Travel Review: Seychelles


The Land Of Perpetual Summer

We find pinch-yourself moments aplenty in our twin-centre trip to Seychelles

Words by Liz Skone James

Discover the Creole spirit with a twin-centre Seychelles break offering the ultimate mix of adventure, relaxation and luxury

Seychelles ephelia

The plane begins its descent into Mahé and I catch my first magical glimpse of Seychelles; Africa’s smallest country consists of an archipelago of 115 coral and granite islands flung across the sparkling, ultramarine waters of the Indian Ocean. As we draw closer to landing, the shallower waters turn turquoise, and the pristine white sand beaches outlining the islands are revealed. It is spellbindingly beautiful.

Mahé is the biggest island, and home to the nation’s capital. It is here that I am spending the first half of my stay in Seychelles, at Constance Ephelia, a five-star resort set on the island’s north-west coast, just a short 40-minute drive from the airport. Built on a headland overlooking the marine national park of Port Launay, Ephelia is vast, covering 120 hectares of land, bordered to east and west by mountainous tropical rainforest, with a mangrove forest at its heart and a choice of dazzlingly beautiful beaches in sheltered bays to the north and south. Bikes are available, to make navigating the resort quicker, or, if that sounds too much like hard work, frequent buggy shuttles zip between the two resort beaches and the various bars, restaurants and leisure facilities.

Accommodation for 750 guests, in a mix of rooms, suites and villas, is spread across the grounds in such a clever way that it feels like a boutique property. An impression that is amplified by the fact that there is seemingly always a smiling member of the Ephelia team on hand to see that your every need is fulfilled – indeed, I’m told that the ratio of staff to guests here is an indulgent 1:1.

My junior suite is located in one of seven low built buildings set in tropical gardens overlooking a serene saltwater swimming pool, and the sandy shores of the southern beach beyond. There are four further pools, with accommodation arranged similarly – one exclusively for honeymooners and one for families, meaning that every guest can enjoy the holiday they have been dreaming of. While the appeal of lying under the shade of a Takamaka tree listening to the sea lapping the shore is undeniable, it’s worth dragging yourself away from your lounger to enjoy the resort’s other attractions – of which there are many.  and harness up to tackle the hotel’s zip line experience. High above the forest and gorges below, we fly along a series of eight lines ranging from 80-120 metres in length. Though my eyes are scrunched tightly shut for the first stretch, I summon the courage to take in the scenery on the others, and it is truly exhilarating.

Less high energy is an afternoon spent paddling kayaks lazily through the sun dappled, brackish waters of the mangrove forest. It is perfectly peaceful here; birdsong and the splashing of our paddles are the only sounds.

Seychelles ephelia

I am stiff after this day of unexpected physical activity and treat myself to a massage. Located at the heart of the resort in lush tropical gardens, Ephelia’s spa is the biggest in the Indian Ocean, and features 18 treatment rooms set in individual thatched huts, as well as a sauna, steam room, thermal pool, cold plunge pool and Kneipp footpath. After a gloriously restorative massage I spend some time enjoying the thermal facilities and then lie beside the pool with my book as the sun begins to set.

The next day, I am up early and back at the spa for vinyasa yoga in the poolside Shala. Saluting the rising sun against the spectacular backdrop of towering green mountains is truly memorable, and the session ends with a spine-tingling crystal singing bowl meditation.vegetation. Fortunately, the most exotic wildlife we see is a little hedgehog like tenrec scampering through the undergrowth. The weather is hot and steamy, and the sudden, heavy downpour when we reach the end of the trail is very welcome. Of course, around the schedule of activities, I find time for reading, sea dipping, and snoozing in the sun, and I enjoy all of the food and drink options available across the resort. Platters of local fruit and warm-from-the-oven pastries from the groaning breakfast buffet in Corossol; plates of the finest sushi I have ever tasted, served with the sand between my toes on the beach at Cyann; bowls of fragrant Thai fare at Adam and Eve; a buffet spread of local Creole delicacies at Seselwa… I feel like I am forever grazing and am thankful for all the activity.

