Island life: A luxurious tour of the Seychelles

Words by
Jemima Sissons

3rd March 2021

From fabulous food and five-star resorts to a treasure trove of stunning flora and fauna, we chart the best of the archipelago in our expert travel guide

We arrive, travel-worn from a night flight blinking bleary-eyed into the ochre lobby of the Constance Ephelia. With the tinkle of water fountains around us and the gentle chirp of crickets, our senses soon start to calm. After an efficient check in over apple and ginger juice, we are escorted to our pool villa on the north side of the resort — our home for the next few weeks.

We have come to the Seychelles to tour two of the country’s 100 or so islands, taking in Mahé, the main island, and second-largest Praslin. With a three-year-old in tow, no-fuss resorts are the order of the day. Just 45 minutes from the international airport, Constance Ephelia is our first stop, an expansive 120-acre resort on the west of Mahé. Our villa is brilliantly laid out for easy living, with double doors from the living area leading out to a small patio, a private swimming pool and sunloungers. The wonderful housekeeping staff has left towels shaped into jungle beasts and a freshly made coconut loaf for tea — a daily treat, it turns out.

Island life: A luxurious tour of the Seychelles
Constance Ephelia

There are two sides to Constance Ephelia, each on a picture-perfect beach; villas are located on the quieter north shore, while the south side is busier, with more rooms as well as restaurants. Golf buggies and bicycles — strongly recommended as the buggy wait can be long — connect the two sides. We pass a chorus of frogs in the wildflower meadow every morning on our pootle to the excellent and vast kids’ club. Red crabs race along the mangrove beds, while giant tortoises munch happily in their enclosure (feeding them at 4pm is a daily treat for guests).

The hotel might be huge, but surrounded by lush gardens brimming with banana palms and mango trees it is designed so that you never feel cramped. There are swimming pools dotted throughout, and after a cooling dip, we relax on sunloungers sipping fresh papaya juice while Amelia snacks on homemade houmus from the excellent kids’ menu and lolls around on inflatables. With complimentary snorkels and paddle boards, afternoons are spent exploring pancake-flat bays, or spotting dancing lionfish and scissortail sergeants beneath the aquamarine water. There are Indiana Jones thrills to be had on the zip wire and climbing wall, while exhilarating jungle walks take you high above the resort.

The design of the resort is a little functional and almost brutalist, but it grows on you in so many other ways. It is supremely peaceful and blessed with two of the finest beaches in the Seychelles. Run like clockwork, guests don’t want for anything, from the well-equipped gyms to the bounteous (Covid-safe) buffet spreads and spot-on spa. Staff are unfailingly warm and efficient — by the end our daughter is on first-name terms with most of them.

Executive chef Gilbert Negro runs a tight ship, overseeing the five restaurants with finesse — and with the spreads on offer, it is wise to pack roomy kaftans. At breakfast, the buffet is chic with piles of mini pain au chocolats that sit alongside tropical fruit plates offering the freshest pineapple, dragon fruit, lychee and cantaloupe. One day we treat ourselves to sushi at the excellent poolside eatery Cyann, where we devour yellowtail with jalapeno and soy; other days, we head to poolside restaurant Helios to sup on lunchtime papaya smoothies and delicious Greek salads.  

The spa is vast and houses a glorious adults-only pool, although we didn’t try any treatments due to Covid restrictions. A large airy gym and daily free fitness classes such as a resort hike and yoga are a help against the bacchanalian feasts. Outdoor gym equipment dotted throughout the resort is a fun way to tan while you tone.

Island life: A luxurious tour of the Seychelles
Anantara Maia

From here it is a 30-minute drive south to the Anantara Maia resort, which has just been taken on by the Thai-based brand. This is a totally different offering; with just 30 rooms at a much higher price point, emphasis here is on a bespoke experience — every villa is appointed a Villa Host and there is a “dine anywhere, anytime” philosophy. One night, we feast outside our villa on a table set up under the stars where chef Jean-Yves conjures up sweet potato curry, tender butter chicken and the most glorious Goan fish curry.

This place is a true sanctuary, with the peaceful villas spirited away among papaya and mango trees. Our 2,500sq ft villa has an old-school elegance, with smooth teak flooring, onyx bowls in carved-out wall niches and a palm-leaf-shaped ceiling fan. Mini jars of spiced cashews and iced tea are thoughtful touches for new arrivals, while bathrooms groan with large bottles of Hermès goodies — Bulgari for smaller travellers. Days are spent supping on fresh cucumber, apple and celery juice, combing for shells on the beach and splashing about on the giant inflatable watermelon in our private pool before an afternoon snack of a mango and pineapple fruit kebab. Early evenings, we treat ourselves to deeply relaxing coconut oil massages in the Balinese spa, while our excellent Villa Host Saya babysits Amelia  — all part of the service here. It’s no wonder one Middle Eastern royal family took over the entire resort for the whole of the summer lockdown — run by one of the most friendly and efficient general managers in the business, this is a place you never want to leave.

Island life: A luxurious tour of the Seychelles
Six Senses Zil Pasyon

Also in the same price point, Six Senses Zil Pasyon caters to a similar market. Half the adventure is getting there. While many guests arrive by private helicopter, we take the Air Seychelles shuttle from Mahé to Praslin, a whirring 15-minute flight over glistening bays and clear blue waters, followed by a hop on the resort’s own speedboat. There is something of a James Bond lair about Zil Pasyon — hunks of granite rising from the Jurassic island and black modernist residences (for the mega high rollers) set in the rocks feature glass-bottomed swimming pools over the living space and stunning 360-degree views. Most people stay in the luxurious one-bed villas, which offer the most spectacular views of nearby Coco island. We watch the fishing boats bobbing on the gentle waves, while after dark, giant but harmless fruit bats dart between palm trees in the jungle hideaway at the front of our accommodation. A plunge pool keeps us cool and hunger pangs are kept at bay with spongy coconut macarons and freshly squeezed passion fruit juice.

Little ones are brilliantly catered for with super-chic mini towelling robes and a well kitted out kids’ club, where Amelia enjoys shell-necklace-making and a beach forage. For the older generation, the rum shack is a treasure trove of rare and vintage bottlings. Although service can be a bit slow, dinner is spot on with zingy prawn summer rolls and prawn masala followed by flourless coconut passion fruit tart. With glorious sunsets, inspiring nature walks and hidden beaches, this is for those seeking their very own treasure island.

Island life: A luxurious tour of the Seychelles

Coco Island

Back at Mahé, we have time to pack in a tour of Seychelle’s capital, Victoria, where we marvel at boat-fresh snapper and tuna in the market and take in the luscious botanical gardens. We take a thirst-quenching half day diversion out to Takamaka rum distillery on the south of the island, which is reopening after refurbishment this summer with a vegan food truck and a new tasting room.

With its white sands and warm hospitality, the Seychelles offers bounteous choices for all travellers, whether budding botanists or marine adventurers, or seeking solitude or a family friendly stay.