White sandy beaches, palm trees and lots of colorful fish in the sea – BUNTE travel expert Carsten K. Rath travels with you to the islands in the Indian Ocean.
Are you married or planning a wedding? Then you have certainly thought of the Seychelles. The archipelago is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations. Hardly any country comes as close to our idea of a romantic vacation spot as the archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It goes without saying that the stars also feel at home in this paradise: the British heir to the throne William and his wife Kate have honeymooned in the Seychelles, as have George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin. German celebrities, such as Annemarie and Wayne Carpendale, also started their life as a couple in the Seychelles.
I experienced my honeymoon a few years ago. Today I fly here mainly for the lush vegetation and the azure sea. This exuberant greenery gives the islands a Garden of Eden feel. In addition, the Seychelles are a great destination for family holidays, as many of the hotels are tailored to the needs of children. I visit two excellent hotels that are suitable for both families and honeymooners: Raffles Seychelles and Hilton Mango House LXR.
Praslin is the second largest island in the Seychelles. Here lies the Raffles Seychelles. A boat takes me to within a few meters of the hotel. Even from the beach I see red, white and pink flowers, vanilla trees, coconut palms, mango trees, bougainvillea. I can hardly see the villas in which the suites are housed, everything has grown so much here. A veritable jungle stretches across the site. A lot of work for the gardeners, who still make the complex look like a tropical picture book garden.
I actually know Raffles as a very posh brand. Etiquette is particularly important in Singapore, where the group is headquartered. I was there when I was about 25 and wanted to take my wife-to-be out for a bit, drink a Singapore Sling with her in the world-famous Long Bar at Raffles. The Indian doorman, who must be two meters tall, looked at me disparagingly in my flip-flops and shorts, said “Yes, we do have a dress code” and slammed the door in our faces. Luckily, Raffles in the Seychelles is much more relaxed. Flip-flops and shorts are no problem in the restaurants.
I am particularly impressed by the Creole buffet in the evening. It’s a dream for vegetarians and vegans. Of course, meat and especially local fish are also served, but at least half of what is on offer is vegan. And best of all: Everything comes from the hotel’s own vegetable garden. But the hotel also does a lot for the environment in other ways. For example, a proprietary coral program has been developed and the water for showering and drinking comes from the clear river that flows right through the hotel.
In the children’s area of the Raffles, those responsible rely on edutainment: the youngsters learn how the Seychelles came about and how the giant tortoises live here. It reminds me of Robinson’s children’s world, only with a much more focus on sustainability.
I particularly like that you can use everything that is not motorized for free: paddle boats, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards or snorkels. The hotel guests spread out very well on the approximately 1.5 kilometer long beach, even when the hotel is fully booked.
Incidentally, the Raffles Seychelles is managed by a Lebanese woman. Salwa Razzouk worked in one of the best hotels in Beirut for many years before coming to the Seychelles. Her cordial treatment of the guests and her employees determines the atmosphere of the hotel: you immediately feel welcome and at home.
As beautiful as it is on Praslin, I say goodbye and cross over to Mahé, the largest of the Seychelles islands. I check in at Mango House, one of currently four Hilton hotels on the archipelago. In addition to Mango House, owned by Hilton luxury brand LXR, there’s the very affordable Double Tree by Hilton and the family-friendly Hilton Seychelles Northolme on Mahé. So you don’t have to be Bill Gates or Victoria and David Beckham to holiday in the Seychelles too. The fourth property, the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort, is located on the smaller island of Silhouette, northwest of Mahé.
The drive to the Mango House leads through the tropical landscape. The main house was built by Italian fashion and travel photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri, who spent 20 years in the Seychelles. The numerous mango trees with their sweet fruits gave the house its name. It now houses three restaurants — quite a variety for a hotel with only 41 rooms, I think.
The entire hotel area looks like the landscape of Jurassic Park to me. The villas, which are spread over the site at a great distance, are completely overgrown. So you can also enjoy the private pool or your own garden, which some villas have, without being exposed to prying eyes.
Area General Manager Andre Borg from Malta strikes me as particularly positive. He is a Hilton original and a grand hotelier as you would imagine. He has been working in the Seychelles for six years. All four Hilton properties, as well as two new ones that have not yet opened, are under his responsibility. Britta Krug, General Manager of Mango House, is also an excellent hostess: helpful and always in the right place at the right time.
The view from the three restaurants in Barbieri’s former villa is wonderful, from the terraces you look over the beach and the bay. Incidentally, I can particularly recommend the Japanese restaurant here: the South African chef must have lost his heart in Japan, otherwise I can’t explain the excellence of his dishes. A surprise awaits me the next morning: Instead of a buffet, there is a flying breakfast here. I only knew that from gala dinners: the employees bring different dishes to the tables and the guests can try them without going to the buffet themselves. At Mango House, this principle is applied at breakfast. Every two minutes someone comes with a choice of ham, cheese, fish, vegetables or eggs. A great idea I think.
By the way: If you are in the Seychelles for more than a week, I advise you to spend the first few days in the Mango House. Then travel by boat or helicopter to the offshore island of Silhouette and spend the remaining days relaxing at the Hilton Labriz Resort. This is how you experienced the Seychelles at their best.
BUNTE insider tips Seychelles
Restaurant: The Cap Lazar Nature Reserve & Restaurant is very close to the Mango House. Chickens, goats and turtles roam freely here – it’s a true paradise. The organic farm has a private beach and a restaurant where everything that is served is organic.
Excursion: The Vallée de Mai on Praslin is one of the smallest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. Here is the Garden of Eden – the plants are particularly lush and five times larger than elsewhere. The rare coco de mer palm is 30 meters high, its leaves are around 10 meters long and four meters wide, and its seeds, the heaviest in the entire flora, can weigh up to 30 kilograms. Take a guide who can tell you all about the endangered black parrots, the palm trees and the Garden of Eden.