Lemuria Seychelles

With further Seychellois treats planned, leaving is sweet sorrow – I wave a fond farewell to the smiling team at reception and hop into the airport transfer, bound for a few nights on Praslin, at Constance’s other five-star Seychelles property, Lémuria.

A short flight in a tiny turboprop plane provides a birds-eye view of the glistening waters below, and as we fly over the headland at Pointe Sainte Marie, I spot Lémuria, spread out below us. It is just a five-minute drive from the airport to the hotel and we are greeted there in theatrical manner. A gong is struck as huge wooden doors slowly swing open to reveal the spectacular swimming pool beyond. Built into the rock face on three levels it appears almost to cascade down to the beach below.

This is Petite Anse Kerlan, the resort’s main beach. One of three, it is the only stretch where swimming is recommended, and here guests can relax on loungers and hammocks; borrow snorkelling equipment, paddle boards or kayaks from the boat house; or enjoy a barefoot lunch at Takamaka Bar. Most of the suites and villas, including mine, are arranged along the adjacent beach, Grand Anse Kerlan. This long stretch of sand is more exposed, and wildly beautiful, with breakers crashing on to the shore. The third beach, Anse Georgette, is a short walk (or shuttle ride) away. Totally unspoilt, it is set in a peaceful bay with a deep sweep of white sand and the bluest waters I have ever seen – no surprise that it is widely recognised as one of the most beautiful in Seychelles.

Where the spa is the star of the show at Ephelia, here it is the golf course, the only 18-hole championship course in Seychelles. It’s hard to conceive how the greenkeepers manage to keep the undulating fairways and terraced greens quite so verdant and immaculately manicured in this climate. So green is the grass, that were it not for the tropical planting and the incredible backdrop of the Indian Ocean, we might be in rainy England.

Lemuria Seychelles

While I am no golfer, I enjoy an organised sundowner experience at the 15th hole one evening, from where the views are simply jaw-dropping. We sip champagne; nibble on delicious canapés; watch huge fruit bats swooping overhead; and attempt to hit balls from the tee here down to the green far below (with varying levels of success and increasing hilarity). This is about as much activity as I muster here. Choosing instead to take the opportunity to truly switch off and make the most of my last few days in paradise. I indulge in another divine massage at the spa and spend my time soaking up the sun and snorkelling in the calm waters of the bay at Petite Anse Kerlan.

As at Ephelia, the food offering here is extensive, and excellent, with four restaurants, and five bars – The Nest deserves special mention, not least for its spectacular setting, on the point of the peninsular between the two Anse beaches. Fresh, local seafood is on the menu here, served in Creole style. But my favourite meal here has to be the one I am treated to at fine dining spot, Diva, where renowned Catalan chef Jordi Vilà presides over the kitchen. The food is memorable as much for its unique presentation as for its divine flavour – lobster bisque arrives in a spectacular glass pufferfish and a coconut flavoured cocktail, part of a dessert trilogy, in a kitsch glass with legs designed to look like a jellyfish.

On my last morning, walking the few steps between my suite and Grand Anse Kerlan I am surprised by a rustling noise. I look down to see a Hawksbill turtle making her way slowly up the sand. The idyllic beaches here are such an important nesting site that the hotel has its own Turtle Preservation Programme, run alongside the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, there’s even a full time Turtle Manager working at Lémuria. I stand still, utterly silent, and try to stay out of the turtle’s line of vision as she makes for the vegetation by the shoreline and proceeds to dig a nest. I am totally awe struck, and do not move until I am sure I will not disturb her. Robert, the Turtle Manager, endeavours to mark the spot of every nest so that he can ensure that the eggs are not disturbed; I make a mental note of exactly where it is so that I can let him know later. In a week full of truly memorable experiences in the Seychelles, this stands out – I will cherish the moment forever.