Flying To Desroches Island

Filed Under: Other Airlines

For our last night five nights in the Seychelles we visited Desroches Island, where a brand new Four Seasons opened in March. The Seychelles consists of over 100 islands, though Mahe is by far the largest, and then there are a few more populated islands. The entire country has a population of under 100,000, and about 85% of those people live on Mahe.

So while a few more islands have populations of a few thousand, there are also some deserted islands, and one of those is Desroches Island. The nearly 1,000 acre island has an interesting history and used to have a resort, though that was closed a few years ago and transformed into a Four Seasons, which just recently opened.

What makes Desroches Island especially interesting is that it’s considered a separate territory for the purposes of the Travelers’ Century Club, so I know that’s a reason some people (including Rapid Travel Chai) have visited this resort. Desroches Island is considered to be part of “Zil Elwannyen Sesel (Aldabra, Farquhar, Amirante Islands).”

Booking flights to Desroches Island

Desroches Island is about 150 miles Southwest of Mahe Island, and while you could presumably somehow arrange a boat to get there (though it would be a long journey), the primary way guests get there is by flying. Here’s a map showing the flight path:

And here it is zoomed out, for some more context:

There’s a twice daily flight between Mahe and Desroches for resort guests, which operates with the following schedule

Mahe to Desroches departing 10:30AM arriving 11:10AM
Mahe to Desroches departing 4:00PM arriving 4:40PM

Desroches to Mahe departing 11:30AM arriving 12:10PM
Desroches to Mahe departing 5:00PM arriving 5:40PM

As you might expect, these flights aren’t cheap. The cost varies based on the time of year you’re traveling (prices are roundtrip):

  • Cost between March 1 and December 25, 2018: 660EUR per adult, 580EUR per child (plus 15% VAT)
  • Cost between December 26, 2018, and January 15, 2019: 720EUR per adult, 640EUR per child (plus 15% VAT)

All of these flights are operated by an Islands Development Company (IDC) Beechcraft 1900D. There’s a single plane that operates this route, which is 22 years old and has the registration code S7-DES (with the “DES” standing for Desroches Island’s airport code, which is pretty cool).

While I’m by no means scared of flying (anymore), I do like to research the airlines I fly, and it is a bit weird to fly an airline that has very little info out there. At least when you fly Maldivian or Trans Maldivian Airways in the Maldives, they operate a larger fleet, you can look up their history, etc.

So, let’s get to the actual (brief) review of the flights.

Flying from Mahe to Desroches Island

We took the 10:30AM flight from Mahe to Desroches Island. We arrived at the airport shortly after 9AM, and as we got out of the car we were greeted by the Four Seasons airport representative, Sonia, who would be helping us with the check-in process.

She was an absolute delight, easily one of the best employees of the hotel we came across. While not related to anything, we were amazed by how easily she walked around in high heels — she explained that’s all she has ever walked in, and she has an easier time walking in them than flat shoes.

The main check-in hall at Mahe Airport is open-air, though there’s a separate check-in area for domestic flights.

We turned left and walked towards the domestic terminal, which was just a short distance away.

Sonia said that check-in wasn’t quite open yet, but that she’d take care of the formalities for us, so we gave her our passports. She recommended we have a seat in The Coffee Club, which is right by the check-in area (there are no airport lounges in this area of the terminal).

The people working in The Coffee Club had to be some of the rudest human beings I’ve come across in customer service anywhere in the world. It took us a minute to look at the menu (there was no one behind us), and the lady working the counter literally rolled her eyes and “huffed.” She didn’t say a word to us the entire time. Not one.

At around 10AM the Four Seasons representative asked us to come to the check-in counter, which was located just a short walk away.

At the Air Seychelles domestic counter there’s a special Four Seasons sign.

We were presented with handwritten boarding passes.

We bid farewell to Sonia and were through security just a minute later, and there were a couple of dozen people sitting in the departures area. Almost everyone was traveling on Air Seychelles to Praslin, as they sometimes have multiple flights per hour.

Air Seychelles has a fleet of five Twin Otters, and all five of them were on the ground parked there. That’s not exactly great aircraft utilization. 😉

The Air Seychelles employee working the gate area was nearly as rude as the lady in the coffee shop. This is one of the things that disappointed me in the Seychelles. While some people were friendly, I was surprised by how many borderline rude locals I encountered.

Just 15 minutes before departure our plane was still nowhere in sight, though finally it arrived at 10:20AM — I’m not sure where it was arriving from, as it was about to operate its first flight of the day to Desroches Island.

Less than five minutes after the plane arrived we were invited to board. There was just one other passenger on the flight (a hotel employee), so we were escorted on the apron towards the plane.

There we were greeted by the first officer, and invited to sit wherever we wanted.

