Friday 25 May 2018

The Seychelles: Blissful tranquility in the Indian Ocean

Long-haul travel

Sandy stretches in the Seychelles are utterly magnificent.
Sandy stretches in the Seychelles are utterly magnificent.
Indian Ocean Lodge

Anne Marie Scanlon

Having an outdoor shower has never been on my bucket list but after experiencing the joy of al fresco scrubbing I urge you to try this for yourself.

The outdoor shower was only one of the amazing amenities in my beachfront villa at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa on Silhouette Island in the Seychelles.

You can actually view the beach, which is steps from the front of the villa, from the outdoor shower, which is at the back! But don't worry, the design of the individual villas allow you to see without being seen. The outdoor shower is directly behind the huge centrally placed indoor bathtub which I could have happily spent a week in.

Then again, I could equally happily have spent a week in my enormous bed.

Silhouette is popular with honeymooners and you can see why; villas offer luxury and privacy alongside plenty of restaurants and pools. Dinner in the island's historical plantation house at the Grann Kaz restaurant is a must. The traditional Creole cuisine is sublime and even the most ardent of lovebirds would be glad to tear themselves away from their leaba to taste it.

And if some of the lovebirds aren't feeling the love then the Octopus curry is allegedly guaranteed to put a spring back in a chap's step (so to speak). Hilton also understands breakfast, no tiny wee fiddly cups, lovely big mugs and individual carafes of coffee. Bliss!

Silhouette is only one of the 115 islands which make The Seychelles popular as both a place to get married and to honeymoon. I travelled there with a bunch of singletons to see if the sun and sand alone would be enough for us. We began our journey in Mahé, the largest of the islands which contains the capital Victoria and is home to approximately 86pc of the country's population.

Praslin island, the second largest of the islands, is home to some of the best beaches in the world. Before checking out the seaside we stopped off at La Pirogue Restaurant for a lunch of gorgeous fresh food accompanied by delicious fresh juices and milkshakes.

Indian Ocean Lodge
Indian Ocean Lodge

When you think of The Seychelles, milkshakes aren't the first thing that spring to mind but everywhere you go there are smoothies and shakes to suit every palate. As all of these are freshly made you can kid yourself that you're enjoying a health drink (until you get to the beach and have to squeeze into your swimming cossie).

If you get a chance to visit La Pirogue you simply cannot leave without paying a visit to the saucy souvenir shop next door. The Coco de Mer (the largest nut in the world) is the national symbol of The Seychelles and, rather unfortunately, bears a likeness to a certain body part.

For the most part Seychellois don't take kindly to juvenile giggles, and you can't blame them. However, in this particular souvenir shop they know all too well what we're thinking and just go with it. I deeply regret not buying a bunch of very rude key rings when I had the chance as I mistakenly thought I could pick them up anywhere.

I soon forgot about Coco de Mers and various body parts when we arrived on Anse Lazio beach which was voted 6th best beach in the world by the Trip Advisor website.

I cannot begin to imagine what beaches 1 to 5 look like as Anse Lazio is simply stunning. There's a danger of lapsing into cliché while trying to describe how beautiful Anse Lazio is, the sand is white while the water is clear and blue. As the waves broke on the beach they waterfalled down in a rainbow of different blues and it was wonderful to watch.

Being pale-skinned I sat in the shade of a mangrove away from my sun-worshiping friends but I wasn't alone. My towel was surrounded by a large number of tiny white crabs. Now I'm not a fan of things that scuttle, creep or crawl. (I'd also like slithery and slidey things taken into consideration.) But although these creatures look like tiny aliens I wasn't bothered by them.

One of them got within nipping distance of my toe and I said firmly "Too close!" and he quickly retreated. Then another crab, a bigger brown version (the white crabs turn brown when pregnant), began digging a deep hole beside me and I watched fascinated for almost an hour as she went further and further into the earth and came back up with an armful of sand which she flung away in a semi-circular pattern surrounding the entrance to the hole.

I'm in no hurry to see the best five beaches in the world (according to TripAdvisor) because Anse Lazio was utterly magnificent. Praslin is also home to the Indian Ocean Lodge, a cosy friendly place with absolutely gorgeous rooms. It's ideal for either honeymooners or families with small children - there are two couches in the bedrooms which can easily accommodate under 10s.

After a very comfortable night in the Indian Ocean Lodge our party headed to La Digue, an island famous for it's wildlife (including giant tortoises and green sea turtles) flora and fauna. The trademark Seychelles rock formations - the rocks are rounded and bear a resemblance to ossified whales, are even more noticeable than usual on this island.

Cars were banned until very recently on La Digue and are still rare so visitors have the option of walking or cycling. We wandered along the coast, over rocks and through thick plantation, passing more than one wedding ceremony, until finally we discovered an area, shaded by mangroves, adjacent to a small but pristine beach, where two absolutely gorgeous Seychellois men prepared drinks in a small shack. As they sang along to Bob Marley the pair made us milkshakes and sliced the tops of fresh coconuts so we could sample the water inside.

The area was quite crowded with lovebirds and families but the laid back relaxed atmosphere made it the picture of tranquility. We were cut off from the rest of civilisation in the best possible way. You don't have to be in love to enjoy the Seychelles because you cannot help but feel the romance.

Getting there...

Emirates (emirates.ie) flies Dublin to Dubai twice daily with 12 weekly connections to the Seychelles. Prices at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa (hiltonseychelleslabriz.com) start from €255 per night for a Garden Villa (incl. breakfast).

Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk) offers 7 nights with breakfast at the 4.5-star Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, Seychelles in a Garden Villa, including flights with British Airways from Dublin to Heathrow and Etihad Airways from Heathrow to Seychelles. From £1,830/€2,480pp.To book please quote: IO0381 *Book by 4 March 2016*. Indian Ocean Lodge (indianoceanlodge.com).

For more info, see seychelles.travel.

Sunday Independent

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