Dazzling marine life, deserted beaches and fantastic fly-fishing. You’ll be in awe of this Seychelles shore
- Teresa Levonian Cole stays on the tiny isle of Alphonse in the Outer Seychelles
- She describes the ‘magical’ island as ‘the ultimate in barefoot chic’
- READ MORE: The 14 most underrated places in the world named by Time Out
The crab hitched up its shell, like a ballerina’s tutu, lifted six arms aloft in an arc, stood on the points of two feet and clickety-clacked in cross-stitch motion along the polished concrete floor.
It was as perfect a movement as I have ever seen, performed by a crustacean. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. And, with a final pirouette, it was gone.
But then, this was Alphonse — a tiny, magical island in the Outer Seychelles. In an archipelago composed of 115 islands that dot the Indian Ocean like diamond dust floating in waters of sapphire, turquoise and jade, distance yields ever more flawless gems.
And in the Alphonse group — which includes the uninhabited islands of Saint Francois and Bijoutier, 400km to the south east of Mahe — Mother Nature is at her most exuberant.
I gulped my espresso and followed the crab out on to the beach, a few steps away through a bank of palm trees.
Tropical: Teresa Levonian Cole holidays on Alphonse, a tiny, magical island in the Outer Seychelles where guests can stay in rustic bungalows and contemporary new Beach Suites and Beach Villas
It was dawn, my favourite time of day, when the stillness is absolute and the only chatter is that of a loved-up pair of Daz-white fairy terns, that wheeled in tandem through the lilac sky.
The water was mirror-flat, disturbed only by the bobbing heads of the green and hawksbill turtles that nest here. A grey heron stood on the shore, still as a statue, gazing at the sunrise.
Skittish whimbrels and plovers hopped along the powdery sand like pterodactyls and harass industrious red-footed boobies to hijack their fish, rested in the casuarina trees, not yet fully awake. It was like paradise before the Fall.
Alphonse has just 29 rooms — rustic bungalows, with the more recent addition of five contemporary Beach Suites and two four-bedroom Beach Villas — all with direct access to the lagoon, which is where much of the action takes place.
The Alphonse group lies 400km to the south east of Mahe. Pictured is the view from a hilltop in Mahe
Leased by Blue Safari Seychelles (BSS), Alphonse is among the world’s top destinations for saltwater fly-fishing, where bonefish, milkfish, triggerfish, permit and (that Holy Grail) giant trevally form the prized Big Five.
For those in thrall to Hemingway’s passion, deep sea fishing is also available — although, as I discovered, in comparison with the skill required for fly-fishing, trawling with a rod in these pristine waters is not unlike fishing in an aquarium: two by two, the fish kept coming to the lure as though to seek refuge in the Ark.
Among my catch one day was a snaggle-toothed barracuda — surely the smelliest of fish, which exudes a milky urine to signal his displeasure. We threw him back: fishing, in these protected waters, is —with the exception of the kitchen’s requirements — strictly catch-and-release.
This healthy biodiversity is largely thanks to BSS’s commitment to conservation and sustainability. ‘We don’t get involved anywhere unless we feel we can contribute something positive,’ says MD Keith Rose-Innes — and these are not empty words.
Since its inception in 2012, the Alphonse Foundation has raised more than $1 million for conservation. Projects (in partnership with the Islands Development Company, a local NGO which has a base on Alphonse) include research on turtles and manta rays, protecting nesting sites of vulnerable birds, policing illegal fishing and clean-ups of the flotsam that washes up on the shores of the island group — an unglamorous activity in which well-heeled guests participate.
I developed a fondness for my brakeless bicycle and became adept at avoiding obstacles in the shape of giant Aldabra tortoises that roam free.
Writer Teresa enjoys beach life on Alphonse. ‘The atmosphere on Alphonse, always convivial, is the ultimate in barefoot chic,’ she declares
Sandy paths criss-cross the island’s 174 hectares, through sun-dappled coconut groves that were planted in the 1800s.
The old copra hut has since been reclaimed by the jungle, eerie as a remote Angkor temple, while an overgrown graveyard commemorates the early French owners who worked the land.
Coconuts still have their uses though — offered as refreshing drinks, or boiled into oil by the chef, for use in the new spa — a cool circular room with the vibe of a jungle glade.
After a day on the boat, a fresh aloe vera wrap is a welcome treatment for the inevitable sunburn. Most days involved a boat excursion.
I rode the waves escorted by scores of spinner dolphins and jumped in to swim with manta rays, gliding like stealth bombers through the blue, their fins rolled into horns.
Green and hawksbill turtles nest on Alphonse, Teresa reveals. Above, a hawksbill turtle swims through the waters of the Seychelles
Seven nights’ full board at Alphonse Island followed by one night B&B at Eden bleu Hotel, Mahe and inter-island and international flights from £5,899 pp (turquoiseholidays.co.uk). For further information, go to seychelles.com.
Coral reefs, those ‘rainforests of the ocean’, provided rich rewards for divers and snorkelers, packed with unhurried, curious fish that approached my mask, mouthing silent sweet nothings.
I revelled as much in their names as in their psychedelic livery: convict tangs, giant sweetlips, guinea fowl boxfish, lemon sharks and — new to me —Indian triggerfish of deepest black edged in pearly white, for all the world as if dressed by Chanel.
Much anticipated is the weekly ‘Flats Lunch’: a barbecue on a sandbar out in Saint Francois atoll, which gradually disappears as lunch proceeds and the tide rolls in. Water, water everywhere, and coconut rum to drink.
The cue to take your last sip is when the consomme-warm ocean reaches knee height and just a sliver of sand remains: time to go home over an ocean of aquamarine.
Days pass in a flash, punctuated by delicious meals. Dinners are particularly memorable, with tables set up on the beach and illuminated by moonlight. The freshest fish —tuna, wahoo, jobfish and grouper — appear variously in sashimi’d, grilled and barbecued form, along with such delicacies as palm hearts and produce from the island’s organic farm. The atmosphere on Alphonse, always convivial, is the ultimate in barefoot chic.
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