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Fun in Paradise - 13-year-old Eloise Schaw Miller was entranced during her stay at Raffles Seychelles

FUN IN PARADISE

Words: Eloise Schaw Miller    Photography: Paul Thuysbaert

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From enchanting islands and encounters with giant tortoises to tasty cookery classes and a private beach barbecue, 13-year-old Eloise Schaw Miller was entranced during her stay at Raffles Seychelles

Glancing out of the miniature plane window, I could see the glistening blue Indian Ocean below, catching rays of sunlight like a shimmering jewel. Travelling with my mother, I was on my way to the island of Praslin in the Seychelles for the first time in my life.

Once we arrived at Raffles Seychelles, we were warmly welcomed with some refreshing lemongrassiced tea before being taken by buggy to our very own villa. Buggies, driven by Raffles’ lovely staff who took us wherever we wanted to go in the resort, can be called to the room in a matter of minutes.

Eloise, at the villa, records impressions of her stay
relaxing in the infinity pool of her private villa at Raffles Seychelles

Clockwise from top: Eloise, at the villa, records impressions of her stay; relaxing in the infinity pool of her private villa at Raffles Seychelles; having a close encounter with one of the island’s elderly residents; exploring the island itself

exploring the island itself
having a close encounter with one of the island’s elderly residents

The villa was beautifully modern with a mesmerising view of the sea, as well as our own private infinity pool, which we could dip into whenever we wanted. As my mother and I had flown through the night from London, we arrived just in time for breakfast. At the Losean Restaurant, an astounding variety of food, from exotic fruits, breads and pastries to dim sum and curries, was laid out on platters. After enjoying a huge, delicious breakfast, we went down to the massive pool open to hotel guests; not just one, but two infinity pools, one positioned lower than the other, offer endless lengths for anyone wanting to have a proper swim. This meant we could have a relaxing swim without feeling crowded, gazing out to the ocean in the distance.

We could have a relaxing swim without feeling crowded, gazing out to the ocean in the distance

After splashing around for a while, we headed for Raffles Seychelles’ private beach. The white sands and transparent waters made it look like a holiday postcard brought to life. The water was perfect for snorkelling; a few metres from shore, I followed exotic schools of fish darting between the rocks. I also had a chance to try paddle boarding. Riding along the gentle waves was extra special — once I got the hang of standing upright! After such a busy day, it was nice to be driven back to our villa, where I had a long, deep sleep in my very comfortable bed.

The next morning, we were taken on a speedy boat ride to Curieuse Island just across the bay, which is famous for its tortoise habitation. The wonderful Robyn D’Avilar, Raffles Seychelles’ Assistant Spa Manager, came with us; she went to great lengths to organise fun activities throughout my stay and became an immediate friend.

The island is home to about 180 tortoises, the oldest being an amazing 160 years old — I soon found out that they love being fed leaves from the trees! Robyn introduced me to many tortoises and told me about one that had managed to climb across the whole island. We had a lovely walk along the shore, stopping to enjoy beautiful views of the sea. At one point, we even spotted a type of very small shark swimming in the water.

La Digue is another nearby island, which has to be one of the most charming places in the world. My mother and I rented bikes and cycled on tropical paths in the sun. Each of the islands has a very different atmosphere, so it was interesting to compare the landscapes from island to island — La Digue has a wonderfully casual and relaxed feel.

Eloise enjoys a mouthwatering cookery class with Robin Etienne

Clockwise from top: Eloise enjoys a mouthwatering cookery class with Robin Etienne, Head Chef at Raffles Seychelles’ Losean Restaurant, in which she prepares a roast grouper cooked in a banana leaf

Eloise prepares a roast grouper cooked in a banana leaf
the design store at Pies Czy Suka
some of the required ingredients
I’m definitely planning to make this dish at home and impress everyone with my exotic new cooking skills

We also travelled on a boat with Head Chef Chris Meredith and the fishermen who catch fish for the hotel. It was the most exhilarating experience; we saw some vanilla plantations, which only produce vanilla every two years, as well as an organic farm that grows vegetables and fruit for the hotel. It made me realise how much better it is to use local food in cooking.

