If paradise exists, it’s located roughly 1,000 miles east of Kenya and mainland Africa in the Indian Ocean. Seychelles is a cluster of 115 islands, cays, and atolls. It has talcum-powder beaches lapped by turquoise waters, strange and ancient forests, thriving coral reefs, and a sublime laid-back tempo. Famed for its biodiversity, you can expect to wander among coco-de-mer palms, black parrots, and Aldabra giant tortoises.
A remote spot nestled in southwest Mahé, Anse Intendance feels like a lost world. It’s got turquoise waters and a mangrove-lined jungle backdrop. Framed by prehistoric-looking granite boulders, it has white coral sands, swaying palm trees, and corner after corner of sun-kissed seclusion.
Though it’s one of Seychelles’ most popular beaches, Anse Intendance doesn’t have a coral reef to protect it from the open ocean. This makes for larger, stronger waves that draw surfers and bodyboarders in droves.
Vallée de Mai
“There’s nowhere on earth like the Vallee de Mai,” says Dr. Christopher Kaiser-Bunbury, an ecology professor at The University of Exeter. It’s one of only two places in the world where coco-de-mer palms grow in their natural state. “Their giant leaves blot out the sky,” he says.
Bird Island is surrounded by water that’s so clear it looks like it’s floating on air. With endless stretches of white sand and coconut palms, the 170-acre coral cay is a birding hotspot. It has a year-round population of more than 20 different bird species, including fairy terns, Eurasian hobbies, and whimbrels.
It has a resident pod of spinner dolphins and manta rays. Hawksbill and green sea turtles also lay their eggs here, undisturbed. Aldabra giant tortoises roam safely and freely (and, it must be said, very slowly) around the island, nibbling grasses, woody stems, and leaves. The 550-pound reptiles are an astonishing sight with their huge domed shells, big scaly legs, and oddly ancient faces.
With only 24 bungalows to welcome guests, Bird Island in Seychelles leaves you with a true “castaway” feeling.
Anse Source d’Argent
In the age of photo filters, it’s easy to think that Anse Source d’Argent might not live up to its postcard images. However, this public beach in Seychelles doesn’t disappoint. It’s a mixture of emerald waters, incredibly soft, white sands, and pink granite formations that appear to change colors throughout the day. Plus, it’s a mecca for moviemakers. (It was used as a backdrop for Emanuelle, Crusoe, and Castaway, as well as the famous Bacardi ads of the 1990s.)
Anse Source d’Argent is quite popular. If the crowds are too much for you, wade south through the shallows. You’ll probably spot endangered humphead wrasses, moray eels, octopus, and even baby blacktip reef sharks (no worries, they’re harmless). Or, take the path along the back of the beach and you’ll feel like you have an uninhabited piece of paradise all to yourself. Here, you’ll also find little, palm-covered shacks, where you can get fresh coconut water and fruit smoothies.
To reach the beach, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to L’Union Estate, which also entitles you to explore its park and museum, where you can see vanilla plantations, giant tortoises, and an old boatyard.
Le Jardin Du Roi
Sitting on the hilly terrain above Anse Royale, Le Jardin Du Roi is the reconstruction of Pierre Poivre’s 18th-century spice garden. The 23-year-old garden is steeped in the aromas of vanilla, cinnamon, citronella, nutmeg, and clove. Avocado, lychee, starfruit, and macadamia nut trees also throw shade.
Take a guided hike around the 87-acre orchard-crossed-with-forest where you can learn about the spice trade and view artifacts like marble mortars and brass pepper grinders at the planter’s one-room museum. If you’re feeling peckish, try the Creole-style restaurant with special “Plantation Lunches” served on Sundays.