THE SEY­CHELLES.

Gay Times Magazine - - TRAVEL - Words Stephen Un­win

“Would you like to see a fruit bat?”’ asks our greeter as he bob-bob-bobs us from the Re­cep­tion Pav­il­ion to the re­cep­tion proper in a golf buy. Be­ing a bit of a Jessie when it comes to that sort of thing, that’ll be a no – not that there’s much of a choice when a pair of the things, as big as Al­sa­tians, start play­ing a merry dance in the air above our bal­cony like they just stepped out of Juras­sic World later on.

Over break­fast some lit­tle lizards leg it across the room while a va­ri­ety of birds in a va­ri­ety of colours, all bright, dip in to a box of pains au chocolat, which we as­sume is just for them. Oth­ers sit at your feet, fil­ing their beaks, look­ing up at you, wait­ing.

The In­dian Ocean is there, there and there – on three sides – and as you drink your break­fast prosecco (well, at least the birds haven’t been at it), you can see real live snor­kel­ing. And kayak­ing and pad­dle­board­ing and peo­ple on the sun ter­race try­ing to keep pretty blue-billed birds off their ac­tual key­boards as they get their emails done.

The Sey­chelles, it turns out, is no Mal­dives. None of that bare­foot lux­ury non­sense, where na­ture is kept way over there while you re­lax on 17 tow­els with a Mai Tai as some­one con­di­tions your lashes. Here at Hil­ton North­holme (where Mai Tais are read­ily avail­able), just half an hour away from the air­port (which has its own beach, god­damnit!), through lit­tle no-ac­count towns, we are very much part of the land­scape. You’re in na­ture. Not ad­ja­cent to, knee deep in that ver­dant shizz. You can reach out and touch your very own co­conut from your own pri­vate villa with its own pri­vate Jacuzzi – plunge pool if you’re lucky – or some­one else’s co­conut if you’re in­clined.

Vil­las are ei­ther on the beach or, in our case, up in the trees. All of them look out to sea, all of the Jacuzzis and pools (in­clud­ing the com­mu­nal in­fin­ity one) also look out to sea, and all are done out in a cosy, woody, hutty sort of way with ceil­ing fans, not crazy-luxe – though there is a swan made out of a towel on our bed and AC and all the right tel­lies – but laid-back and homey with in­cense never know­ingly not burn­ing, with huge bal­conies com­ing with a va­ri­ety of daybeds and ta­bles and cot­ton­soft cush­ions, and show­ers that you just sort of wan­der into and then out the other side as there is no one to over­look you. No won­der it’s a big hit with honey­moon­ers, both gay and reg­u­lar.

In fact, the place is more or less all cou­ples, both gay and reg­u­lar, mainly as a re­sult of the very wel­come ‘no kids’ pol­icy. That and the lack of Amer­i­cans (it’s ap­par­ently way too far for some­thing that is not that dis­sim­i­lar from the Caribbean) means that there’s a low-key, low-en­ergy kind of vibe, where ser­vice is at­ten­tive but not at ir­ri­tant lev­els and the most that will hap­pen is some lo­cals will come in and play Easy Like Sun­day Morn­ing by The Com­modores in a jazzy kind of way over din­ner while some­one shows them­selves up on a pool ta­ble.

In the morn­ing you can go down and do yoga with a very bendy lady as you look out to sea or meet the Ger­man ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist, Jan, who’ll take you out snor­kel­ing as he ex­plains the demise of much of the co­ral due to global warm­ing. There’s still a lot to see out there, from the black and white fishes that will come right in to meet you as you step into the wa­ter (azure, nat­u­rally) to a conger eel and even tiny lit­tle sharks. And no, there have been no shark at­tacks around here, like, ever.

As for the rest of Mahé, the main is­land, if you’ve come to party away in swimwear while some­one pours cham­pagne over you, you’ve def­i­nitely come to the wrong place. There are no beach clubs, no yacht par­ties (though there are sun­set cruises, se­date and lovely), no pumped up lips or Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret biki­nis, just chilled out peo­ple chill­ing out some more.

You can see Vic­to­ria, the small­est cap­i­tal city in the world (in fact, they prob­a­bly don’t even pre­tend it’s a city) and while there are tea plan­ta­tions and a na­ture re­serve to visit, it’s ba­si­cally about hang­ing about, hav­ing your din­ner at the ho­tel (low-key or haute cui­sine, what­ever level of fancy you’re tak­ing), hang­ing out with those birds that are by now just show­ing off.

Half an hour boat ride away, on an is­land they call Sil­hou­ette (lit­eral can be so lovely), lies Hil­ton’s shinier, slinkier re­sort, Labriz. Here you’ll find that beach that looks like the kind happy kids draw, all tal­cum sand and hold­ing hands and same-sex civil cer­e­monies (the kids we know are very recher­ché, thank you). And on an is­land that’s 93% rain­for­est (the

other 7% be­ing the re­sort), it’s Juras­sic World with CGI thrown in. The beach vil­las are the ones to sch­tump up for, classy in an easy Sun­day morn­ing way (we can’t get that song out of our heads) the deluxe of which open right out onto the sand. Which is just how life should be.

And we haven’t even men­tioned well­ness, which is our favourite of the ne­ol­o­gisms. And in re­sorts that take na­ture and con­ser­va­tion very se­ri­ously in­deed, this segues into us, the peo­ple. The morn­ing yoga we men­tioned, the gyms are tip-top should you need a pre-beach pump, then there are the mas­sages; so deep, we think they got to third base. Seven nights in the Sey­chelles two cen­tre is­land hop­ping. Spend four nights at Hil­ton Sey­chelles Labriz Re­sort & Spa in a King Gar­den Villa on a Half Board ba­sis, and three nights at Hil­ton Sey­chelles Northolme Re­sort & Spa in a King Hill­side Villa on a Half Board ba­sis, with econ­omy class BA flights and ho­tel trans­fers costs from £2,348pp shar­ing. For more in­for­ma­tion and to book, please call Beach­comber Tours on 01483 445 685

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