It’s rare that one of my Bits of Paradise is located in a destination that could actually be “paradise.” As we drove further and further away from Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, my heart beat a little faster with anticipation. The time I already had enjoyed on Mahé Island, had been filled with activities and I had only spent a maximum of 30 minutes downtime before running off again to explore. My two days at the Banyan Tree were to be purely my own.
Of all the hotels on the Seychelles, I felt destiny had really brought us together. I was a Beatles lover as a child, teen, and still one, as an adult. Until Seychelles’ independence in 1976, George Harrison, along with actor Peter Sellers, had owned the beach and land that the Banyan Tree sits on – the prettiest beach on the whole island.
As we drove up to the hotel’s reception, after four days of rain, the sun shone through the branches of eponymous Banyan Tree, just as George had promised it would. Before I had time to sip my welcome drink, I ran out onto the terrace to behold the view in front of me. There it was in all its glory, Anse Intendance, a famed half mile beach of pure white sand with nary a sunbather in it! I was only distracted from my almost meditative state when told the little golf cart to take me to my villa was ready and waiting.
Not to be dramatic, but I nearly cried upon opening the door to my beachfront villa. I was longing for a bit of the R&R that most luxury travelers seek when setting foot on the Seychelles. I loved the colonial feel, I loved that when I put my toe in my private pool that it was warm, I loved there was an outside shower, I loved that the jacuzzi was so chic, I loved that even though my villa was the furthest from reception, that my internet was strong enough to catch up on work – when sitting both inside and outside, I loved that they brought a crunchy, fresh Club Sandwich and french fries, still hot, to my room in only 15 minutes. The only thing I hated was being alone – this was definitely a place to hide away with someone.
Had I mentioned how much I loved that the sea was steps away. Not just the sea but “the prettiest beach on the island!” Are you sick of hearing that already?
Peter and George were no fools. One gander of this in the 70s and I wouldn’t have gone back to London. Seychelles, being on the equator, is free from hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones and all those other terrible island worries. Yes, sometimes it rains, but since it was sunny right now, I could live with that.
What’s lovely is that the Banyan Tree was designed so you see no villas from the beach itself – they are tucked into the landscape. Also, if you check out my first photo, you can hardly see the hotel bungalows hiding in the trees, a huge effort having been made to make the resort as unobtrusive as possible.
There were few reasons to leave the comfort of my beach villa, but eating was one of them. Breakfast at the Banyan Tree’s Au Jardin d’Epices restaurant was almost like eating it in my room – in fact the view was better! The shining sun and perfect weather were just not getting boring! The homemade doughnuts just added to that fairytale story.
I came out for lunch as well on to dine at La Varangue, the bar with a view. Chanaka, the resident bartender, had graciously agreed to make me one of the Banyan Tree’s most popular cocktails – the Banyan Sensation – a two-tiered, colorful rum concoction. (More on that to come on my Best Sips Worldwide facebook page). With a chaser of tangy, summery gazpacho and freshly baked bread, it was the perfect summer lunch, even in April!
My first dinner was at the Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, Saffron, which serves world-class Thai and Southeast Asian food. I had a wonderfully spicy green curry and one of the best shrimp dishes I have ever eaten. A crispy, crunchy, all sensory explosion in my mouth – one bite and I am sure they heard me across the island.
Eating my last night on the island at Chez Lamar gave me my first taste of authentic Seychellois Creole cuisine, infused with a little George Harrison. The restaurant is housed in one of the original buildings of the property.
Fresh octopus salad, local curries, pilao rice accompanied by vegetables grown in the Banyan Tree’s own kitchen garden, made me too full to eat any dessert!
Another great reason to leave the room was to enjoy the famous Banyan Tree Spa. A haven within a haven – there was no treatment you couldn’t try if you had the time – every type of massage, facial, wrap.
A big fan of the Lord of the Rings, I felt like (a happy) Frodo being led through the dense foliage, up the stairs built right through a tree, to my very own aerie overlooking the Indian Ocean.
A relaxing foot wash first, before my delightful facialist brought some sunlight to my “on-way-too-many-planes” affected visage.
After the most gentle of treatments, a light snack of sweetened ginger tea and fresh fruit and yogurt was brought to the room. I hoped they would carry me back to the villa.
SOMETHING QUITE SPECIAL
I floated back to my villa via the winding paths of the natural wetlands that make up most of the Banyan Tree’s property. The Banyan Tree is committed not only to maintaining their own property, but also to caring about what might affect the entire island.
The Banyan Tree Global Foundation was founded in 2009 and it “enhances the social, environmental and economic well-being” of the countries in which their properties sit. The Seychelles Wildlife Conservation & Rehabilitation Centre is housed within their gates and I was able to see it in action: meeting turtles saved by the team, touring the kitchen garden that serves as supermarket to the hotel, and walking through the protected wetlands. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Grey Heron.
My two days at the Banyan Tree made me feel as if I were away for a good long time. The added value for me was dreaming that George Harrison might have composed some of his solo work whilst soaking up the same sun that I had as well.
At least even if I am only getting a tan, I can contemplate the wise words of Mr. Harrison: “When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.”