Sychelles Islands… Exploring the African paradise
For years, Seychelles was on my list of top getaway destinations. And somehow, that dream came to reality recently, when the country hosted a select group of Nigerian travel and tourism journalists. Indeed, it was a memorable experience.
When it comes to traveling by air, landing is always the most interesting part for me; I always look forward to it. I don’t know how true it is, but landing seems to be a sure way of testing the pilot’s level of experience in flying.
Oh yes, sometimes it could be very rough, but in some cases, you still find pilots, who land the plane really good. On this particular trip from Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa to Victoria, Seychelles, the Ethiopian Airlines pilot was exceptional; it was as smooth as you could imagine.
Really, landing on Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, felt sooo different. Aside from the scenic view of the Indian Ocean as the aircraft made its way to the runway, there was this serenity in the air; you could easily tell that this is a happy nation.
Though the Seychelles International Airport is not as massive as what you find in places like South Africa, Dubai or even Lagos, it’s as efficient as you can think of; everything works fine. As for the people, they were very receptive and cheerful.
Irrespective of your nationality or that of your family member, there are no visa requirements to enter Seychelles. To obtain immigration clearance here, you need a passport valid on the date of entry to and exit from Seychelles, return or onward ticket, proof of accommodation and of course sufficient funds for the duration of the stay. Once you have them, you visa is a done deal. Though the Visitor’s Permit is initially valid for the period of visit of up to one month, it can be extended for a period of up to three months.
With representatives of the country’s tourism ministry, as well as Mason’s Travel staff on ground to receive us, immigration procedure was hitch free; it was a VIP treatment. In Seychelles, Mason’s Travel holds the award as the best tour operator in Luxury Travel Guide. Therefore, we were in perfect hands.
Seychelles is located in the Indian Ocean off the East Coast of Africa. Victoria, the capital of Seychelles is a quaint ‘city’ on the main island of Mahé, which is situated approximately 1600 Km from the African Coast and lies at 4.62° S, 55.45° E.
With 115 Breathtakingly beautiful islands, each with their own unique charm, Seychelles remains a paradise destination where the rich and famous play undisturbed. However, the three main inhabited islands are Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. And being out of the cyclone belt, it enjoys a stable weather system all year round. In fact, discerning travellers find the island getaway of their dreams, no matter their budget. From the luxury deserted island getaways to the allure of the rich cultural heritage inherent in the country’s inner islands, Seychelles has something to soothe the whims of every traveller’s fancy.
Historically, the people and culture of Seychelles is a blend of European (French and British settlers), African (Freed African Slaves) and Asian (Indian and Chinese merchants). This makes for a colourful and rich cultural heritage shared and enjoyed peacefully by its people. Its population is roughly 96,000 people, most of which reside on Mahé. But of the total population, up to 90 per cent are Catholics; a Nigerian priest currently serves there. Notwithstanding, there are also several Anglican, Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness churches, as well as Mosques and Hindu temples for the minorities.
The official languages are English, French and Seychellois Creole. However, most visitors get by on English as it is predominant, but French speakers will have no problem speaking French to most locals or even understanding Creole. The country enjoys a democracy, but with strong socialist roots.
Done with the immigration procedures, we were received by Celisse Zelime of Mason’s Travel, who gave a quick run down of our itinerary. As we drove through the serene roads and streets of Victoria, Celisse, who looks very much younger than her age, pointed out some historic buildings and strategic locations in the beautiful city, up to the standing clock (Tour de L’horloge), which is the city centre. Navigating through the hilly ring roads, we eventually arrived Savoy Hotel, which was our home in Seychelles.
A five-star luxury hotel, Savoy Resort & Spa is one of the most prestigious beachfront Seychelles resorts and boasts a prime location on Beau Vallon beach. With second-to-none customer service and top of the range facilities, it is assuredly one of the best resorts in Seychelles; a trial will convince you. Facilities include an expansive outdoor pool, a comfy library, a supervised kids’ club and an exclusive Seychelles’ spa.
