Everybody has their favourite beach, and our choices are usually influenced by personal memories as much as the softness of the sand or the clarity of the sea.
For powdery grains and transparent water, it’s hard to beat Maundays Bay in Anguilla, Plage de Gouverneur in St Barths, or Pampelonne, close to St Tropez. Yet I’d always head to the Indian Ocean for my ultimate beach holiday.
Even the alluring name of the Seychelles seems suggestive of coconut trees, pillow-soft sand, coral reefs and gently lapping surf – and, yes, this archipelago of 115 islands delivers all of that in spades.
But there is more. Here lies an Edenic landscape of primeval forest, gigantic palms encumbered with the world’s heaviest seeds, delicate wild vanilla orchids, endemic endangered birds like the black parrot, and fruit bats soaring against vibrant blue skies. This profuse wildlife and abundant vegetation makes the Seychelles stand apart from other paradises.
Back on the seafront, the geology is astounding. Massive, smooth, shapely boulders litter the beaches, creating a truly unique landscape. Hard granite doesn’t usually belong in the middle of the ocean, but these islands were created from a rogue underwater rock formation called the Mascarene Plateau – and are all the more beautiful for it.
From the main island of Mahé, hop on the ferry to Praslin, and then to tiny La Digue. Pre-pandemic, the boats coming here carried hundreds of visitors a day, but when I came last year there were fewer than a dozen tourists at the island’s most beloved beach. Anse Source d’Argent is smattered with gargantuan boulders that create winding passages, natural arches and tunnels to a seemingly endless selection of private slips of sand, each kissed by clear, warm waters.
Hire a bicycle to explore the sandy lanes of La Digue, stopping at Veuve Nature Reserve, where it is surprisingly easy to spot the critically endangered Seychelles paradise flycatcher, as well as mighty three-dimensional cobwebs of red-legged golden orb-weaver spiders.
The go-slow island of Praslin is home to the forests of the Vallée de Mai, with endemic palms such as the coco de mer, which grows up to 30 metres tall and bears seeds weighing 40kg. Here is another beach I love, Anse Georgette, where I snorkelled with reef sharks, stingrays, parrotfish, powder blue tang, and lined surgeonfish, before hauling myself onto a rock to dry in the sun. This time of year is perfect for spotting turtle hatchlings making their way down the sand towards the surf.
The main island of Mahé offers a more dynamic kind of paradise and my favourite beach, Beau Vallon, is one of the Seychelles’ longest, allowing for languorous strolls at sunrise and sunset, with stops for drinks from beach bars, takeaways from food trucks, or fresh mangoes and papaya from market vendors. Here, you can watch fishermen hauling in their nets, locals foraging for shellfish at the shoreline, or playing football and throwing frisbees.
The Daily Telegraph