The search for Paradise has been an eternal quest, and you may be forgiven for thinking you have found the mother lode when you land at the Raffles on Praslin.
The island, a favourite of the global rich and famous, is blessed with unique topography and flora. Read talcum powder soft beaches, lush jungles with black parrots in a forest that is on the UNESCO heritage list, undulating curves on roads that provide glimpses of the aquamarine Indian Ocean all around, quaint homes, friendly residents – all within a few minutes of each other. Combine that with a stay in one of the aesthetic and relaxing private villas at the Raffles, and you reflect on the good you must have done to deserve this.
This new-ish Raffles, only one of the 10 odd Raffles globally, brings to Praslin a never before sense of luxury hospitality, so it is no surprise to bump into the odd football star or music diva, busy getting away with a coterie of groupies. Located towards the north of the north of the island, it has mountains as a backdrop and the Indian Ocean ahead. Add to that the lush green cover of the resort and the forests around, and it hits the sweet spot of tropical temptations perfectly.
However, right from the time you arrive – and straightaway you have choices of whether to take the 45-minute ferry ride a la James (again yes of course, Bond) in Sunseeker Quantum of Solace speedboat from the island of Mahé, cutting through the azure waves or via a 15-minute Otter flight over the same azure stretch at possibly the tiniest airports anywhere for commercial flights! A short drive either way gives you the first glimpses of the resort – designed by superlative Wilson Associates on a hillside facing the open sea.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
This an an all villa hotel. The villas are identical (though some suites have two rooms), and combine easy simplicity with stunning aesthetics. Do choose a Panoramic Villa for your stay. These are at the highest point of the resort, and the view – tiled rooftops amidst shrubs, flowers, fruits and birds, the white beaches just beyond, and the finally the rolling hues of the sea – will ensure lingering sighs every time you have to look away even for a sip of your Praslin Sling.
All the villas face the waters, and come with a vast sun deck and a plunge pool – with sparkling tiles in every shade of blue imaginable. While calming hours in these are enough to ensure that your karma indeed could hardly be better, the interiors deserve another look. A luxurious bed is of course the Raffles standard, and its raised by two steps from the rest of the villa for better sea viewing while lounging in bed!
Note the detailing in the rooms. All the modern necessities of a tropical sojourn – tv, mini bar, wifi are there but it’s the little touches that make you go aaawww! The entrance to each is unique – and often through a maze of greenery. I had a banana flower right at my door, yep still on the tree! There’s an easel by the bedside, helpfully pointing to the sea, enough to make you take up your brushes again.
The sink bath again faces the sea, but you will have to forsake the open air shower! The woodwork in walk in wardrobe is just the right texture, as are the soft pastel hues of the walls. The work desk overlooks the sunrise. Quick note, work here is well nigh impossible.
BETWEEN THE BEACHES
Exploring the resort is an activity in itself. The spa is the largest one in this part of the world, with 13 treatment rooms, a beauty salon, a Movement Pavilion, the Spa Boutique, a fitness centre and much more. A signature treatment is the Pure Pearl Treatment, using, the pearl of course! As for post spa relaxation, there’s a Spa Garden!
There are quite a few restaurants, each with a different cuisine and look. Of course a private nook by the sea is easily the most seductive! With an assortment of chefs from various corners of the world, you could have home food just in case you tire of the delicious seafood and local delicacies at Curieuse Seafood Restaurant. Fresh catch only! Though the quality of contemporary Mediterranean dishes at the Losean was difficult to pass up too!
Look out for a number of special experiences the hotel has, from outdoor barbeques and tropical dinners to special measures for children. Do book tables in advance if you sense the resort is crowded.
[stextbox id=”custom” float=”true” width=”333″ color=”FAFAFA” bcolor=”CC2929″ bgcolor=”FF4A2E” mright=”15″]SECRET SAUCE
u Take time out to enjoy the view from your room.
u There is a lovely walk to Anse Lazio (3.5 km)
u Try the Creole BBQ with tiki torches
u You can actually paddle across to Curieuse (if you are a strong paddler)
u Do try the Raffles Sling – a takeoff on the Singapore sling[/stextbox]
Getting around on foot may be a challenge. The resort has buggies on call, but a walk up to one of the higher villas will be a challenge, especially after an active day with the sun and sand.
The beaches are technically not private in Seychelles. However given the resort’s location, there are many a private nook for a cosy sunset dinner.
