles International Airport on Mahé to the resort’s jetty helipad.
“We saw an incredible uptake in reservations,” admitted Bilfinger. “Many guests took full advantage of a warm, tropical beach destination in the Indian Ocean to spend their long-awaited holiday.”
White sandy beaches
And who can blame them? The archipelago is home to stunning white sand beaches, crystal clear seas and a rich variety of wildlife, including wide varieties of turtles, birds and fish. More than 60% of the land is protected, with lots of natural reserves to preserve the islands’ ecology, including two World Heritage sites at Vallée de Mai and Aldabra Atoll.
Traditionally one of the world’s top destinations for honeymooners, the Seychelles welcomed family holiday specialists Club Med earlier this year when the group opened a brand new resort in March. Club Med Seychelles Eco-Resort is located on the private island of Sainte Anne which is protected by the Sainte Anne Marine Park. The resort is a 15-minute speedboat ride from Victoria Jetty on Mahé and as with other Club Med spaces, Club Med Seychelles Eco-Resort is all-inclusive. It offers kids’ club options for children aged two years and up, as well as an Amazing Family programme with activities for parents to enjoy with their children.
Stuart de Bourgogne, Club Med’s Hong Kong general manager believes the Seychelles is a no-brainer for families.
“For diving and snorkelling, Sainte Anne Marine National Park is not to be missed,” he said. “And The Morne Seychelles National Park is a must for wildlife lovers. There’s plenty of cultural heritage at Victoria (Mahé) City with its museums, cathedrals, markets and shopping. We can’t wait to welcome Asia-based travellers to these beautiful islands.”
A biodiverse environment
“It’s a unique natural environment,” agrees Bilfinger. “The wild surroundings and picture perfect islands are a magnet for families. From exploring white sandy beaches, to the rugged nature trails and snorkelling and diving opportunities in the turquoise waters, there’s a lot to offer holidaymakers of all ages.”
“It’s a safe destination,” adds Lionel Ferrari, general manager of Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas. “The cleanliness, air quality and natural surroundings are all a drawcard. And there’s so much to do - ziplining, hiking, surfing, fishing, and of course the amazing beaches.”
Ferrari has also found that guests have returned quickly to the Seychelles, which he attributes to the success of the domestic vaccination programme.
“The Seychelles was fortunately only affected for a very short time due to the government’s excellent handling of the vaccination rollout which allowed us to reopen quickly,” he said. “In total the country was only closed for three months and the vaccination rate at the beginning of 2021 was one of the highest in the world. The country reopened initially just for private jets on remote islands, and then gradually opened to the rest of the world. The day that the Seychelles removed restrictions for travellers, business started to flow.”
Lazy days at Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas.
Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas is set in 30 acres of forest and gardens overlooking a private peninsula at Anse Louis on Mahé. With pool villas, scuba diving and a dedicated villa host, guests can enjoy both privacy - and isolation.
Given the Seychelles’ stunning natural attributes, it’s good to hear that hotels and resorts throughout the Seychelles have also been working on environmental issues.
Paradise Sun Hotel on the island of Praslin was recently awarded Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label certification, an internationally recognised voluntary scheme that rewards tourism businesses for implementing best practices in sustainable tourism.
“As small island states, we are the first to bear the repercussions of climate change today,” said Francis. “Which is why we strive for our partners to uphold eco-friendly practices.”
Chalets D’Anse Forbans in South Mahé and Heliconia Grove on Praslin have both renewed their SSTL accreditation post-pandemic. Both resorts have invested in technology to reduce their water and energy consumption and have managed other resources in a sustainable manner. They have also partnered with environmental non-government organisations on various conservation activities.
“We would love to see more tourism establishments and businesses come on board,” said Francis. “Our team managing the SSTL programme is intensifying its efforts in advocating for the sustainability cause and working with other hotels to increase participation in the scheme.”
As post-pandemic destinations go, Seychelles has a lot for holidaymakers to be grateful for.
Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa. Its hub island, Mahé, is home to the capital, Victoria.
Seychellois culture is a rich mix of French, British and African influences, fused with Chinese and Indian elements.
The warm climate remains stable for most of the year, with temperatures gently swaying between 24 and 30 degrees. The coolest months are July and August. From May to November, the southeast trade winds blow regularly, making this a popular time of year to visit. High winds are rare as the islands fall outside of the cyclone belt.
Family holidays don't get any better.
The Indian Ocean nation has been welcoming holidaymakers back restriction-free since last year.
This story first appeared in the Winter 2021/22 edition of Asia Family Traveller. Never miss an issue by subscribing here.