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Time: GMT+4

Language: French
Currency: Seychelles rupee
Dialling code: +248
Tourist information: seychelles.travel

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Family Holidays in the Seychelles

In a toddler’s mind the difference, say between the beach at Lyme Regis in the UK and Beau Vallon in the Seychelles is probably minimal – both have sea to splash in and all the basic ingredients for building sandcastles. So, why bother hauling them all the way to the Indian Ocean? Well, for starters, the beaches of the Seychelles are some of the most idyllic and desirable in the world – something only parents might appreciate (but, hey, it’s their holiday too). Beach bliss aside, though, these islands offer plenty in the way of gentle activities, from forest ambles to island hopping. Never mind the private islands, posh resorts and swanky spas. Through the eyes of a child, the Seychelles promise the ultimate tropical island adventure. You’ll find less in the way of kids’ clubs, crèches and watersports here than on Mauritius, the default all-inclusive choice for family holidays in the Indian Ocean. But that’s exactly what makes the Seychelles so appealing – the emphasis is on getting out and exploring rather than being based in a resort where days become mapped out by the schedules of onsite clubs. With over 100 irresistible islands to choose from, the Seychelles are almost too much of a good thing. However, unless you have serious cash to splash, focus on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, with an excursion to either Aride or Cousin Island.

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MAHE

The best family beach is Beau Vallon, a long curving scimitar of sand that’s sheltered from the May-Sep trade winds and has no strong currents. Spend a day in the Baie Ternay Marine National Park where even toddlers can get a glimpse of the corals and fishes on a glass-bottom boat trip. Away from the coast, hike the Trois Frères trail through cool montane forest in Morne Seychellois National Park.

PRASLIN
For beach perfection head to Anse Lazio. Then go nuts at Vallée de Mai, famed for its rare coco de mer palms that can produce nuts weighing 30 kg. Keep an eye out for black parrots, unique to Praslin. For the ultimate avian encounter, join a tour to either Aride or Cousin Island. Hundreds of thousands of seabirds nest on these specks of land, along with rare endemic species like the Seychelles warbler and magpie robin. Neither island has a jetty, so be prepared to carry youngsters ashore.

LA DIGUE
Backed by rounded pink boulders and lapped by emerald waters, Anse Source d’Argent consistently ranks in the world’s top 10 beaches. But tear yourself away for at least one afternoon of exploring La Digue by bicycle (hire them at the pier when you arrive) or ox cart – and pedal over the island to the equally sensational Grand Anse.

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Our family holiday in the Seychelles

The sea was as smooth and blue as a royal sash – not the slightest
breeze ruffled its surface. When flying fish began scattering before
our wake they left glittering trails, like silver sparks from firework
rockets. “Five!” shouted Ellie. “No way! That was easily a nine,”
countered her brother, Joe. Our seven-year-old twins were leaning
over the railings of the Cat Cocos ferry, timing the airborne efforts
of the flighty fish. By the time we reached Baie St Anne on the
southern tip of Praslin (an hour’s crossing from Mahé) they had
unanimously declared a 15-second glide the outright winner.

Later that day, Joe and Ellie practised their snorkelling, floating
over waist-deep seagrass meadows where bright yellow cowfish
pirouetted amongst the swaying fronds. During our second day
on Praslin, we decided to venture further offshore, snorkelling
hand-in-hand around Chauvre Souris, a tiny island a few
hundred metres from the beach. As the water deepened
(and handholds tightened), seagrass gave way to jumbled boulders
of granite encrusted with coral. The sea began to chatter with the clicking sounds
of a myriad fish nibbling away at the reef. It was like floating in a giant bowl of Rice Krispies.

We went even further the next day, joining a boat trip to the isolated granite islets of St Pierre Marine Park where an eagle-spotted ray briefly joined the technicoloured procession of angelfish, surgeonfish and parrotfish. It was all going swimmingly until Ellie got zapped by a stinger. It only left a mild rash, but it was enough to put her off snorkelling for a day or two.

Fortunately, the Seychelles have several ‘dry diversions’, the foremost of which is the Vallée de Mai, a World Heritage-listed palm forest that’s home to the indigenous coco de mer. Famous for its suggestive bi-lobed nut and metre-long stamen, the sexual connotations of the coco de mer are lost on children – especially when they learn that the Vallée de Mai is a remnant of the prehistoric forests that grew on Gondwanaland at the time of the dinosaurs. Joe and Ellie spent a rapt couple of hours exploring the forest trails, spotting geckos (the nearest thing you’ll find to dinosaurs) and discussing whether a 30-kg coco de mer nut could poleaxe a T Rex.
Inevitably, we found ourselves back at the beach later that afternoon. Still wary of jellyfish, Ellie focused on building ‘dribble castles’, the cookie-mixture texture of Anse Lazio’s legendary sands perfect for creating fairy-tale fortresses.

Three of the best family-friendly places to stay in the Seychelles

L'HABITATION CERF, MAHE

Located on a 1.7km-long island just 15 minutes by boat from the north coast of Mahé, L’Habitation Cerf is a 10-room plantation-style hotel with a small pool and beach café serving snacks and local Creole dishes. Snorkelling from the beach is usually sheltered, although you’ll find the best coral by paddling one of the hotel’s kayaks towards the northern end of the island.

LES VILLAS D'OR, PRASLIN
Tucked right behind the wooded dunes along a quiet stretch of beach, this cluster of 10 one- and two-bedroom bungalows is well equipped for self-catering with large kitchens, dining/lounge areas and shady verandahs. Bike hire is easily arranged (you’ll probably need it for reaching local shops and cafés) and there’s also small pool – although the sea is especially warm, calm and shallow here.

AUGERINE GUESTHOUSE, MAHE
A smaller, more intimate alternative to hotels along Beau Vallon beach, the Augerine Guesthouse has just 12 rooms and three junior suites, all with air-conditioning and a small fridge. Although there’s a wide choice of places to eat along this popular beach, the guesthouse has its own unique waterside restaurant – built under the shade of an upturned 400-year-old Takamaka tree.

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