The Seychelles; palm-fringed white beaches, balmy waters, lush green islands and the warm embrace of a golden sun!
We arrived at Mahé airport, and despite the long flight we were given a tonic by the big-hearted hospitality and genuinely friendly welcome from our driver, who smoothly whisked us through a twenty minutes journey along a zigzag of narrow country roads to the Bel Ombre Jetty, where we were greeted by the reception team from Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, ready for our short 45-minute voyage to Silhouette Island which is located just 20 km northwest of Mahé.
We knew that we had arrived at our own little piece of paradise; Hilton Seychelles Labriz, a picturesque resort carved out of the lush tropical mountains that reaches down to the balmy clear waters of the Indian Ocean, that sparkle with hints of azure and aquamarine, gently lapping against the powdery white sand of the picture-perfect postcard beach. The resort is perched in front of a shallow lagoon enjoying amazing views towards North Island and Mahé. Most of the island is a national park, offering unspoilt walking trails, and the waters surrounding Silhouette are a marine reserve.
The stunning villas have a distinct character. The spacious rooms, with their spectacular ocean views, are tastefully furnished, deep soft sofas set by the large picture window, the bathrooms have a separate bathtub, walk-in shower and open up onto a private garden, complete with private outdoor rain-showers, and of course king-size comfortable beds, all complemented by the light hues from a palette of natural colours offering a light airy atmosphere. Each villa is equipped with every modern convenience including Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs and DVD players.
“Your own little piece of paradise; Hilton Seychelles Labriz, a picturesque resort carved out of the lush tropical mountains”.
The Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort truly offers a glimpse of a peaceful life that warmly envelops you in an almost hypnotic sense of well-being, only to find that you have basked most of the day away; lying lazily by the beach, reading a book, swimming in the ocean, or just sipping on a cool drink while soaking up the sun. There is plenty to choose from for those feeling more energetic; take a hike through the rainforest or set out on a kayaking or diving adventure.
The expansive public areas feature acres of polished marble and tropical hardwood decking, water features and a natural freshwater lagoon crossed by an arched pedestrian bridge. The staff are warm and willing to help, but the service is not especially dynamic; hotel facilities include a well-equipped gym, a PADI five-star diving centre as well as tennis courts, a large pool, and spa that offers a wide range of treatments and massages.
We decided to go snorkelling, and once the safety procedures were given we were given the green light and our underwater adventure began. The waters were teeming with life; green sea and hawksbill turtles, stingrays, jellyfish, white tip sharks, and variety of tropical fish, including – Butterflyfish, Queen Angelfish, Hump-head Parrotfish, Regal Tang, Clownfish, Zebrafish, and Napoleon Wrasses to name but a few.
After the exertions of snorkelling we opted to try the Creole cooking class and lunch. To start we made – mango and smoked Marlin salad which was an explosion of flavours; we were quite surprised to see so many unusual ingredients working so well together. The fish was delectable, so much so that we’ll be trying this dish at home! For the mains, we made Octopus curry; a native Seychelles’ dish, and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to try something different. For dessert we made Banana Ladob, which was sweet, thick, creamy and rich in flavour. All the ingredients complemented each other perfectly, particularly the cocoa nut milk – really yummy!
The resort boasts seven restaurants, including a pizzeria and Grann Kaz, which is set in an old plantation house, Japanese at the Teppanyaki as well as Italian fine dining at Portobello restaurant. Breakfast is served at Café Dauban, offering a lavish selection of international dishes from dim sum and noodles to cereals and fresh fruits.
Grann Kaz is set in a historic plantation house located within its own private enclave in Village La Passe, just a short stroll away. Once home to the Dauban family, the former owners of the island, the building has been restored with an homage to the island’s rich English and French heritage, and to reflect modern Seychellois chic, creating an intimate restaurant
Enjoy modern Italian cuisine amidst the contemporary elegant chic décor at Portobello as you enjoy stunning views of Mount Dauban. Dine in air conditioned comfort, or eat al fresco on the terrace beside the tranquil lake.
Our meal offered mixed-blessings, but on the whole was an enjoyable experience; the starter of Carpaccio di Manzo – beef carpaccio, aged Parmesan and white truffle oil was disappointing, the meat lacked flavour and texture, and was cut too thick; whilst the Prosciutto, Caprino e Pesca – Parma ham, goat’s cheese and roast peach salad, was OK, although the goat’s cheese caprine was golden with the right amount of crispy crumb on the outside was totally devoid of any goats cheese on the inside. To follow we had Costolette di Agnello – grilled lamb chops, aubergine caponata, rosemary potatoes. The meat was served, as requested, medium with just right amount of pink in the centre, unfortunately the rosemary potatoes hard and the vegetables were swimming in oil. Conversely the Spaghetti Bolognese, ordered off-menu; the fresh cooked beef ragout and golden spaghetti was a delight. To complete our meal, we both decided to try the Tiramisu Quasi Classico – a traditional tiramisu, with vanilla ice cream, which was lovely and creamy with a slight crunchiness and a coating of powdered chocolate. A definite must have!
Having sampled the delights of Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort we changed location to the peaceful couples retreat of The Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa which is located on the west coast of Mahé, and overlooks Beau Vallon Bay. The hotel is a quiet, secluded couples retreat, and the beach has the feel of a hidden desert island cove, set in a lush tropical paradise. The al fresco restaurants and lobby have high wooden ceilings in the classic Seychellois style. The palette of brown hues and marble are highlighted with turquoise accents lending an airy feel that lends itself to a relaxing stay far from the urban bustle of city life. This romantic atmosphere tends to draw couples, and children under 12 are not allowed.
