A romantic resort worthy of Paul McCartney and Peter Sellers
Hotel insider: Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort & Spa
Once we hit the turn onto the road to the resort after a 30-minute mostly coastal drive from Mahé airport, security stop us before we enter. The taxi makes its way to the entrance, which has a towering grand old banyan tree as the welcome party. As we walk up the staircase to reception, there is a lot to take in, from the sweeping views of the turquoise green Indian Ocean in front of us, to the tree trunks poking through the lobby. It takes a while before we are properly attended to by check-in staff, but once that’s done, we’re in a buggy on our way to our villa.
Situated on the southwestern coast of Mahé island, the resort sits on land that friends Peter Sellers and George Harrison bought back in the early 1970s. With the Indian Ocean on the doorstep, the 28 Creole-style villas all have ocean views or direct beach access, and are set amid a tropical rainforest and botanic gardens. A 30-minute taxi ride from the capital of Seychelles, which is home to the famed Victoria Markets, the property is just down the road from Takamaka Beach, touted as one of the “most beautiful” on the island by the locals.
Of the seven villa categories, I am staying in a beach pool villa, which has its own infinity style pool, outdoor jet pool, pergola and deck area. The one-bedroom villa is spacious and functional, with dual basins in the bathroom, a separate toilet, and a shower that allows entry to the deck outside. While not right on beach level, there are steps alongside the villa allowing access. Having clocked up 15 years in the past few months, the rooms, while well decorated, do seem a little tired around the edges, and attention to detail is lacking in some areas, with no service numbers panel on the phone and the instructions for the television are misleading, prompting a call to maintenance.
Most interactions with staff are bright and breezy, not unlike the surroundings, which likely play their part in the relaxed approach to the meal service at most of the restaurants. The service team is knowledgeable and helpful as required, and there is really only one hiccup involving room service, resulting in the wrong dish being delivered – a non-menu item at that – which required me to wait an additional 20 minutes for the correct meal. I was also a little put out that there wasn’t a do not disturb sign to activate. There is a resort-wide buggy transport service, which is efficient, with guests not waiting more than a few minutes for a ride.
Ideal for a romantic getaway or special occasion holiday, this is a private, quiet oasis that feels more like a stately plantation than a beach resort. Another bonus is that, despite its size and usually high occupancy levels, you often feel like you’re the only guest around, at least during the day. As day turns to night, though, things get more lively. There’s a band on the deck outside the lobby at sunset that attracts quite the crowd, and most of the restaurant spaces are full, adding to the vibe.
For me, the Creole restaurant Chaz Lamar is the pick of the dining outlets, of which there are three. The Thai restaurant Saffron and the all-day dining spot Au Jardin d’Epices are the other options. Each restaurant has its own attractive vista that makes you want to sit awhile, but it’s Chaz Lamar’s wooden veranda setting that appeals most to me. This is only helped by a menu that combines a fusion of flavours including west European, African and Indian. Prices here start from 250 Seychellois rupees (Dh68). Saffron, at the other end of the resort, is more romantic, with its fire sticks and dim lighting. Dishes here start from SCR375 (Dh102). Breakfast is served in the all-day dining restaurant. There is an Arabic corner with hummus, Arabic breads and spreads, along with the usual pastries, packet cereals and cold meats, as well as an à la carte menu featuring dishes like eggs Benedict, omelettes and pancakes.
The Banyan Tree Spa, with its open-air massage beds and the ocean waves as a soundtrack. I didn’t want the 60-minute balancing massage SCR1,875 (Dh514) to end.
The scorching temperature of our jet pool and the lack of a do-not-disturb sign.
A resort for couples – the fact that former Beatle Paul McCartney chose to honeymoon here puts paid to that. The privacy of the villas will appeal to the UAE market.
The bottom line
Rooms at the Banyan Tree Seychelles Resort & Spa start from SCR17,920 (Dh4,792) per night, based on half-board, and include taxes, breakfast and Wi-Fi.