The Seychelles; white powdery sand, balmy waters, verdant green mangroves and the warm embrace of a golden sun!
One of the largest resorts in the Indian Ocean, the Constance Ephelia proudly states that it offers the rarest of commodities in a hotel: space. Set in a natural park on the striking west coast of Mahé, the main island in the Seychelles, it certainly delivers on that front, for as soon as I enter the lobby I am informed that the resort stretches out across 296-acres. A daunting space for those without a natural sense of direction, I am thankful when a map is immediately placed in my hands and I am given a full run down of what is on offer in this huge complex.
This is not a short conversation as great effort has been put into making Ephelia appeal to a huge cross section of potential patrons. For couples seeking a relaxed getaway there is the largest spa in the Indian Ocean, several secluded beaches and five bars to choose from. Yet there is also plenty to appeal to families as there are four tennis courts, a climbing wall, a daunting zip-line that runs through the forest and no end of activities based on the water. Bicycles are also on offer and prove to be a hugely popular way for families to navigate the spacious resort.
The makeup of the 313 rooms and villas has also been designed with differing customers in mind. All are spacious and range from garden view single rooms to villas that can sleep up to seven people. I was staying in a senior suite which was twice the size of an average hotel room and also boasted a sizeable balcony. Inside the décor is simple with wooden ornaments and wicker wall panels. Plenty of light was also able to get in thanks to the massive floor to ceiling sliding doors. There was also air conditioning and an overhead fan, while the complimentary mineral water – bottled on site – was refilled daily and came in glass bottles to minimise plastic waste. The only negative was the complimentary chocolates in the room were covered in tiny ants that had worked their way through the plastic, but the staff were quick to apologise and take them away.
While the majority of the rooms have a similar feel, the eight hillside villas offer something unique thanks to a breath-taking view of the forest and the crashing waves far below. Even if you do not stay in these villas it is worth walking or cycling to them just to take in the stunning views. I was also informed that I could access a beach below by taking a path through the forest and it is definitely worth a visit if you are feeling adventurous. It may be a small stretch of sand but the water is clear and it is extremely peaceful.
There are in fact two small beaches that can only be accessed by foot and require some effort, but for those seeking a more relaxing day in the sun, there are two main beaches. The north side of the resort is perhaps more beautiful thanks to the pale green waters that are contrasted by white sand and black volcanic rock. But the south beach, Lans Ilet, also proves popular as the sea is calm and the shallow waters allow you to walk all the way to a tiny neighbouring island with its own secluded beaches.
At both beaches you will find the usual range of water-sports, including windsurfing, pedal boats and diving. But Ephelia also offers a more unique activity as when the tide is out you are able to go on a kayaking tour of the mangroves that sit in the middle of the resort. The hotel has made plenty of effort to protect this mass of mangrove forests and it is a great way to see the natural vegetation and wildlife.
“The hillside villas offer something unique thanks to a breath-taking view of the forest and the crashing waves far below.”
Kayaking is also a far more interesting way to explore the resort than just simply sitting on one of the many golf carts that ferry people to and fro throughout the day. Though this mode of transport is preferable late at night when it can be difficult to navigate, even with maps placed throughout the grounds of the hotel.
For those who prefer to relax during a stay then there is the impressive U Spa, which has 18 treatment rooms, a Jacuzzi, reflective pool and a yoga pavilion. Despite the number of guests taking advantage of the service, I rarely saw another sole and was able to make use of the spa’s facilities long after my massage had ended.
The same cannot be said of the restaurants as with the sheer volume of guests, each of the five restaurants proves to be hugely popular and a reservation in advance is definitely recommended. The main buffet restaurant Corossol is the most spacious and is exceptionally popular for breakfast and dinner. It also has the most varied cuisine with everything from tandoori to pizzas on the menu. For fine dining and French cuisine, Cyann is a must, but it was Adam and Eve that truly stood out. The main focus is on South East Asia and there is a definite emphasis on Malay and Indonesian cuisine. The food is exceptional and the service is fast considering there are just two chefs preparing all items on the menu.
Of course if you feel you have overindulged there is a sizeable gym packed with an array of machines and free weights, while throughout the resort there is a host of free standing equipment that is great for a full body workout.
