Dining on the beach under the starlit night sky with your soul mate/better half might have been on the bucket list for many of us. The sound of the first wave of the rising tide crashing on the pebbly beaches, the rustling of leaves in the wooded steep caused by the sea breeze, the sight of million stars illuminating the night sky somehow mysteriously multiplies the level of romance, isn't it? Now imagine the pristine sandy beach is replaced by the deck of a private yacht anchored in the open sea between two small islands, you sipping on delicious wine while contenting your taste buds with some authentic cuisine, the sound of waves continuously splashing against the hull of the yacht, as you look far ahead thousands of tiny city lights of mainland shines like crystals. For a moment everything appears to be so surreal that you begin to ask yourself 'Is it really happening' and then the very next moment you realize it is not a dream because you are in the Indian Ocean and the nightscape in front of your eyes is that of Mahe Island's. Yeah, this was one of the many experiences that Seychelles offered during our recent trip.
The Seychelles is a country in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, comprising of 115 islands. Being a tiny dot on the World map, many probably don't even know about Seychelles and those of us who even heard about it, perceive it as a luxury destination. Yes, it is true that Seychelles has some of the most expensive and super luxurious resorts and hotel chains but if you plan right and in advance it can be well within your budget. And for a fact it is home to some of the best beaches in the world, coral reefs, as well as rare plants, animals and birds, all the more reason to make it your next holiday destination.
It had only been nine months since we got back from our Scandinavian honeymoon trip, so I didn't quite think we would plan another international destination so soon. But it being our first wedding anniversary, my wife had different plans which I was completely unaware of. So, couple of months ago she asked me 'how about celebrating our first anniversary in a special way with a trip to Seychelles?' At first I was bit dithered thinking that it would be very expensive. So I replied 'why so far and not some nearby country which will not blow a hole in our pocket?' but then I got to know that ever since we got back from our last trip she started researching about Seychelles and that it was on her wish list from long time. Seeing her excitement I began to search more about the fascinating facts about Seychelles and it didn't take long for me to get convinced that indeed this should be the place for our anniversary celebration. And there within a month we were done with all the planning and booking part.
As an anniversary vacation this trip was more about relaxing and spending time with each other while enjoying the enchanting views of the island rather than lot of activities and sight-seeing. So we planned our trip accordingly.
Flight: Air Seychelles has direct connectivity from Mumbai to Mahe Island (duration 4.5 hours) which fly only on certain days of the week. Depending on the season and how advance you book the tickets, a round trip for two can be as low as INR 29000/ 362€ PP. For us it had cost INR 32250/ 403€ PP when booked two and half months prior through Goibibo. You may find tickets at similar or cheaper price (while searched in incognito browser mode through sites like sky scanner) with other airlines like Sri Lankan Airlines but that with a layover included. So book with caution. There are domestic flights of Air Seychelles that connects Mahe to other major island Praslin (Round trip cost 11000 INR/ 138€ PP when booked through sites like Make My Trip, booking through official Air Seychelles might cost a bit more). And Charter flights can be commissioned to Praslin, Bird Island, Denis Island, D'Arros Island and Fregate Island (you can book charters through official Air Seychelles website https://www.airseychelles.com/en/plan-and-book/book-charter).
PS: If you would like to add some more African countries to your journey to Seychelles, there are some indirect flights from India through Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) or Kenya (Nairobi) which would cost you much lesser on your pocket.
Being an Etihad partner airline, Air Seychelles has direct connectivity with other countries like UAE (Abu Dhabi), South Africa (Johannesburg) and Mauritius and have indirect connectivity with all major cities of the world through code share partner.
Inter Island Ferry: The three main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue are also well connected by ferries. High speed Ferry operators like Cat Cocos and Cat rose can be booked via below sites
https://www.seychellesbookings.com/cat-cocos or https://www.seyferry.com/en_GB
Mahe to Praslin ferry cost 50€ PP (45-60 minutes), Praslin to La Digue 14€ PP (15 minutes) and La Digue to Mahe 64€ PP (90 minutes with 30 minutes stop at Praslin). So to cover all three islands only ferries would cost around 130€* PP.
*Note: As another available option, an individual tour operator that we met can give one day tour of the islands with sight seeing included at a cost of 150€ PP. More details are mentioned later.
Accommodation: As mentioned earlier we wanted to make this trip more about relaxing and being lazy, so we decided to stay and explore only Mahe Island for whole one week. Also since we were staying only in Mahe, we thought we would rather book accommodations in different locations.
1. Petit Baie Chalet, Au Cap (3 nights): 255€ (20700 INR) through booking.com
2. Oceanic View Apartment, Bel Ombre (2 nights): 130€ (10500 INR) through booking.com
3. Sailfish Beach Villa, Anse a la Mouche (1night + ½ day extended): 193€ (15500 INR) through agoda.com
Seychelles is a paradise for ultra luxurious accommodations, so if you have a huge budget and desire to experience the same then you can choose from several hotels and resorts like the Four seasons, Maia, H Resorts, Hilton, Avani, Kempenski, Savoy, Constance etc. These luxurious options are available in main three islands as well as in some of the outer islands.
But should you wish to spend less, then there are several budget gems which comes in the form of family-run guest houses or self-catering options like chalets, bungalows and villas. Hotels tend to be expensive if not booked well in advance, so instead you can opt for such accommodations through sites like booking.com, agoda, AirBnB. Expect to pay 65€ or above for a night, depending on the factors like location, amenities and number of guests. Also, if you are travelling solo and looking for some budget accommodations, you wouldn't find any backpack hostels like other countries. So it is advisable to look for lodges a little away from the main city (Eg- Machabee) which would cost around of 45 to 50€ per night . So if you want to bag the best places at best prices, you need to book as far ahead as you can.
Visa: Seychelles is a visa-free country however upon arrival a visitor's permit will be obtained if you hold a valid passport and your accommodation for the entire duration and return ticket/ticket for onward travel is booked. More details are mentioned at http://www.mfa.gov.sc/static.php?content_id=1
Food: Some of the hotels do have breakfast included in the price, other meals you will need to buy on your own. However, the self-catering guest houses and AirBnBs come with fully equipped AC apartment and kitchenette with all necessary amenities. So it will be much cheaper if you can buy some groceries and vegetables, fruits, fish etc. from local markets and manage to cook on your own. There are number of local chain stores (e.g. ISPC, Kannus, Kumar & Kumar, TipTop) available around the island. In some areas you might only find tiny grocery stores however from most of these you can easily grab some snacks, packed food items, milk, beer, wine or other everyday stuffs. Here and there you may even find some roadside carts where locals sell fresh fruits, vegetables, fish.
You may also visit the capital Victoria where you can find STC supermarket and many other shops/hyper markets to buy whatever you need. In addition to all these, in popular areas like Beau Vallon, Victoria you can lookout for the takeaways (to give an idea we picked pork noodles, sausage fried rice and fried chicken from a take away near to Victoria bus station for around 140 SCR/9€)
P. S. Even if you buy food from local markets in Seychelles standards it can be quite costly. So we take a different approach when it comes to food . We always pack some ready to eat foods (like instant noodles, soup, ready to eat curries, energy bars) while travelling outside India (especially to expensive destinations). Trust me, this can make your trip a lot more easier and help you to cut down budget by a good margin. We manage 70% of our meals this way during our stay and for the rest we enjoy authentic local cuisine whenever out for sightseeing or some shopping.