Is it possible to visit far-flung destinations without leaving a trace? No, frankly, but if you choose your resorts wisely, there might just be something you can do to enhance the environment you’re visiting…
I’ve always wondered what happens to all the soap slivers left behind in hotel rooms. In the age of sustainability, it pains me to think of I’ll be wasting the majority of that pretty little scented bar I’m unwrapping while away. Especially on a short trip.
Thankfully, brands like Hilton are doing something about it, with sustainability initiatives like Diversey’s Soap for Hope programme, which teaches at-risk communities to salvage left over soap and turn them into new bars.
More than 70 Hilton hotels globally take part in the programme, but I came across it at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, and it’s just one of many steps that this particular resort has taken towards sustainability.
Lessening our impact when visiting far-flung destinations is not a new idea, in fact, we’re already moving beyond sustainability initiatives to new concepts like ‘conscious travel’, whereby we not only do our best to minimise our impact, but actively try to enrich the area we’re visiting. And the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa is onboard.
Located just a 25-minute drive from Seychelles International Airport, the beautiful resort – one of the first built on the main island of Mahé – has partnered with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles to create a coral nursery in an effort to restore the reefs around its shores following a coral bleaching event in 2016 (a natural phenomenon whereby warmer waters cause corals to expel algae living in their tissues, turning them white).
We went to take a look around on a rather choppy day that meant those of us less experienced at snorkelling (moi) struggled to reach the nursery, and visibility wasn’t the best. But what we should have seen were two small scale in-water nurseries created to grow healthy corals that could later be transplanted out to other reefs.
‘The beautiful resort has partnered with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles to create a coral nursery in an effort to restore the reefs around its shores’
A noble endeavour indeed, especially when the Guest Experience & Sustainability Coordinator at Northolme, Anne d’Abzac, admits it might not work. But, she adds, it would be irresponsible not to at least try.
Guests are encouraged to get involved, with a snorkelling trail to guide you around the nurseries, and the opportunity to adopt a coral to help support the project. It’s certainly one for conscious travellers, alongside their beach clean-up campaigns and nature talks with conservation experts.
Basic sustainability initiatives are, of course, in place, such as the eradication of single-use plastic straws and phasing out of plastic water bottles (to be replaced with branded reusable bottles that are yours to keep and water refilling stations dotted around the property).
In fact, Northolme and its sister resort, Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa (more on that later), have earned a TUI Environmental Champion Award in recognition for their work towards nature conservation and protecting the environment.
‘With its sparkling blue infinity pool, coveted beach coves and glorious sunsets, Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort is precisely that escape-to-paradise daydream you expect of the Indian Ocean’
With its sparkling blue infinity pool, coveted beach coves, glorious sunsets and views across Beau Vallon Bay, Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort is precisely that escape-to-paradise daydream you expect of the Indian Ocean. Its location on the main island of Mahé means that you can also scratch that itch to experience real Seychellois life.
Head for the capital city, Victoria, a 15-20 minute drive away, where you can visit the bustling fish and vegetable market, check out the Little Ben clock tower (modelled on Little Ben near London Victoria Station), head for the National Botanical Gardens, or take in a museum.
We were ferried around by the lovely Bernard Moustache, a great driver/guide who’ll take you to see the sights and share his knowledge of and passion for the Seychelles, with an infectious enthusiasm.
You can also opt for a market tour experience, where a chef from Northolme will guide you around the market, picking out ingredients, and then teach you to cook some wonderful Seychellois dishes for you all to dig into in the idyllic surrounds of Cap Lazare, a 65-hectare nature reserve to the south of Mahe with a colony of giant tortoises that you can pet post-lunch.
The resort itself has cleverly nestled 56 spacious treehouse-style villas – characterised by dark wood, four-poster beds draped in white voile, and huge bathrooms with whirlpool baths – among the lush hillside, which rings with bird song.
‘The resort has cleverly nestled 56 spacious treehouse-style villas among the lush hillside, which rings with bird song’
The newer Grand Oceanview Pool Villas have large private plunge pools and more contemporary interiors, and the Presidential Suite, with two bedrooms, a staff kitchen, 75m2 swimming pool and spacious decking area, is spectacularly opulent.
There’s even an Ian Fleming Suite and 007 bar and games room, named so because the Bond author had travelled to the property back in 1958, seeking inspiration for his latest work, For Your Eyes Only.
For a completely different vibe, head to the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa on Silhouette, the third largest island on the archipelago and a Marine National Park since 1987.
Impressively, Labriz is the only resort on it, occupying just 7% of the lush, green paradise that resembles a scene from Jurassic Park (it’s one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the western Indian Ocean). Fortunately, there are no dinosaurs, but there’s a healthy population of fruit bats, which are spectacular to watch in flight, dive-bombing in and out of the sea.
Much more remote than Northolme, Labriz can be reached by boat or chopper (it’s also, incidentally, right next door to North Island, where Kate and Wills honeymooned).
‘Labriz is the only resort on Silhouette, occupying just 7% of the lush, green island that resembles a scene from Jurassic Park’
The long, ambling resort has 111 spacious villas, which come in a variety of configurations; the best (assuming you’re not stretching to the phenomenal Presidential Villa, which is almost a resort in itself) are the Deluxe Beachside Pool Villas, where you can step right out onto the sparsely populated beach, and the Deluxe Hillside Pool Villas, which afford you extra privacy.
The Eforea spa is a feat of unobtrusive architecture, crafted around the natural landscape with huge rocks, swaying trees and bamboo structures standing in for walls, creating a tropically tranquil environment where nodding off as skilled therapists unknot your flight-crumpled muscles is pretty life-affirming.
The place also has an impressive number of restaurants offering everything from Creole specialities to Japanese teppanyaki and grilled seafood served beachside. Do head to Grann Kaz, a grand old house near the jetty, for a Creole cooking class where, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to try the chef’s amazing octopus curry.
When surrounded by such glorious natural beauty, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to explore it. Grab a map and hike the old coconut trail to Anse Mondon – a secluded cove to the north of the island – or hire a guide, who will point out endemic species, stop as you’re about to step on a giant millipede and gracefully swing his machete at any rogue vines.
The viewpoint at the top, aptly named Belle Vue, is truly awe-inspiring, with not a man-made thing in sight.
There’s a lot to love at both of these resorts. The staff are genuinely warm and keen to engage, the resorts are well established and run like clockwork, the food is varied and delicious, and the Seychelles will always be – so long as we look after it – paradise.
Prices at Northolme start from £395 B&B in a King Hillside Villa (seychelles.hilton.com); prices at Labriz start from £272 B&B in a Garden Villa (see hiltonseychelleslabriz.com). Emirates flies from London Gatwick to Seychelles International Airport via Dubai. For more information on the Seychelles see seychelles.travel