I have a confession to make. Before going there, the idea of flying to the remote Alphonse Island in the Seychelles, which has no TV, radio, or – wait for it – mobile signal, made me more than slightly jittery.
How on earth would I survive without regular online updates on my favourite football team?
But in the event, my digital detox proves a tremendous success. By my second day on the island, I am positively relishing being away from my phone and the constant need to be in touch.
It turns out that being cut off from the world is a supremely relaxing experience.
Of course, it helps when you are in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Alphonse is the epitome of a paradise island getaway. Located 400km from Mahe, the capital of the Seychelles, this desert island is tiny, with a circumference of just 3.4 miles.
Marooned in the Indian Ocean, it is fringed by idyllic, white sandy beaches and the most exquisite turquoise water.
En route to Alphonse from the UK, we stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mahe.
It is a delightful establishment with dazzling ocean views and such impeccable service that the moment my friend sneezes, a waiter immediately appears at her shoulder with a box of tissues.
The next day, after a one-hour flight from Mahe in a small 20-seat propeller plane, we land at Alphonse “airport”, where there is no passport control or customs checks and the emergency fire engine is hitched to the back of a tractor. It must be the least hassle you will experience at airport anywhere in the world.
The island has a population of just 82, no shops and one hotel, called Alphonse Island.
An atoll (a ring-shaped reef) which is a former coconut plantation, it has a mere 22 beach bungalows, five beach suites and (as of December 2019) two four-bedroomed villas. Each property comes with its own garden and an uninterrupted view of the glittering Indian Ocean.
It is blissfully peaceful. The sole sound that is likely to disturb you at night is the occasional cry of a giant hawksbill turtle as she lays hundreds of eggs on the beach. To add to the stress-free atmosphere, Alphonse has no cars. Each villa has its own bicycle.
The only things that will block the one road that rings the island are the 77 giant Aldabra tortoises which roam free. A very slow parade of tortoises counts as a traffic jam on Alphonse.
Apart from the Galapagos Islands, this is the only place on earth where these mighty creatures are native.
Already celebrated as one of the best places in the world to go fly fishing, Alphonse is expanding its range of activities.
For instance, we spend a memorable afternoon snorkelling around the uninhabited island of Bijoutier. Populated by fish with such evocative names as the powderblue surgeon fish, the Napoleon wrasse, the skunk anemonefish, the violet soldierfish and the Picasso triggerfish, the waters around Alphonse are very safe.
On our snorkelling expedition, within one magical minute, we find ourselves swimming with a giant porcupine ray, swiftly followed by an immense hawksbill turtle, gliding through the water with the greatest of ease. It’s stunning.
The hotel takes conservation very seriously, too. Alphonse is the first island in the Seychelles to rely entirely on solar power and go totally off grid, cutting the island’s emissions by 718 tonnes per annum.
Alphonse Island also encourages visitors to participate in a beach clean. We get up early one morning to join in. The beach clean proves a deeply sobering experience.
On the last night, I wistfully contemplate leaving Alphonse Island and returning to the stresses and strains of urban life in the UK. As I hang the Do Not Disturb sign on my villa door, I notice that it reads: “Shhh… I’m in paradise.”
They took the words right out of my mouth.
Alphonse Island offers a boat trip with a marine biologist. On the trip, we learn the giant trevally is known as “the gangster of the flats” as it ruthlessly enforces its status as the apex predator. We also find out about the frigate bird. It doesn’t hunt – it terrorises the red-footed booby into regurgitating its prey so it can feed on its vomit. Charming.
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