Clear blue waters, white sand beaches, unforgettable sunsets, exotic marine life, paradise on earth – is it even possible to describe the Seychelles without using any of the tired old clichés that are synonymous with this archipelago of 115 islands? Hint: no.
Because, here, these longstanding stereotypes come from the best place of truth. I first discovered said paradise on earth from a few thousand feet up in the air, simultaneously crossing “take a helicopter ride” off my bucket list. And let me tell you, I was not prepared for what that bird’s eye view entailed. Or what greeted me once I landed at Raffles Seychelles for that matter.
Need to Know
Located hillside on the northeastern tip of Praslin, this all-villa resort is a spectacle of beauty all on its own, but Mother Nature was particularly generous with its vicinity. In fact, General Gordon of Khartoum reportedly believed that the island was the real-life site of the mythological Garden of Eden. Praslin is not only the second largest island in the Seychelles, but it’s also home to some fascinating attractions and blush-inducing natural wonders – but more on that later.
Raffles Seychelles is a 15-minute plane ride the main island of Mahé, where you’ll land, followed by a 25-minute drive to the resort. Alternatively, you could take a 60-minute boat ride followed by a 20-minute drive. But honestly, how often in life is landing directly on a property’s helipad even an option? A 15-minute ride in a private helicopter will have you flying over the type of picture-postcard landscapes you have to see to believe.
As for the aforementioned villas? There are 86 in total, each contemporary in feel and boasting spellbinding views of Curieuse Island and the seemingly endless Indian Ocean beyond. Offered as one- and two-bedroom options, they range from 125 to 275 meters in size, making them some of the largest in the archipelago. Admittedly, the villas are tightly packed, but a sense of privacy comes courtesy of the lush foliage that envelopes them all.
Having stayed at Raffles Seychelles, I can guarantee you this: it’s the generously sized outdoor pavilion of your villa that you’ll remember long after you’ve checked out. Some are furnished with sundeck loungers, an outdoor rain shower, and a sheltered pavilion complete with a dining area. Others even feature a daybed and a barbecue grill. But regardless of where you end up, promise yourself that you’ll wake up early enough to take in at least one sunrise from the comfort of your private plunge pool.
Inside is where you’ll find all the trappings of a luxury hotel room – with a few unexpected extras to boot. Mine came accented with an easel, a sketch pad, and some crayons in case my surroundings awoke my inner artist, and a copy of the quirky Sex in the Sea book to educate guests on the ‘nocturnal activities’ of sea creatures. Further afield, the plush bathroom featured amenities from the citrusy ‘Purple Water’ collection by Asprey, a deep soaking tub with killer views, and even bath salts as blue as the waters of the Seychelles.
Considering the rather colorful blend of people who have come together to form the archipelago’s population (everyone from Arab and Persian traders to freed slaves, European settlers, and those of Indian origin), its local cuisine makes for quite the culinary journey – and plenty of choice throughout your stay. At Losean Restaurant, you’ll feast on a lavish breakfast spread to start the day and, come evening, dine on dishes inspired by the Indian Ocean. Over at The Sushi Room, an intimate space transforms the catch of the day into delicate tataki, maki, nigiri, and sashimi.
The idiom “with great power comes great responsibility” comes to mind with regard to Curieuse, the resort’s signature restaurant. It’s the Seychelles’ only Asian eatery, and wins rave reviews every single time. Menu highlights here include the vegetarian ‘Malai Broccoli’, spicy ‘Mongolian Chicken’, and creamy ‘Thai Fish Red Curry’ – which you’ll understandably forget. My advice: trust the chef’s specials blindly. And as for dining when you want, where you want? In-villa dining, a candlelit dinner on the beach, a barbecue on a nearby island, a picnic in the garden – take your pick. They’ll make it happen.
It’s one thing to experience a scrub, a wrap, or a massage inside a sumptuous spa suite. It’s a whole other thing to do so in one of Raffle Spa’s 12 open-air pavilions, with some of the world’s most spectacular views serving as the backdrop to your treatment.
I indulged in the ‘Raffles Signature Massage’ – a bit of a no-brainer if you’re looking for deep, deep relaxation – to the sounds of waves and a gentle breeze interrupted every so often by the chirping of birds. This 60-minute massage encompasses techniques of Thai and Balinese influences, and is complemented by passive stretching to promote circulation and relieve any lingering aches and pains with the help of a soothing essential oil by Aromatherapy Associates – a blend of vetiver, chamomile, and sandalwood to be specific.
Raffles Spa heavily draws inspiration from the adjacent waters, so for a treatment with a novelty factor, book in for the ‘Ocean Seashell Massage’ that combines seashells with warm oils. For something with an even more indigenous feel, the ‘Traditional Seychelles Dry Coconut Body Scrub’ is the one to beat. Centered around a handmade concoction of raw brown sugar, grated coconut, and coconut oil, it’s both restorative and moisturizing – and all-natural.
While there’s a lot more to do in the Seychelles than just ‘hit the beach’, it’s the offering at Raffles Seychelles that’s surprisingly diverse. But what if you do want to just hit the beach? The property sits on the pristine Anse Takamaka, which translates to access to a 500-meter private beach bookended by striking granite boulders. Non-motorized watersports are offered free of charge, so try to squeeze in a spot of snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding while you’re there. The likes of diving, fishing, and sailing are also on the roster, so the constraint of time will only add to your dilemma.
Yet another claim to fame for this award-winning property is its split-level swimming pool that, at 45 meters in length, is the largest in the Seychelles. If you’re not so much the lounging type, give the gym a miss, and keep active with one of the bicycle tours, jogs, or hikes organized by the resort. The ‘Seychelles Heritage Walk’, which takes guests to Grand Anse via the popular Pasquière Trail, is a great option. Alternatively, the beach-cleaning sessions make for a workout with a feel-good factor.
It’s a toss-up between shisha under the stars and a Creole cooking class at Pti Zil Beach Bar when it’s time to unwind, but nothing quite competes with feeding the Aldabra giant tortoises that are practically a symbol of the Seychelles. Between their sheer size – an average weight of 250kg – and the fact that many live past the ripe old age of 200, these curious beasts with their leathery skin are a sight to behold. While tourists have to take a quick jaunt to North Island, Cousin Island, or Curieuse Island to visit these natives, a handful of them reside at the resort’s very own tortoise park.
The idyllic Anse Lazio consistently ranks in the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world – and it happens to be located just around the corner from Raffles Seychelles. This is the definitive spot to practice the Croatian concept of pomalo – to live free from time – and take in a truly unrivaled sunset. The resort also serves as a convenient base for a boat excursion to La Digue, rife with mammoth granite boulders that dramatically contrast against its white-sand beaches and clear blue skies. Do as the locals do, and take an ox cart around the island to get a sense of everyday life here.
A mere 17-minute drive from Raffles Seychelles will bring you to Vallée De Mai nature park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the fabled Coco de Mer palms. These ancient 40-meter trees produce the world’s heaviest nuts, but it’s their suggestive shape (reminiscent of a woman’s nether regions, to put it politely) that makes them so unique. Today, Coco de Mer is colloquially known as a “forbidden fruit” as it’s illegal to even taste them, with every nut and palm belonging to the government. What you can taste, however, is the delicious breadfruit that is consumed in every which way by the locals. Legend has it that people who eat it are guaranteed to return to the Seychelles – reason enough for you?
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