The plane had 16 seats in a 1-1 configuration. The Beechcraft 1900D is an odd plane from a passenger perspective, since it’s so narrow yet the cabin is so tall. This one also smelled like a combination of fish and the ocean (or perhaps that’s actually the same smell?).

The first officer gave us a quick safety briefing, and told us our flight time was 35 minutes, and cruising altitude was 17,000 feet.

The life vests were within reach, as they were loosely placed in the seatback pockets.

We began our taxi at 10:30AM, and were airborne a minute later.

The views for the 35 minute flight were great, and we had a beautiful view of Mahe Island on our departure.

The flight was smooth, and before we knew it we were on our descent to Desroches Island. We had some strong winds on our approach and were swaying side to side, but the touchdown was smooth.

We taxied down to the end of the runway, where there’s a small taxiway where the plane parks. This is right by the hotel’s reception.

As we pulled in, we were greeted by waves from nearly a dozen hotel employees.

As an aviation geek I just have to emphasize how damn cool it is to have a runway right outside reception. Here’s the view you get during check-in.

One of my favorite features of the entire island is that you can run or bike up and down the runway anytime, except when the two daily flights are arriving and departing. Talk about “bring[ing] it to the runway… runway… run… run… run… runway” (I apologize to the 90% of people reading this who have no clue what I’m talking about).

Flying from Desroches Island to Mahe

Obviously I’ll cover the actual resort stay in the next installment, but in the meantime I wanted to quickly write up the return flight as well. We took the afternoon flight, given that we were taking a redeye to Istanbul, allowing us to spend the day at the resort.

The plane arrived right on schedule, and shortly before 5PM we boarded.

This time the flight was a bit fuller, as there were eight seats taken.

Once again there was a safety briefing, then we back taxied the runway, and two minutes later we took off, as we witnessed the start of a beautiful sunset.

As we climbed out we made a sharp turn, and below you can see most of Desroches Island, including the runway.

Ford doesn’t like small planes (personally I don’t love 22 year old Beechcraft 1900Ds being operated by companies I’ve never heard of either), and on this flight we hit some significant chop, as we were in the clouds most of the way. Ford was a bit scared, so I tried to comfort him.

Fortunately we managed to stay distracted thanks to a very interesting lady sitting behind us. She visited Desroches Island for just one night, as she’s a “territory counter” who was trying to check this off the list. Her next stop? Mogadishu, Somalia.

About 20 minutes after takeoff the ride got much smoother, and shortly thereafter we began our descent.

A minute after landing we were at our parking position, where we got to walk next to a Qatar Airways A330, as well as several smaller Air Seychelles turboprops.

Everyone else on the plane seemed to be terminating their travels in Mahe for the day, so we were the only ones greeted by a Four Seasons representative. To our surprise, he escorted us to the airport’s VVIP lounge (like, not the lounge we had access to, but rather the separate private lounge with a dedicated security channel). I’ll be reviewing that two installments from now, but it was an… interesting experience.

Bottom line on flying to Desroches Island

It’s funny how many of the world’s best resorts have to be reached in some not-glamorous ways, but I guess that’s the price of going somewhere remote. These flights were expensive, though in fairness they weren’t anywhere close to full, so I’m guessing they took a loss on the outbound flight. All around I found the flight experience to be easy, and I was impressed that both flights ran exactly on-time. Furthermore, the help from Four Seasons representatives at the airport on both arrival and departure was a nice touch.

I would note that there’s often weather in the Seychelles, so if that’s something you’re worried about, be sure you leave plenty of time before your international flight, because there is a risk of cancelations.

  1. Thanks for the review.. very interesting.. I would love to bike on a runway!

    Is the price quoted each way or roundtrip?


  2. @ FlyingDoctorWu — Sorry, I should have made that clearer. That’s the roundtrip price (thank goodness).

  3. “What makes Desroches Island especially interesting is that it’s considered a separate territory for the purposes of the Travelers’ Century Club,”

    Well, with respect that means absolutely nothing. The TCC considers Alaska and Hawaii separate designations, Prince Edward Island, Turkey in Europe, Turkey in Asia, every UAE emirate, etc. They’re a bunch of peak baggers whose list is absurd

  4. I remember looking at the Beech 1900D for some inter- American trips once. Never did get the chance to fly it. Do any american airlines still fly the Beech?

  5. Did you have to check in or clear security at all when boarding the return at the four seasons or did you walk right on the plane?

