The Seychelles: a piece of paradise on a plate

by Jeannine.Williamson

A perfect picture-postcard beach, private villa and your very own butler all add up to paradise found in the Seychelles. With a bit of practice, it’s surprisingly easy to get used to a life of luxe

“What do you think we call him?” I whisper to my friend as we embark on the first of many chauffeured golf buggy journeys to villa 4. After a 10-hour overnight flight, and wearing clothes totally unsuitable for the Seychelles’ average year-round temperature of 26°C, we decide to mull over the dilemma with the help of the chilled bottle of champagne waiting on the table.
 
The butler, who greeted us with chilled towels on arrival at Lemuria Resort on Praslin, had left after showing us to our rooms and probably sensing we had no wish for him to unpack our bags – exposing us as the butler service amateurs we were. As I gave the cork another twist, it flew out, narrowly missing his head as he reappeared. We quickly learned the first rule of having an incumbent butler – or villa master, to give him his correct and more contemporary title – is let him take charge.
 
Easy living
To the uninitiated this was no uncomfortable Jeeves and Wooster experience and after introducing himself as Jerry it was first-name terms all round. The rest of the week he was discreetly on call to pander to our every whim, from running us around in the golf buggy, whipping up a mean afternoon tea, despatching drinks and nibbles and generally thinking of everything before we thought of it ourselves. All I had to worry about was whether to relax by the villa’s private pool, on the beach or by the resort’s three-tiered infinity pool, where and what to eat or whether to sink into the bath complete with its own pillow, take a shower or go back to nature and step under the outdoor waterfall shower in my private garden. Decisions, decisions.
 
It was tempting, and feasible, to stay put in the villa, and doubtless some people do in a destination that’s a wedding and honeymoon favourite. But it was good to discover it’s not just for ‘loved up’ newlyweds, and groups of friends and families will find plenty to do beyond the sunbeds.
 
Things to do
Lemuria has an impressive championship golf course, unique to the Seychelles, great beaches for snorkelling and diving and an inviting kids’ club, complete with cute miniature sunloungers. Restaurants range from the gourmet Seahorse, serving rather fussy ‘fusion’ cuisine, to the informal Beach Bar & Grill, my personal favourite, where the amazing seafood is equalled by stunning views over the surrounding coves. Dinner, picnics and even breakfast can be arranged on the beach, all served up with Lemuria’s exquisite levels of service and attention to detail. One night we had everyone over to ‘our place’ and Jerry and his counterparts set up lights around the pool, rigged up a sound system and a chef arrived to cook a seafood barbecue served n the al fresco dining area. Whilst a host of different meals are available – the Seychelles imports 90 per cent of its foodstuffs – fish lovers will be in heaven with the bounty available from around the islands.
 
Island hopping
Praslin, the Seychelles’ second-largest island, isn’t a place for full-on party animals, but what it lacks in nightlife it more than makes up for in natural attractions. Our first outing, a boat trip to three outlying islands, gave an interesting sea view of Lemuria. Whilst many exotic retreats have been slammed for ruining natural habitats it was barely visible from the sea, with no buildings over palm tree height. Its tranquillity is further reflected by the fact turtles lay their eggs on the beach and there’s even a resort ‘turtle manager’ ensuring they are not disturbed.
 
First stop was Cousin, a nature reserve 2km off Praslin and important nesting ground for hawksbill turtles between September and February. Any time of year you’re bound to see lizards, as the island boasts one of the highest densities in the world, and it was incredible to see birds nesting at ground level due to the absence of predators. Another big draw, quite literally, is the amiable giant tortoises, some of them estimated to be well over a hundred years old, that lumbered up to have their leathery heads and necks scratched. After lunch and a walk across the boardwalks covering dense mangroves on neighbouring Curieuse, a former leper colony, we met more at the tortoise sanctuary. The day ended with the opportunity to snorkel, or just laze on the boat, in the clear waters around St Pierre islet.
 
No Praslin visitor will escape without encountering the coco de mer, famous for producing the world’s largest nut – weighing up to 30kg – and being unmistakably male or female. Away from some of the tack in souvenir shops the best place to see them is the World Heritage-listed Vallée de Mai, a dense forest with marked trails of different lengths that’s said to be the original Garden of Eden. Another must-see sight is Anse Lazio, arguably one of the Indian Ocean’s most beautiful beaches.
 
Finishing touches
We marked the final night with a sundowner on the15th tee of Lemuria’s golf course, a high spot for golfers and non-players alike as the Seychelles’ only 18-hole course and with panoramic views over the bay. Jerry was nowhere to be found and someone else arrived to collect us in the omnipresent golf buggy. Any speculation about him forgetting our plans was quickly dispelled, and replaced with guilt for even thinking such a thing, as the buggy rounded the final bend to reveal a tee strewn with flower petals and Jerry on stand-by ready to distribute canapés and champagne in equal measure. By now we knew well enough to leave the bottle opening in his capable hands.
 
After a week of stress-free living, and our villa master taking care of everything, life had slowed to the pace of a giant tortoise. Embarking on the 15-minute flight back to Mahe’s international airport, and reality, we flew past their home territory on Cousin and Curieuse. It would certainly be nice to share their longevity and experience this slice of paradise for a while longer. Unfortunately there are some things even Jerry can’t organise.
 

Recommendations

Air Seychelles is the only airline to fly direct from Heathrow to the Seychelles twice weekly.
 
Elite Vacations, the Indian Ocean specialist, offers five nights in a pool villa at the five-star Constance Lemuria Resort from around £2,435 per person, based on four sharing, including return flights with Air Seychelles, inter-island flights, private transfers and complimentary lounge pass. Seven nights B&B in a junior suite starts from £1,798 per person.
 
Constance Lemuria Resort has 88 junior suites, eight senior suites, eight villas, a presidential suite and the only 18-hole championship golf course in the Seychelles.
 
Creole Travel Services offer a variety of excursions, including the full-day three-island tour to Cousin, Curieuse and St Pierre from around £115 a person, including lunch, and a half-day guided tour of Vallee de Mai from £50 per person.

Jeannine.Williamson

A former newspaper journalist, Jeannine is now freelance and writes for a variety of national and regional consumer and trade titles and websites. Her travels take her around the world and she won the British Guild of Travel Writers' prize for a feature on canoeing along the Mississippi and was runner-up in the Visit USA Media Awards for an article on learning to be a cowgirl in Texas. Favourite places: India, Iceland, Canada, Argentina - and anywhere where there's the chance to explore the great outdoors, preferably on horseback.