The Hilton Seychelles Northolme consists of large, private villas, which all enjoy sea views and have private decks. The Beach Villas are closer to reception and the resort’s restaurants, whilst the Hillside Villas are quieter and more secluded; but whatever you pick, you won’t go wrong. The décor is contemporary chic with swathes of natural woods, cane and four-poster canopy beds, draped with white curtains for that romantic touch. The walls are adorned with vibrant art, the balconies are spacious, and the amenities plentiful, from flat-screen TVs and DVD players to espresso makers and mini-bars. The natural bathrooms have free-standing tubs and open showers and fabulous ocean views.
Nestling beside a strip of white-sand the hotel’s freeform infinity pool appears to flow into the Indian Ocean; and there are ample sun beds and beach umbrellas for poolside lounging. If you are looking for something a little less busy there’s also a free shuttle to nearby Beau Vallon Beach. On-site activities include free kayaking and snorkelling, a 24-hour fitness centre loaded with state-of-the-art cardio and weight equipment, with a private sun terrace for a post-workout break. Try the yoga pavilion or on-site. Duniye Spa which offers spa and beauty treatments, including Balinese, Thai, and Swedish massage along with Reiki energy work. And the hotel’s gift shop sells clothing, handicrafts, souvenirs, and the usual holiday necessities such as sunscreen.
There are three restaurants at the resort, Les Cocotiers is a fine-dining restaurant serving Creole cuisine. The Hilltop Restaurant serves buffet-style meals, and The Ocean-view Bar and Restaurant serves snacks, signature cocktails, and fresh fruit juices and often features live music performances. with 24-hour room service for those who would rather dine in their villas.
The Hilltop Restaurant enjoy stunning panoramic views. Relax in the casual, dining room and savour the delights of local and international buffet menus for breakfast and dinner. Watch the expert chefs prepare your meal at the live cooking stations and don’t miss the exciting Creole evening on Mondays with authentic Creole food and local entertainment. Les Cocotiers Restaurant offers fine dining under the stars. Eat al fresco restaurant and enjoy spectacular ocean views as you choose from the à la carte menu that features a range of Creole-international fusion dishes. And unwind in the stylish interiors of the Ocean View Bar or on the decked balcony for views of ocean coves and starlit nights. Sip on the finest international cocktails and freshly squeezed juices, as the strains of live music make for the perfect accompaniment to any sunset.
We dined at Les Cocotiers, to start I had the Coconut Crusted Shrimp with passion fruit and chilli, the dish was elegantly plated and the portion size was just right; the coconut crust providing the perfect foil to each mouthful of moist shrimp with every bite. The vegetables garnish was just the correct amount of sweet and coated ever so pleasingly with a light dressing, the perfect appetizer! For our mains, we ordered – rib eye and fillet. The Rib eye was served on a slab of slate, which whilst looking attractive, just isn’t how fine food should be served. The portion sizes were generous, although upon reflection there was far too much fat left on the steak. The meat was juicy, flavourful and perfectly cooked. The peppercorn sauce seasoned this dish beautifully, but was a little on the watery side. Pleasingly the sides of baked potato wedges and crispy onion rings were just right. The fillet was lean, tender, it was just a shame there wasn’t more of it. The steak was cooked as requested, and the peppercorn sauce gave it the little kick it needed. To top of the meal we ordered Island mess local tropical fruit mini meringues vanilla cream rum and chocolate sauce and Pineapple, tartan vanilla ice cream. Both desserts were pleasant but just too much, even for my sweet tooth.
Having caught the bug earlier in the week we decided to take the Cooking Class At Hilltop. For our starters we had – Tuna tartare, Pan Seared Scallop and Salmon Roe. The presentation of this dish was sublime, it was minimal, elegant, and pleasing to the eye. The fresh tuna steak, seared for a minute each side, the buttered seasoned scallops bounced off the other ingredients on the plate well and the Salmon Roe had a subtle, mild flavour, both plates were cleared and our mains then brought over. For our mains we tried – slow cooked snapper, buttered vegetables, green mussels, crusted potato served with confit pumpkin puree and café au lait. The Red Snapper was sweet and had a lean, firm moist texture, served over golden-crusted potatoes, and mussels. The flavours of the snapper were delightful, and the meat flaked effortlessly from the fish. The crunch of the potatoes balanced the flavour and texture beautifully. The mussels were soft, and added a touch of salt, and the pumpkin puree was thick and creamy. Dessert was a mouth-watering fruit platter that consisted of; passion fruit, pineapple, kiwi, melon, orange, banana, strawberry, pomegranate, and star fruit. www3.hilton.com
Mahé Day Trip
If you have the time (or inclination) it’s worth taking a visit around Mahé. We took a tour a spacious, comfortable air-conditioned car. Visit the Mission Lodge Heritage site, to see the foundations of Venn’s town ruins that had mostly been covered due to dense forest vegetation. Go to the viewing platform, where you can read about the historical events, and admire the numerous valleys and coastline. See the Seychelles Little Ben clock tower monument, situated in the centre of a busy, small roundabout in Victoria, and then on to on to St Paul’s cathedral where you can admire the beautiful stain glass windows and architecture of the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar (Hindu) Temple, which is quite deceptive, looking small from the outside yet spacious inside. The Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market offers as a wide variety of arts and crafts, fish, fruits, flowers, spices, and clothes. Tucked away at the end of the high street away from all the hustle and bustle is the News Café; worth a stop for a short break, to escape the hot and humid market. Try coconut and vanilla ice cream accompanied by two bottles of Seybrew (the local hops). The coconut ice cream is refreshing, milky and the small chunks of coconut are heavenly. The botanical garden is a must for nature enthusiasts and offers a 30-minute tour around the exotic and unique flora of Mahé. www.creoletravelservices.com