As first time visitor, you can’t help but fall in love with the ambience at this hotel. Inside the rooms, the story is not different, as they all come with individually controlled air conditioning, private fully furnished balconies, minibars and free Wi-Fi. Two restaurants and a plush bar invite guests to experience a spectacular array of globally inspired and locally sourced dishes in one of the premier luxury hotels in Seychelles.
Once we were done with check-in, all roads led to the beachfront, a walking distance from the hotel, through the market. Being a Wednesday, the market day at the beach, the whole area bubbled. From guests shopping for items to tourists having fun by the beach, loud music blasting from shops and car woofers, bonfires, singing and dancing… it was indeed an entertaining evening that ended in a dinner at the BoatHouse. Of course, we got a taste of the local cuisines; it was a buffet.
Done with breakfast the following morning, it was time to go see the town with our tour guide Cellise. Our first point of call was the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clark Market where we saw first hand the Seychelles lifestyle. Though not a shopping destination, the city offers a nice selection of boutiques and local souvenir shops to purchase the right gifts. Particularly, you can’t miss the fish section; it’s usually very busy. They have array of fishes raging from red snappers to baby sharks.
From the market, we made a brief stop at the Hindu Temple, where we observed worshippers pray. Once your shoes are off, everyone is invited into the architectural masterpiece, though you don’t necessary need to pray with them. However, get ready for burning colourful candles and smoke from incense oozing from the inner chamber.
Our next stop was La Plaine St. Andre, the home of Takamaka, a local rum distillery company. For about 30 minutes, we were taken round the historic distillery, which has been operating since 2002. Founded by the d’Offay brothers, Richard and Bernard d’Offay, it is the first and only commercial rum producer and exporter in the Seychelles.
Takamaka Rum is made from naturally grown local sugar cane from four different regions of Mahé by a cooperative of three-dozen local farmers; it is then crushed on site at the distillery. The sugar cane juice is fermented and distilled in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The distillation process takes place in three copper stills, two pot stills for flavour and a rectifying column for purity. The rums are then aged and matured in French and American oak barrels before being blended with aged rums, local spices, fruit extracts, and spring water from the island.
The highpoint of the visit was rum tasting and from one brand to another, we tasted them all. You needed to see the dramatic scene, as the tasking by the Naija crew lasted; the spectators really had fun watching.
By the time we landed at the Eden Island, the heavens let loose; rain! Somehow, we managed to get into the restaurant where we had lunch with some of our hosts, including Hilda Camille, senior Sales Executive Asia and Nicole St. Ange, the Group Branding & Communications Manager of Mason’s Travel.
Eden Island is located just off the east coast of the main island of Mahe and is linked to the mainland by a 300m bridge. On the island is the Eden Plaza, the local shopping mall, which offers a great selection of stores selling international clothing brands, groceries, art, and others. The plaza incudes a casino, banking facilities, health and dental services and a Mason’s Travel office for tourist needs including money exchange facilities.
On this artificial island is the Marina, a new dedicated super-yacht facility developed in conjunction with the Eden Island luxury residential project. The marina offers facilities for super-yachts of up to 115m, cruising yachts and local leisure craft. There are over 1000m of piled pontoon berths of which 180m is available for super-yachts, with stern on berthing available both sides.
The super-yacht pontoon section is 4m wide with varying 500mm to 750mm of freeboard. Berthing is available astern to or alongside, depending on occupancy. With stern to berthing there are laid lines for securing bows. The depth of the water in the Marina basin is 11m but the approach channel to the marina is restricted to 5.1m.
To ensure that your stay at the marina is pleasant and trouble free, golf carts are available for delivering your stores and transporting your guests to their waiting yachts; there are also several manual trolleys with a 500kgs load capacity. In case you are in Seychelles, this is a must visit.
Once we were done with lunch, the bus zoomed off to the airport from where we headed back to Adiss Ababa for yet another tour of the ancient city.