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Beyond the beach: Uncovering the other sides of the Seychelles

Beyond the beach: Uncovering the other sides of the Seychelles

With 115 islands and hundreds of beaches – most of which look like they’ve come straight out of a holiday brochure – the Seychelles is pretty much heaven for beach-lovers. Whether you’re after tiny hidden coves or huge long stretches of sand, the islands have plenty of both, and I made it a mission to check out as many as possible on my Mahé stopover. Though as much as I love lazing with a book and a cocktail, after a day or two the itchy feet and the urge to explore started to kick in. So I started to wonder – is there more to the Seychelles than just its white sand and turquoise sea? And it turns out the answer is a definite yes. Although it’s the beaches that draw people to the islands, if you’re more into culture, wildlife or adventure than sea and sand (or just need a break from all that lazing), there’s still a Seychelles holiday to suit you.

Seychelles beaches

Holiday brochure beach perfection in the Seychelles

The wild Seychelles

The attention might be on the coast, but the Seychelles’ landscapes are a lot more diverse than you might think. A whole range of lush habitats – ranging from rainforests to coral reefs – means the island is home to 250 bird and 2000 plant species. So it’s perfect for wildlife lovers, whether you’re happier above or below the water. You can snorkel or dive with giant whale sharks from August and October in the waters of Port Launay Marine National Park. Or Aldabra Atoll is one of the world’s largest coral atolls, with a big lagoon at one end full of tiger sharks and manta rays, and it’s also home to the islands’ unique coconut crab.

Don’t miss the Vallée de Mai on Praslin, a nature reserve and World Heritage site that’s one of only two places you can see Coco de Mer palms in the wild. These coconuts have the world’s largest seed (with more than a passing resemblance to a lady’s bottom!). Or on La Digue you can spot the rare Veuve bird – aka the black paradise flycatcher. A small forest reserve has been set up to preserve their habitat. 20 pairs live there now and you can take a guided tour with a forest ranger who guarantees you’ll see at least one.

One of the best places for bird-watching is the nature reserve island of Aride. It’s been a reserve since 1967 and over a million seabirds breed there each year, with terns and shearwaters as well as five unique local species. You can also head out on a wildlife-watching boat trip to Praslin’s smaller neighbouring islands. Curieuse island is a reserve for the giant tortoise with over 500 living there. And Cousin island is home to over 300,000 seabirds plus giant lizards and nesting hawksbill turtles from October to April.

Tropical flowers in the Seychelles

Colourful Seychelles

Giant Tortoise in the Seychelles

A Giant Tortoise

The cultural Seychelles

The Seychelles’ culture is a unique mix, made up of bits from each of the different cultures who’ve called it home – Islamic sailors, French settlers, Chinese merchants, British colonials. It’s most obvious in Africa’s smallest capital city, Victoria, where I spotted a Hindu temple, Islamic mosque, Anglican Church and Catholic Cathedral within a few blocks of each other (along with a mini version of Big Ben!). Seychelles food is a fusion just like its culture, with African, French, Chinese and Indian flavours. You can join the locals at the city’s market, where stalls are piled high with fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, herbs and spices.

We hired a car for the day for a road trip up into Mahé’s hills to some of the old colonial-era buildings that take you back through the islands’ history. At Mission there’s a ruined 1875 missionary school that was built to educate the island’s slaves. Amongst the ruins you get some fab views down to the coast. You can also tour the Takamaka rum distillery, set on a 200-year-old plantation where the old house has been restored and is now a restaurant. Or on La Digue there’s the historic L’Union Estate coconut plantation.

For some more up-to-date Seychelles culture, there are lots of artists’ studios you can visit around the islands. There’s a mix of local painters and sculptors as well as artists who’ve been drawn to the Seychelles by its stunning scenery. One of the best-known is Michael Adams, who produces colourful landscapes in his studio in the south of Mahé which is open to visitors. And if you’re visiting Mahé in October, don’t miss the Seychelles’ version of Carnival – the Festival Kreol – a feast of Creole music, dance and food.

Seychelles food

Fish drying in the sun and Victoria’s market

Takamaka Rum Distillery, Seychelles

Colonial buildings at the Takamaka Rum Distillery

The sporty Seychelles

If lying on the beach in the sunshine doing nothing gets boring, there are a few more adrenalin-fuelled adventures on offer around the islands. The famously clear Indian Ocean waters full of coral reefs and tropical fish make the Seychelles perfect for diving and snorkelling. The inner islands are shallower and a great place to learn to dive, or you can head out to the outer islands for drift and wreck dives, or even take a liveaboard boat trip to explore remoter areas. The best months are March–May and September–November when the water’s warmest and clearest (though avoid stormy days which can kick up sand).

Back on land there are some great hikes around the islands. Morne Seychellois National Park covers almost 20% of Mahé, and most of it is only accessible on foot, with paths through dense forest that feels a million miles from anywhere. Tracks aren’t always that clear though so it’s a good idea to hire a guide. The Trois Frères and Morne Blanc trails on Mahé give you amazing views across the island. On La Digue you can climb to the Nid d’Aiglo (the Eagle’s Nest) which is the highest point on the island. Or on Praslin you can hike from Anse Source d’Argent to Anse Marron over granite hills and through a string of deserted beaches.

