You could close your eyes in The Seychelles, listen to the Creole spoken by the locals, hear the dancehall reggae (alongside the local “seggae”) that plays on nearly every radio station, and smell the warm sea air, and swear you were in the Caribbean. The comparison is, of course, severely flawed. The Seychelles, a cluster of mostly granitic islands (meaning The Seychelles is a result of spinning off from the supercontinent Gondwana more than 100 million years ago rather than being a more recent volcanic creation), is a place like no other.
Félicite, The Private Island
From the fruit bats that fly from island to island in search of mangos to the sea turtles and tortoises that inhabit the islands to the spectacularly tall Coco de Mer trees that bear the biggest seeds in the world, The Seychelles are an ecological marvel. And it’s that way on purpose—former President France-Albert “The Boss” René, who ruled the country as a “benevolent dictator” from 1977 to 2004, started the Environmental Management Plan, which kicked off a popular wave of environmentalism and sustainable development that carries on to today. Which is to say, The Seychelles are a serene spot for a hammock filled vacation in nature.
There is no place better to settle on than Six Senses Zil Pasyon, situated on a small outer island called Felicité. Six Senses are an up-and-coming resort and spa brand with 11 properties and 18 more spas popping up in unexpected places throughout the world (they’re announcing six more openings in the next year in far-flung places like Bali, Fiji, and Bhutan), and Zil Pasyon is one of the jewels in their crown.
The best way to access Felicité is via an 18-minute flight with ZilAir, a deluxe private helicopter service (they recently carted John Cleese and a teddy bear—it got its own seat—to Felicité) that flies low enough over the water that you can see the dolphins and whale sharks in the deeper channels.
Felicité is one of those places where you can either just relax on a lounge chair on the beach for a week and decompress, or find any number of adventures in the Indian Ocean. For those in need of de-stressing, the beautiful spa is dramatically built into rolling granite, and offers excellent customized service. There’s an integrated wellness program (Dr. Oz is on the Six Senses Wellness Board) that provides personalized sleeping and eating recommendations during your stay.
For the more adventurous traveler, Six Senses Zil Pasyon will provide you with a kayak to take out to Ile Coco, a tiny islet that’s famous to snorkeling and diving enthusiasts with its populations of stingrays, sharks, Hawksbill sea turtles (a critically endangered species), and barracudas. Your Guest Experiences Manager (GEM) will even set up a picnic of sandwiches and champagne on the tiny island.
The property isn’t lacking of its own activities. Hike around the island’s uninhabited spaces with resident permaculturalist Steve Hill, who will show you endemic species like the Coco de Mer and the impossibly rare Wright’s gardenia, a beautiful smelling flower only found in The Seychelles. Relax with some archery or boules (a French game similar to bocce). And, of course, enjoy the most spectacular technicolor sunsets you’ll ever see (almost all of the villas have an ocean view).
The villas themselves are remarkable, set high up on the side of the hill overlooking the water, but each of them completely remote and secluded. Each villa comes with a private infinity pool, a full deck, a rope swing in the bathroom, and all the modern conveniences (that you won’t need).
The restaurants are all excellent, flush with Creole flavors, with most of the ingredients sourced from the resorts gardens and orchards. The executive chef, Richard Lee, only serves up ethical catches, and there are amazing sustainable tunas and local lobster to sample at Ocean Kitchen, Island Café, and Koko Bar. Secret tip: you’ll want to book a hillside cocktail, followed by a romantic private barbecue at the Boulodrome. Follow that up with a nightcap at Lakanbiz (a Creole word for “no formula”) where resident mixologist Javan Otieno will serve you up his selection of rums infused with local vanilla, cinnamon, chilis, or bananas.
Before departing the archipelago, I highly recommend taking a trip to Mahé, the main island of The Seychelles. The small city of Victoria (which calls itself “the smallest capital city in the world”) has the amazing Sir Selwyn Clarke Market, where local fishmongers sell tuna and snapper under the watchful eye of hungry herons perched nearby. Marie-Antoinette is a can’t-miss restaurant that serves fruit bat curry, the national dish. And the Beau Vallon bay district is a sort of all-night party that concludes with a group of players performing slave songs (called Moutia) by a bonfire while tourists and locals drink palm wine (“callou toddy”) and eat breadfruit and shark chutney.
Images courtesy of The Six Senses Zil Pasyon