There is a part of me that does not want the Seychelles international airport to change. It is old fashioned, impractical and compares unfavourably to the increasing high end resorts dotted around these beautiful islands.
But it has a quaint, colonial charm with a dramatic mountainous backdrop which adds to the excitement of arrival, and is in keeping with this still relatively undeveloped, unspoilt and sleepy country. Departure is another matter, modernisation cannot come fast enough!
We took the scenic route to Six Senses Zil Pasyon. A cramped domestic flight to Praslin, a short and pretty drive through Praslin, glimpsing into the dense jungle for the iconic Coco de Mer and if lucky, the distinctive Black Parrot. Both endemic to the Seychelles.
Six Senses Zil Pasyon, on Felicite Island is a speedboat journey which should take 15 minutes but due to unseasonal waves was a bumpy 30 minutes. As fun as it was for the first timer to the Seychelles, I would always recommend a 20 minute helicopter flight direct from Mahe to the resort. Whatever transfer option one takes, the thrill of seeing the beautiful Felicite Island taking form and shape will be forever with you. A golden flash transforming into a beach complete with bowed palm trees and spectacular granite rocks, and the dense vegetation revealing villas dotted around the sides of the island – it has to be one of the most dramatic resort introductions in the world.
To say the villas are private is an understatement. Views over the neighbouring islands, the different hues of the Indian Ocean – from turquoise to deep blue – and endless bird life flying over your villa. There is no need to leave, and with your attentive butler there is an excuse not to. But that would be to deny the truly unique Spa and walking through towering and perfectly balanced granite blocks that look like they must be made of fibreglass and positioned by man.
Restaurant options are limited and the food, being Six Senses, is all about locally sourced creole curries, fresh fish and inventive international cuisine. With the largest rum collection in the Seychelles, rum tasting is mandatory.
Our highlight was breakfast on the beach. Totally private with a table set up and a fine array of breakfast dishes it felt unique, romantic and very special indeed.
Onwards to Raffles on Praslin. A perfect contrast to Six Senses. A similar layout with villas dotted along the side of the hill and down to the beach but very much a more contemporary and modern resort. A picture postcard, tranquil beach and a stunning pool makes doing nothing very easy. The turtles were fun to see, huge lumbering antiquities who managed to look majestic and comedic at the same time. Raffles is a resort that suits couples and families alike and while the architecture does not have the charm of a Six Senses or MAIA it more than made up for it with the facilities and extremely friendly and attentive staff.
Food was superb in all three restaurants we ate at. Especially the Middle Eastern BBQ evening which was only slightly marred by the Iranian music videos projected at full volume on a big screen. Keep a safe distance to allow for conversation.
We especially liked the open air Spa rooms surrounded by tropical plant life, and this may be a personal preference, but applies to all the hotels we visited in the Seychelles – choose a high villa for the views of the ocean and the splendour of tropical surroundings.
Visiting Vallee de Mai filled me with mixed emotions. Of course one must visit this world famous, UNESCO national park. But would it be too touristy? The answer was a satisfying no. A guide is essential to spot the different flora and fauna and it truly is a wonderful experience. Even on the hottest day there is a certain cool and quiet and the Coco de Mer and other palms towering over you lend an other worldly feel to the experience. There is nothing wild or intrepid about it, with footpaths and signs but it was a pleasant surprise. I must repeat that a guide is essential.
We were unlucky with the ferry. In our excitement we wanted to experience every transfer option and I have a fondness for ferries. However, on a rough day there is nothing fun about the 90 minute crossing and I would recommend domestic flight or seaplane whenever possible. I stubbornly tried to read my book but the shuddering impact and lurching of the ferry made this impossible and there more than a few green tourists by the time we docked into Mahe.
The melee of drivers trying to find guests and guests trying to locate luggage at the end enforces my recommendation to fly rather than ferry.
The drive over the mountain to MAIA was a mini highlight for the uninitiated and MAIA itself is difficult to fault. Immaculately run and managed, and set in stunning jungle surroundings the setting is magical. Before describing anything else, special mention to the butler service. Unobtrusive but accessible at all times, from cooking breakfast in our villa, organising activities and more we could not fault him. I am not normally a butler type person, but we fell into the metaphorical embrace of ours with abandon.
The All Inclusive helps of course. MAIA produced the best food we experienced in the Seychelles and went beyond expectations to be accommodating. From mixing and matching menus, creating cocktails and the friendly and knowledgeable sommelier making sure we had the ideal wine for our food it was the most complete high end All Inclusive imaginable.
MAIA really is for couples and honeymooners and one does not need to leave the sumptuous villas, which rival Six Senses for privacy. A charming beach and pool area along with the Spa complete the resort and nothing else is needed. The Spa is open to the elements with the jungle crowding and jostling over the treatment rooms. I often do not have the patience for Spa treatments, but with these kinds of surroundings I could have spent all afternoon there.
Our final visit was to Four Seasons Mahe, a short car transfer along the coast. Again, pretty villas dotted around the hillside, but on a larger scale entirely to what we had seen before, and overlooking a beautiful bay. A quintessential family resort with accommodation for families of any size the villas are externally starting to show their age but the interiors are what you would expect from a Four Seasons resort – a stylish mix of contemporary and traditional.
A delightful lunch by the pool washed down by a few local beers led us to the beach where we stayed for the rest of the afternoon. With such a beautiful and swimmable beach I could understand why the pool was empty, but we could see the kids club in full flow and for maybe the first time in our brief trip we wished the children were with us!
The food was excellent with an emphasis on Asian cuisine, although we did not try the Mediterranean evening at Kannel Restaurant which we heard great things about.
My last word on Four Seasons Mahe are the 3,4,5 & 6 bedroom Residences. In terms of size & space they are the best family option in the Seychelles as far as i can see. All very different in design and style, the one I visited may seem a bit dated to some tastes but more than made up for it with the stupendous views, large pools and immaculate service.