These dreamy islands in the Seychelles should be on your bucket list, says JANE MEMMLEROn April 15, 2018 by Margot
At the resort you have your own private pool and may not even stumble across another guest
“Would you like to come to see the turtles hatching on Grand Anse beach?”
Not losing a second, I quickly threw a frock over my dripping hair and beat a watery path to the door, just as my taxi – well, electric golf cart – was screaming to a halt outside.
My driver, clearly as anxious as I to witness this rare event, pushed the boundaries of battery power careering around the winding roads that carve through the lush gardens down to the beach.
There in faint moonlight we watched, alongside the island’s sustainability manager, Anna Zora, as 121 baby Hawksbill sea turtles made the dash of their lives down to the safety of the sea, beyond reach of predator crabs darting furiously over the sand.
Félicité is one of 115 islands that make up the paradise archipelago that is the Seychelles and Grand Anse is just one of the protected beaches where turtles feel so comfortable that, at last count, 51 nests have been laid.
Conservation is taken seriously here and the intention of protecting and reintroducing the island’s endemic species, both animal and flora, are primary objectives for the government and the managers of Félicité Island, hotel operator Six Senses.
Zil Payson is the island’s only resort, occupying a third of this lush one-mile-square granitic plot while the other two thirds is covered with vegetation, some of which has invaded Félicité, according to island ecologist, Steve Hill.
His mammoth task is to restore the island’s indigenous botanic species once he’s managed to raise the $2.5 million needed for this worthy project.
Getting to the Seychelles has just become so much easier with British Airways’ new twice-weekly direct route from Heathrow.
In just under 10 hours we touched down on Mahé, where we picked up our helicopter transfer, (as you do) for the 50-minute flight to Félicité.
Swooping low over dozens of rocky outcrops edged by talcum powder beaches lapped by luminous water, is like flying over a tropical film set – each island having been styled with prerequisite swaying palms, granite boulders and bordered by white fringes of foam caressing the shoreline.
Félicité is just one of the protected beaches where turtles feel comfortable to hatch nests
We do, indeed, feel like movie stars as we land on the island’s helipad at the edge of the resort and are presented with cool scented towels and fresh tropical juice.
I survey stupendous surroundings, neat lawns and a beach adorned with lanterns in front of an elegant open-air restaurant and bar where hammock- style seats sway in the breeze under the eaves.
Acting as a border between the lawn and the sea is a long, inviting pool with a wide deck.
What strike me most however are the graduating shades of the water, deep turquoise to jade green and lapis lazuli, quite simply, out of this world.
The feel is that of a relaxed beach house with young staff, eager to please, in bright polo shirts and khaki shorts effortlessly delivering five-star service – whether it be carrying a kayak to the water or serving ice cold beers on the beach.
Just off the island lies a coral nursery which you can snorkel over.
An ingenious series of ropes suspended underwater holds 1,800 fragments of coral that survived the El Nino, which devastated 95 per cent of the reef.
They are entwined in its strands and grow in their own little hammocks.
It is maintained by two freedivers who clean the ropes with toothbrushes and small knives each day.
After 12 months, it will be transplanted in a nearby protected area.
An 130-year-old turtle, called Theo, lives on the island
Beyond Félicité’s impressive eco-creditionals, holidaying here couldn’t be more relaxed.
Shoes are redundant as is anything vaguely resembling formality.
It’s a bikini/ kaftan/shorts kind of place.
There are no cars, only golf buggies to take you wherever you want to go and they seem to appear just as you need one, whether you’re on the beach or at your villa.
If you’re strong of calf you can tackle by bicycle some of the steep roads which carve through the ferns and palms up to the gigantic granite boulders crowning the island, dodging the occasional chicken.
Alternatively, there’s a gym enclosed in a glass box overlooking the uninhabited Big Sister and Little Sister islands and yoga is taken in a pavilion reached via a rope swing bridge.
One memorable night, we watched the sunset from the clifftop, sipping champagne sitting on large white beanbags while bats with giant wingspans swooped overhead – an experience that will be hard to beat.
I’m rather ashamed to say it doesn’t take long to become accustomed to the exclusivity of a one-resort island.
And there’s nothing snobby or stuffy about Six Senses.
Whatever your bank balance, the welcome is the same, the vibe laid-back.
