The Seychelles are an island group of 115 islands to the north east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. For much of its history these mostly tiny islands were uninhabited. The first settlers, Austronesians, Maldivians and Arabs, are said to have arrived in the early part of the 16th century. The islands have had a chequered history of rulership. Strategically placed between Africa and Asia, they were initially a haven to pirates, then under French control, then British, then French again and finally British once more. Since 1976 the Republic has been independent and is now part of the African Union. 92.000 people inhabit the islands. Their capital is Victoria on the main island of Mahé. They are predominantly of Creole ethnicity, in other words a mixture of Africans, Asians and Europeans, their main religion is Catholic, and their currency the Seychelles Rupee. Interestingly, the Seychelles have a matriarchal society. Wikipedia tells us that ‘unwed mothers are the societal norm, and the law requires fathers to support their children. Men are important for their earning ability but their domestic role is relatively peripheral.’
I well remember visiting the Seychelles for the first time back in the 1970s and spontaneously bursting into tears during our plane approach to Mahé at quite so much picturesque beauty. Jewel green jungle covered islands with icing sugar white beaches and pure clear aqua waters met my eyes and fulfilled my every desert island fantasy. Since then I have had the privilege of travelling extensively to all four corners of the world. I have visited remote, unspoilt islands and more touristy destinations in the Caribbean, the Maldives, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Micronesia, in Europe and elsewhere, but never ever I have seen anywhere quite so breathtakingly, stunningly magical as the islands of the Seychelles. It is not surprising that Prince William and his then girlfriend Kate chose this Indian Ocean paradise for a make or break holiday when they visited the private Desroches Island in 2007. This review by travel journalist Jess Baldwin www.arbuturian.com/travel/travelfeatures/seychelles tempted us to revisit the archipelago, although this time our destination was to be Praslin, the Seychelles’ second largest island.
From Heathrow we flew by Ethiopian Airways to Addis Ababa and this in itself was an experience not to be missed! Admittedly, we flew business class but, once again, I can say that I have never been so spoilt or been made to feel quite so valued on any other airline. The food offerings alone were superb, the Ethiopian coffee delicious, the attendants smiley and helpful, the lie flat seats comfortable and the general service geared to us individually. 10/10 for Ethiopian Airways!
After a short layover in Addis Ababa, an onward flight to Mahé, and then a twenty minute island plane flight from Mahé , we arrived on Praslin. As I have mentioned before on this blog, the lovely husband and I are are great fans of small boutique hotels rather than the big international chains, so our hotel of choice was the Dhevatara Beach Hotel (www.dhevatara-seychelles.com), with only ten suites and, as the name suggests, a beach location. It was pleasant enough but perhaps not quite up to scratch. As always, it’s the little things that make the difference between high and mediocre standard. Dhevatara just didn’t quite cut the mustard, so to speak. There was a puddle of water left in the in-room Nespresso machine and only four pods of coffee were provided, when those were finished, we were told most emphatically, we would have to pay for more. There were enough towels allocated to the bath but by the shower there was only one for two people, and when another was requested, it was provided only most reluctantly. The bath water was initially not hot and bathroom products were minimal, although there was a very large tube of handwash paste available. The ‘Do not Disturb’ sign was repeatedly ignored. For breakfast, while sitting through the dreadful lift type background muzak, it was impossible to get all the food at the same time, even after several days of requesting it. The waitress looked at us blankly as though we were aliens from outer space each and every morning. There was the odd stain on the white linen napkins. Sadly there was some seaweed on the shoreline of the beautiful beach but, instead of clearing it, a shuttle bus to another beach was laid on only once a day at 10 am. On one occasion, we ate at the restaurant, The Pond, and while we passed on the special of the day, a local speciality of bat curry, the food was not bad. Not amazing but acceptable. If I’m making the hotel sound like a negative experience, then only because I am picking up on the finer detail. In contrast, the room was pretty and comfortable and the grounds quite lovely.
Were I to return, I would chose to stay at the Constance Lemuria Resort (www.constancehotels.com/en/hotels-resorts/seychelles/lemuria/?gclid=CMPC566nrdACFUHGGwodrCEBpQ) which is far superior, in a truly stunning location on Anse Georgette with access to three dreamy beaches and with outstanding service and food. Had we been aware of its existence before exploring the island with our little Mini Moke, this is where we would have booked our stay.