Praslin or La Digue are both small and easy to get around, so if you want to explore then you can hire a bike and cycle to some of the more secluded beaches. Or for something a bit more adventurous, you can parasail, windsurf or waterski in the bay at Beau Vallon on Mahé. Or you can rock climb, abseil and zipline high up through the forest canopy with SMAC Adventures at Mahé’s Constance Ephelia Resort.

Morne Seychellois National Park Mahé Seychelles

Morne Seychellois National Park on Mahé

Underwater Seychelles

Underwater Seychelles (photo credit Tony Baskeyfield/STC)

So have I manage to tempt you away from the beach?

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The Seychelles is heaven for beach-lovers, but if you're more into culture, wildlife or adventure, there's still a Seychelles holiday to suit you.

Disclaimer: This post is brought to you in association with Emirates, but all opinions are my own.

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Natasha Sen
    June 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    hey thanks for this amazing post.. great to find out the other side of Seychelles…

    • Reply
      Lucy
      June 29, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      You’re very welcome – glad you liked it!

  • Reply
    April | April Everyday
    June 29, 2017 at 6:55 am

    I’ve always wanted to visit the Seychelles! I’m not really one for lying around on the beach for more than a day, so I’ve always loved that it’s got so much more to offer inland too so I don’t get bored haha! How stunning are the beaches though?!
    xo April | April Everyday

    • Reply
      Lucy
      June 29, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      The beaches are amazing! I get bored pretty quick on the beach too but there are so many and they’re all gorgeous – great to have some other things to do too when you do eventually have enough!

  • Reply
    Wamae
    June 29, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Seychelles is now on my bucket list! Looks so amazing!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      June 29, 2017 at 8:31 pm

      It is fantastic – hope you get to visit someday soon!

  • Reply
    Ratheesh R Nath
    June 30, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Wow! awesome places. My next trip is to Maldives but Seychelles is in plan.
    By the way stunning pictures.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 3, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Thank you, and enjoy the Maldives – would love to visit someday!

  • Reply
    beingbuttons
    July 2, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks for this post – it sounds great. Whilst beaches are definitely growing on me, I’m always wary of places that are highlighted largely as beach destinations as I’m usually bored after an afternoon so it is great to see some of the other activities too. Might have to consider the Seychelles in the future…

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      I’m a bit the same, I always worry that I’ll get bored somewhere too beachy but was surprised how much else there was to do in the Seychelles, in between lazing of course!

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    July 4, 2017 at 9:11 am

    You certainly have! I hate to admit that I only knew about the beaches. No one ever seems to share anything about the wildlife, rainforests or the culture or have I just not noticed? Your post has been a big eye opener ! Thank you.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 7, 2017 at 10:09 am

      I think the beaches are such a big seller for a lot of people that they don’t need to publicise the rest! It’s amazing how much more there is to see and do though.

  • Reply
    Jaillan Yehia
    July 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    I’d love to go, and the food and cult-culturalism is what pulls me in more than the beaches, but your photos make me even more keen.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 7, 2017 at 10:11 am

      I was really surprised by all the things there were to see, much as I love a good beach day I can only manage one or two at a time before getting restless!

  • Reply
    Sara
    July 8, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Ahh I loved the Seychelles. It’s so beautiful and I loved the wildlife and attention to conservation. Hope to return one day.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 10, 2017 at 8:54 am

      I’d love to do some more of the wildlife tours and maybe a conservation trip if I get back there.

  • Reply
    MummyTravels
    July 8, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    You hear so little about what there is to do on the islands beyond the beach, beautiful though they are – this definitely tempts me even more than I was before.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 10, 2017 at 8:53 am

      The beaches do seem to overshadow everything else, but it’s nice to have a few more options!

  • Reply
    Sara @ Travel Continuum
    July 9, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Truth be told (shhhhh!) I’ve never been tempted by the Seychelles BECAUSE I thought they were all beaches and nothing else – and I have a very low boredom threshold for languishing on those. I’m astounded by what else the islands offer, and am now looking at them with a new persepective – thank you, Lucy!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 10, 2017 at 9:02 am

      I’m the same with beaches – love to look at them but get bored if I have to spend too much time on them! So it was nice to see that there were lots of other things out there too, even if they don’t get so much publicity.

  • Reply
    vdaltonbanks
    July 14, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Although I do love a good book and cocktail on the beach for a day or two I do like to explore. This has definitely opened my eyes to the Seychelles!
    Vicky x
    http://www.dalton-banks.co.uk

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 16, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Great to hear – the beaches are amazing but it’s good to have a few more options too!

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    July 23, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    So pretty! And nice to know that there is a bit more to do there than just the beaches (although I do love beaches 🙂 ).

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 25, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      Me too – though you can have too much of a good thing!

  • Reply
    Cijo Abraham Mani
    August 25, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Nice post about Seychelles, an amazing holiday destination. The beaches looks stunning. I do love to visit Seychelles soon.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 25, 2017 at 11:12 am

      The beaches are amazing – and there’s a surprising amount of other great things to do too!

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