The 30 secluded villas, all sea facing, are designed to strict Six Senses specifications: glass that doesn’t allow in heat, low wattage bulbs, stone floors, sustainable locally made toiletries – although I doubt the Japanese-style loos with heated seats and water jets would pass – and the double-seated wooden swing in the bathroom was rather baffling.
Dark wood beds swathed in mosquito nets and Mediterranean-blue soft furnishings offer a five-star treehouse vibe.
A minibar with freshly made coconut water among wines and champagne, and complimentary coconut balls and coconut crisps were so addictive, I had to call my butler to have them removed.
Outside is your sublime private pool, dining table and sunloungers overlooking the sea.
I begin to appreciate why I barely saw another guest.
From here I spotted designer Diane von Fürstenberg and her billionaire husband, Barry Diller on their superyacht.
Lunch on the beach comes in the form of bento boxes with salads and fresh fruit, laid out on striped rugs under leaning palms while dinner is an exploration of superb Creole cuisine when one can feast on grilled lobster and tuna with prawn and mango salads in the open-air Ocean Kitchen or on the sand at the Boulodrome.
Two of the islands’ original A-frame bungalows are still in use as a kids’ club and day bungalow and were where well-travelled ex-PM Tony Blair once stayed, as did Richard Branson, prior to the Six Senses acquisition.
We become nature buffs during a walk with Steve to the Vallée de Mai (palm forest).
You can enjoy stunning views and the sunset up on the cliff, overlooking the sea
We city slickers clumsily clamber over rocks, through curtains of banyan tree roots, past towering pines and through the thick takamaka and Phoenicophorium palm trees, whose leaves are used in roofs.
We dodge spiders, frozen in elaborate webs as big as cinema screens.
When asked about the possibility of introducing Mediterranean bougainvillea, Steve replies, “Not on my watch!”
We take pictures and smirk at the giant nut of the female coco-de-mer palm (resembling a woman’s bottom) and that of the male, complete with a catkin – a phallus-shaped tube studded with yellow flowers.
It’s no wonder it’s an endangered species.
Where Félicité is all about the fauna, Frégate Island Private, an hour away by boat, is all about the Giant Aldabra tortoises – 3,500 of them in fact.
Equally minuscule, Frégate is infinitely wilder than Félicité.
Jane explored the islands by kayak
The jungle is dense, the birdlife prolific and of course the tortoises really do have the run of the place.
One can see why it’s known as Castaway Island.
A graveyard sits behind the tiny marina which dates back to the 1700s when the island was covered in plantations, and beyond is a pretty open-fronted church with icons made of shells and stained glass windows depicting the isle’s natural resources.
It’s also markedly lush with palms so thick and so perfect, leaning towards the shore, you have to pinch yourself that it’s all real.
It was here I met Theo.
At around 130 years old and utterly charming, he likes nothing better than having his neck stroked.
The tortoises are particularly partial to the open-air spa at the top of the island where they wander around the outdoor pool and enjoy any free bananas.
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Frégate is a place of legends.
It is thought that pirate La Buse, who stole gold from a ship bound for the Vatican, brought the treasure to Frégate.
As late as the 1970s some of the loot was still being unearthed and is rumoured now to be in Mauritius.
We hear this captivating tale from Wayne Kafcsak, the island’s managing director, during our Pirate Ruin trail walk.
Remnants of walls and wells indicate that there were fortified dwellings here long ago.
These days guests stay in more salubrious surroundings, and in complete privacy and seclusion if they want.
Sixteen Dutch-colonial style villas – dark wood, huge pools and vast decks – mean many stay put.
They’re as big as small houses with dining areas, enormous lounges, massive bedrooms.
Each property comes with a golf buggy offering hours of fun driving around the island behaving as if it’s your own.
Beyond the beaches the dense forest, thick with indigenous species such as takamaka trees, Wright’s gardenia and tortoises, is alarmingly reminiscent of Jurassic Park.
I half expected a dinosaur to come bounding down the grassy slopes.
Getting there: British Airways (0844 493 0787/ ba.com) offers return flights from London Heathrow to Mahé from £869.
Six Senses (0808 234 7200/sixsenses.com) offers a Hideaway Room at Six Senses Zil Pasyon from £1,190 per night, B&B.
Oetker Collection (dialling from the UK: +49 72 21 900 99 22/ oetkercollection. com) offers a Private Pool Villa from £2,840 per night, full board.
Zil Air (zilair.com) offers helicopter transfers from Mahé to Félicité from £800 (seats four). Seychelles tourism: seychelles.travel