London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
Glorious Indian Ocean islands – Seychelles versus Maldives are a difficult pick. They may be both bucket list material with their dazzling pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and luxury hotels gracefully spread around. Take a closer look and you may find however that one suits better your circumstances and fancies than the other. We’ve been twice to both, 8 years apart and these are our findings.
Seychelles central island group , including Mahé are granitic and dotting the Indian Ocean. Huge granite boulders adorn beaches and have been sheltering marine life since time immemorial. We fell in love twice with Mahe lush mountainous centre whilst the beaches are flat white stretches. But even more enchanting, Seychelles is a leader in sustainable tourism with over 50% of the total land area under nature conservation – one world record!
The Maldives, are fragile rings of sand and living coral. The islands are flat, surrounded by pristine white sand beaches, and vary in size. Many of Maldives islands here are uninhabited, book unforgettable Robinson Crusoe-style experiences but in real life may feel rather elitist and secluded.
2. Size & proximity to landing point matters
Our favourite Maldives islands: Taj Exotica was 30 minutes boat transfer from Mahe and Angsana Velavaru – 30 minutes private plane from Mahe. Both could be walked end-to-end 20 minutes. At their narrowest parts, Taj Exotica is about 8 meters. Many of Maldives islands have a house reef, with incredible marine life just moments from the shore – perfect if you prefer snorkelling on your own terms. At Taj Exotica we’d go snorkelling from the privacy of our own water villa and we’d know the resident fish by day 3. At Angsana Velavaru we loved the baby sharks by our own shore, but we’d prefer the daily snorkelling cruise trip to snorkelling in front of the beach villa.
3. Best activities
In the Maldives you go sightseeing underwater. The marine life is colourful and we have been blessed on our times to see manta rays at their feeding station close to Taj Exotica, sharks, dolphins, turtles and a tone of exotic beautiful fish . Dive sites are everywhere in the Maldives 26 atolls and 1000 islands. And join one of the sunset cruises for once in a lifetime dazzling experiences, very likely lots of dolphins will join!
Seychelles is playground for thrill-seekers, from rock climbing, to nature reserves, hiking the mangrove and blending with the locals, kayaking and snorkelling and diving. Island hopping is popular here, whether it’s on board a boat from Mahe to Praslin to La Digue or splitting your time between a couple of resorts. The wildlife and flora in Seychelles is out of this world: Aldabra giant tortoises, flying foxes, huge spiders, Sechelles birds.
4. Things to do for kids
Both Seychelles and Maldives are the perfect destination for honeymooners but also extremely family-friendly and great for multi-generational travel. Pick the right resort, you may be like us begging your kids and toddler to get out of the kids club and join you on the beach to build a sandcastle! With young kids or toddlers in Seychelles we loved Kempinski, whilst in Maldives we swear by Angsana Velavaru.
Seychelles versus Maldives with kids in tow may incline more towards an island like Mahe – tones of treking, hiking and exploring, plus wildlife and flora to be observed!
5. Rooms, hotels and villas
Maldives is home to more than two-thirds of the world’s overwater bungalows, built on stilts, direct access to the warm ocean and private swimming pool. We loved it pre-kids at Taj, and we tried one night at Vilu reef, it may have been good fun for the 4 years old but too stressful to let the toddler loose on the outside deck. Angsana Velavaru beach villa setting was perfect with young kids: the most pristine beach just in front of our villa, sunchairs and tables; in the back with the privacy of our villa the swimming pool, beds, outdoor and indoor showers, and garden. We spent the nights stargazing once children were in bed, sipping wine and listening to chill out music.
Accommodation in Seychelles is often built on a hillside or into the granite outcrops with views out over the ocean. Surrounded by tropical forests, the luxury villas are secluded and feel very private – an epitome of barefoot luxury with their sunken baths and private infinity pools. Banyan Tree Seychelles fits exactly this bill and was such a treat. But there’s also more hotel rooms for the budget conscious traveller keen to get to know Seychelles wonders without emptying the bank account. Décor styles range from Creole through to colonial and contemporary, and the types of rooms includes hillside and facing lush wetlands, rooms overlooking the ocean, beachfront suites and pool villas.
6. Hospitality and blending with locals
The Seychellois are laid back in their tropical island paradise and have a charm of their own. We loved the taxi drivers, rent a car, hotels personnel, diving and conservation centre. So passionate about their country and protecting their own slice of paradise, Seychelles’ locals will easily persuade you that their country is the best! Former French and English colony, most of them speak well both. Majority of the population is Christian, with a small percentage of Hindus and Muslims; so one is free to wear whatever they like in Seychelles.
We also understand that local Maldivians are super friendly, but after 20+ days on different occasions we are still yet to meet one! Please also bear in mind this is a Muslim nation and one should dress conservatively in Male. Swimwear also not allowed on the beaches around the local villages but of course one is free to wear bikinis at the resort islands or on private beaches.
7. Dining & wining
Seychelles eclectic mix of cooking has deep roots from various colonies over the years. From French to African spices, Pan Asian to amazing sushi it’s created something uniquely Seychellois. In January 2020 we found again the dining at Banyan Tree Seychelles outstanding: from the colonial house Chez Lamar, Thai signature Saffron and international Jardin d’Epices. We also absolutely adored Michelin star quality sushi at Koi, Four Seasons Sechelles. And for barefoot luxury and convenience with kids, Windsong on the beach at Kempinski does it! All about fine dining to barefoot luxury gastronomy in here – it’s lovely hopping around Mahe and enjoying so much variety and fine cuisine! Seychelles versus Maldives on this topic is a winner.
Dining in the Maldives is an international affair, with most types of cuisines covered. Taj Exotica spoilt us with romantic candlelit dinners and with kids we loved the easy Angsana Velavaru beach bar – happy hours for grownups, early dinners, followed by early bed time for monkeys and villa dining for us.
8. Conservation and sustainability
Seychelles is a living museum of natural history and a sanctuary for some of the rarest species of flora and fauna – Anse Intendance for example is a great place to observe it in awe. Our kids loved the huge crabs by the shores by sunsets; the wetlands just few metres away are beaming with life: from common frogs, to tiny Seychelles sunbird and red flamboyant ones, to egrets, fodies and flying foxes (or fruit bats) The flora and Banyan Tree garden by the Conservation Centre is stunning: frangipani trees and exotic flowers, lemongrass, baby banana trees, green orange trees, papaya, mango, passion fruit, star fruit and even sugar cane.
Banyan Tree conservation centre closely monitors the activities for seaturtles and plenty of other wetland species which are under serious threat of extinction. The terrapins are one of them (in 2005 there were just 120 in the wild), so we considered ourselves super lucky to have met a couple! The conservation centre had also a veterinary Xray machine – broken wings for bats (or flying foxes) can be detected and fixed, terrapins and seaturtles injured and so on.
Angsana Velavaru Marine Lab runs talks twice a week on corral conservation and marine life protection. It’s thrilling and reassuring to see Banyan Tree and Angsana in action – best of class business practice about sustainability and protecting the environment. Also the Marine Lab runs daily sting rays feeds and talks every day at 5pm – 20 minutes of sweet engagement with graceful sting rays and very often baby sharks, very educational and spectacular. As a parent and passionate diver, Banyan Tree and Angsana are exactly on our street of philosophy and values and ultimately the dream responsible luxury resort.