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Mon 15 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Paradise found

With its pristine beaches and cobalt blue waters, it’s no wonder the Seychelles has caught the imagination of the Middle East market. Monika Grzesik went island hopping to discover more about this Indian Ocean paradise.

Paradise found

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
doesn’t disappoint.

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

The Seychelles
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.

“An increasing
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.”

Island-hopping is
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
the Seychelles.
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).

How to sell Seychelles

When to go:

enjoys a pleasant tropical climate all year round. The islands lie outside the cyclone
belt and there are no extremes of weather. The temperature seldom drops below 24
degrees or rises above 33 degrees Celsius.Short-lived tropical downpours can occur
at any time of the year.


There are no visa requirements to enter the Seychelles. Documents
required for immigration clearance are a passport valid for more than six months;
return or onward ticket; proof of accommodation; sufficient funds for the duration
of your stay.

Getting there:

Emirates flies daily from Dubai. Qatar Airways has four flights a week from

Getting around:

Island-hopping between the 16 islands can be done by scheduled
plane and ferry services. A new catamaran service makes the Mahe-Praslin trip in
45 minutes. Private islands tend to charter their own aircraft to transfer guests.


There is no risk of contracting malaria or yellow fever in the

Tour operator:

Mason’s Travel, Mahe,
Seychelles, Tel: (+248) 28 88 88, Email: info@masonstravel.com,Web: www.masonstravel.com.


Creole, English and French are the three official languages.

Useful contact:

Seychelles Tourist Middle East office: Seychelles@stome.ae.


Mahé is the mainland, the transport hub and largest and most
developed of all the islands so it’s the perfect place to get a real feel for what
life on Seychelles
is all about. About 90% of  the Seychelles population
live here. It has the highest mountain ranges in the country plus the world’s smallest
capital city, Victoria.
This charming town has a lively market, some attractive colonial buildings and ‘Little
Ben’, a mini replica of London’s
Big Ben, and is definately worth paying a visit. You can also take a drive into
the mountains to see the tea plantations; or visit Domaine Val de Pres, a craft
village with workshops selling local crafts. The coast is dotted with deep bays
and rocky islets ideal for sailing, snorkelling or diving around.

Where to stay

Constance Ephelia Resort

This brand new resort is situated on Mahe’s most stunning bay,
overlooking the Marine park. The ultra-luxury hotel has all the bells and whistles
including five top-notch restaurants and a spa. There’s a wide range of exclusive
accommodation, from junior suites to family villas to some knock-out hillside villas
with private infinity pools overlooking the bay where the view is so stunning it
will quite literally take your breath away www.epheliaresort.com.


The second-largest island in the Seychelles is a 15-minute plane hop
from Mahé. With its laid-back, island tempo, Praslin is the perfect option for those
seeking something in between the relative hustle and bustle of Mahé but with a bit
more life than the sleepier island retreats. On Praslin you can glimpse peaceful
Seychellois village life as well as  stunning
forests, waterfalls and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The most
famous Praslin attraction is the Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO heritage site and the only
place in the world where the mysterious Coco de Mer nut grows in the wild. As well
as a string of stunning beaches and tangled jungles you’ve got the only 18-hole
championship golf course in the Seychelles
to keep you entertained. This beautiful, unspoilt island can be explored by car,
foot or bicycle.

Where to stay

La Reserve Hotel

This family-owned property offers 40 spacious, sea-facing rooms
located just metres from the stunning Anse Petit Cour beach. La Reserve is perfectly
positioned in a Marine
National Park, so the waters
around the hotel are teaming with marine life and it’s the ideal spot for snorkelling
and swimming. While the property is four-star, the location, quality of the food,
amazing service and attentiveness of the predominently Seychellois staff are certainly
five-star – making it the friendliest resort in Praslin. Another major bonus is
the pool, which is one of the largest in the Seychelles www.lareserve.sc.

L’Archipel Hotel

The hugely charming L’Archipel Hotel features 23 spacious bungalows
nestled into the hillside in the grounds of a tropical garden. The bungalows all
feature huge wooden terraces, where you can while away an evening looking out onto
the sparkling waters of the secluded bay below. For an ultimately romantic evening,
the hotel restaurant serves up delicious Creole-style food in a candle-lit setting
directly on the beach, while a live singer croons away in background www.larchipel.com.


Just a ten minute boat ride away, Cerf Island
is Mahé’s closest neighbour. Just a tiny speck in the Indian Ocean, Cerf
Island offers up a minature
paradise, featuring just a couple of hotels, deserted beaches and excellent swimming
and snorkeling possibilities. With absolutely nothing to do on Cerf apart from relax
and unwind on the powdery-white coral beaches; go swimming in the clear-blue water
that rings the island; sunbathe, and then do it all over again – a few nights here
at the end of an itinerary provides the ultimate chill-out.

Where to stay

Island Resort

Cerf Island Resort is the ultimate private hideaway. The stunning
boutique property offers up just 12 luxury villas and a spa nestled into the hillside,
with wooden decks featuring awe-inspiring views of the ocean below. Peace, quiet
and total relaxation is the name of the game here, with just the sounds of nature
for company. The villas even feature outdoor bathrooms so you can really feel at
one with the great outdoors. This is the place to really get away from it all www.cerf-resort.com.

Hotel watch!

The Seychelles
is all abuzz with the news that some exciting new properties are set to open in
the coming year.

Raffles Seychelles
Resort and Residence

The North point of Praslin Island is gearing up to welcome the
brand new Raffles Seychelles Resort and Residence, the first Raffles property in
the Seychelles.
The super-luxury resort and residential development will open in the first quarter
of 2011. The resort will feature 86 villas all with private plunge pools, an outdoor
pavilion and round the clock butler service. Villas are built on gentle slopes,
ensuring stunning views of the Indian Ocean below.
The resort will also feature the Raffles Spa.

Round Island Resort

Highly anticipated as one of the most exciting new resort openings
in the Seychelles,
Round Island Resort will open later this year. A 15 minute boat transfer from Mahe,
the super-luxury island resort will be one of the most exclusive in the Seychelles with
just 10 secluded ocean-front beach villas all with private infinity pools, just
steps away from the beach. The property will feature the Serena Round Island Spa
offering guests a ‘personal wellness experience’. The property will be managed by
Jebel Ali International.

The other Islands

There are two catagories of island: the granitic ‘inner’ islands
that cluster around Mahe, Praslin and La Digue featuring mountains and jungles,
where the majority of the Seychelles
population live. And the ‘outer’ islands: a sparkling array of flat, coral atolls
that remain barely touched by man.

La Digue

Lying 45 kilomotres from Mahe, La Digue is the fourth largest
island. It features one of the Seychelles
most breathtaking beaches Anse Source D’Argent. There are no cars on this island,
transport is still by traditional ox-cart or bicycle, and the island-style  accommodation is authentic.


A coral atoll sheltered by crystalline waters of a tropical lagoon,
this is an exclusive island resort offering just 25 thatched chalets.


The most northerly island in the Seychelles here you can have an eco-experience
amidst the gardens of a coconut plantation, a bird sanctuary and a nesting site
for turtles.


This island offers a degree of privacy found in very few places
on earth. There are just four individual French-style colonial villas and only ten
guests can be accommodated at once. Exclusivity is the order of the day.


The ultimate private-island experience, there are only 16 villas,
seven stunning beaches and some of the rarest flora and fauna on earth.

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