A search for an ancient tortoise, yoga on a runway, hammock snoozes and hidden nurse sharks – it must be the Seychelles
I was on a quest to find George. Rumour had it that he could typically be found snoozing in the shade or occasionally drinking cool water from the resort’s swimming pools.
George is the largest giant tortoise on Desroches Island and every guest staying at this Four Seasons hotel in the Seychelles hopes to get a glimpse of the gargantuan wild creature.
As one of them, I had climbed on to my complimentary bicycle and trundled along the palm-fringed track to the tortoise sanctuary. Here I learnt George was thought to be between 180 and 200 years old, but as he pre-dates anyone on the island, of course there’s no way of knowing for sure.
Alas, George was nowhere to be seen, but I did meet the sanctuary’s youngest tortoises before returning for a dip in my private pool and a nap in my beachside hammock.
Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island is the brand’s second property here, having opened in March 2019, 140 miles off the coast of Mahe, the country’s main island. This newer little sister sits on Desroches, one of the Outer Islands, which is less than four miles long and one mile wide.
On this small speck of land in the Indian Ocean, there are 84 rooms, suites and even self-catering units, each kitted out with king-size beds dressed in soft, white linen and six fluffy pillows; free-standing baths made from stone and two showers (one indoor and one outdoor); and a turquoise-tile-lined infinity pool – even in the lowest room category.
In addition, my sunset beach suite had a lounge area lightened by Aztec patterns and funky wicker furniture, a second bedroom that doubled up as an office and a poolside cabana that sheltered me from the sun and provided an idyllic sea view through the palms.
It was tough to leave such a spot, but the draw of dinner at the resort’s main restaurant, Claudine, did the trick. Having heard the island’s seafood was incomparable, I ordered jumbo tiger prawns with a lobster risotto to follow, and gifted head chef Olivier Barre from Reunion did not fail to impress.
And neither did the setting. My table was placed on smooth grey decking beside a shallow and pebble-bottomed pool with only the crash of waves and gentle tinkle of music to be heard.
Body and mind
These soothing sounds were replicated during my Sound of the Waves treatment at the resort’s Circle of Connection Spa the next morning (€185pp). I was in one of five wooden treatment huts on the northern end of the island, and my therapist had opened out the bi-fold doors to let the sounds and smells of the sea waft into the room.
After being treated to a salt leg rub, next up was a mollifying massage involving a heated ostrich egg filled with baobab seeds being rolled over all the muscles in my body to relieve tension. The oils used in the treatment were by Terres D’Afrique, a sustainably developed organic skincare range designed to harness Africa’s botanical heritage.
Typically I’m not a spa-lover but this treatment changed my mind. With more time on Desroches, I would undoubtedly have tried another of the spa’s treatments. These included masks, wraps, polishes, facials and scrubs and used exotic ingredients such as cardamom, kigelia, rooibos and papaya.
Feeling relaxed and – after a poolside afternoon – peckish, I called a buggy to take me to The Lighthouse. This was the second of two restaurants on the island and also headed up by Olivier, who had curated a mouth-watering menu of freshly caught fish and dry-aged meat grills.
He was keen for me to try the restaurant’s raw seafood bar, so plated up a sushi board of salmon, tuna, grouper and snapper. The snapper sashimi marinated in juices and herbs was melt-in-the-mouth and probably the freshest seafood I’ve ever tasted.
The following day, I squeezed in an early-morning yoga session (€20pp) on Desroches’ airstrip. The sun had only just risen when I cycled from my suite down the length of the runway to meet my instructor – it was an exhilarating route, but danger-free, given that the island only welcomes one or two flights per day.
A routine of classic yoga positions such as downward-facing dog, warrior, triangle and tree seemed all the more relaxing with a salty breeze on my face and a golden glow on the ocean.
I also took to the water with Blue Safari Seychelles (€60pp) and within 10 minutes of starting this ecologically friendly “catch and release” fishing session we’d hooked two groupers.
But it was the next catch that made my eyes go wide with amazement. Out of the translucent blue water came a barracuda, its metallic stripes reflecting the bright sunlight and its ferocious teeth bared. Rather tentatively, I posed with the fish for a photo before it was released back into the deep.
Trying to forget that such a monstrous-looking creature lived in the water, I jumped in to snorkel Desroches’ coral reef. It’s a healthy reef, with red and yellow corals branching up from the ocean floor. I spotted blue-and-yellow butterfly fish, snapper and wrasse, but my highlight was when I dived down to peek below a ledge and saw a nurse shark sheltering under the rock, with just the tip of its tail visible from the surface.
There’s plenty to get to grips with above ground too; while there may only be a 100-strong local community living on the island, the Creole culture shines through at the resort and I got a taste of their culinary scene during an alfresco dinner.
The table – perched on a wooden jetty – was lit only by candles and the Milky Way. A Creole-inspired meal was cooked on-site and consisted of an octopus salad, seared yellowfin tuna and a platter of langoustine, jumbo prawns, lobster and grilled vegetables. Dessert was the “coco bounty” – a chocolate coated coconut sorbet with caramel sauce. It all made for a magical last-night meal on the island.
The following morning, when I was on the propeller plane and whizzing down the runway seconds from take-off, an astonishingly large grey-brown dome flashed by in my peripheral vision. Its chunky legs and patterned shell were unmistakable – could that have been the mysterious and elusive George, at last?
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