So whether you are looking for an action-packed adventure with the family, or you simply want to relax on the beaches and enjoy decadent food, Ephelia has struck the perfect balance. And despite the stunning surroundings of Mahé, you will find yourself not even wanting to leave the sprawling grounds of the resort.
Stretching across the north-western side of Praslin Island, just a 15-minute flight from the mainland, Mahé, Lémuria is a sprawling 101-hectare resort that nestles amidst the natural beauty of the Seychelles. The hotel and its grounds are built into the island’s luscious green hillside, while the three beaches of soft white sand have been largely untouched, with only one boasting the usual abundance of loungers and sun shades.
Just a five-minute drive from the airport, the hotel feels secluded and makes full use of its natural surroundings. Even the short buggy ride I take from reception to the lobby sees me wind my way through rich flora, whilst also introducing me to the island’s wildlife in the form of three very large tortoises.
Once inside the lobby I’m immediately greeted by the centrepiece of the hotel – a three-tier swimming pool that cascades down to sea-level. All three levels offer views to the turquoise ocean, with the upper level also boasting a swim up bar where you can order a wide selection of grape, spirits and cocktails. It is here that you will also find an outdoor dining area that offers a small yet eclectic menu of dishes.
A short walk from the lowest level there is the first of the 105 suites and villas that make up the hotel. All of the rooms are spacious, with the even the smallest measuring a sizeable 52 sq. metres, and are finished in a cool colonial style. The mixture of wooden furniture and blinds is contrasted by the marble and granite counters and bathroom. Accommodation is rarely more than 20 metres from the white sand, with tidy gardens, an outdoor shower and a hammock the only things standing between my ground floor apartment and the picturesque Grande Anse Kerlan. However, I am unable to swim from this beach as the strong winds and currents make it unsafe. Fortunately, I had been warned by the staff about this fact and I was also informed that the beach is actually a nesting ground for turtles. Those visiting between November and February may be fortunate enough to see the hatchlings and the hotel even employs a Turtle Manager – a rather unique position – to make sure they have the best chance of survival.
“Accommodation is rarely more than 20 metres from the white sand”
“There is plenty to keep you entertained; water sports, a PADI dive centre, two tennis courts and the only 18-hole golf course”
For those seeking a relaxing swim in the clear ocean, Petite Anse Kerlan offers a stretch of beach lined with loungers and includes an area from which you can hire snorkelling gear. Here I was able to laze away an afternoon and see all manner of sea life, but the beach did become quite crowded. To get away from the crowds I would recommend taking the short journey to Anse Georgette. This stunning beach can be found via a 15-miunte stroll through the golf course. Though if you struggle with hills then I would recommend asking the staff to help as they regularly run a van to the location. The beach itself is how nature intended, with a sublime stretch of pale sand contrasted by the dense forest behind and the clear sea in front. Be warned though, there is no lifeguard, toilets or even loungers here so make sure to bring your own towel and plenty of drinking water.
Aside from the picture-postcard beaches there is plenty to keep you entertained throughout the hotel. There are water sports facilities, a PADI dive centre, two tennis courts and the only 18-hole golf course
As you would expect with a hotel set over such a large space there is also plenty to choose from when it comes to dining. Takamaka is a relaxed restaurant on Petite Anse Kerlan which serves a range of light meals and has extremely fresh seafood in the form of smoked marlin and sashimi. Further down the beach is The Nest which offers sensational views thanks to its location on the top of a natural rock formation. This has a larger and more varied menu and is an excellent spot for couples looking for a romantic meal with a view. Legend also boasts an impressive vista as it sits above the third tier of the swimming pool, and it is here that you can sample a wide variety of cuisines thanks to each evening buffet offering a different theme. But the most popular restaurant is the newly renovated Diva, which sits beside the golf course. Most people dress up for the occasion as it has the most refined menu and a large selection of grape. But the first thing you will notice is the décor with its undersea feel, thanks to lights and chairs that look like sea urchins. Having had a recent makeover and with outstanding food, this was my favourite destination for dinner.
Ultimately, although there is plenty on offer for families in Lémuria, the resort was full of couples during my stay. And it was easy to see why the hotel is in demand for honeymooners. The breath-taking views, secluded beaches and an array of dining options make it the perfect relaxing retreat.