If immersing yourself in a natural wonderland is your thing, Silhouette may be the island for you. One of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the Indian Ocean for both plants and animals, Silhouette is all about going back to nature. It has no roads, so its thick virgin forests remain largely untrodden, while the summit of Mount Dauban rises to 740m and is the second-highest summit in the Seychelles. The beaches on the east coast are sheltered by a coral reef, and are perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Silhouette lies 20km north of Mahé. It’s the third-largest island of the granitic group and the fifth-largest in the Seychelles, yet the population is tiny and the human impact is much less significant here than elsewhere. There is just one resort on the island, the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, which prides itself on its eco credentials and hosts guests in luxurious villas. With so few people around, visitors don’t have to share Silhouette and its incredible landscapes and crystal-clear water with the hoards, making it a wonderful place to get away from it all or enjoy a romantic trip.
La Passe is the main settlement and has a small harbour overlooked by the Grande Case, a typical island plantation house. The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles (NPTS) has its headquarters nearby. Projects include captive breeding programmes for giant tortoises and terrapins. Beyond the tortoise pens (perfect for a quick picture), a track rounds a small marsh where grey heron and black-crowned night heron may be seen, and continues to the Dauban Mausoleum, a grand, somewhat incongruous construction; a monument to the eccentricities of the Dauban family. There’s an easy walk from the left-hand corner of the mausoleum uphill.
NPTS have planted a number of rare endemic plants here, a small step towards restoring the island, and a short guidebook is available from their visitors centre. The nature trail rejoins the main track, which leads uphill then descends to Anse Lascars. This is a lovely secluded bay. From here, the path winds uphill to a viewing point at the headland of Point Zeng Zeng. It then descends to the secluded bay of Anse Patates with its fascinating mature mangrove swamp and beach crest of windswept sea hibiscus. Returning towards La Passe, look out for the path on the right to Anse Cimetière, site of the old cemetery.
The Hilton resort lies north of the La Passe jetty on Anse La Passe, a beautiful sandy beach that stretches northwest of the hotel. Beyond it lies an equally lovely, palm-fringed and deserted beach, Baie Cipailles. The path running along the coast between the two bays winds through an abandoned coconut plantation and a line of takamaka trees.
At the northern end of Baie Cipailles, there are two paths leading to Anse Mondon, a one-house settlement that offers the very best snorkelling around Silhouette. The lower path is overgrown and best avoided. The upper path, which runs over Belle Vue through thick forest, is easier and more scenic. Just before the descent back to the coast, the forest opens up to reveal a spectacular view of Anse Mondon. If landing at Anse Mondon, this walk may be done in reverse. Either way, it takes about two hours.
The old path from Anse Mondon to Grande Barbe has all but disappeared so this walk is no longer possible. However, the path connecting La Passe and Grande Barbe is well worn. It’s about a three-and-a-half-hour walk from one side of the island to the other, but you can arrange for your boat to drop you at one side and collect at the other. Once home to many families, Grande Barbe is now a virtual ghost town. A short way inland from the beach, on the coastal plateau, is a marsh and the largest surviving wetland in the Seychelles.
The trek from La Passe to the summit of the magnificent Mont Pot à Eau takes the best part of a day. It is not for the faint-hearted, and should not be attempted without a guide (obtainable from La Belle Tortue guesthouse): as it is infrequently used, the path is sometimes unclear and is often muddy and slippery due to high rainfall on the mountain side. However, if you enjoy a challenge, it’s a wonderful walk that takes you through a fascinating mist forest, rich in exotic flora including the striking pitcher plant that grows on its exposed summit.
Private North Island lies 7km north of Silhouette and is considerably smaller and less mountainous. Most of the original forest was cut down, but a restoration programme has successfully reintroduced indigenous trees and a conservation team has worked to save nesting sea turtles, Aldabra giant tortoises (of which there are now more than 100) and the Seychelles white-eye bird.
There is a beautiful beach on each side of the island, separated by a plateau across the middle and rocky cliffs either end. Accommodation is at the five-star resort comprising 11 large villas, which was made famous in 2011 as the honeymoon destination of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.