The first time I visited Denis Island, I found it to be a magical place. That was in 2007. I’m delighted to say that following my latest trip just a few months ago, my fourth, it still feels just as special. Yes, a few things have altered, but the essence of the island is still very much the same – an idyllic, tranquil paradise island retreat committed to nature and wildlife conservation. Don’t get me wrong, guests staying on the island receive a wonderful friendly service with amazing cuisine, but it’s the complete ‘island experience’ and closeness to nature which makes this such a unique place. It’s an unpolished gem in Seychelles.
From your first glimpse of Denis, surrounded by its coral reef and sparkling ocean with the grass runway bisecting the island, your excitement rises. The eyes of everyone on the light aircraft strain for the best view. The ‘island approach’ means you sweep around and then low over the turquoise water and white sand beach before you’re bouncing along the grass runway. Disembarking at the island’s airport building – open-sided and surely one of the most picturesque ‘terminals’ in the world – you’re greeted by a host of smiling faces, handshakes and refreshing cool towels. Then you’re whisked off by buggy through the colourful gardens to complete check-in formalities before heading to your delightful beachside cottage – your own tiny piece of paradise… for a few days at least.
Small, at only 375 acres, and with just 25 spacious beachside cottages, the island never feels busy. When we visited, all but two were taken and yet apart from meal times, we could have been forgiven for thinking we were the only ones on the island. Denis is all about a luxury island experience, but with the emphasis firmly on ‘experience’. It’s important to understand that if you’re seeking 5* butler service and fast broadband Wifi connections, this is probably not the place for you. It has a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ type feel, but… with a heap of luxury aspects thrown in.
Small but perfectly formed!
Given its compact size, Denis Island packs in a lot: fascinating wildlife and nature; fabulous white sand beaches – great for beachcombing!; superb diving and fishing; wonderful spa treatments; as well as astonishing cuisine – expertly created by the island’s team of chefs. As all stays are on Full Board, you’ll find yourself eating very frequently! Not that this is an issue – the variety and quality is amazing; the homemade ice cream is to die for! There’s also beach barbecue’s and a special Creole evening.
Take time for other ‘individual moments’ too. A welcome new addition in July 2019 is the island’s wonderful new infinity swimming pool – a superb alternative if you don’t fancy an ocean swim. Take a dip, then relax on the deck with a cocktail in hand to capture an amazing sunset followed by a blanket of stars stretching from one horizon to the other. Magical moments that will ensure Denis is forever in your memory.
An island idyll in harmony with nature
As well as being the perfect sanctuary from hectic everyday schedules, a stay on Denis is also about embracing its fascinating nature and wildlife. This is exactly as was planned by the Seychellois Mason family who have owned and managed the island for over two decades. They set about returning it to its natural state, removing the invasive coconut palms and encouraging native frangipani and casuarina trees to thrive.
At the same time a long-term programme was initiated for re-introducing endemic bird species by creating specific habitats. And what a success! New residents now include some of the rarest species on the planet, including Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, Magpie Robin, Seychelles Fody, Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles Blue Pigeon. It’s a popular nesting ground for migratory birds too and the rehabilitation programme is ongoing. On your travels around the island you’ll also see giant tortoises, including Toby, the island’s oldest living inhabitant at 121 years!
Although a stay on Denis is very much about a slower pace, you’ll be amazed at how quickly time seems to pass by. From leisurely breakfast’s and relaxing lunches to swimming, snorkelling and beachcombing, perhaps a diving or fishing excursion, cycling around the island, a sunset cruise, taking a spa treatment or two… there hardly seems to be enough time. A couple of evenings a week you can also join some of the staff for a football kick-about… on the runway! Now that’s not something many people can say they’ve done!
Nature – explore & discover
As part of your stay, however, please do set-aside a couple of hours from your schedule for a private nature tour with the island’s supremely knowledgeable resident ecologist. I guarantee that you’ll be enthralled and fascinated! Beyond the wildlife and understanding a little more of the island’s extensive rehabilitation programme, you’ll also discover how the island ticks… including where all its furniture is lovingly created and seeing the farm from where much of the produce comes. A good deal of this is also ‘exported’ back to the main island of Mahe!
Denis – magical moments a plenty
Denis is certainly a place for experiencing unique moments, not least the chance to snorkel with turtles. Suitable sites vary according to the time of year, but when I was there in August, the best was at Belle Etoile on the east side of the island; there were many feeding here in the calm water of the lagoon – a truly memorable experience. Denis is a popular nesting ground for these endangered hawksbill and green turtles. Egg-laying is usually between December and February, with hatchlings between January and March. Wherever you swim or snorkel, you’ll see rays and numerous tropical fish. If diving is your thing, you won’t be disappointed either; some of Seychelles’ best dive sites are close to Denis and the island’s dive centre make all the arrangements as well as offering advice on snorkelling and kayaking.
Enriching holiday experiences
A holiday on Denis Private Island is great for couples and families alike. Yes, it’s perfect for a honeymoon or celebrating a special anniversary, but for the best Seychelles experience, I’d recommend combining a 7-night stay on Denis with a hotel on either the main island of Mahe, such as Carana Beach, or on Praslin island perhaps. This makes the perfect Seychelles island-hopping itinerary. Denis is also great for a family holiday too, particularly with younger children. This is an all-natural holiday, one that’s close to nature with unique sights and experiences that will fascinate and enthral the little ones… as well as adults too!
Swimming with turtles, seeing magical sunsets, enjoying absolutely yummy cuisine – these were three of my most vivid memories of my recent trip to Denis. You are sure to have your own favourites, but whatever your Seychelles holiday requirements, speak to one of the Mahlatini experts for more information about Denis Private Island as well as the whole of Seychelles. Let us create your very own tailor-made Seychelles island-hopping holiday.