By Audley Seychelles specialist Jack
Before I visited the Seychelles, I thought of it as a romantic island chain reserved for couples. On touring the islands, I found hotels with children’s clubs and family sized-rooms. Days can be spent zip-lining, cycling, snorkeling for tropical fish or tracking animals through the jungle – there’s far more on offer here than simply relaxing on the beach.
Unlike more manicured Indian Ocean islands, I also feel that the Seychelles has retained its own identity of wild coastlines, tiny villages and a lack of fast-food restaurants. While relatively well-known, this mini archipelago still feels like an adventurous destination, and it’s tricky to find somewhere so distinct that works so well for a family beach vacation.
Recommended family experiences in the Seychelles
Though the Seychelles is a relatively small archipelago, each island has its own personality, which reflects in its hotels and what you can get up to there. To get the best overall Seychelles experience, I suggest hopping around a few different islands. My ideal family vacation in the Seychelles combines the entertainment-filled Constance Ephelia Resort on the main island of Mahe with the desert-island wilderness of Bird Island.
A 40 minute drive across Mahé from the Seychelles International Airport, the Constance Ephelia Resort is an ideal first stop. The children’s club, five restaurants, spa and multiple pools provide plenty of entertainment, and the long stretch of beach slopes into calm, shallow waters where you’ll spot the occasional vibrant fish. In fact, the beaches around here are so unblemished that, back home, I had trouble persuading my family that I hadn’t edited my photographs.
Zip-lining across the jungle
The Constance Ephelia’s zip-lining course links a number of zip-lines that criss-cross the jungle, passing through tunnels of undergrowth and across ravines. I’m not the bravest, but I gave it a go, accompanied by a family whose youngest member was five. If you look down, you’re rewarded with views right across the jungle to the ocean.
Explore the ocean
The beauty of the Seychelles continues underwater, where kaleidoscopic tropical fish co-exist among the coral reef. While snorkeling straight off the beach is possible at the Constance Ephelia, a short boat trip along the coast brings you to a marine national park, and here the reef is at its most pristine. Jumping off the boat into the calm waters opens up a vibrant submarine world where parrot fish and green turtles glide past alongside eagle rays and butterfly fish.
I’d also suggest taking a boat trip for a chance to explore some of the Seychelles’ other islands. These can be organized with your hotel, either on a group or private basis, or you can hop on a local ferry. Sailing between the islands, you see the wild coastlines interspersed with the occasional village.
Combining a stay at the Constance Ephelia with time on Bird Island gives you the contrast that, for me, epitomizes the Seychelles. From the moment the light aircraft touches down on the private island’s grassy runway, giant tortoises ambling alongside, it feels like you have arrived in an undiscovered corner of the world.
Twenty-four simple wooden cabins are dotted along the coastline, making Bird Island a rustic yet comfortable stay. The lack of air-conditioning and televisions encouraged me to spend most of my time outside, appreciating my surroundings. Sitting on my terrace one day, I watched a giant tortoise shuffle up and bath himself in a nearby pool of water.
Take a walk with a resident conservationist
A stay on Bird Island is a complete immersion in nature. Suddenly, birds and other wildlife I had only seen in documentaries were just a few footsteps away.
A walk with Robbie, the resident conservationist and an aficionado on the flora and fauna of the island, introduces you to its birdlife. I learned about the nest building, feeding and hatching habits of various species, including sooty terns, curlew sandpipers and noddies. Quite the character, Robbie’s enthusiasm for loudly recreating the birds’ calls and divulging weird facts kept the children in my group enthralled.
Even without Robbie’s expert guidance, you’re likely to have many encounters with the island’s wildlife; it’s almost as if the animals are your hosts. Walking back to my room one evening after watching the sunset from the beach, I came across a couple of giant tortoises meandering along. A pair of white-tailed tropicbirds were building a nest close to my cabin, and at dusk I would watch them search for bedding material.
Watch turtles lay their eggs
Bird Island is also home to growing hawksbill and green turtle populations, thanks in large part to its conservation efforts. If you’re staying between September and December, you may spot a turtle laying its eggs, or catch the hatchlings emerging from their shells. Speaking to the staff on the island, the turtles don’t discriminate where they lay their eggs, and have been known to scuttle up and position themselves right next to sunbathers on the beach.
Less obvious highlights for families in the Seychelles
Cycle around La Digue’s secluded coves
Easily reached by ferry from Mahe, La Digue is a laid-back, undeveloped island that provides something a little different again. With only a handful of cars on the island, the local people travel by bike – and I’d suggest joining them.
You can cycle from one end of La Digue to the other in an hour. Along the way you’ll stumble across tiny villages, coconut sellers and brightly painted wooden homes built along the coast. The island is known for its coastline of rounded granite rocks rising out of the jade waters. Cycling through tropical jungle, you suddenly pop out at a tiny cove, its white sand brilliant against the blue of the ocean.
Eating with your family in the Seychelles
Meals in the Seychelles can be a highlight of the day, and freshly caught fish plays the main part. I’d recommend trying the red snapper, a local’s choice, which I enjoyed in a fragrant curry sauce.
Depending on where you stay, I’d generally say that half-board offers the best value, leaving you with the flexibility to explore local restaurants for lunch. As you’d expect, the hotels have an emphasis on seafood, but larger properties like the Constance Ephelia offer a selection of restaurants. I particularly enjoyed the tapas in its Mediterranean restaurant.
Practicalities of a family vacation in the Seychelles:
- The best time to visit the Seychelles is from May to September, which ties in well with school break. Though temperatures are in the high 20s, the humidity is lower at this time of year. For wildlife enthusiasts who don’t mind occasional rain, September to December offers a chance to watch the turtles laying their eggs or hatching.
- Most islands are reached by light aircraft and, while we only use Air Seychelles which has an impeccable record, this is something to consider for nervous flyers.