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Seychelles: My Trip of Firsts…

Seychelles: My Trip of Firsts…

This spring I was extremely fortunate to be a guest of Seafarer & Variety Cruises on a yacht cruise around the islands of the Seychelles.

Please join me in my reflections on this amazing trip – I hope you enjoy reading & share my enthusiasm for this beautiful destination.

First flights as a solo traveller

Having worked in the travel industry for over 30 years, having juggled the management of offices with the demands of my young family, friends are amazed that I have never travelled anywhere alone – well, no further than London, anyway!

It’s undeniable that travel can be stressful for all of us.  The images of film stars & footballers coolly strolling through airports, bothered only by paparazzi, never quite match the reality for most of us. Palpitations & hot sweats were what bothered me each time I thought of airport check-ins, security, departure lounges & flights – all on my own, with no-one else to organise (or to organise me!)

How unnecessary these worries were.  From the easy check-in at Birmingham, right through to arrival, I can honestly say I had the time of my life! No one to answer to, no husband or children to worry about, no one to wait for, my own choice of dining & entertainment. All that & my own dreams of the paradise that I was anticipating.

First time on Emirates

Emirates' excellent reputation precedes it, so this was a great opportunity to see what the fuss was all about.

Friendly & professional check-in ensured my trip started in a very positive way. Even security delays couldn’t dampen my excitement.

Upon boarding my Boeing 777 (I saved the A380 ‘big bird’ for the journey home) I was greeted by a kind & efficient team of cabin crew who attended to everyone with no fuss.

Faultless onboard catering, entertainment & spacious seating made for an extremely pleasant 6.5 -7-hour flight to Dubai – I was pleased to discover premium WiFi for less than £1!

My 8-hour stopover in beautiful Dubai airport was an experience, with everything for every taste – from Executive Lounges to Zen gardens, Champagne bars to McDonalds & duty-free selling anything you could afford!

One more equally impressive flight to Mahe and the moment had arrived for my...

 

...First sights of Seychelles

Having recently visited the Maldives, I did wonder how the Seychelles would compare.  Surely two island chains in the Indian Ocean couldn’t be much different? How wrong I was…

Coming in to land, I had a stunning view of the mountainous & lush backdrop to Mahe & its capital, Victoria, a colourful city that I would recommend for its character, before heading off to the other islands.

The delightful airport was reminiscent of an old railway station, but the service here put many others to shame – I waited only a few minutes for my luggage (Birmingham & others take note...). It took a little longer to get through the methodical immigration (maybe a hangover from British colonial bureaucracy?). Once through, I was greeted immediately, and extremely warmly, by Mason Tours who whisked me away from the humidity into an air-conditioned Porsche 4WD for the transfer to the harbour & my waiting yacht, my home for the next week for my…

...First trip on a motor yacht

M/Y Pegasos waited patiently at the dockside for her passengers to arrive, embark & settle into their cabins before setting sail later in the day – looking every inch of luxury that I was expecting.

I was met with great attention by Christos, the ‘hotel’ manager, who, throughout the week, became an integral part of this amazing cruise. An ice-cold towel & cocktail ensured that I felt refreshed & ready to settle into my cabin.

I had a double cabin for sole use, with a colonial-style mahogany & green décor that made for a very comfortable setting. A shower & WC room, along with a wardrobe, cabinet & sofa, completed everything I would need for my week at sea.

 

After meeting up with my ‘shipmates’, we attended the security drill conducted by the Captain, complete with life jackets, & then we were ready to set sail to Ste Anne Island for a spot of swimming or, for some, just to admire the beautiful views.

Each evening followed the same pleasant format – meeting for cocktails & snacks at 7, port talks for the following day with Vivek, our Cruise Director, followed by a sumptuous 5-course dinner prepared on board by the head chef and his sous team – surely worthy of the standards of any 5* hotel I have visited.

Each morning a delicious breakfast was served, which included a selection of fruits, cereals & hot food – enough choice to satisfy even the fussiest of eaters.

Lunch on board was just as varied & appetizing, & on occasions we were treated to a BBQ or picnic ashore.

 

First island-hopping cruise itinerary

Curieuse was our first port of call, just 1 mile north of Praslin; this was our longest journey of 4 hours, sailing through unexpectedly choppy waters!

Due to the onset of the Southern Monsoon, which brought tropical torrential rains, we were unable to do the walk across the island as it was deemed unsafe. However, what waited for us on arrival was worth it – an area full of around 200 giant land tortoises at the National Marine Park.

These prehistoric-looking creatures are the most social & tame of the species that I've come across. They approach you whether you are keen or not & like nothing more than a tickle under the chin.  Okay, they prefer a tasty snack & the tickle is just an added bonus, but you get the picture…

A glorious beach BBQ lunch, followed by an afternoon of swimming & sunbathing, ensured that everyone was feeling relaxed & ready for our new experiences the following day.

 

The small granite island of Cousin is famous for its wide variety of bird life.  This special nature reserve, set up by a non-profit organisation, used to be a coconut plantation but the trees have been removed, allowing the native vegetation to regenerate & native fauna to recover. Walking through this protected haven, we encountered the most devilish mosquitos known to man, which appeared to be immune to every type of repellent available! Definitely a need for top-to-toe clothing in light colours on this excursion.

