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Paradise found

By Sudeshna Ghosh | March 08, 2015

Paradise-found

Whether you’re looking for an adventure-fuelled break, or just to relax and recharge, there’s a romantic getaway in the Seychelles that’s perfect for you. The best bit? You can have a ‘green’ holiday too.

A holiday in the Seychelles is everything it looks like in the postcards – sun, sea, sand. But it’s also so much more than that, with everything from adventure activities to gastronomic discoveries on offer. Beyond the crystal clear waters and powder white beaches, there’s a dramatic topography of densely forested volcanic cliffs, a rich culture amalgamating a variety of influences, and a vibrant ‘local life’ that tourists can also partake of, beyond their luxury resorts. Here are two fab options offering drastically different experiences, with two things in common – the beautiful island, Mahé, they are set in, and an eco-friendly ethos.

FOR A DO-NOTHING KIND OF BREAK

Tucked away on the south-western tip of the island, on the relatively untouched Intendance bay, the Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort truly feels like a world away from everywhere else. The all-villa resort epitomises the ultimate in exclusive luxury with its Colonial-style décor – we defy you to not be awe-struck when walking into the high-ceilinged lobby where the balmy ocean breeze flows unhindered into the white louvred balconies – and friendly service.

Nestled amidst the lush tropical foliage, the luxe villas are designed to maximise the setting, with the outdoors blending in seamlessly into the indoors – think a large, landscaped garden with cosy seating area, infinity pool disappearing into the vast ocean beyond, and even a private outdoor Jacuzzi. Inside, the refreshing all-white interiors are accented by touches of Seychelles culture such as local art and island artefacts. With bathrooms featuring a sunken terrazzo bath with a view – plus kitted out with fragrant Banyan Tree amenities – the only decisions you might have to make are to choose which water body to lounge in first! With the sound of waves crashing, and a sea-palm tree-pool-beach view that you can never get tired of, this place is guaranteed to lull you into a state of sybaritic relaxation.

The beautiful, palm-fringed beaches beckon too, although being right by the big blue yonder – rather than within a secluded cove – means this is more of a lie by the beach (and pop in for the occasional dip) kind of place, as the waters can get quite rough. Combine the beachside exertions with a trip to the award-winning spa – the brand is, after all, known for its spa expertise – to literally tick off everything on a do-nothing agenda. Open-air treatment pavilions, set high atop a hillside accessed through roughly hewn steps offer uninterrupted views and the ultimate in secluded escapism, while highly trained therapists offer Thai-inspired treatments using local ingredients.

However, if you wanted to mix it up a bit, the resort also offers a range of activities, including a day trip to Victoria, the island’s capital ‘city’ – a personalised itinerary can include a trip to the well-known Victoria market, as well as other attractions such as Morne Seychellois (the highest vantage point on the island where you can enjoy 360-degree views) and local restaurants offering specialties like the Seychelles staple, octopus curry.

What’s the food like: With a new executive chef at the helm, and initiatives like an on-site organic herb and vegetable garden – where everything from lettuce and basil to pumpkin and zucchini is grown, with the intention to source a majority of ingredients for the resort’s restaurants from here – the resort is definitely taking a deliciously green route to its guests’ hearts.

Starting your day with breakfast at Chez Lamar, which does double duty as an elegant international restaurant after dark – complete with live music, and different theme nights including local cuisine and barbecue dinners – will set the right note. Set by a natural lagoon, it feels like dining amidst wilderness, although the fine food has nothing unsophisticated about it – whether it’s the à la carte breakfast dishes or more-ish Seychelles-style fish curry.

The signature Saffron restaurant is a must-visit too – offering authentic Thai cuisine, it is an essential component in any Banyan Tree resort, in a nod to the brand’s heritage. While contemporary Asian influences permeate the décor, the expansive verandah overlooking the moonlit bay offers the perfect setting for dinner à deux, sampling delicacies such as crispy fried calamari and fragrant red and green Thai curries.

However, for a truly romantic experience, their bespoke Destination Dining experiences win hands down – whether it’s dining on the beach in a candlelit, petal-strewn setting; in a picturesque gazebo hidden amidst lush wetlands housed within the resort; or ‘On the rocks’ (See Insider tip).

Green creds:The Banyan Tree group has a Global Foundation, established in 2009, which facilitates supporting community empowerment and ecological initiatives. Guests have a US$2 surcharge per night added to their bill which goes towards saving endangered marine life and preserving coral reefs and wetlands. The Banyan Tree Seychelles beach is a popular one for turtle nesting (between October and February) – as a lot of care is taken to leave them undisturbed, in conjunction with local environmental authorities – so most guests visiting in this period are lucky enough to catch a natural miracle right under their noses, whether it’s a mummy turtle laying eggs, or watching the baby hatchlings make their way back to sea. Sustainability measures in this resort range from developing its own organic farm to efforts at integrating the local community.