The food at Raffles Seychelles is absolutely delicious; with 10 restaurants and bars in the resort, there is so much to choose from. During our stay we had four amazing and memorable dinners. On our first night, for example, we were treated to a luxurious dinner at the Curieuse Restaurant. I ordered a wonderful velvety fish with a sticky sauce and rice on the side. There is also a Japanese restaurant called The Sushi Room, which I adored; our five-course meal included exquisite sushi and sashimi with the freshest of fish. The experience seemed liked the best of sushi and the Seychelles combined.

The resort also offers guests the opportunity to have a private barbecue on the beach and, unsurprisingly, we jumped at the chance! Cookedby Robin Etienne, Head Chef of Losean, this was one of my favourite moments of the trip as the scenery was so beautiful. My mother and I ate our meal by candlelight, watching the waves lapping on the sand as it grew dark.

Eloise explores La Digue by bicycle
enjoying the scents of the island

Clockwise from top: Eloise explores La Digue by bicycle; enjoying the scents of the island; enjoying a paddle-boarding lesson; holding a giant Coco de Mer nut at Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

holding a giant Coco de Mer nut at Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve
enjoying a paddle-boarding lesson

In addition to eating at the Raffles Seychelles restaurants, I got to make delicious food of my own in a cookery class, overseen by Chef Robin. As well as being an amazing cook, he is also an incredible personality with the biggest smile you have ever seen. He is very passionate about his work; when I asked him what was his favourite recipe, he replied, “every dish!” During the 90-minute class, Robin helped me make a mouthwatering roast grouper cooked in a banana leaf, served with a palm heart salad. I’m definitely planning to make this dish at home and impress everyone with my exotic new cooking skills!

Each of the islands has a very different atmosphere, so it is interesting to compare the landscapes from island to island

Another highlight was the magnificent spa. As soon as I walked in, I experienced a feeling of calmness. My mother and I put on soft robes and went along toone of the outdoor rooms for a massage. After each choosing a moisturising oil, we lay down on a comfy bed, ready for an indulgent hour of relaxation — I couldn’t stop smiling afterwards.

learning the right moves during a children’s yoga session
dusk at the evocative Lazio Beach

Above: learning the right moves during a children’s yoga session; dusk at the evocative Lazio Beach

In between all the feasts and treats, there was plenty of opportunity to be active. One of my top highlights was a children’s yoga session; in just 30 minutes, I learned a handful of different yoga positions. I’m not the most flexible person so some of the positions were harder than others, but the friendly yoga instructor helped me to get the moves right each time.

Some of the yoga positions were harder than others, but the friendly instructor helped me get the moves right

Another memorable experience was a visit to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island. Accompanied by Robyn, we went for a delightful stroll along the winding paths under the shadow of the woods. The rare Coco de Mer nut is only found on Praslin and Curieuse, so we were lucky to see them twice. Their seeds are the largest and heaviest in the world — they look impressive, but you wouldn’t want them to fall on your head!

Eloise heads for the charming island of La Digue
marvelling at the lush scenery of Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

Above: Eloise heads for the charming island of La Digue; marvelling at the lush scenery of Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

On Praslin Island, the sunsets are spectacular; photos don’t do them justice. At around 5.30pm, we were driven to Lazio Beach on the west side of the island, which is famous for its sunsets.

The kaleidoscope of colours on the horizon was breathtaking, changing before our eyes with stunning tones. Anyone visiting Praslin should definitely make time to experience its unforgettable sunsets.

All too soon, it was time to leave. Once again, I looked out of the window at the shimmering ocean as our little plane took off in the reverse direction — home. Instead of buggies, I would have to get used to London buses again. I still have vivid memories of Raffles Seychelles, the places we visited and the wonderful people we met; I was amazed at how much there was to do and how relaxing it was at the same time. My only regret was not staying longer.

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