If you are not keen on visiting any of the 1100plus islands of the Maldives, how about another choice in the same league – Seychelles!
Seychelles is an island republicin the western Indian Ocean, comprisingabout 115 islands, with lush tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches, and a wide variety of marine life. There are three main islands in the Seychelles – Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue, all three of which offer wonderful beach experiences with a wide range of activities.
The flight duration between Muscat and Seychelles is just about five hours but indirect flights via Dubai or Doha might take around 7-8 hours. The capital, Victoria, is situated on the island of Mahé where the international airport it located. Just about a 10-minute flight north from Mahe lies Praslin, the Seychelles’ second largest island which is less busy than Mahe. La Digue lies a 15-minute ferry away from Praslin. In face, an regular inland ferry service connects all three islands .
Praslin is famed for its Valle de Mai Nature Reserve which is home to the ubiquitous Coco De Mer (a uniquely shaped huge nut) which gives credence to folklore suggesting that it was the original site for the biblical ‘Garden of Eden’. Now a world heritage site, it is surrounded by a bunch of stunningly untouched beaches, wherein the sea is abode to the most beautiful coral reefs on earth.
While Mahe and Praslin are better known, and certainly more accessible, La Digue, the fourth largest island in the Seychelles, is something else altogether. Reachable by ferry from Mahe, or by privately chartered boat, it contains dirt roads but several luxury lodges. Its forests and the Veuve National Park there is home to the last wild Black Paradise Flycatchers, which is not found anywhere else, and other birds.
The climate of Seychelles is tropical oceanic, with little temperature variation during the year. Daily temperatures range between 20-30º C.
Of the roughly 200 plant species found in Seychelles, some 80 are unique to the islands, including screw pines, several varieties of jellyfish trees, latanier palms, the bois rouge, the bois de fer, Wright’s gardenia, and the most famous, the Coco de mer.
Wildlife includes a remarkably diversearray of marine life, including more than 900 identified species of fish, green sea turtles, and giant tortoises which can be viewed in Praslin.
Travel during the pandemic
Seychelles has reviewed its entry requirements procedures so as to be more accessible for potential visitors, including GCC travelers, as part of the restart of its tourism activities for 2021 and beyond, according to official sources. The new measures are to be implemented in two phases and this was announced by Seychelles’ Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde during a press briefing on January 14, 2021. With immediate effect, Seychelles will be welcoming vaccinated visitors from any part of the world.
To be recognised as ‘vaccinated’, visitors must be able to show that they have taken the complete dose of the vaccine – two doses plus 2 weeks after the second dose for the four vaccines currently receiving heavy media exposure. Visitors need to submit an authentic certificate from their national health authority as proof of COVID-19 vaccination alongside a negative COVID-19 PCR certificate, obtained less than 72 hours prior to travel.
All visitors currently permitted entry (Category 1 and 2, private jet passengers) will now need to show a negative PCR test obtained less than 72 hours prior to travel. Prior to January 14, 2021, Category 2 required a test less than 48 hours. Visitors that are not vaccinated or not coming from a Category 1 or 2 countries or travelling by private jet, are still unable to enter. This will be in force until mid-March.
Once the majority of the adult population in Seychelles is vaccinated by mid-March, the country will open up to all visitors, vaccinated or not. At that point, visitors will only need a negative PCR obtained less than 72 hours prior to travel.
Irrespective of the above, visitors are to abide to the existing health measures (wearing of face masks, social distancing, etc) which remain applicable as per the travel advisory published on the Department of Tourism Website. Similarly, all tourism operators will still be required to follow their existing COVID-19 standard operating procedure and protocol.
(More details will be published in the Seychelles Travel Advisory in the website www.tourism.gov.sc)
Best time for watersports
If one wants to indulge in water sports and other activities, here is a list of the best months for each:
Snorkeling: year-round (April – May and October – November are the best months for snorkeling)
Surfing: May – September
Diving: March – May; September – November
Bird-watching: April – October