  6. Heh, if you thought these flights were scary, try taking a 45 minute flight on a Cessna flying through the Namib desert, where it feels like your on a boat but in the sky. That was some real chop! And it was especially worse considering a Cessna is like the size of a van. 😛

  7. @James K – some designations are indeed a bit odd. However, I do not see anything wrong with considering Hawai’i and Alaska as separate territories as one is located far northern than the other 48 contiguous states and Hawai’i, well, it’s in another continent altogether…

  8. Sounds like you met Hongyu on the flight back – I last saw her sailing out of St Helena bound for Ascension!

  9. “I would note that there’s often weather in the Seychelles”

    Er, I’m guessing you mean bad weather? I mean, there is weather all the time, everywhere 😉

  10. I’m pretty scared of small planes myself (and am a nervous flyer in general) so I can totally empathize with Ford. I’m gonna have to get over it one day to see these amazing sights though! I try to remind myself how safe flying is, but when you’re in a plane that’s shaking, it’s hard to remember 😛

  11. Amazing! Although I now know what the aircraft was we took from Henderson to the Grand Canyon. Safe to say my partner will NOT be stepping foot on one of them ever again – he doesn’t like chop on small planes either!

    Oh and to make you feel like at least one person got it:

    Damn gurl you better have werq’ed that runway!

    Miss Vaaaaannnjie


  12. Regarding service people in Seychelles being rude, it got me wondering, Lucky do you really believe, even those low-level workers in poor countries, in over-the-top luxury resorts, do they really care about giving you good service? You people are spending more in one night, than they make it in months and even then you often complain about it. They do their job, they smile at you, because they are ordered etc. but i am pretty sure most of them look at you like a bunch of parasites. It may not be justified, i am not taing side here, but thats the way it is. And in places like airports, where they are able to exercise some authority over you, like in gates etc. you can see how they really feel about you.
    I also think, cases like this are very underreported and lot of service people do things like that every day, you guys are just oblivious to them:

  13. Ben, your comment about being able to run or bike up and down the runway reminded me that, in Tuvalu, the population of the island regularly uses the runway for purposes other than flights. It’s even less used than the one on Desroches Island because Tuvalu only has two flights a week.

  14. @SurprisingHorizons – Air Georgian operates a fleet of Beechcraft 1900s on behalf of Air Canada.

  15. What would happen if they flight back out is canceled? Would they put you up for another night?

  16. Taking a short over ocean flight and arriving in a small semi-private aircraft, with a runway that has direct access to check-in. The destination is a single resort island off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Sounds glamorous enough to me.

  17. @Airways and Travels

    Yes, Alaska and Hawaii are geographically distinct from the rest of the US, but so is Key West. And while we’re at it, I’ve been to every state and Montana and New Jersey have pretty much nothing in common. Are they separate “countries” too? Why not, if Dubai and Abu Dhabi are (apparently)? Alaska is a lot more similar to Washington state than Montana is to New Jersey.

    If they were just doing a list based on semi-sovereignty, then I could understand having the Hong Kongs and British Somalilands of the world on there. But their list shows no consistency to me, nothing except a desire to increase the number of “countries” so a bunch of peak-baggers who have little interest in travel can claim to be part of a Century Club

  18. Funny how “vannnnjie” is steadily and determinedly worming its way into the American vernacular. I caught myself saying it to one of my cats.

    Oh, my beloved Beech 1900D! There was a time when I had to frequently travel to Alamogordo, which involved a flight on one of Mesa Airlines’ Beeches. It was always a roller coaster ride down to Alamogordo; I sort of felt like Slim Pickens riding that bomb at the end of Dr Strangelove. I loved it.

  19. @James K – or you can lighten up, have some fun, meet people and see new places with social clubs like Travelers Century Club, Most Traveled People, Nomad Mania, Circumnavigators and so on. I wouldn’t have been aware of Outer Seychelles without TCC members recommending it to me, particularly I want to see Aldabra some day when time and funds allow. Seeing Desroches for opening was a spectacular experience that I am tardy in writing up.

    The women Lucky met on the plane back I first met on the RMS St Helena last year to Tristan da Cunha, she is one of many fascinating travelers I’ve met by interacting with these clubs. Another that comes to mind is a scholar that this year is retracing Magellan’s cirmcumnavigation on the 500th anniversary, visiting schools along the way as he sails.

    Each country/territory list club has its own methodology, TCC has a 7 characteristic criteria, and sure, part of the fun for some members is to debate these and learn about them in the process. I think Alaska and Hawaii are a bit questionable, too, though am happy to visit both and indeed all 300 of the TCC list that I have visited so far.

    Only looking at the history did it register with me that Alaska and Hawaii only become states when my parents were children. This year’s TCC additions and the RMS sailing with the former chief executive of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands I learned about how and why the UK separated that territory off from the Falklands.

