Charlotte Dunn visits Seychelles and discovers that it’s not just pampering and luxury
It is not often our travels bring us face to the shell with a tortoise the size of a coffee table and twice the age of the UAE.
But one thing swiftly becomes apparent on meeting one of the oldest residents of Silhouette Island – like us humans they enjoy a good selfie.
Witnessing a family of pensionable age Aldabra tortoises is one of the inimitable charms yielded by the third island in the Seychelles system.
Less than five hours flight from the UAE, there’s no disputing this Indian Ocean archipelago belongs to an elite list of dream holiday destinations. Indeed, Seychelles is dotted with top-drawer resorts befitting its reputation.
But there’s more to this nation than infinity pools and perfect beaches, such as natural beauty, incredible creatures and diverse landscapes – something Hilton’s three Seychelles hotels truly capture.
Not least Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, a 111-villa escape delivering a family-friendly vibe and discreet couples hideaways.
Accessed via ferry from Hilton’s dedicated jetty beside the nation’s capital Victoria, Silhouette’s sole resort utilises a stunning location blessed with endless white sands fringed by lush tropical gardens and rich rainforest and a choice of accommodation embracing those elements.
These villas range from one bedroom to King Presidential, beachfront or hillside with pool.
Our King Garden Villa boasted a high wooden ceiling, modern fixtures, a terrace with loungers and a spacious bathroom with tub and rain showers inside and in a secluded rear garden.
A long list of activities, from tennis, cycling or giant chess in the grounds to snorkeling and diving beyond, offer the chance for families to re-connect – while there’s enough seclusion for honeymooners or anniversary couples to retreat.
Walking and jogging paths access seven F&B opportunities, from Mediterranean fine dining at Portobello and casual beach bar/diner 4th Degree to Asian outlet Sakura and Grann Kaz, serving authentic Creole creations such as octopus curry and sausage rougay in a restored plantation house.
The Eforea spa occupies one of the most dramatic settings, with treatment rooms and a hot tub nestled amid ancient tumbled volcanic rocks and rainforest.
Guided or self-led hiking routes lead further into the hilly foliage to Belle Vue and stunning panorama or secluded Anse Mondon, as large fruit bats frequently fly overhead.
A boat trip gets you to the far side of this national park-designated island to meet those protected giant tortoises, while a nature talk in Lo Brizan Bar reveals more about the island’s ecosystem.
Environmental efforts are evident at Labriz, from banning plastic straws to issuing souvenir aluminum bottles that can be re-filled at water stations around the resort.
Similar efforts are underway on main island Mahé, where increasing numbers of UAE visitors head for the wonderful Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa.
This smaller villa-only hotel, perched on the northern coast, is benefitting from regular Emirates flights bringing a surge in last minute bookings and long weekenders.
Balconies on Northolme’s hillside wooden villas overlook the sweeping Beau Vallon Bay; some directly, others nestled within rainforest.
There’s more opportunity to spot dolphins from the perfectly placed Hilltop Restaurant over breakfast or while indulging in fusion dishes powered by local Creole cuisine at the sublime Les Cocotiers restaurant.
In an earlier incarnation, this resort was favoured by James Bond author Ian Fleming and Oceanview Bar & Restaurant celebrates the connection with photographic memorabilia and views that inspired the writer to pen For Your Eyes Only.
Both the gym running machines, the spa - where couples and individuals can enjoy a range of treatments - and a perfectly-placed infinity pool provide panoramic angles on the stunning bay.
Northolme is proud of its efforts to help restore the Seychelle’s El Nino-damaged reef system and you can learn more snorkeling alongside one of the resort’s marine conservationists.
There’s even an opportunity to adopt a piece of coral and be kept in touch with its progress via the Marine Conservation Society.
This passion for the environment extends to south Mahé and Hilton’s remaining Seychelles resort.
Conservation work is evident at DoubleTree by Hilton Seychelles - Allamanda Resort & Spa where you’ll find a coral nursery beside its restaurant, Les Palms.
An open kitchen also vies for your attention at night, while at breakfast the sound of the ocean beckons.
Ample decking flanks a well-appointed pool and a standalone spa offering more pampering. Further steps lead to a self-contained private beach and waves loaded with inquisitive fish.
A more affordable option than its Hilton cousins, the DoubleTree also offers sea-facing rooms, including King Deluxe options sporting a jacuzzi tub on the balcony.
The hotel is a good starting point for exploring the rest of an island that’s about the length of the drive between Dubai’s two airports.
Reception can organise a driver to take you to secluded bays and beaches or to lofty vistas, such as the Mission Lodge ruins for views of central Mahé and the west coast.
You might even glimpse the wind farm built with assistance from the UAE as it aids the island’s renewable power and education needs - alongside exporting growing numbers of travellers keen to sample this slice of paradise.
FIND prices and availability at Hilton’s Seychelles resorts by clicking here. There are daily flights to Mahé from Abu Dhabi International Airport, with Air Seychelles, or from DXB with Emirates.