Did you have to postpone a big celebration this year, or was your summer holiday cancelled? Then take a look at the Seychelles for some well-deserved winter sun.
The country has just reopened to British tourists, although you must stay in a designated hotel for the first five days of your visit. However, that’s not a big problem if you’re on a beautiful private island resort, as not only are you staying in paradise but during this quarantine period you can use many of the facilities as usual.
There are some terrific deals to be had too, with savings of up to 40 per cent. Here’s our pick of the Indian Ocean idylls for this winter. All include direct flights with British Airways, unless otherwise stated.
Sumptuous : The island of Félicité is home to the SixSenses Zil Pasyon, ‘one of the most scenic spots on the Seychelles’
MEET THE TURTLE MANAGER: Protecting the turtles that nest on Praslin’s beaches from November to February is a full-time job for Robert, the turtle manager at Constance Lemuria. He ensures that light and noise pollution are minimised and will wake interested guests to watch the hatchlings when they make their perilous journey to the sea. The resort is next to two of the most spectacular beaches in the Seychelles – Anse Kerlan and Anse Georgette – and there is plenty of local granite, stone and thatch in its buildings. Its 18-hole championship golf course is the only one in the country.
Quarantine watch: The spa, gym and kids’ club cannot be used for the first five days.
Book: Save £1,770pp on a seven-night halfboard holiday in January – it now costs from £2,795pp (turquoiseholidays.co.uk).
ROAM THE RAINFOREST: A Garden of Eden for nature-lovers, Silhouette Island is 90 per cent protected nature reserve. Trek across the rainforest-covered Mont Dauban to see giant tortoises and walk along the beach to see turtles nesting. Silhouette is also home to the rare Seychelles sheathtailed bat. Hilton Seychelles Labriz is the only hotel on the island – it has 111 private villas, many with pools. The kids’ club runs activities from dance lessons and mini golf to a Little Hoteliers Programme which takes children behind the scenes. For adults, there is a luxurious spa, a specialist dive centre and eight restaurants including teppanyaki and local creole.
Quarantine watch: The spa and kids’ club are open; guests must wear masks when walking through public areas.
Book: Seven nights’ B&B costs from £1,599pp (tropicalsky.co.uk).
Keeping cool: The Hilton Seychelles Labriz is the only hotel on Silhouette Island – it has 111 private villas, many with pools
WOULD YOU TAKE ON THE DROP? Teeming with marine life where the lighter lagoon waters meet the darker blue of the Indian Ocean in a sheer underwater cliff, the Desroches Drop is just one of 14 stunning dive sites at Four Seasons Desroches, on one of the remote coral atolls of the Amirante Islands. You can also go fishing at St Joseph Atoll, where stingrays bask, take surf lessons or try the Desroches Challenge – walking the nine miles of beach on the island. Then return to dine at the top of the Lighthouse restaurant, which has superb views.
Quarantine watch: The rest of the island outside the resort is out of bounds, as are diving and fishing, but the spa is open.
Book: Desroches opens on November 15. Get 25 per cent off seven nights’ B&B by booking 60 days in advance – breaks cost from £3,780pp (bushbaby.travel).
CLIMBING THE WALLS ON MAHÉ: Zip-wiring, rock-climbing and abseiling are just some of the exhilarating activities on offer at the Constance Ephelia. Overlooking a marine park, it offers a host of watersports. Just a 40-minute drive from the airport on the main island of Mahé, it is ideal for families, with a kids’ club offering arts and crafts, cooking and nature and scavenger hunts.
Quarantine watch: Most activities are allowed, apart from diving and mangrove kayaking. And you cannot yet use the spa or kids’ club.
Book: Seven nights’ half-board in February costs from £1,959pp when booked before November 20 (ba.com). During February half-term, a two-bedroom family villa with private pool on a B&B basis costs from £2,249pp – a saving of more than £3,050 if booked by October 31 (trailfinders.com).
Out of office: A peek inside one of the cottages on remote Denis Island. There is no mobile phone signal, in-room internet or TV, meaning you can really get back to nature
FANCY LIFE ON A DESERT ISLAND? No mobile phone signal, in-room internet or TV means you can really get back to nature on Denis Island. And this is nature with a capital N: a morning walk can yield the Seychelles fody, rare magpie robin, paradise flycatcher and the Seychelles warbler. Plus there are plenty of giant land tortoises and turtles, and the water is rippling with marine life. Game fishing is big here, particularly if you head by boat to the Drop-Off, where the ocean depths plunge at the edge of the Seychelles plateau. Back on land, the 25 cottages each have a sea-facing veranda and are steps away from the beach.
Quarantine watch: Apart from spa treatments, all activities are available.
Book: Seven nights’ full-board costs from £2,999pp from January 6 – a saving of £725pp (inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk).
