A hedonist's delight in natural surroundings, Lauren Dowey discovers a private oasis in paradise on the Seychelles island of Praslin
Lying just four degrees south of the equator and literally 1,000 miles from anywhere, it’s no wonder the Seychelles’ slogan is ‘Not just another place, another world’. Spanning an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, when you finally touchdown after 11 hours in the air, it’s instantly clear that you’ve landed somewhere truly exotic. With temperatures hovering around 28 to 30°C throughout the year, falling to a low of 24°C in the coolest months, and up to 80 per cent humidity, a wall of sizzling heat hits you no matter when you visit.
Upon landing in Mahé, the largest island, we headed straight to the domestic departures terminal. Essentially a wooden shack with one very smiley lady wishing us a safe flight, it was an early indication that the Seychelles is seriously laid back. Though the main island boasts numerous luxury resorts and 70 characterful beaches, our destination was Praslin – the second largest granite isle.
It takes around an hour to get there by boat or 15 minutes by air, and the second I clapped eyes on the very small, propeller aircraft I was expected to board, the boat suddenly seemed an attractive option. After swallowing my initial fear, I was almost instantly rewarded: the aerial view from the plane took in lush verdant islands punctuating the brilliant blue ocean as far as the eye could see.
Plunge into paradise
Luxury resort Raffles Praslin was our destination and the 30-minute drive takes you from the west to the east of the island: the lack of traffic, abundance of greenery and nigh-on constant coastline whets the appetite for what's to come.
Newlyweds seeking a private oasis in paradise need look no further than Raffles Praslin. Welcomed by the hotel management with a thirst-quenching drink of local coconut water, you'll then be whisked away to your ocean-view villa on a speedy golf buggy – you're on honeymoon so why walk? Its 86 private villas are dotted across the hillside above Takamaka Beach and each one enjoys an unspoilt view of the awe-inspiring Indian Ocean. As is true of all Raffles residences, every villa has its own personal 24-hour butler who will call you in advance of your stay to enquire about your needs and preferences.
Tempted as you might be to head straight to the hotel's glorious white sand beach or take a dip in the biggest swimming pool in the region, take a few minutes to check out the many delights of the villa. A glacé-like plunge pool, vast decked terrace, sun beds and an al fresco shower make sunbathing ajoy. If you encounter a rare rain storm, head indoors to enjoy the huge bed, wide-screen TV, walk-in wardrobe and a bath surrounded on three sides by windows which jut out into the hillside – talk about a view!
Jewel of the ocean
If you can tear yourself away from the villa, the resort is replete with exciting activities and indulgent treats – just dial '0' and a butler with a buggy should appear within minutes to transport you to your destination of choice. Water-lovers should head to the beach where the pool team offers guided snorkelling, paddle-boarding and kayaking, and you can even ride an underwater scooter.
Those who prefer something a little less rigorous should approach the spa. The first ever Raffles Signature Spa, it boasts 13 treatment pavilions, six of which are open to the elements, and two spa suites, which are fitted with steam showers, Japanese soaking tubs and observation decks where you can enjoy the stunning vistas in privacy. There's a myriad of decadent treatments to choose from but the signature Pure Pearl ritual tops my list. Using a therapeutic grade pearl powder, sourced from a black pearl farm that lies just outside the resort, it's 90 minutes of unadulterated bliss. To the soundtrack of the lapping ocean waves, you'll be exfoliated, wrapped in a rehydrating mask and expertly massaged. For pure island luxury, you and your new husband can be pampered side-by-side in one of the spa suites.
The sands of time
Consistently voted in the top five beaches of the world, Anse Lazio is just a hop, skip and a jump away. It's everything you'd expect from paradise, and more. The sparkling warm water is crystal clear and teeming with tiny fish, while the stretch of wondrous white beach is never over-populated. Why not ask your butler to prepare one of the hotel's delicious and varied picnic lunches to take with you and pop in a bottle of fizz too?
If sun-worshipping's not your thing, there's no end of options to keep you entertained on Praslin. Just a 15-minute drive from Raffles, Vallée de Mai, one of the world's smallest natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is a must-see. To understand the secrets of this remarkable palm forest, book a guide to escort you. Home to the famous and magnificent coco de mer palm, as well as hundreds of other endemic plants, and bursting with wildlife, including the elusive black parrot, it's a treasure trove of sights and sounds.
Into the wild
Directly facing the resort and just a short boat ride away, the island of Curieuse is a strictly protected natural landscape. The majority of its residents are the community of land tortoises that has lived peacefully on the island since they were introduced there in the '80s. As well as these charming, giant-like creatures, thousands of mud crabs, snails, birds and terrifyingly large spiders reside there. Curieuse was once a leper colony and the ruins of the houses can still be seen. You'll also stumble upon a large, restored colonial villa, known as the Doctor's House, where the island doctor lived in the 1870s.
Nature trails wind their way across the island, through the extensive swamps, which are home to eight different species of mangrove. It takes less than an hour to trek from one side to the other and you'll be rewarded for your efforts with a deserted stretch of beach and welcoming opal-hued waters to cool off in.
No luxury honeymoon would be complete without sampling some of the delicious local produce, and the Creole cooking of the Seychellois people is worth the trip alone. Specialties include red snapper and jobfish steamed in banana leaf, octopus curry, Creole rice, smoked marlin and millionaire's salad – so-called due to the cost of its main ingredient; hearts of palm.
All of this and more is on offer at Raffles Praslin's two restaurants: Losean offers contemporary Mediterranean cuisine with Indian Ocean influences, while Curieuse specialises in sumptuous seafood.
♥ Sunrise pilates on the beach – a revitalising way to start the day
♥ Oysters and muscadet aperitifs followed by sushi, sashimi and sake at the pool bar
♥ Private seafood barbecue dinner on the beach – toast your newlywed status under the stars
You may like to:
♥ Take advantage of the fitness classes at the Movement Pavilion; anyone for zumba?
♥ Attend a cocktail class at the pool bar where you can prepare your favourite Raffles concoction
♥ Charter a private helicopter flight to take you on a tour of the islands
For a magical post-wedding getaway, check out Raffles Praslin's Honeymoon in Paradise package. It includes an exclusive stay in one of the spacious villas, champagne on arrival and once during your visit, butlers will transform your suite into a romantic haven with a freshly filled rose petal bath. Newlyweds are also treated to a romantic dinner under the stars, with a candlelit set-up on the beach and a dedicated team for service, a 60-minute side-byside massage at the spa and delicious daily breakfast, either in Losean restaurant or in the privacy of your villa. Prices start at £570 per night.