Scattered across an area the size of Peru, the Seychelles are broadly divided into the Inner – more tourists, better infrastructure – and Outer Islands, many of them uninhabited. Here are some of our favourites from across this idyllic Indian Ocean archipelago.
What On this small granite island and bioreserve, a population of Aldabra giant tortoises is flourishing after being reintroduced in the late 1970s – as are soaring coco de mer trees, which sprout the world’s biggest nut. After greeting the shelled goliaths, follow the short hiking trail along the island’s southern flank – a twisting track that leads along boulder-strewn coast and onto a boardwalk through the mangroves.
Don’t miss A refreshing dip at Anse St Jose, a glorious white-sand cove, is the perfect way to cool off after your walk. But also check out the colonial-era “Doctor’s House” – a leper colony turned museum – to clue up on the island’s history.
Where to stay An uninhabited sanctuary, there’s no accommodation here. But a dreamy Raffles resort is right across the water, letting you look back at the green humpback of Curieuse from the comfort of a sunlounger with five-star service.
Getting there 15 minutes by boat from Praslin (the Seychelles’ second-biggest island after Mahé). Charter a water taxi from Sagittarius on Cote d’Or beach. Or take one of the organised day trips that combine Curieuse with stops on equally unspoilt Cousin and St Pierre.
What Unsurprisingly, you’ll be sharing an untampered-with spit of land with a lot of feathered friends. White-tailed tropicbirds, Madagascar fodies and common noddies – plus a lot of sea turtles – rule the roost on this northernmost island in the archipelago. The omnipresent birdsong makes for a soothing soundtrack.
Don’t miss By encouraging the island’s natural wildness, including letting sea cabbage and nut grass grow, Bird’s owners have created an abundance of nesting vegetation for sooty terns. About 80,000 pairs arrive each March, covering the island’s north side in a cloud of black and white feathers. Or visit in July to see the terns’ offspring – careful with your footing, though, as these tiny white balls of fluff nest on the ground.
Where to stay Unlike the ritzy, manicured, big-name resorts that spring up on many a Seychellois island, Bird Island Bungalows are an altogether more rustic, down-to-earth option – out goes the spa, air-con and Wi-Fi, in comes tables made from tree trunks, communal dinners over creole-style curries, and salty Indian Ocean breezes.
Getting there Take a 30-minute flight from Mahé with Air Seychelles.
What Next-level ocean wilderness, on four limestone slivers encircling a vast lagoon. If you picture the layout of the Seychelles like a map of the solar system – Mahé as the sun in the centre – well, Aldabra is essentially Pluto. The most remote of the Outer Islands, this Unesco World Heritage Site contains the largest number of giant tortoises found anywhere in the world (more than 100,000 of them), joined by only a handful of research scientists studying an ecosystem that’s been virtually untouched for millennia. Marine biomass is an extraordinary six tonnes per hectare (as opposed to the half-tonne figures for the Inner Islands).
Don’t miss Well, there’s no missing the tortoises, weighing 250kg and roaming all over. But there’s plenty more animal magic to discover, including the world’s largest species of crab, the coconut crab; the Aldabra rail, which is the only flightless variety of bird left in the Indian Ocean; and breeding flamingos.
Where to stay This highly restricted nature sanctuary has no tourist accommodation – only simple camps around the research stations – so you’ll need to sign up for one of the handful of cruising expeditions that go this far west. Operators Mundy Adventures or Wilderness Travel both offer itineraries for 2020.
Getting there Unless you take the cruise option above, it’s a case of chartering your own propeller plane to Assumption Island, close to Madagascar, then a boat.
What A private island belonging to the Mason family (who also run the eponymous local tour company) on the northern lip of the Seychelles plateau, this is the epitome of barefoot luxury.
Don’t miss Priority number one is enjoying the insanely gorgeous waters, whether by getting your scuba on at the PADI dive centre or fishing in the surrounding deep waters, dense with dogtooth tuna. Visit in October to November to get the best chance of spotting whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) and manta rays, as well as watching baby Hawksbill turtles hatch on the beach.
Where to stay One of the 25 pristine, secluded cottages dotted between casuarinas and coconut trees, sans cable TV and in-room Wi-Fi – it’s all about savouring the surroundings, in real time. When a day starts with an outdoor shower to the tune of a paradise flycatcher, and ends with private dining on your cottage’s deck, life feels pretty sweet.
Getting there A 30-minute flight from Mahé.