If you're looking for the perfect honeymoon destination, it's hard to top the Seychelles, where the beaches are drop-dead gorgeous and the seas really are as turqoise as the brochures promise
A honeymoon or romantic break is about simply spending time together. Just married, all we wanted was a warm welcome, warm sea, warm sand, and ice-cold Champagne. My husband and I found all this and so much more in the Seychelles.
In addition to doing our own exploring, we were lucky enough to travel with a bundle of neatly typed notes, carefully compiled by my new (Seychellois) mother-in-law. All her advice turned out to be spot on, so it seems only fair to share…
When your plane touches down alongside the turquoise sea at Mahe airport, and the pilot announces the local time and the fact that it's 30-odd degrees outside, you might as well take off your watch there and then and put it safely in your hand luggage. You won't be needing it again until you have another plane, or boat, to catch.
All you will need for the duration is a couple of bikinis or swimming trunks, a sarong or two and a pair of flip flops. Of course, if you fancy a night or two of formal dining, you will need to pack accordingly, but the food is generally excellent wherever you choose to eat. The service, although sometimes 'well-paced', is similar. And who wants to hurry when the food is fresh and tasty and you've slipped your sandals off to feel the sand under your feet while you eat?
We spent the bulk of our honeymoon on La Digue, with brief forays into Mahe and Praslin, which meant a spot of island hopping. Travelling in June, we'd been warned that the monsoon winds can bring choppy seas, and advised to buy only one-way tickets for our journey over to La Digue, as the return fare is not refundable if you decide you'd prefer to fly back instead. Unconvinced, but with nothing to lose (two singles cost the same as one return), we duly did so - and scoffed rather as we set sail for the trip of just under two hours.
Yet the advice turned out to be sound. The Cat Cocos was comfortable and fortunately we didn't suffer even the slightest queasiness - but dodging our seasick fellow passengers was far from relaxing. So when it came to returning to Mahe, for not much more than the price of the catamaran we flew back with Air Seychelles on the tiniest passenger plane I've ever seen. Sadly, our budget wasn't quite big enough to even explore the cost of a helicopter transfer.
We stayed at La Digue Island Lodge on a half-board basis, and I'd have no qualms about recommending this to my best friend. Read their website for the basics – it's all true. But for those 'local-knowledge' tips and highlights, read on…
• The pool is always empty. Not of water – of other guests. You never risk another swimmer's foot in your face, there are no splashing kids (actually no children anywhere as far as we could see), and when you sit in the cool water at the pool bar, sipping gin and tonic, your only companion is your significant other.
• Book an A-frame on the beach. They aren't luxurious, but they are comfortable, and boast super-kingsize beds with cool cotton sheets. Who needs silk sheets and a four-poster when you can see and hear the waves breaking on the reef just off your veranda?
• The breakfast, which has something for every palate, is served until late morning, and you don't have to rush to be first because there is always plenty left even if you're last there.
• The poolside restaurant is fine for lunch for a few days, and not expensive. Tip: keep one eye on the sea – we watched four dolphins wend their way around the island while we ate the best chips I have ever tasted. There's no dress code, so your sunbathing attire is fine, and we had the restaurant to ourselves most of the time, as the other guests disappeared on organised excursions every day.
• Dinner is served at colourful candlelit tables on the sand. Don't be put off by the fact that it's a buffet – it's fresh, tasty and filling. You don't need to dress for dinner, and if you are tempted by high-heeled strappy sandals, you'll only get sand in them! In contrast to breakfast, it's worth getting to dinner fairly early, to secure one of the best beachside tables.
What to do
In all honesty, my husband and I did fairly little apart from lie in the sun - but we did leave the beach a couple of times…
We swam in the (turquoise) sea. And when we wanted to explore a little further afield we took our snorkels and headed out to the far side of the reef. For the best experience, as you come out of your A-frame, turn to your right and head for the small island. On the far side of that, a channel runs out through the reef to deeper water, thus avoiding rocks and weed and the very few harmful fish in the Seychelles (stonefish and lionfish). From the end of the channel, swim parallel with the beach, alongside the resort, until the lack of breakers reveals another break in the reef where you can head back to shore.
Most of the coral is dead (apparently killed by El Nino or prolonged periods of abnormally high water temperatures), but there are patches of colour reappearing and thousands of beautiful fish, and during the hour or so we spent out there, we swam with six spectacular turtles.
The hotel has a waiter who ambles down the beach every now and then taking drinks orders. Total luxury. But if you can manage without that service, hire a couple of bikes and go it alone for a day. The bike hire is at the entrance to the Lodge, on the right hand side. They'll do you a price for as long as you want, and there is no need to haggle – ours cost about €3 for a day and a half.
From the bike hire place, cycle straight on down that road, through the Union Estate (you have to pay for entry, but you can explore their grounds and take a peek at the giant tortoises) until you get to La Source d'Argent. You have to leave your bikes at the start of the beach and walk through a jungle path. Don't be tempted by the first swathe of sand you come across, but keep on walking as far as you can bear, because the beach is naturally split by magnificent granite boulders into individual bays, and for your romantic break you won't want to share! And stay till the sun sets - everyone else seems to head back as soon as it starts to dip. Although the Union Estate is gated, you can still get through once it's dark.
Following our sheet of advice, we also cycled over to the other side of La Digue, for lunch at Patatran, where we enjoyed Seychelles fish and panoramic views. To get there, head past La Passe and right down to the end of the road, following the islands in the distance, until you can go no further.
We flew with Air Seychelles, mostly because it was a direct flight. 'Direct' meant we didn't have to change - but, as we discovered at Heathrow, there was a stopover each way in mainland Europe, where we sat on the ground for nearly two hours. With this new knowledge under our belts, we'll probably fly with the more upmarket Qatar Airways next time, which will also save us money (watch out for very hefty taxes when comparing flight prices).
Paying your way
Most things are priced in Seychelles Rupees (the official currency) and Euros, though you can also pay in US dollars and, in some places, in sterling. If you want to use Euros or dollars, though, you need to get them before you fly because Seychelles cashpoints give you Rupees. Prices are low – you won't need much.
Where to stay on Mahe
For those who decide to spend part of their dream holiday in Seychelles on the beautiful Mahe, I've included two hotel recommendations. Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove is situated at the end of the stunning Beau Vallon beach, and is the height of luxury (a particularly great breakfast!). The Coral Strand is less expensive and less upmarket, but it is the most perfectly situated hotel, opening straight onto the beach. Even if you don’t stay there, be sure to go for G&Ts as the sun goes down –sip them from the comfort of your chair just feet from the softly lapping sea.
Beau Vallon Bay has a different feel to it than some areas of Seychelles. As well as tourists, there are locals aplenty on the beach, and as evening falls you'll smell barbecues, and hear the sounds of music and dancing and people having (sometimes raucous!) fun.