Why Your Family Should Visit the Seychelles
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Royal couples such as Prince William and Kate Middleton may honeymoon in the Seychelles, but there are also plenty of family-friendly reasons for us "normal folks" (with points and miles) to vacation in this Indian Ocean island nation, too -- or perhaps work it into the tail end of a safari adventure in Africa. Here are tips for packing your hiking boots, snorkel gear and taking your family to the Seychelles.
Visiting the Seychelles doesn't require any additional vaccinations, good news for families with youngsters who hate shots. Most visitors also do not require a visa (we did not on our American and British passports). However, a visitors permit will be granted upon arrival as long as you can show proof of a return ticket. The island has lush foliage, tropical forests, rock granite formations, mountains and gorgeous beaches, so pack accordingly.
The resorts we stayed at were able to get cow's milk for my son, but in the local supermarkets, we could only find long-life milk (ultra-high temperature processing that means it sits on the shelf and is not refrigerated). We booked a booster and baby car seat in our rental car and then brought our trusty Babyzen Yoyo so the kids could nap at the beach.
The Seychellois speak Creole and often enough French and English that you can probably communicate. I was excited to use my limited French but soon found that no one understood my broken college French and switched back to English. The local currency is the Seychellois rupee, which we used for beach bars and food markets; otherwise, everyone took credit cards, so bring along a few that don't charge foreign transaction fees.
How to Get to the Seychelles
All international flights arrive and depart from the Seychelles International Airport (SEZ) on the main island, Mahe. Since we are based in the UK, we flew in from London after finding an adult and child ticket available using points in economy and booked my 18-month-old as a lap infant. In total, it was 34,125 British Airways Avios and £436.86 ($568 USD) one-way for the three of us due to British Airways’ infamous carrier-imposed surcharges. I paid with my Platinum Card® from American Express to get 5x the points on the surcharges and taxes and avoid paying a foreign transaction fee (see rates & fees). The flight lasted almost 10 hours, so be sure you are ready for long-haul flying with kids.
Several other airlines fly to SEZ, including as Ethiopian (which we flew back on via Addis Ababa), Emirates via Dubai, Etihad via Abu Dhabi, Kenya Airways via Nairobi, Qatar via Doha, KLM via Amsterdam, Air France via Paris and Swiss via Zurich.
It's worth knowing that every airplane that lands in the Seychelles will exit by stairs -- be prepared to carry your luggage and little children. The upside was that we could take a photo with the Dreamliner we flew in on. It took us less than 40 minutes to clear immigration and collect our luggage after landing.
Near the exit from the international terminal, you will find the domestic inter-island terminal for all flight connections to other islands like Praslin, Bird Island and Desroches Island, along with the car rental agencies.
Where to Stay
There are a handful of points-friendly lodging options in the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles. We stayed three nights at the luxurious Four Seasons in Southern Mahe available through Amex’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program, two nights on Silhouette Island at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa (80k Hilton points per night) and three nights with friends in an Airbnb in northern Mahe. I traveled with just my young children and found that the Seychellois really love children and were happy to help when I needed it. You have to double-check that resorts allow children, as I found the Hilton Northolme doesn’t allow children under 13.
Beach It on Mahe
A benefit of the jungle landscape of the Seychelles is that you can often find natural shade alongside a child-friendly beach. As it is just shy of the equator, make sure you pack plenty of sunblock clothing. I brought sunscreen from home because it costs more on the island and it is hard to find exactly what you want. There can also be broken coral on the beaches, so pack water shoes for everyone. All beaches in the Seychelles are public, so it means you're free to check out any beach from the Four Seasons down to the secret beaches off dirt paths. In my traditional high/low vacation style, we did both.
Here are some of our favorite beaches in Mahe:
Anse Mancienne: This secret (for now) beach is located off the North Coast Road in L'llot near North Point in northwest Mahe. It is a small, secluded bay with shade and calm waters but also good snorkeling (bring your own gear). There is a new cash-only food shack called Top Solei with cold beer, fresh fish and homemade cakes that we thoroughly enjoyed. Local residents come out on Sundays to barbecue and enjoy their beaches, but every other day we found it practically empty. You can drive your car close to the beach by following signs for Top Soleil though there is no official parking lot.
Anse a la Mouche: The Four Seasons had a glorious beach in southwest Mahe that you can visit even if you are not a guest of the hotel, and you can get a similar feel just off the West Coast Road in the long, curved bay on Anse a la Mouche with easy access and nearby fresh fish restaurants.
Beau Vallon: Great lively beach with locals and tourists for water sports, swimming with a beach strip with several dive places and restaurants. Large paved parking lot. Every Wednesday, there is the Bazar Labrine, a Creole food market. We stopped here on our way to and from the Hilton jetty.
Port Launay Beach: This beach northwest of Mahe is part of the Port Launay Marine National Park and is mostly used by guests of the nearby Constance Ephelia Resort. The resort's proximity means there is a lot of access to water sports, snorkel gear and boat rentals.
Have a Rain Plan
Because the Seychelles are tropical islands, you are likely to experience rain during your stay. It was one of the highlights of the trip for the kids who ran around with umbrellas playing games and singing in the deluge one afternoon. The rain lasted about three hours during one afternoon and we found it impossible to drive during the worst of it. Locals say it can last from 15 minutes to a whole day. I suggest making sure you have games, snacks, and screens (or in our case just umbrellas and friends) ready for when the rain comes. From November to March is the official rainy season due to the northwest monsoon -- we were there in February. Locals told us to come back in October and November for fewer crowds and less rain.
The beaches are incredible, but the Seychelles are even more stunning for the contrast between the beach and its bright green foliage. There are hiking trails throughout the island, but many families find it easier to take children to the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens just outside of the capital of Victoria. The 15-acre garden has many photo opportunities and is a perfect stop on the way to or from the airport. The garden is open from 7:30am to 5pm, costs 100 rupees per person (cash only). Use bug repellent when you head onto trails or gardens -- actually, use it all the time.
My top reason to return will be to visit other islands. Praslin has some of the Seychelles most famous beaches, including Anse Lazio and Anse Source D'argent. Praslin also is home to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, a nature park with coco de mer trees and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Praslin, you can head to Curieuse Island, home of the giant tortoises. You can bike ride around La Digue island and visit a coconut mill at L'Union Estate. I'll be trying to figure out a way to get back to visit North Island, the ultra-luxurious private-island resort that will soon be joining Marriott where Prince William and Kate Middleton and the Clooneys honeymooned.
With plenty of points flights to get you over to this part of the world, the availability of child-friendly villas on points and a warm reception for our children on and off resorts, we found the Seychelles to be a points family's dream location -- especially when coupled with another destination in Africa. Is the Seychelles on your bucket list?
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