Do be tempted to step outside, you will not regret it. Splendours of nature come in all shapes and sizes. Just around the corner are the Anse Takamaka, and the Anse Lazio, the latter named as one of the most flawless beaches on earth. The justly famed Vallée de Mai, home, among others, to the rare Coco de Mer palm and the black parrot, is also just a short drive away. A walk here is not to be missed. Praslin itself has a lot to offer for those wishing to take in the local flavours.
Just across a narrow stretch of aquamarine, and indeed visible from your room, is the island of Curieuse, where you will be able to play with the largest tortoises you have ever seen! There are many other islands nearby, though Praslin itself offers more by the way of exploring its charms, natural and cultural.
GALLERY: BLUES AT PLAY
For those not wishing in to step outside, the resort has kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, snorkeling gear and plunge pools. Exploring different cuisines on offer may count as an activity for some, though your fitness instructor may not approve. For the lazier tourist, there are a lot of sundecks! Who says paradise does not offer options!
Raffles Praslin is located on the north-eastern tip of Praslin, the second largest granite island of Seychelles, about 40 kilometres from the main island of Mahé.
The distance by road from the Praslin airport to the hotel is about 17 kilometres. Though the airport is only about two kilometers as the crow flies, the road winds past breezy shores and dense forests inland before emerging just outside the hotel.
v Getting there
From India, Air Seychelles, Air India and Jet Airways (check codeshares) offer flights to Mahé International Airport, the main airport of Seychelles. From there, by air it’s a 15-minute ride from Mahé to Praslin Airport, followed by a 30-minute drive to the resort. By sea, it’s a 45-minute ride from Mahé Jetty to Praslin, Jetty followed by a 20-minute drive to the resort.
The official currency is Seychellois rupee. However the Euro is widely used, even in local shops. The US dollar finds acceptance at bigger stores. Most credit and debit cards are also used in larger establishments, but it is safer to carry some local currency.
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v MUST KNOW
Of course you would preferably have reservations in advance. While visa is on arrival in Seychelles for Indians, the immigration desk will ask for a hotel reservation letter and a return ticket.
Check out the weather forecast as well, for it is close enough to the Equator to get rains any time.
Getting in and out of the resort will require a personal vehicle. The hotel has a few, though guests driving in could get their own too.
Inhouse, there is the signature Raffles Spa, which embraces the philosophy of transformation, with 13 treatment pavilions, a full spa menu, bridal beauty services and Kerstin Florian products
Two infinity pools that invite you to do the laps just as much as laze around.
Movement Pavilion for fitness classes, Yoga and Pilates sessions. There are daily fitness classes and wellness activities
Outdoor Spa Garden for post spa relaxation overload.
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
The hotel has sea kayaks, snorkels and mountain bikes to borrow. You can discover Praslin by land or sea – and multiple hiking trails with spectacular views, perfect for the actively inclined.
v Around Raffles
o Visit the nearby beaches of Anse Takamaka and Anse Lazio. The latter has been named as one of the best beaches globally.
o Visit La Digue, a nearby island that is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the Seychelles, or hire a bike and cycle through Veuve Nature Reserve, in the island’s interior
o A day trip to the stunning Curieuse Island. In 1979 Curieuse and the surrounding waters were declared the Curieuse Marine National Park in order to protect the native wildlife
o UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Vallée de Mai, is nearby. It has the unique endemic Coco de Mer palms. The forest is also home to the elusive and rare Seychelles Black Parrot, the national bird of the Seychelles.
v Best time to visit
There is no straightforward answer to this one. Seychelles positions itself as a year round destination. While it is never cold, it can get quite warm. April and October are regarded generally as the best time as there are periods of calm between opposing trade winds in these months. Conditions for swimming, snorkelling and especially diving are superb during April/May and October/November when the water temperature sometimes reaches 29ºC and visibility is often 30 metres plus.
v Hotel Group
Raffles Praslin is part of the Raffles Hotels & Resorts. Sister brands in the group include Fairmont and Swissotel.
Like any leading hotel, rates now depend on season. The rack rate suggests Rs 35,000 odd for a room per night.
The hotel is popular with north European tourists, so booked early in high season and during the holidays, so check before you go.
For more information and enquIries please contact:
Praslin, Anse Takamaka, Praslin Island, Seychelles
Tel: +248 429 6000
Email: [email protected]
(The reviewer stayed as a guest of the resort)