Island Hoping around the Seychelles
A trip report from our holiday to the Seychelles
Our family holiday to the Seychelles had been postponed due to Covid, so as soon as things opened up and travel resumed, we rebooked and jumped on a flight via Nairobi to the Seychelles. We planned to visit the 3-main Seychelles Islands including Mahe, La Digue and Praslin as well as Alphonse Private Island in the outer Islands.
Shaun travelled with his wife and 2 kids aged 4 and 1.
During April of 2022, I travelled to the Seychelles for a holiday with my family, exploring the islands of Mahé, Praslin, La Digue and Alphonse. This was originally supposed to be our 2020 holiday, but was postponed due to Covid lockdowns and restrictions. We travelled in peak season, but were fortunate enough to be offered a night at the beautiful Constance Ephelia on the main island of Mahé. At Stanley Safaris, we prefer to work with small, privately owned hotels, lodges, camps and resorts, and so I was a little skeptical about staying at a larger resort like Ephelia.
We were warmly welcomed on arrival by the team at the front desk who walked us through the lobby to a lounge area where the check-in and briefings take place. Slightly sunken with large pools surrounding us and views out to the turquoise ocean, this was a serene and beautiful place, a great introduction to the hotel. After checking in, we were taken by golfcart to our room (a Junior Suite on the ground floor with direct access to the beach). The room was big enough for our family to fit comfortably, with a baby cot for our 1 year old, and a bed for our 4 year old.
After settling in, we headed to one of Ephelia’s 6 pools on the south side of the peninsula for a quick swim. The south definitely had a family friendly atmosphere, with lots of kids at the pool swimming and playing in the vicinity. There was a shallow, smaller pool for little ones and a bigger, deeper pool for older kids and adults.
After a brief swim, we decided to go exploring. With only one night, we had to see and experience as much as we could. Because the property is so large, guests are ferried around in golfcarts, and so we flagged one down and were taken across to the northern side of the resort. This is where you’ll find the larger, more exclusive private villas, as well as 2 of the hotel’s 4 restaurants. There is a long, sweeping beach with a mountainous backdrop clad in thick green forest, making it very picturesque. The calm water was perfect for the kids to splash around in. We got some kayaks and went for a short paddle over the reef in search of turtles.
Although the waters were perfect for kids, there was more of an adult vibe on the northern beach, with a brand new beach bar serving cocktails to guests relaxing whilst watching the amazing sunset.
That evening we had dinner at the local restaurant, opting to try some of the local Creole cuisine. I had the fruit bat which was a first for me, but will probably be a last too because it is an extremely bony animal. Cristina chose an octopus curry which was excellent. The following morning after breakfast, we packed our bags and hit the road again to our next destination.
Overall, my family really enjoyed our stay at Constance Ephelia, and I would have no problem at all with sending our guests there. There is plenty for everyone to do, and enough space for you to find your own quiet spot to relax, swim or go snorkeling. I would recommend that families stay in the rooms in the southern part of the resort, while honeymooners are in the north because it was more private and removed from groups with children.
After almost 2 weeks exploring the 3 main islands of the Seychelles, our family was treated to something very special – a 4 night stay at Alphonse Island. This is a small, private island out in the middle of the Indian Ocean, just over 1.7 square kilometers in size and surrounded by coconut palms and a large barrier reef. From Mahé, you fly an hour south to get here. On arrival, we were met by the team who whisked us off by golfcart to the main area, where the rest of the staff members were waiting for an official, yet fun welcoming. We were introduced to the whole team, including waiters, activity managers, fishing guides, restaurant managers and the general manager of the resort.
Alphonse Island’s lodgings consist of A-Frame beach bungalows spread along a white, palm tree fringed beach, lapped by turquoise waters. There is a large barrier reef surrounding the island, protecting it against waves and strong currents, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and for kids to play. Most meals are served at tables outside overlooking the ocean.
The food is fresh and beautifully made. There were always a couple of options for guests to choose from, including a fresh fish dish, a meat dish, and a vegetarian option. Being on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Cristina and I always went for the fish and were never disappointed. The team at Alphonse are very proud of the fact that all fish is caught by the staff on their regular fishing excursions. There is also an incredible veggie garden that the chefs make use of for their meal preparation, and so the majority of what is served comes from the island and surrounding ocean.
Alphonse is renowned as a fishing destination and people from around the world flock here to do some of the planet’s best shallow water fly-fishing, with GTs, bonefish and trigger fish being the main targets, all of which are released back into the ocean. For the non-fishermen like ourselves, there was plenty of other activities to keep us busy during our 4 day stay.
Activities are scheduled throughout the day depending on the time of the year, the tides and the weather. In the evenings, the activities team will discuss the various options on offer the following day to see who is interested in what. Some of the activities have a maximum passenger limit, and so if there are certain things you really want to do, it is best to make sure you book early. Some of the activities are included in the rate, whilst others are at an additional fee.
Whilst on the island, we enjoyed a guided cycle trip with one of the conservationists based on Alphonse. This was an interesting experience as we got to learn more about the history of the island, the incredible work being done by the conservation teams, and the work that is still planned for the future. Being so small, it only took about 45 minutes to cycle around the whole island, and there are no hills to worry about. Cycling is actually the best way to get around, and every guest gets their own bike with a basket in the front to carry towels, snorkeling equipment and snacks as needed.
On one afternoon, we did the guided reef snorkel, which was one of the best snorkeling trips I have ever experienced. We took a small boat to the outer reef, and because the tide was pushing all the clear water in from the deep ocean, we could jump in and just float with the current. The water was crystal clear and teeming with fish of all colors and sizes. I took my 4 year old daughter with me, and we just floated with the current and enjoyed seeing all the fish, corals and turtles. After about 45 minutes, the boat came through to pick us up and take us back to the island for lunch.
One of the highlights of our stay was the Blue Safari activity. Guests head out past the reef to enjoy an ocean safari looking for whales, dolphins, sharks, manta rays and anything else that lives out in the deep ocean. We quickly came across a large pod of spinner dolphins, who enjoyed riding the waves at the front of the boat. After a little while, the skipper told us to get masks and snorkels on so we could jump in and swim with the dolphins. Once everyone was kitted up, he brought us round to the pod again and we all jumped in.
On another day, we headed out to an atoll nearby, in search of the manta rays who frequent these waters because of the good feeding opportunities. We were skeptical of our sighting chances because the sea was a bit choppy, but went out anyway and were rewarded with an amazing sighting of a large manta feeding just below the surface!
One of Alphonse’s specialties is their “flats lunch”, where guests head out by boat to a nearby sandbank in the middle of the sea. As you approach, all you see are some blue parasols and chairs seemingly floating in the ocean, but as you get closer, you can see the sand beneath them. The team was there barbecuing fish and meat, which was served with fresh salad and veggies. As the tide starts to rise, the sandbank seemed to disappear, and we were left sitting with our feet in the water.
Our stay at Alphonse was an incredible experience. The food was amazing and fresh, the staff were attentive and friendly, the accommodation was comfortable and private, and the activities and experiences were unique, “once in a lifetime” outings – the real highlight of our trip.
Travelling with kids is always special, but it can also be stressful. Alphonse’s staff members took that stress away. They were so engaging with our 2 kids and often kindly took them to play so Cristina and I could enjoy a quiet lunch or dinner together. At one point, our 4 year old was behind the bar serving the guests their daily dose of water!
We were sad to head back to Mahé to connect with our flight home Our almost 3 weeks island hoping around the Seychelles had come to an end, but knowing we will be back made leaving easier, and the incredible memories we made will last till the next visit and beyond.