La Digue’s Grand Anse.
Nature rules in this Indian Ocean oasis.
On the steep hillside below villas at Six Senses Zil Pasyon, the sole resort on the Seychelles island of Félicité, lush forest embraces granite monoliths, while a flying fox – its small, doglike face dwarfed by its enormous wingspan – glides gracefully through the breeze, alighting upside down on a branch to socialize with other megabats. The headlining act, however, takes place in the distance: As the persimmon-colored sun sets behind neighboring islands and thunderheads drift on- and offstage, bands of showers sweep across the horizon in wispy sheets.
Situated a few degrees shy of the equator in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are known for ribbons of loamy white sand spiked with the archipelago’s trademark pink boulders. The granite is a remnant of the lost continent of Gondwana, and in places the singular ecosystems and abundant endemic species inspire allusions to the Garden of Eden. This far-flung locale has some 100 islands to choose from, so the natural question is, where to start? Here are our six favorite spots.
Essential Stopover: Mahé
As the archipelago’s waypoint and home to 90 percent of its population, Mahé offers the largest and most convenient landing in the Seychelles. With peaks reaching into the clouds, it’s the one island where you’ll want to rent a car to explore – driving (and hiking) in precipitous Morne Seychellois National Park is a highlight, and there are dozens of beaches, many of them remote and undeveloped, that you’ll need transportation to enjoy. Highlights of the capital, Victoria, include Creole architecture and the National Museum of History, but make time for Kaz Zanana, which houses paintings by the Seychelles’ most famous artist, painter George Camille.
The striking former home of fashion photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri was reconceived mid-pandemic as the intimate, 41-room Mango House Seychelles. A pocket of sand sits tucked below the resort’s restaurants, while a convivial spirit thrives at its three pools. Virtuoso travelers receive private one-way transfers to or from the airport or cruise terminal, a bottle of Champagne on arrival, breakfast daily, and a $100 resort credit.
Indian Ocean Paradise: Praslin
Second largest of the Seychelles, Praslin is where Eden comparisons run rampant. Deep valleys bisect the beach- girdled island, most notably the Vallée de Mai, a compact nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage designee that’s home to a primeval forest with the country’s six endemic palm species. Among them is the coco de mer, which rises more than 30 metres and bears the plant kingdom’s largest seed – up to 18 kilos – that’s shaped like a voluptuous woman’s derriere. Keep an eye out for the endangered Seychelles black parrot flitting between the fronds, and swim with frisky shivers of harmless juvenile lemon sharks at tranquil beaches.
Raffles Seychelles’ 86 villas are among the islands’ largest, sitting on a steep hillside overlooking Anse Takamaka beach. Four restaurants, a spa with 12 open-air treatment pavilions, and a robust kids’ program are among the resort’s numerous temptations. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.
The Postcard: La Digue
La Digue embodies the classic Seychellois scene: a tumult of evocatively weathered pink granite boulders interspersed with outstretched palm trees, pearlescent sand, and azure water. Anse la Source d’Argent on the island’s west coast is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Come early or late to avoid the midday crowd, and don’t overlook less-touristed but equally inviting coves, such as Anse Marron and casuarina-shaded Anse Cocos, both reached via a hiking trail. The bikes favored as transport on two- by three-mile La Digue give its port, La Passe, a village feel – keep an eye out for scampering chickens.
Eco-Champion: North Island
North Island is the 500-acre home to an ongoing conservation effort dubbed the Noah’s Ark project. Cows, rodents, and various nonindigenous flora introduced during 250 years of human habitation are gradually being eliminated in favor of native species that once thrived here – the coco-de-mer palm, Aldabra giant tortoise, and Seychelles white-eye, a tiny bird numbering just a few hundred. Velvety, bone-white beaches flank the privately owned island, accessed by helicopter.
Just 11 villas make up the Luxury Collection’s all-inclusive North Island resort, conceived by an African safari operator well versed in the light footprint of today’s eco-chic. Exclusivity and privacy have made it a celebrity favorite for honeymoons and reconnecting with nature through kayaking, diving, and communing with tortoises. Virtuoso travelers receive a $100 resort credit.
For the Birds: Aride
One mile long and uninhabited but for a small staff of rangers, this predator-free inselberg was gifted to a Seychelles-based NGO in 1973 following a campaign by Christopher Cadbury (of chocolate fame) and is today protected by a conservation society. Aride is accessible only by special arrangement, and its few visitors reap the reward: up-close encounters with some of the island’s 1.25 million birds – more species than are found on any other isle in the archipelago – including the endemic Seychelles warbler, blue pigeon, and magpie-robin. Bonus: The gorgeous, roller-lapped beach offers a resplendent cool-off.
Intrepid Travel sails weekly out of Victoria aboard the 44-passenger Pegasus to Aride and the granitic islands surrounding Mahé. Equipped with kayaks, snorkel gear, and an accompanying naturalist, the ship has an informal style; the seven-day itinerary includes overnight visits to Praslin and La Digue. Departures: Saturdays, September 2 through December 30.
Adventure On: Félicité
Fifth largest of the Seychelles, Félicité is robed in takamaka trees, coconut palms, and fruit trees, and surrounded by healthy reefs, making it a fine base for kayak and snorkel excursions to uninhabited neighboring islands. Its largest beach, Grand Anse, is frequented by nesting sea turtles – hatchlings emerge October through February. Ecologists have worked to eradicate the remaining invasive species, such as the coco plum.
Thirty-three-villa Six Senses Zil Pasyon is Félicité’s one and only roost. Each of the one-bedroom pool villas feels as though it’s been uniquely molded into the rocks and vegetation; the spa is equally woven into the landscape, with five treatment rooms accessed via a swing bridge. Multibedroom private residences are available higher on the slopes. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $145 resort credit.