The Lovely Husband celebrated his birthday while we were on holiday, so I took him out for dinner at the very smart Raffles Resort (www.raffles.com/praslin/?cmpid=google_ril-rps-brand-uk-revsh&gclid=CPiY0u2ordACFUVmGwod8bsHHA). This too, is a lovely hotel, very chic and attractively designed and laid out, with a fabulous vista across the sea. However, it is built into a rock cliff and therefore there are an awful lot of stairs to negotiate to get from reception to bar and from bar to the restaurants. It is one of those rather exclusive hotels that could be anywhere in the world within an impressive setting. The atmosphere in the candlelit restaurant was truly romantic and pretty, the service tip top, but our food was not especially wonderful.
This was a running theme throughout our stay in Praslin. Wherever we went to eat, with the exception of a small pizza parlour, the Paradisier Restaurant, opposite the Dhevatara Beach Hotel, and our delicious lunch on the beach at Constance Lemuria, the culinary offerings were thoroughly disappointing. Such a shame really, that on this tropical paradise island, where one deserted dreamy beach adjoins another even more breathtakingly gorgeous, where the lush jungle vegetation ringing with exotic bird song fringes the powdery white sand, and where Mother Nature has bestowed an unimaginable abundance of beauty, so little of this cornucopia is reflected back on to the plate.
At beach restaurant ‘In the Middle’ I was served an inedible club sandwich of cold floppy toast with lashings of mayo in which small shreds of chicken meat were drowning beside tasteless slices of tomato, covered in plastic processed cheese. At La Pirogue, supposedly one of Praslin’s better restaurants, we ate a completely boring tasting creole style fish curry and overdone tuna chunks with capers for the equivalent of £55 for two, while being subjected to Hawaiian style ‘Spanish Eyes’ blaring out in the background, and truly lousy service. Oh but the views! So exceptionally enchanting were they, that we almost forgot to focus on the less than satisfactory food. I guess in life you just can’t have it all.
Praslin is, of course, famous for its emblem, the erotic looking Coco de Mer coconut, a double sea coconut which grows only on Praslin and the neighbouring island of Curieuse. At one time, it was believed that it grew on a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea. It is so suggestive of the female form, that it has given its name to a well-known lingerie shop in London, and its mention always brings on a nudge nudge, wink wink moment.
Talking of the female form, one thing is immediately noticeable on Praslin, the vast majority of local women are built like Sumo wrestlers and are of a quite spectacularly massive size. The men, on the other hand, are of average build or even rail thin. All are friendly but will not go out of their way, particularly. Perhaps the heat and the size slow them down…..
Sadly, our much anticipated and enjoyed treat of a tropical holiday came to an abrupt end far too early. It seems, I caught a nasty virus on the flight out to the Seychelles and subsequently suffered from severe respiratory problems. A trip to the Praslin island hospital brought no relief and we were advised to fly back to Mahé to attend the main Victoria hospital. There, an early return to London for effective treatment was recommended. On these small isolated islands, almost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, miles from anywhere, medical facilities and knowledge are necessarily limited. Bang went our holiday, our return flight with Ethiopian Airways and our exciting planned tour around Addis Ababa in favour of an early dash back home with Emirates. Least said, soonest mended…..
Still, every cloud has a silver lining. Our changed itinerary meant an overnight stay in the capital Victoria on Mahé in the excellent Eden Bleu Hotel (www.edenbleu.com). Had my condition at the time not made me breathless already, this superb hotel would have made me so. The elegant presentation, the lovely room with its view over a marina and the luxurious Charlotte Rhys products in the bathroom, the attentive and helpful staff who couldn’t do enough for us, staying here was the final icing on the Seychellois cake. Most people who travel to the Seychelles will opt for a beach location but to anyone who needs to stay in Victoria, I can’t recommend the Eden Bleu highly enough.
All’s good that ends well. As I write this, I am fully restored back to health. I’m just sorry that our holiday was cut short but despite everything, I have taken with me many magical memories to nurture me until the next time when I pack my bags to go exploring the world.
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