Continuing her dip into the crystal waters of the Seychelles, Karen makes a mere hop and a skip to the island paradise called (what else?) Eden…
As my taxi carried me from Mahé, the main island of the Seychelles, across a 100m bridge to the new island of Eden, I couldn’t help but marvel at this terrific feat of engineering by a Dutch company that had reclaimed this 56-hectare complex from the sea. On it are villas and apartments, a few of which are still for sale, private waterways, a shopping centre and Eden Blue hotel, my home for the next three nights.
First impressions are of great design with plenty of space and light. There are 87 rooms but the openness of the communal areas with their plants and water features makes it appear far larger. My luxury suite, one of 12, was huge and stylish. The design of the room is so minimal that for a moment I couldn’t see the shower but soon found it in the centre of the suite surrounded on all sides by glass. Generous helpings of Bulgari soaps and shower gels are provided, along with a Nespresso machine, Dilmah tea and a much-appreciated sunhat. There’s also a vast and comfy bed and a 42-inch flatscreen TV that you can adjust to watch sitting on the glass-sided balcony, the size of a double room in London, complete with a sofa large enough to sleep on and a couple of matching chairs. My sarong made it look messy.
My balcony overlooked an infinity pool and a marina filled with pristine white boats and catamarans, a clue to the sort of people attracted to the island, and beyond the marina the mountainous island of Mahé. The TV wasn’t required for watching in bed or on the balcony because every evening nature put on her own show in the form of a tropical storm, warm rain cleansing the land and electrical flashes lighting the sky.
It’s easy to while away your time in the warm infinity pool surrounded by huge white boats and imagining yourself in a Bond film. There’s no beach here – Eden Bleu is aimed more at business types, especially as it’s just 5km from both the airport and Victoria, the world’s smallest capital. The hotel also has a business centre with luxury boardrooms for smaller meetings, and up to 340 people can fit into the ballroom. If you are really important, a prince, say, or a president, you might like to know that Eden Bleu has the country’s only bullet-proof presidential suite, although there has never been a terrorist attack here.
Back to business and while sipping coffee at the Bourgeois Bar and eating in the Marlin Bleu restaurant I couldn’t help but overhear conversations, especially from South Africans discussing mega-Rand deals. There were a few Americans and plenty of Australians, too, all behaving in that polite, businessy way (“Hey, you must come to Melbourne – it’s just like Europe!”).
But if you do want to clinch that million-dollar deal, the bar, restaurant and Empereur terrace, all with slick pool and harbour views, are as good places as any in which to do so. The food served here should help things go smoothly: macho prime beef fillet and aged T-bone steaks are on the menu along with my favourite, the grilled bourgeois, the local version of red snapper. Desserts include chocolate fondant with pistachio crunch ice cream. It’s worth noting that while the vegetables, fruit and most of the seafood are local everything else – those steaks, for example – has to be imported, but the dishes I enjoyed were all perfectly cooked and fresh-tasting.
The hotel is also proud of its virtual concierge, which you can use to order room service, in-room dining, dry cleaning, book a massage in the nearby spa or plan an activity like the one I chose: a full-day reef safari, courtesy of Mason’s Travel (www.masonstravel.com). Enthusiastic guides Frances and Rita welcomed me onto the Anahita catamaran, along with many other nationalities including a group of charming Xhosa ladies who I’m sure will find only selfies on their phones when they return to South Africa. Just before lunch, we donned our snorkels and the magic began. Talk about a riot of colour: electric blue fish, yellow batfish, red wrasses and numerous other neon and rainbow-coloured fish I couldn’t begin to name swam around the reef and I felt like I was in an aquarium. A few of us lost track of time and burned our backs under the scorching sun.
Back on the catamaran and lunch, made by Rita comprised coleslaw, bean salad, garlic bread, chicken, tuna and a Creole sauce, followed by coconut and banana cake. While we were eating, Francis picked up his guitar and serenaded us with some Seychellois songs and a few rock hits, the latter with a unique take on the lyrics.
On to the island of Moyenne and herein lies an extraordinary tale. In 1972, a Yorkshire-born ex-Fleet Street sub-editor named Brendon Grimshaw bought the island for £8,000. Together with his friend, Seychellois Rene Lafortune, he tamed the forest, planted indigenous fauna and introduced more than 100 giant tortoises from Aldebra, who you can still see today as you walk around the island, which takes 45 minutes. Years later, Grimshaw was offered millions for the island but refused, saying he wanted it to remain as a nature reserve for all people to enjoy and not to be built on. He died in 2013 and I would loved to have met him.
It was hard to leave this idyllic island, the friendly giant tortoises, who are free to roam (I can honestly say I never thought I’d bond with a tortoise but spent a good 20 minutes with one, who tried to eat the strap on my bag) and Yellow, the large Labrador-like fishing dog, who belonged to one of the men now looking after the island and who stood with his paws in the sea waiting to pounce on fish for a quick snack.
The contrast between this simple island with three ramshackle buildings and the plodding pace of the tortoises couldn’t have been in greater contrast to the tech-savvy, high design of Eden Bleu, so if you do venture on to the pristine man-made island of Eden be sure to visit man-preserved Moyenne, too.
For details and room rates at Eden Bleu, visit www.edenbleu.com.
Karen’s day out on the reef and to Moyenne was courtesy of Mason’s Travel. For more information, visit www.masonstravel.com. Other companies, including www.creoletravelservices.com, also offer excursions.
For more information on travelling to Seychelles, visit www.seychelles.travel.