From here we headed to the large, more tourist island of Praslin – home to many well known 4- & 5-star hotels - for a few hours of exploring, snorkelling & swimming.

Aride was our next morning’s port of call – the northernmost of the islands in the Seychelles, where you can see all but Denis Island, whilst standing on the powder soft white sand & dipping your toes in the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. A nature reserve island, with 6 conservation officers living here year-round, this is a bird-breeding & ecology project. We had the most amazing guide, Albert, to escort us around, giving us the most intricate detail of everything they have, from the exotic birds to banyan trees, coconuts to crabs & Wrights Gardenia – thought by some to be the most beautiful of the Seychelles trees.

 

A snorkel stop at St Pierre before heading to Baie St Anne jetty, where we were to dock overnight before a full day on Praslin Island. We had a wonderful evening stroll around the local town before live music & dancing, after an amazing creole dinner.

Our excursion the following day was to Valle de Mai - a UNESCO World Heritage site & home to all 6 palm species, including the famous Coco de Mer. Following this, we had lunch onboard Pegasos & then a short hop to the island of Felicite.  This island, owned by Sheikh Khalifa, is a private reserve that houses the Six Senses Hotel. You can use the beach but you cannot go onto the island unless you are resident of the hotel!

Day 6 took us to my favourite island – La Digue, reached by a 10-minute tender. Our excursion took us to a vanilla plantation, an old colonial cemetery, & to observe an ox used in the traditional production of coconut oil. This island also houses the old coconut plantation house made famous in the filming of '70s film Emmanuel 2 & many, many more giant land tortoises.

After a 4-hour crossing back to Moyenne, we settled in for our overnight stop & our farewell Gala Dinner with all guests, our captain & crew.

First sightings of some natural wonders

The beauty in doing a trip like this is the variety of wildlife that you will encounter.

My absolute ‘best’ first was the unexpected sighting of a sea turtle when I was snorkelling off the island of Felicite – though within touching distance of it, I resisted the temptation, as such contact is not allowed.  No matter, this was a memory that will last forever.

Many of the islands have indigenous bird species that we were privileged to spot – such as Seychelles Magpies, Seychelles Warblers, Fairy Terns & many more – the islands are most definitely a twitcher’s paradise!

At various snorkelling stops I was fortunate to swim amongst myriad tropical fish of breath-taking colours, including ‘Nemo’ & black-tipped reef sharks & a jet black stingray, quite a shock when unexpected!

All the beaches we visited had the cute sand crabs, hermit crabs & lizards darting around & up and down tree branches.

Whilst walking around many of the islands, close inspection of the ‘larger’ birds reveals that they are bats! – huge, hairy and plump fruit-bats that were actually a delicacy in many local restaurants – luckily our Pegasos chef did not include them on his menus of local specialities...

First experience of Lonely Planet’s ‘best beaches’

I have been extremely lucky throughout my travel career to visit many beautiful beaches throughout the world. However, the Seychelles is home to some of the most iconic & photographed beaches on the planet.

Anse Lazio, northwest on Praslin, is listed as a Lonely Planet ‘best beach’ and you can honestly see why.  Bordered by large granite boulders, the white sands slope gently to the ocean and there is no coral reef like many of the other beaches.

Cote D’Or on the eastern coast, is a huge expanse of pure white, powder soft sand that filters gently into the Indian Ocean, with baby rays swimming right up to the shore. Beautiful hotels & beach bars line the shore of this island paradise, & lots of shops & restaurants nearby make this an ideal spot for any traveller.

Aride Island has the most fantastic desert island beach that differs to many of the others due to the constant crashing of waves against it – a lovely contrast to the rest of the millpond-like waters of the other islands.

On La Digue, we walked to the most famous of the Seychelles beaches – Anse Source D’Argent – an idyllic setting of pure white sand coves with huge boulders, crystal-clear waters & picture-postcard views – absolutely stunning & somewhere I was so sad to leave.

 

First Airbus A380 & First Upstairs, Downstairs!

Although sad to leave this beautiful island paradise, I was excited & a little apprehensive about my flight home from Dubai, on the ‘double-decker’ miracle of aviation.

My flight from Mahe connected perfectly with the Emirates A380 service giving me little over a 2-hour wait before boarding.  As this time approached I sat with nerves tingling my fingers, as I was so unsure as to what to expect. How on earth could something so big be able to fly so effortlessly?

As I boarded, every shred of trepidation dissolved and I settled into my seat on the upper deck.  The space was fantastic & I could see the staircase to the lower level – still something that seemed so odd. I had a wonderful flight and yet another amazing first!

Conclusion.

The 7-night Seafarer cruise that I sailed on is quite rightly called ‘Seychelles Cruise in the Garden of Eden’ & is bookable through me or my colleagues at Travel Club Elite, I’ll be delighted to share my experiences with you & let you have the benefit of my knowledge & travel tips.

Seafarer is a wonderful, efficient, professional & friendly operator, whom I have no hesitation in recommending. This cruise will leave you with treasured, life-long memories of one of the most amazing parts of our world.   

The tour can be modified as part of a longer itinerary, or as a trip on its own.  There is even a 3 and 4 days shortened version of the cruise if your time is limited.

Please call me directly on 0121 213 0012 ext. 204, or email zoe@travelclubelite.com for more information, or with any questions you may have.

 

  • 21st September 2017
  • Zoe Franklin, Sales Team Leader