We’ve all dreamed about it – jetting off to an island
paradise of deserted, powdery white beaches, turquoise blue waters, and a
blissed-out island vibe. And the Seychelles; an archipelago of 115 islands
scattered in the Indian Ocean certainly
Demand for the destination from Middle
East travellers has started to take off in the past two years, and
it’s no wonder. A mere four and-a-half hour hop from the Gulf, with a beautiful
year-round climate, no time difference, and some stunningly located hotel properties,
the Seychelles is an ideal short-break destination for switching off and
getting away from it all; while the
dream-like setting has made it a top choice for honeymooners too.
Last year, the Seychelles
received 6,370 arrivals from the Middle East,
but Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) predicts that this figure will at least
double over the next two years.
Increasing flight links from the region mean the Middle East
now has the most connections to the Seychelles out of any market. Qatar
Airways flies four times a week, Emirates has just increased capacity to one
flight daily and there are imminent plans for Etihad to launch route too.
Recent years have seen major Middle East investment into the
(currently estimated at around US $1.4 billion) in new hotel projects such as
Emirates Cap Terney Resort, Kempinski, Raffles and Four Seasons. Ties between
the Gulf leaders and the Seychelles
are solidifying too. In fact, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa, president of the UAE
has chosen the mainland of Mahé for his holiday home – the eight-storey palace,
is perched on the highest mountain in Mahé and will offer the Sheikh
breathtaking views of the islands and the sparkling waters below.
What to do
has earned a reputation as a frontrunner in ecotourism – almost half of the
landmass has been granted protected status as nature reserves. Inland, there
are jungle trails to explore and swathes of wilderness housing rare birds and
giant tortoises in their natural habitat, as well as some incredible plant life such as the famous
‘Coco de Mer’ – the world’s biggest nut, found only on the Seychelles. And
that’s not even to mention the vast underwater world which makes it a top spot
for scuba divers and snorkelling.
To capitalise on
these natural wonders, STB has launched a new ‘Seychelles brand’ campaign,
highlighting its natural attributes.
number of tourists are no longer content to just ‘flop and drop’ when on
holiday, but are in search of genuine experiences to take home,” explains Alain
St.Ange, CEO, STB. “Seychelles
is becoming an increasingly attractive holiday option on account of its
unprocessed nature. While other destinatinatons have rushed ahead of themselves
in catering for tourists and lost much of their identity in doing so, Seychelles has
grown its tourism at a gentler pace, and today still reflects much that is
traditional and authentic of the age-old
island way of living.”
of course high on the agenda. Many visitors choose a two or three-stop holiday,
flying into the mainland of Mahé before heading off to explore one of the
larger islands Praslin or La Digue, before ending up on a isolated, one-resort
hideaway for that ultimate Robinson Crusoe experience.
In terms of getting about, there are few destinations in the
world where travelling from one place to another is quite as exhilarating as
Closer islands to Mahé can be reached by speedboat, while to get to those
further afield you can take the inter-island plane transfer on Air Seychelles.
Jetting off the mainland and seeing the tiny islands speckled across the
turquoise waters below is an experience not to be missed.
From Mahe I flew to Praslin Island, just a 15 minute plane
hop away; and then returned to take a boat to Cerf Island – a tiny speck in the
Indian Ocean and home to only two hotels.
Where to stay
There are 16 islands to choose from, all differing in
character, including 12 island retreats with just a single hotel. Recent
development in the hotel sector means there are some idyllic five-star
properties to choose including big names like Le Méridien, Banyan Tree and
Hilton. For the ultimate in privacy and exclusivity, guests can head to one of
the privately-owned islands, run as resorts. At the top-end of the market are Fregate Island
and North Island (David Beckham and his wife Victoria
recently hired out the whole of North Island
for their 10th wedding anniversary).