The Hilton Worldwide Resorts group has long held a reputation for reliable, comfortable and luxurious accommodation. Wanted discovered on a recent visit to the island paradise of the Seychelles that going the extra mile to treat guests like family is what sets its resorts apart from the crowd.
The Seychelles comprises about 115 coral and volcanic islands dotted across the Indian Ocean, just northeast of Madagascar. Many of the islands are uninhabited and the relatively small population of this tropical paradise — just short of 90 000 citizens — means there is a tangible feel of community spirit.
The Seychellois are friendly and welcoming, with a true appreciation of the uniqueness of their home, and how important it is to preserve it.
Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa
This resort is located on Mahé, the Seychelles’s most populous island. The Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa is a historic landmark about 40 minutes from Seychelles International Airport, just outside Victoria.
It’s most famously known as the island getaway for James Bond creator Ian Fleming, and much of the inspiration for his book For Your Eyes Only was drawn from his stay here. You’re guaranteed peace and isolation in Northolme’s new private villas that blend in with the serene tropical surroundings. Each villa has its own private deck and splash pool, with an uninterrupted view of the lazy Indian Ocean. If you tire of your own company, there’s always snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of Northolme’s private beach.
A warm welcome
Guests at the Hilton Northolme are greeted by staff in the welcome pavilion like long-time friends arriving home after a journey. A cool and crisp white towel to remove the airplane grime, along with a garland of brightly coloured island flowers and a refreshing coconut cocktail, all conspire to make you feel like royalty.
Unofficial, inter-hotel competitions are held to determine the most skilled towel origami artist. There’s nothing quite like arriving back to your room after a long day on the beach to be greeted by a personalised message crafted from palm fronds and a little sea creature lovingly moulded using soft white bath sheets. During my stay, I encountered sea turtles, swans, lotus flowers, and elephants.
Spice of life
If you can pull yourself away from the buffet tables and deckchairs, venture out to Anse Royale on the southern tip of the island for a visit to Le Jardin du Roi, a working spice farm and homestead still owned and operated by a descendant of the original family that settled on the island in the early 20th century. The Seychelles were an important spice trading hub through the 19th and 20th
centuries, supplying Europe’s insatiable appetite for essential oils. Amble through the plantation’s lush garden and then take a break from the heat on the deck of the restaurant, where the dishes and drinks are all made using ingredients from the garden.
Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa
The diamond in the crown of Hilton’s offering in the Seychelles, Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa is nestled on the achingly beautiful white sand beaches of Silhouette island, a 40-minute ferry trip from Mahé. Silhouette’s steamy tropical beauty seems to be taken from the pages of a pulp romance novel, complete with pirates, buccaneers, and buried treasure. Labriz is the only hotel located on Silhouette and the Seychelles government’s strict tourism development laws preventing overcrowding mean that there’s a unique feeling of privacy. North Island, the ultra-exclusive honeymoon and vacation destination for royals and celebrities alike, is a stone’s throw away from its pristine shores.
Eat your heart out
Labriz’s lively executive chef Josu Sedano is a master of Creole cuisine. Sedano hosted us for a cooking course on the wide, airy veranda of Grann Kaz, the
original Dauban family plantation house. Using fresh, colourful ingredients sourced only from Silhouette (the island has its own vegetable patch), Sedano whipped up a fragrant seafood curry in no time at all. Grann Kaz functions as a restaurant focusing on traditional Creole cuisine for guests, and the Hilton management group has retained much of the old house’s charm and original
features. Legend has it that the upper level is haunted by the ghosts of the island’s first European inhabitants, Catherine Dauban and her daughter Eva, whose remains are entombed in the nearby family mausoleum. Even the
locals don’t venture to the upper levels at night.
Pop by the Island Conservation Society, housed right next door to Grann Kaz, to learn about the local flora and fauna and the conservation efforts that are so
important in the effort to preserve the fragile biodiversity of Silhouette. Work off some of the extra calories from lunch by going on some of the guided hikes of various lengths that criss-cross the island, an activity that is highly recommended if you want to get a true sense of the real beauty of Silhouette.
Have your cake
Prepare to discard any diet plans before a trip to Hilton Labriz. Arriving back
at my villa after an early-morning walk, I discovered an array of mouthwatering
baked treats, all made using locally sourced, organic honey from the island
of Denis. The vanilla and honey madeleines set the bar for any future pastry
Wind your way up a mountain path between massive granite boulders and
palm trees to your private treatment room at Silhouette Spa. The gracious and
talented staff of masseurs will ease away any residual aches and pains from city
life, with the only sounds being those of the surrounding forest.
The Dauban family settled on Silhouette island at the end of the 19th century,
hoping to make their fortune by trading in the lucrative spice market. Pungent patchouli, vanilla, cinnamon, and coconuts were all farmed on the island. The charismatic Henri Dauban ran the family plantation during the early part of the 20th century and tales of his exploits are well-known among Seychelloise residents. Pop by the gift shop and buy yourself a copy of his memoirs, compiled from various sources by his relative Laura Dauban, and become immersed in rich tales of island life, when the world still contained a bit of mystery and magic.
Air Seychelles offers direct flights from Johannesburg to Victoria, the capital of
Mahé, the largest and most populated island in the Seychelles group. Its partnership with Etihad Airways means that the onboard service is world-class, and its business class offering was recently recognised as an Indian Ocean leader at the World Travel Awards. Flight time is normally about five hours, depending on weather conditions.
Skip the queue
Air Seychelles offers business class guests a bespoke meet-and-greet service upon arrival at the Air Seychelles check-in desk. We were whisked through customs with ease, which made a refreshing change from the usual red tape. airseychelles.com