    What I have not met in these clubs are tons of people “who have little interest in travel.” More typical is the stamp collector as a kid who grows up wanting to see all the territories they have dreamed of. One I know left home in Dublin as a teenager to go to Tuvalu as his first destination. Decades later, next month he is finally hoping to reach Tokelau.

  20. @Stefan

    Fair enough, sir, fair enough. If you can use a bad list for a good purpose, good for you all. Still doesn’t make their list make any sense, but I agree I shouldn’t have impugned the members

  21. @James K – you should hear the complaints from the people who want Midway and Wake combined into United States Minor Outlying Islands.

  22. @Stefan. Ahhhhh the minutiae of hobbyists. Not that I can talk. I can argue for why the MD-83 isn’t a separate plane from the MD-80 but the MD-88 is, etc.

  23. I’m always somewhat surprised that more people in places like the Seychelles aren’t rude. They pretty much live in poverty yet work for a never-ending stream of over-privileged wealthy tourists who jet in and spend obscene amounts of money living in absolute luxury right in their faces. That should be enough to make almost anyone bitter!

  24. @Lucky – When can we expect Tiffany’s review of the Le Meridien on Mahe? My fiancé and I are booked there in Sept…

    (re this post) – Wow, what a flight! Looking forward to reading the next installment!

  25. @ Andrew — I’m working on it (trip report writing only gets done in my “free” time, of which there is precious little), but…if you’re able to acquire some Hilton points I would absolutely stay there instead.

  26. Please allow me as a naturalised Seychellois of German origin for 20 years, and living here for more than 30 years to add a comment, since some remarks are based on prejudice and/or ignorance.

    First at all: Our people do not live in poverty. We are also not a poor country, thanks to fishery, the tourism industry and the offshore sector.

    The World Bank has declared Seychelles in 2015 as a high income country. In the list of countries by GDP, Seychelles is ranked 38, just after Estonia, but in front of Poland, Malaysia and Greece. As you might notice, two of the latter three are members of the European Union.

    So people are not bitter “for a never-ending stream of over-privileged wealthy tourists who jet in and spend obscene amounts of money living in absolute luxury right in their faces…”. The roots of poor service delivery by many Seychellois has other roots, dating back to the Coup d’état in 1977 – but that’s another story and a very long one!

    Currently most of your ‘servants’ in the tourism industry are expatriates, mainly Mauritians and Asians. If they don’t deliver, don’t blame the country and its people. Blame the management of the establishment they are working for: Blame Four Seasons, blame Hilton, blame Kempinski etc — but please not our people.

    Now in regard to Lucky’s report:

    The Islands Development Company (IDC) is not an airline. The IDC is a state owned company, that was incorporated in 1980 to create a structure to enable the economy of the outer islands to be developed. Today IDC is responsible for thirteen outer islands, plus Silhouette, situated in the inner islands. Their aviation division is responsible to carry visitors, workers and officials to the island managed by IDC.

    So if the plane is just coming on-time to the apron for the first Mahe-Desroches flight of the day, doesn’t mean it was not busy flying to one of the other outer islands before on that day – despite, the hangar of IDC is just about 1KM south of the main airport building, so no need to rush to bring the plane there earlier. I also like to mention that the fleet of IDC comprises of 5 airplanes, among them another Beech 1900D – so no worries if there is a break down of one of their planes… In addition IDC is offering medical evacuation flights.

    Regarding the age of S7-DES, well, have a look at the hundreds of MD80’s flying around in the states by your largest airlines…

  27. James what you meant to say is Wyoming and NJ. The Cheney’s vs the NJ political machine.
    Somebody needs to get off the continent!

  28. Loved this review as the Beech 1900 is a great fly. One of Air NZ’s regional feeders used to use them on the short hop from Auckland to Tauranga. No window for the front left seat so you shared the pilots’ view out as you barrelled down towards the coast, out over the Pacific and turned for the approach to the runway running east-west twixt ocean and harbour. Best view and landing I ever enjoyed on a commercial flight. Luckily, I’m used to rough weather flying so the brief squall we sped through on long final was nothing. The Beeches are gone now and it just not the same in a DHC8. No forward view out, for starters.

  29. Helpful review, though I think the pricing information need to be updated, to be 400 EUR return. Source: I just went there.

  30. Hey Ben..
    Wonderful article giving step by step details!!. Enjoyed reading thoroughly.
    Got just one question- i see yes there is just one resort Four seasons at Desroches which is absolutely way way way expensive…was wondering if there is way to just make a one day trip to island–fly in from Mahe to Desroches– be by the beach during the day (Ok with heat and sun ) , have lunch at resort and then same day fly back to Mahe. If yes, how do we book the flight…unable to find any weblink to book the flight to Desroches. If you could also give any information for boat ride to Desroches from Mahe and back will be really great .
    Thank you so much.

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