If you would like to visit this Indian Ocean archipelago without breaking the bank, a self-catering holiday is the way to go. Ex-Seychelles expat Lynette Botha has the lowdown.
I still struggle to succinctly sum up the magnificence of the Seychelles. You see, the raw and immaculate natural beauty of the archipelago blows me away every time. The cerulean tones of the warm Indian Ocean, the long stretches of completely deserted beaches, the groves of swaying palm trees and the idyllic temperatures make it completely paradisiacal.
And while it is easy to think “seen one island, seen them all”, I can justly say that this is not the case. I am lucky enough to have explored many island destinations in my life, and the unspoiled beauty of the Seychelles is unparalleled. It is more pristine and secluded than Mauritius, less rugged than Zanzibar and more easily accessible than the Maldives. And just a four-hour flight from Johannesburg, it is right on our doorstep.
Made up of 115 granitic and coralline islands, it is home to the smallest frog, the heaviest land tortoise in the world, and the only flightless bird of the Indian Ocean. Almost 50 per cent of the islands are national parks and reserves. Tourism is one of the archipelago’s main industries, so there is no lack of accommodation. However, resorts and serviced villas come at a premium rate. If you are looking for an affordable way to enjoy the Seychelles, self-catering is the answer.
Where to stay
Mahé is the largest island of the Seychelles, and home to Victoria, the smallest capital city in the world. While there are several outer islands worth a visit (many are uninhabitable or protected and solely accessible for environmental conservation), the inner islands are the most tourist-friendly, and Mahé is the best base.
A fifteen-minute drive from Seychelles International Airport is where you will find Castaway Lodge. It is located directly off the main coastal road, although you would never guess it once you are on the property, as it is secluded and quiet.
Made up of various self-catering apartments and two villas with pools, the accommodation options are suitable for couples, families and groups. Each unit is fully equipped for a self-catering stay and tastefully furnished in neutral colours, with wood and natural elements. It is close to shops and beautiful beaches, as well as the local rum distillery. Wi-Fi and alternate day cleaning are included in the rates.
Rates: Two-bedroom apartments are available from around R2 000 per unit per night.
Situated in a lush green garden alive with palm trees, a few steps from the shore of Anse Forbans, these private chalets have all that you need for your island breakaway. The units are low-key but clean and comfortable.
There are one-, two- and three-bedroom options, and each comes with a fully equipped kitchen, air conditioning and a balcony with sun loungers. The direct access to the beach and child-friendly nature of this location make it perfect for families.
Rates: One-bedroom chalets are available from R2 400 per unit per night.
Set right on the beachfront of Anse Royale, one of the best beaches on the island, these apartments are a cut above the rest. Décor is light and understated, and each unit has a balcony, with mod cons like a Nespresso machine, flat-screen television (with satellite channels) and air-con. Wi-Fi is complimentary, and there are shared laundry facilities that are easily accessible. Shops, banks and the market are within walking distance.
Rates: A one-bedroom apartment is available from around R2 500 per unit per night.
Where to eat
Delplace Restaurant and Bar in Port Glaud offers seaside dining at its best, with nothing but ocean below and in front of you. It is a Seychelles icon thanks to the always-fresh seafood, which is expertly prepared. Booking is recommended.
Veranda Café in Barbarons is a lovely spot that is open for lunch daily (except Wednesdays) and offers unfussy, yet delicious food. The smoked fish salad is a must, as is the banana cake dessert (with a little coco rum on the side).
La Plaine St André, located at The Takamaka Bay Rum Distillery, makes for a great afternoon out. Sample all the locally made rums and be guided through the distillation process, before enjoying lunch in the age-old, beautifully restored plantation house. Dinners are just as delightful, especially when seated in the garden under the stars.
Windsong Beach Restaurant is part of the Kempinski Seychelles Resort, and as the name suggests, is located on the beach. Kick off your slip slops, dig your feet into the sand, and order whatever your heart desires from their extensive menu, boasting exquisite dishes.
is a Seychelles institution! The décor is a little dated and the location offbeat, but if it is authentic Creole cuisine that you are after (think seafood curries and grilled fruit bat) it is a must-visit.
Things to do
Okay, there is no scarcity of beaches on Mahé, and you are likely to find a secluded and picturesque one at every turn, but there are some worth seeking out specifically. Despite being one of the more popular beaches, Baie Lazare is almost always deserted during the week. The water is clear and warm with hardly any coral and the waves are great for body surfing.
Anse Royale is one of the most beautiful beaches on Mahé and a tourist hotspot – but it is also the ideal place to snorkel (and there are beach restaurants within walking distance). Beau Vallon on the northwest coast is also a favourite – it is a good beach for families, and every Wednesday it hosts a night market from 5pm, with stalls that offer real-deal Creole cuisine, such as fish, chicken satay, stir-fries and fresh, hot banana chips. Handmade items, local soaps and curios are also for sale.
A visit to Mahé is incomplete without a stop at Victoria Market, with its biggest selection of fresh tropical fruit and vegetables, spices, and fish (caught every morning). If you are not close to the CBD, you will still come across many roadside vendors selling local fish, fruit and veg.
The Seychelles National Botanical Gardens are great for a picnic or a leisurely stroll, but for a better botanical outing, visit La Misere Exotics Garden Centre at the top of La Misere pass. These gardens offer a more curated selection of the Seychelles’ most beautiful plants and flowers, with a self-guided walk-through, lasting from 45 minutes to an hour.
The city centre is packed with stores selling knock-offs and beachwear, but if you are after more modern threads, head to Eden Island, which is like a miniature version of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The marina is home to the only mall on the island and also has its own hotel, residential properties and casino.
Surf and SUP
Believe it or not, it is possible to catch a few waves in the Seychelles, even though the water is mostly placid. Contact iSurf Seychelles for guided surf tours or SUP sessions, where you can watch the sea life swim beneath you and take in the tropical surrounds.
While there are buses and taxis available, it is best to hire a car. Depending on where you are staying, most amenities are not within walking distance. Therefore, to truly explore the island, it is best to be mobile. Drive with caution though, as many of the roads are very narrow and windy.
Best Time To Visit
Weather is warm all year round, even during the rainy season in January and February. While there are heavy downpours during this period, rain never lasts more than a few hours and the temperature is still beautifully balmy.
April/May and October/November are the best times for snorkelling and diving, as visibility is best – reaching up to 30 metres at times. The top time for surfing is between May and September.
The Seychelles rupee is widely used, although euros and dollars are often accepted, as well as MasterCard and Visa.
Sun cream, mosquito repellent, adaptors (British three-pin plugs are standard), books and magazines (reading material is hard to come by), medication and batteries. It is best not to drink the local water – bottled water is sold everywhere.
FLY SAA codeshare partner Air Seychelles flies directly to Mahé throughout the week. Visit flysaa.com
VISA South African citizens do not need a visa to visit the Seychelles.
Words by Lynette Botha