Take me there now:The Sense of Romance package includes three nights' stay in a pool villa, couple's spa treatment, and a unique Destination Dining experience, prices start from €1,156 (around Dhs4,750) per night. Visit banyantree.com for more.

Insider tip

Book in for a Champagne on the rocks experience, where you are treated to a breathtaking sunset – who knew the sky could conjure up such a palette of colours in the space of a few minutes? – in a secret spot tucked away in a far corner of the property, accompanied by fine bubbly, tasty canapés and white glove service.

FOR AN ACTIVE BREAK

Why go: The Constance Ephelia Resort is one of the largest resorts in Seychelles – it is like a little village in itself, with its own signposts and winding walkways – but that means even if all 309 rooms in the resort are full, you’d never feel crowded in. While ideal for families as well, for a truly romantic break, forego the suites and splash out on a private hillside villa. A cluster of villas set high on a hilltop, hidden amidst lush foliage, offer spacious luxury with floor-to-ceiling windows offering jaw-dropping views of broccoli-covered hillsides, a glittering turquoise ocean gently lapping at the crescent-shaped Port Launay beach (one of two beaches within the resort), and its very own private infinity pool. A room-sized bathroom area – it would be unfair to call it just a bathroom – with free-standing bath and outdoor rain showers, a roomy poolside outdoor deck and even a private spa treatment cabana mean that it will be hard to tear yourself away from the villa.

But there is plenty to tempt you within the 120-hectare property – from a zip line facility within the resort grounds to hiking trails and mangrove walks, you don’t even have to go very far to get an adrenaline fix. There’s also rock-climbing, water sports such as windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding and snorkelling on offer, as well as boat trips to other islands, mangrove kayaking, and lots more. A daily rota of other fun lighthearted activities including coconut classes (if you wanted to get creative with coconut shells!), tortoise feeding sessions (there is a tortoise habitat located on-site), cocktail-making lessons, and social sports options is also offered.

All the activity is perfectly counter-balanced by the luxurious U-spa, a rustic-style complex of thatched huts, open-air yoga pavilions, and tranquil water features in a tropical garden set-up, where you can indulge in relaxing treatments – what beach holiday is complete without one? – as well as yoga and meditation sessions.

What’s the food like: The Constance group of resorts, specialists in Indian Ocean properties, lay a lot of emphasis on their gastronomy – including hosting an annual culinary festival in association with Bernard Loiseau, wherein resort chefs are mentored by Michelin starred chefs from Europe and compete against each other. Small wonder then, that the five restaurants on this property give each other stiff competition when it comes to good food. Corossol is a vast all-day dining restaurant, while Helios offers Mediterranean-inspired breakfast and lunch buffets – including fresh seafood dishes – in a breezy, poolside setting. For local flavours, Seselwa is the place to head to, which offers a glimpse into Seychelloise cuisine – a Creole-island cuisine, with spice-infused curries and lots of seafood, bringing together influences from India, Africa and the ocean. Guests can also opt for breakfast at Seselwa, where the emphasis on healthy eating is evident from a separate section dedicated to gluten-free foods and other nutritious options. For an elegant dinner date, the resort’s fine dining restaurant Cyann offers an elegant-meets-rustic chic setting for the gourmet menu that combines French culinary techniques with local ingredients – think crab and crispy prawn with prawn consommé jelly, and local red mullet with carrot trilogy and olive and garlic crumble. It’s an equally attractive destination for lunch, with light dishes enjoyed alfresco on a private sandbank by the beach.

Green creds: The Constance Ephelia resort, set within a protected marine reserve, the Port Launay marine national park, has its own Eco-initiative focusing on low-impact operations, reducing energy and water use, biodiversity management and staff training. Its efforts are supported by the United Nations Development Programme, Global Environment Facility.

Take me there now: Room rates start from €500 (around Dhs2,060) per night for Junior suites, €1,800 for Hillside pool villa, visit constancehotels.com for more.

Mahe magic

When in Seychelles, don’t miss the Saturday market in Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, where you can find local produce, freshly caught seafood, spices, and handicrafts in a colourful melee of sights, sounds and smells. While the market is open every day of the week, Saturdays have the biggest market, and that’s when the locals come to shop.

Insider tip

Forget waiting around forever for elusive buggies to transport you from spa to restaurant – villa guests get their own buggy to drive themselves around!

TRAVEL DIARY

Getting there: Give your journey to the destination a Seychellois twist by flying Air Seychelles, which offers convenient direct flights to Mahe from Abu Dhabi nine times a week. The four-hour flight is comfortable and quick, especially if you fly business class where you can enjoy flavours of the island in dishes like coconut coated chicken breast with pineapple sauce, and grilled tiger prawn and red snapper with pumpkin chutney, and spacious seats, as well as the comforts of their quaint, cosy premium lounge at Mahe airport. Ticket prices start from US$1,877 (around Dhs6,890) for economy, and US$3,015 for business class. Visit airseychelles.com.



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