Britons familiar with the scores of private-island resorts in the Maldives shouldn’t assume a similar experience awaits if they visit a private-island retreat in the Seychelles. Far fewer in number, the Seychellois islands tend to be bigger, the terrain more varied and the properties’ commitment to conservation more apparent and convincing.
The two nations will soon have something significant in common, however: in March British Airways will recommence direct flights to the country, a decade after the airline last offered the service. As with the Maldives, this Indian Ocean idyll will soon be but a 10-hour flight away.
One of the country’s most high-profile recent openings, and a certain magnet for future British honeymooners, Six Senses Zil Pasyon stands on the 652-acre Félicité Island and is dramatically beautiful. Clusters of immense granite boulders line the island’s periphery, a ribbon of turquoise water is threaded along the shoreline.
With man-made developments concentrated on one third of the island, much of its interior is protected and improved wildland – the Six Senses team is making efforts to eliminate invasive species and to propagate rare local flora. Birds such as the Seychelles paradise flycatcher and the Seychelles warbler are being reintroduced.
Guests who wish to learn more about these ongoing environmental initiatives are welcome to accompany the island’s conservation manager on dawn hikes through Félicité’s interior, culminating with a visit to a Coco de Mer tree, whose voluptuous seed is the biggest in the world.
During my stay, however, most residents seemed content to while away the days in their villas. There are 30 in total (with 17 private residences to be added to the island’s inventory over time), all stylishly finished with balau wood, vaulted ceilings, sun deck and private pool. A swing seat in the bathroom is one of the more playful features; in place of a ‘do not disturb’ sign, residents flip a wooden turtle who either retreats into or leaves its shell as the case may be.
One of the island’s pool villas
Embedded between a crop of mammoth boulders, the resort’s spa is perhaps its most striking amenity. Each of the five treatment rooms accommodates couples, most offer views that are exceptional; honeymooners might decide to enjoy “journeys” that use aphrodisiac oils, love mantras and singing bowls. A shaded yoga pavilion is set on the oceanfront, a saltwater pool with sundeck stands atop a boulder. Aesthetically it’s one of a kind.
Dining is a delight too — by no means a given in Seychelles resorts. Though choice initially seems limited to just two restaurants – the all-day Island Café, which offers an international menu, and the exceptional meat-free, fish specialist Ocean Kitchen – a rotation of themed dining events saves the offering from feeling predictable and the quality is consistently superb.
From a beautifully seasoned ceviche to a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream, every dish I tried was impressive — culinary standards easily surpass those on both North Island and Fregate Island Private, which are otherwise incontestably the country’s two most prestigious, impressive properties (and are priced at a rate significantly in excess of the Six Senses as a result).
There’s much, then, to indicate the island is a reliable destination for an upmarket fly-and-flop, but my stay wasn’t without some significant shortcomings. While the resort’s opening about nine months earlier was such a success that it was named by The Telegraph as the best new hotel of the year, changes to staff and management occurred subsequently and standards of service had slipped considerably by the time of my stay in July.
A supposed USP for Six Senses in the Seychelles is its team of GEMs, individual guest experience managers allocated to each villa. More than butlers, these are the gatekeepers to the best of the island, on standby to sort out snorkelling expeditions, book spa treatments or perhaps even arrange intrepid treasure hunts around the island.
His purpose never clearly articulated, mine was nowhere to be seen for the vast majority of my stay and any expert insights he could give me into the best of Félicité went unheard, so opportunities to fully appreciate what the island can offer were missed. Staff elsewhere seemed unenthused and disengaged; a succession of oversights and delays meant that by the end of my three-night stay I’d lost confidence in their ability to deliver good service efficiently.
The island Cafe
It was a deeply disappointing blot on what in other respects is a very promising resort. Like the rest of the Seychelles, the island is exceptionally beautiful and Six Senses’ sincere commitment to sustainable practice across the entirety of its portfolio deserves commendation.
I’m told that more GEMs have now been enlisted and training improved. Should the team again reach the standards of which they’re capable, Zil Pasyon has the potential to serve as a worthy base for the masses of Britons considering the Seychelles as a holiday destination.
Six Senses Zil Pasyon B&B rates from $1,300 (£980) per night in a one-bedroom Hideaway Pool Villa.