When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge jetted off on honeymoon after their spectacular 2011 wedding, they chose a private island in the Seychelles for their first romantic holiday as man and wife. And William and Kate aren’t the only famous newlyweds to head to the tropical paradise, which was a honeymoon destination for George and Amal Clooney, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek and Francois-Henri Pinault, Ronan and Storm Keating and heiress Nicky Hilton and James Rothschild.
With two royal weddings this year love is very much in the air. But the Seychelles are about much more than romance, as I discovered when I spent a few days in the Indian Ocean paradise. An archipelago of 115 granite and coral islands off the east coast of Africa, just south of the equator, the Seychelles enjoy a warm, tropical climate and boast white, sandy beaches, palm trees and coral reefs.
The Seychelles are a popular honeymoon destination
Largely untouched until the 18th century when the French settled there, the islands were taken over by the British 130 years later and populated by African slaves rescued from ships to work on cotton, sugar and coconut plantations, before eventually gaining independence in 1976. To this day the Seychelles’ fused cultural history is very much in evidence in their Creole language and food.
We split our time between two hotels on two separate islands – the Hilton Northolme Resort and Spa on the main island of Mahé and the Hilton Labriz Resort and Spa, 20km away on private Silhouette Island. Nestled in lush forest overlooking the ocean, the Northolme is just 25 minutes drive from the airport and offers a luxurious base from which to explore the island and its surrounds.
The Hilton Northolme resort and spa is one of the oldest hotels in the Seychelles
One of the oldest hotels in the Seychelles, it was built before the First World War and James Bond author Ian Fleming took inspiration from its lush surroundings to write his novel For Your Eyes Only here. It has since been transformed into a luxury five star resort, with 40 wooden villas and suites - some with private pools - dotted around the hillside. With stripped wooden floors, whirlpool baths and balconies where you can gaze out to sea with only the birdsong for company, it’s the perfect hideaway.
The resort - which caters for adults and teens - also boasts a private beach, an infinity pool and a luxury spa on the water’s edge, where we enjoyed relaxing massages while gazing at the sea through floor-to-ceiling windows. The cuisine on the islands is a delicious fusion of French and African influences and there are three restaurants at the hotel - all with al fresco dining and spectacular ocean views. The Hilltop Restaurant has international theme nights and Les Cocotiers serves delicious a la carte dishes including a Creole fish platter, pan seared red snapper and steak with local Takamaka rum sauce.
An incredible ocean view villa at Hilton Northolme
Whilst it would have been tempting not to stray too far from our luxurious surroundings, our base on the main island Mahé allowed us to visit the the Botanic Gardens and the covered market in Seychelles capital Victoria, where we bought gifts and spices.
It’s also worth heading out onto the surrounding coral reefs and smaller islands - including the St Anne National Marine Park, a conservation sanctuary with more species per square foot than anywhere else in the world. Island Style Boat Excursions (praslinboattours.com) does group tours and private charters to Praslin and La Digue islands, as well as nearby Moyenne Island, which is uninhabited apart from its population of more than 100 giant tortoises and an array of birds. After snorkeling and looking for rays, turtles and baby sharks, your boat is moored on the sandbanks so you can explore this unspoilt nature reserve and feast on a Creole buffet at the Jolly Roger Bar before exploring the pristine beaches.
Hilton Labriz is located on Silhouette Island
The other half of our trip was spent on Silhouette Island - the third largest in the Seychelles - where our base was the Hilton Labriz. We arrived here in style following a thrilling 10-minute helicopter ride, which took us over blue seas and palm-fringed beaches (our return trip was by ferry).
Another luxury five-star resort, the Labriz is the only hotel on the island, and has plenty to keep both adults and children entertained, with activities from fishing to beach yoga and a kids’ club offering nature walks, fish feeding and tennis lessons. There are seven restaurants and bars, tennis courts, a swimming pool, spa and a fitness centre as well as a 5-star PADI dive centre, which also has kayaks and snorkelling equipment for hire. There are also sunset cruises and fishing trips where guests can catch their own dinner.
A beachfront villa at Hilton Labriz
Our luxury beachfront villas ran along the shore and we only had to step off the loungers on our front decks to feel the white sand between our toes, dip our feet into the water and watch crabs scuttling across the beach. There are 111 villas in all - some with private plunge pools - and I particularly liked my outdoor rain shower.
For those who have the budget to ensure complete privacy, the resort also has the Silhouette Estate - a two-bedroom, two-bathroom presidential villa boasting panoramic views, private pool and beach access, outdoor entertaining area, dining gazebo and butler service.
One of the beautiful beaches in the Seychelles
Drive around the resort in a golf buggy, or borrow one of the push bikes, and you’ll come across landscapes that look like something from the Jurassic age, with large, dramatic rock boulders on the beaches and by the lakeside. We had the chance to take full advantage of the stunning scenery when, after beginning our day with a yoga lesson the beach, we took a guided hike into the hills above the resort, where we had birds eye views of the sandy coves below and the other islands the distance.
We also hopped aboard a boat trip for an afternoon out on the reef, where we snorkelled amongst the coral and marvelled at the array of sea life. The food on the island suits all tastes, with Mediterranean, Japanese, pizza and buffet restaurants to choose from and private, in-room dining also available. The resort’s Creole restaurant is based in Grann Kaz, a lovely historic plantation house that was once the home of the Dauban family that used to own the island. Here, we booked a cookery lesson and learned to make a smoked marlin salad followed by a delicious Creole fish curry. I took the recipe home with me and recreated the dish a few weeks later - not quite in the same exquisite surroundings but a reminder nevertheless of this taste of paradise.
Seven nights at Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa in a King Garden Villa, on a B&B basis, with economy class flights and hotel transfers costs from £1,925pp sharing. Seven nights at Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa in a King Hillside Villa on a B&B basis, with economy class flights and hotel transfers costs from £1,985 pp sharing. To book, call Beachcomber Tours on 01483 445 685 or visit beachcombertours.uk. Visit seychelles.travel.