The Seychelles: Small is beautiful

Seychelles

You can’t fail to love the Seychelles – but explore these islands by superyacht and you’ll truly experience the holiday of a lifetime

Forget everything you’ve heard. Discover the Seychelles for yourself and you’ll soon realise that ‘Heaven on Earth’ is an understatement.

Scattered across the Indian Ocean, some 1,000 miles east of Kenya, these 115 islands offer everything from unsurpassed white sandy beaches to unique and incredible wildlife. They are a destination that begs to be enjoyed at leisure, giving yourself as much time as your wallet will allow – and who wants to explore paradise on a budget? If there’s one place where it’s truly worth pushing the boat out, this is it.

Make that boat the 21-cabin motor yacht Pegasus and you will enjoy a seven-day voyage with Variety Cruises, taking in eight islands, seeing everyday life in local villages and meeting the volunteers who help to preserve this precious ecosystem.

Two of the islands, Curieuse and Cousin, have no jetties, so landing is by Zodiac from Pegasus, or a via wooden launch from the shore. To land the latter, the helmsman simply opens the throttle to blast the boat through the surf and up the beach – a James Bond fantasy come to life.

Even if small boats aren’t your thing, make the trip anyway. Stroking giant tortoises under the chin (they love it) or standing inches away from a yellow-billed tropicbird and her chick is the kind of holiday snapshot you carry with you for ever. And the amazing memories just keep coming: hiking the forest trail to the top of the island of Aride, we found we were looking down on great frigatebirds as they tried to snatch food from fairy terns in mid-air.

If you love beaches, the small island of La Digue boasts some of the world’s most spectacular. Bicycles are the transport of choice here, and some of our group pedalled off to the pristine sands or into the island’s lush green interior.

Seychelles
On Praslin, the second largest island, Pegasus docks in the harbour so you can simply saunter down the gangplank to explore on foot or take one of the local buses or taxis. A number of our party visited the forested National Park of the Vallée de Mai, now a World Heritage Site and so beautiful that early settlers thought it must be the original Garden of Eden. But Praslin is also a hub for the inter-island ferries, so those who preferred to stay on board could simply watch the world go by as they sat beneath the sun canopy and lingered over breakfast.

Pegasus herself is a thing of beauty, built and furnished in the days before superyachts went bling. At her stern is a platform from which you can swim or launch kayaks – though we were astonished one night to see a turtle hatchling, probably no more than a day old, climbing doggedly up the ramp.

For the hard-working, always smiling crew of ten, nothing was too much trouble – be it setting up a beach barbecue for lunch or rushing to lay places for those who decided to eat outside (there is a relaxed open dining policy so you can sit where and with whom you wish).

Our complement of 24 guests spanned seven nationalities but we quickly found common ground in a love of snorkelling.

Sadly, the coral reefs here were virtually wiped out by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, so the snorkelling is no longer world-class, but the waters are warm and crystal clear, so who’s complaining?

If you love the big-city buzz then these islands may not be for you, but every Seychelles holiday should make time for Victoria, one of the world’s smallest capitals. On the main island of Mahe and easily explored by foot, it is packed with surprises – such as its mosque, intricately carved Hindu temple, and a silver-painted replica of Big Ben.

There are many cafes where you can stop to enjoy a beer or a coffee, and be sure to explore the covered market, a bustling, colourful place, packed with fresh produce, spices, clothing and souvenirs. Early morning is the best time go, when the fishmongers display an astonishing variety of seafood, from parrotfish to tuna, barracuda and shark. Saturday morning is best of all, but beware – everything closes at noon to allow the Seychellois to start the weekend by heading to the beach.

And can you blame them?