A trip to Soothe the Soul
Venetia van Kuffeler experiences natural wonders and laid-back luxury in the heart of the Seychelles
When I read that ‘sunrise’ yoga was scheduled for 9am, I knew I was going to the right place. Weary and in desperate need of some rest and relaxation, the Seychelles beckoned. And this was a Raffles resort no less – its first ever purpose-built property. Having stayed in the group’s Phnom Penh and Istanbul locations, I was intrigued to discover their island offering entirely devoted to leisure.
It’s a travel writer’s cliché, but the scenery that greets you is enough to soothe the weariest of souls after a long journey. Praslin is the Seychelles’ second-largest granite island, about 40km from the main island of Mahé. With a small population of 7,000, Praslin is a heavenly paradise imbued with some of the most impressive and unspoiled natural beaches and tropical landscapes in the world. The hotel is dotted across 30 acres of lush green hillside on the northern tip of the island, with stunning views of the blue waters of Curiesue Marine National Park laid out before you.
Guests are housed in 86 spacious pool villas, each with spectacular Indian Ocean views, ranging in size from 125 to 275 square metres. Supremely comfortable and contemporary in design, each villa has everything you can think of to be self-contained. Large bathrooms have separate showers and a sunken bath with sea view, plus an outdoor shower for those preferring an al fresco experience. Outside there’s a private plunge pool, and a sheltered pavilion with a day bed and dining table. Honestly, I feel like I could stay here all day. For families, there are two-bedroom Royal Villas – either on the beachfront just steps from the coastline, or high on the hillside with vast, unobstructed views of the ocean. 24-hour Raffles Butler service means that the team is on hand, just minutes away in a short buggy ride.
If you can tear yourself away from your villa, there are seven restaurants and bars to ensure that dining never gets boring. And the spa houses open pavilions allowing guests to listen to the sound of the waves while being tended to by the expert hands of your Raffles Spa therapist.
The crystal-clear and calm waters of Anse Takamaka are ideal for swimming. The area is also a designated Marine National Park with an abundance of marine life, including turtles and endless species of colourful fish. Raffles are happy to arrange swimming and snorkeling boat trips to the surrounding islands of Sister, Felicité and Coco. Some of my happiest moments on the trip were spent swimming through these crystal waters gazing at the sea life. If this isn’t enough activity for you, there is a calendar of organised leisure activities including yoga classes, kayaking, paddle boarding, beach golf and hiking.
Although you may be tempted to stay put, Raffles Praslin also encourage their guests to explore the island. And the charming hotel staff can make this very easy for you. Whether it’s a tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site Vallée de Mai to view the endemic Coco de Mer palm and the rare Seychelles Black Parrot in their natural habitat, sunset cocktails on the famous Anse Lazio beach, or a romantic dinner for two on the beach under the stars, the concieges are happy to assist.
Taking this a step further, Raffles has introduced a new ‘Ranger for a Day’ programme in partnership with the Seychelles National Parks Authority. Offering guests an exclusive environmental experience, the programme takes place on the neighbouring island of Curieuse, which is home to some fascinating wildlife and allows guests to explore areas that are normally off-limits to visitors. Activities include turtle monitoring, lemon shark tagging, or bird nest monitoring, followed by interaction with the giant tortoises, the most popular inhabitants of the island. These prehistoric beasts are something to be seen in person – it was a very special day. There are also snorkelling tours to learn about coral reef protection and even a trek to Anse Jose where visitors have the opportunity to observe the island. Children are even invited to experience the ‘mini-ranger’ programme for half-day sessions.
Like many of the most unspoilt places in the world, Raffles Praslin is not easy to get to. Flights require a changeover in the Middle East, and then there’s a 15-minute plane ride or 45-minute scenic boat ride from Mahé. But once you’re in the resort, it’s more than worth it. Despite being part of a global hotel group, Raffles Praslin has been clever to work with its stunning local attractions, surrounding their guests with a wonderfully warm team of staff from the island.
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