A RESORT FOR YOUR EYES ONLY: Settings don’t get much more romantic than the promontory overlooking Beau Vallon Beach on Mahé’s north-west coast. Add a smattering of treehouses among the foliage and granite boulders and you’ll see why James Bond author Ian Fleming stayed here while researching For Your Eyes Only. Now the Hilton Northolme, this adults-only resort has the feel of a cool beach club, with a gin bar on its lower decking and an infinity pool among the rocks. While it isn’t as spacious as other resorts, it makes a great base from which to visit rum distilleries and the nearby Morne National Park.
Quarantine watch: The resort is fully open but no excursions can be taken for the first five days.
Cost: Seven-night half-board breaks taken between February 1 and 24 cost from £1,699pp if you book by November 30 (travelbag.co.uk).
On a high: Views across Morne National Park on Mahé. James Bond author Ian Fleming stayed on the island while researching For Your Eyes Only
MARINE PARK WONDERS: The underwater world that makes up Sainte Anne Marine National Park is bursting with coral and reef fish, and a large area of seagrass meadows where green turtles feed. If you’re lucky, you can swim with hawksbill turtles and spot bottlenose dolphins. At the park entrance, Cerf Island is just a mile long by half a mile wide. It is home to Cerf Island Resort, with 24 rustic bungalows on forested hills. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of more expensive properties, but who needs them when the turquoise lagoon is just offshore?
Quarantine watch: Kayaks can be taken around the resort area only and the spa cannot be used.
Book: Save up to 40 per cent on seven nights’ half-board in January and February when booked by October 31 – breaks now cost from £1,949pp (kuoni.co.uk).
THE MAGIC OF ENCHANTED ISLAND: The name says it all, and features just ten Creole-style villas on stilts, all with double-height bedrooms, private pools and sea views. It’s ideal for an exclusive-use venue or wedding. With only one restaurant and a small spa, it may not have the facilities of bigger resorts, but there is still plenty to do. Kayak to Moyenne Island, with its giant tortoises, walk across the sandbar at low tide to beaches on nearby Long Island, or take the free motorboat transfer to Mahé.
Quarantine watch: Excursions cannot be taken in the first five days.
Book: Seven nights’ B&B between January 9 and 23 costs from £2,599pp – a saving of up to £1,200pp (tropicalsky.co.uk).
Room with a view: Cerf Island Resort features 24 rustic bungalows on forested hills
SPEND NEW YEAR IN STYLE: Celebrate the end of 2020 in style by taking the family to Raffles Praslin. The 86 villas, arranged on the hillside above Anse Takamaka beach, are spacious and sumptuous, each with a private pavilion and plunge pool. Should you want a proper swim, though, you can head to the shared pool – all 150ft of it. A selection of watersports are on hand, as well as restaurants and bars.
Quarantine watch: All facilities are open, including the kids’ club and spa.
Book: Seven nights’ B&B for a family of four costs from £5,201 from December 27. Flights are extra (aardvarksafaris.co.uk).
ISLAND-HOPPING AT ITS BEST: SixSenses Zil Pasyon on Félicité is one of the most scenic spots on the Seychelles. With 30 swish pool villas, it’s also the ultimate base for island-hopping – you can hire a boat for a day’s touring or visit La Digue, which is just ten minutes away. Or try an island hike among lush tropical foliage with plentiful wildlife.
Quarantine watch: For the first five days, guests stay on the sunrise side of the island, will eat in a different restaurant from other guests, use a separate beach and won’t be able to use the spa. After the quarantine period ends, guests move to villas on the sunset side of the island.
Book: Seven nights’ B&B costs from £4,965pp with flights and helicopter transfers – a saving of £3,925 per couple (elegantresorts.co.uk).
Slow life: A Seychelles native Aldabra giant tortoise. Fregate Island Private is home to 3,000 of them
AND IF MONEY IS NO OBJECT… Look no further than Fregate Island Private, where just 16 villas share seven lovely beaches – one even has a sign you can flip over to declare: ‘Beach occupied.’ Refreshments are left in a cool box on the sand, but should you want something else, just summon your butler. Each of the mahogany and thatched villas comes with a pool as well as a golf buggy for exploring, but watch out for traffic: 3,000 giant tortoises live on the island. Or follow the seven miles of trails on foot or by mountain bike.
Quarantine watch: Spa treatments and diving are not permitted.
Book: Seven nights’ all-inclusive costs from £17,400pp (abercrombiekent.co.uk).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: UK tourists must take a Covid-19 test with a negative result no more than 48 hours before departure, and another on the fifth day after their arrival in the Seychelles. It is vital to have travel insurance which covers cancellation should you fall ill with coronavirus before you go, as well as medical expenses should you need treatment if you catch it when abroad. Companies which provide this include Abta Travel Sure, Travelbag, and InsureandGo.