Asia may have Bali and the Maldives, but Africa has the Seychelles. An archipelago just off the coast of Madagascar, the Seychelles are blessed with powder-white beaches, lush rainforest canopies, and winding roadways that hug unending picturesque coastlines. Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the world’s largest raised coral atoll, the Aldabra, the once-dubbed “Garden of Eden,” and the Vallee de Mai, are major draws to this island with a population just over 90,000.
In 2002, Banyan Tree Seychelles became the first five-star resort to open on this island and has well maintained its position as Seychelles’ nonpareil property. Although other elite resorts have sprouted around the island, Banyan Tree Seychelles alone enjoys the coveted spot along the beach of Intendance Bay. The bay is a semi-circle of brilliant aquamarine waves, a cream colored beach, and a hillside of dense tropical foliage. While I stood on the porch of the lobby while checking in, I was in near disbelief at how vivid the natural colors were. Even better, the beach wasn’t congested with jet skis, kayaks or other assorted water toys that usually diminish a stunning setting.
Six accommodation options are offered at the hotel, and all are compelling choices. The hillside villas include elevated panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and Intendance Bay while the beachfront villas give direct access to the perfect sand. Each of the resort’s 60 villas evoke French and English plantation design, while the interiors are comprised of locally-made art pieces, woven textiles and furnishings. The thoughtful Creole-style design is blended with local touches and provides a timeless air. Perhaps this everlasting aesthetic is purposeful, since I’m sure no guest wants to feel the passage of time.
Each beachfront villa, a mini-estate really, boasts an impressive private pool, outdoor shower, veranda, hot tub and sun loungers. The outdoor portion of the residence is just as large as the indoor quarters. The beach is a few feet from the edge of palm trees that shelter each villa. All meals can be served on the beach or patio, and you just might have to be coaxed to ever leave your room.
One restaurant surely worth the stroll up to the main lobby is Saffron, the signature Thai restaurant found at every Banyan Tree resort. Saffron happens to be Seychelles’ only Thai restaurant, and it showcases traditional dishes such as fresh red snapper in a chili lime sauce, refreshing lemongrass laced tom kaa gai, and perfect som tam, the staple spicy papaya salad. Reservations are suggested, as many tourists and staff from other properties flock to this destination restaurant.
Along with its prized restaurant is the Banyan Tree Seychelles’ spa. Although the brand has 30 resorts in its international collection, the hospitality group is known more for its 70 spas than solely its hotels. This particular spa is a treetop retreat within an already spectacular setting. Many of the treatment rooms are outdoor suspended platforms, shrouded by a canopy of flowering vines and graceful tree limbs. The list of Asian-inspired services include Banyan Tree signature Rainmist experiences and the Royal Banyan Herbal Pouch Massage.
It’s difficult not to fall in love with the scenery, sublime local lifestyle, in Seychelles, not to mention the Banyan Tree. I must admit I was subtly pleased to have my international flight to Madagascar cancelled due to a labor strike because it meant I could stay an extra two days at this marvelous property.