Scenic, stunning, otherworldly, magical, breathtaking and amazing are words not strong enough to describe the Seychelles. In every sense, these descriptive terms are still an understatement when talking about the Garden of Eden but let us give you an insight as FACT’s Layal Al-Mahmoud takes you on her journey to this small slice of paradise in the Indian Ocean…

Different sources give you different answers when you search for how many countries there are on planet earth – but there are 197 independent nations – and as far as bucket lists go, the Seychelles should definitely make your top 10 destinations to visit before you die. Etihad Airways and Seychelles Tourism Board joined forces and took hospitality to a whole new level when FACT magazine accepted their generous offer to traipse the luscious islands. Admittedly we thought the Seychelles was purely a honeymoon destination where all there is to do is sunbathe, drink colourful cocktails, sunbathe some more and enjoy sprawling sunsets with your love. That may be so, but there’s so much more to the Seychelles than the postcard stereotype.

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Over the years the growing number of hotel resorts alongside the influx of tourism has put the Indian Ocean jewel at the heart of the international travel map. Travellers from all walks of life – lovers, soul-searchers, botanists and families come to this enchanting destination. We are positive that one of the 116 coral and granite islands will bring you a sense of peace and calm to your soul – that or the beauty will just blow your socks off.

Situated in the western Indian Ocean near the equator, the climate in the archipelago is delightfully tropical; the perfect combination of sun and rain that will not leave you too bored of either. You’ll find that June, July, and August have the least amount of rain and is therefore the best time to visit – especially, for a relaxing retreat after a school year, with the family. Yet, with temperatures ranging between 27 and 33 degrees Celsius, the Seychelles is never out of season.

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We took to the main island of Mahé – defined by its white sand beaches and lush green nature. Victoria, the capital, is the epicenter of all that’s lively and touristy. The elegant replica of London’s Big Ben clock makes the heart of the city a must see. From there, walking down the busy streets of Victoria is a pleasure, as long as you carry your trusted umbrella – provided by your hotel. There are plenty of shops and kiosks to choose from, but if I had to pin down the best, the busy market of Sir Selwyn-Clarke is ideal for a good bargain.

Tropical fruits, exotic vegetables, and lots of fresh fish are sold side by side with a local variety of spices such as cinnamon, bay-leafs, nutmeg, vanilla, and their famous homemade curry sauce. From beachwear to handmade accessories and souvenirs, everything is inspired by the azure waters and tropical treasures. There’s a plethora of items to choose from: corals, shark tooth necklaces, coconut shell bracelets, coconut oil, soap, magnets and key chains, there are so many beautiful souvenirs to gift your family and friends.

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We were eager to see Le Coco Do Mer, the erotically shaped fruit that represents the country’s trademark forbidden fruit. It once grew only on two tiny isles and is now protected by the government. It’s fairly expensive and to take one back home, you require an export license. And when in the Seychelles, a fishing trip is in order. It’s super easy to arrange – either independently or through your hotel, it’s absolutely worth it – and OH EM GEE the taste of that fresh catch grilled on the shores of the nearby island is just heavenly. Be sure that your local companion knows his way around the spices!

If you get the chance to visit Eden Island, the only man-made island in the country, you must try dining in one of its luxury restaurants. Foodies and the culinary curious, like us, will not be disappointed. Surprisingly we found the Seychelles’ curry to be very different from the Indian and Thai variety. The octopus curry is a traditional dish that you may want to try; but if you are not up to the challenge, you may want to ask the chef to go easy on the chili! But no worries, there’s always a hot mix of grill items for you to try if the aforementioned doesn’t work out.

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Whatever your reason for visiting the Seychelles – you’ve just got hitched, you want a mini break from city life, you want to top that tan, you want to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature or you want to indulge in a gastronomic journey of spice and more spice – there’s so much to love here. Not to mention, there’s heaps of luxury to be found everywhere you go – namely in those relaxing massages where you lie in wafts of lemongrass and ginger essences or when you sit under a full moon with a passion fruit cocktail in your hand. Perfection? We think so! That’s why we urge you to tick the Seychelles off your list. While we were lapping it up in the Seychelles we got to stay in two luxury resorts, lucky us.

The H Resort, Beau Vallon Beach This one’s got over 100 varieties of luxurious accommodations – suites and villas (with direct access to the beach or a private swimming pool, so posh) giving you total privacy amidst thick foliage. Walking through the narrow alleyways lacing the resort is a delightful exercise in transporting you to an otherworldly place – there’s a bridge that goes across the river and the entire scene is pure magic – taking in almost the entire grounds of the property. The grand staircase in the lobby area is majestic with a touch of local charm– all it takes is a few short minutes to check in and there you are – in your villa. What a treat.

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Enjoying food in The H Resort is not hard work at all; there are so many venues to choose from. Vasco’s is the main restaurant, serving international cuisine that is themed with Seychellois/local Creole offerings against simple lines of contemporary décor. 1502, so named in honour of the year Vasco da Gama first laid eyes on the Seychelles. This lobby lounge is the quintessential embodiment of relaxed island chic, you’ll get a cocktail screaming with flavour here.

Ripples is the pool-side restaurant, very laid back in concept, very high in comfort levels. Seychima is a sophisticated outlet offering exquisite Japanese cuisine while Eden, tucked away in the property’s lavish gardens, gathers all local flavours for authentic dishes and lastly, a personal favourite of ours, is Trader Vic’s – the ultimate franchise concept restaurant – coming soon! And of course, the resort has many extras to keep you pampered and entertained: they’ve got a state of the art spa, kids club and gym – yoga classes, anyone? Basically, when you go, and invariably you’ll be Instagramming every second, boy will you give your followers holiday envy…

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Kempinski Seychelles Resort, Baie Lazare This one’s a massive chunk of luxury wrapped in
a lively green crust! Nestled in a secret-like bay, the Kempinski Seychelles is all kinds of romantic and peaceful. There are plenty of dining options that will keep you stuffed and satisfied for days. Café Lazare is the main restaurant with daily varieties, Windsong Beach Restaurant offers the perfect dining experience by the beach – dining on the beach, the stuff of dreams – and enjoy a fantastic shisha with tempting cocktails at Planters Bar & Lounge, and experience fine dining at its best with Kempinski’s signature restaurant L’Indochine

The hotel gives you plenty of ways to take care of yourself with their opulent spa (we’re talking world class treatments here…in traditional bungalow houses no less!) and a fully equipped fitness centre. One word: luxury. The room has that local warmness, the atmosphere is so welcoming, the entire property oozes with hospitality – the staff’s friendliness is unmatched, we could gush and gush but it’d be better for you to just go and try it yourself.

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GO: The H Resort Beau Vallon Beach – visit www. seychelles.h-hotel.com or call +248 4 387 000 for reservations and more information. Kempinski Seychelles Resort, Baie Lazare – visit www.kempinski.com or call +248 4 386 666 for reservations and more information