Island style

Island style

I consider myself something of a connoisseur when it comes to tropical beaches. My toes have wriggled themselves down into powder-soft sands from Kenya to the Maldives to Bali. They’ve left transient footprints on a mid-ocean Mozambican sandbar hidden by every rising tide, and savoured the exclusivity of a private island off the coast of Zanzibar, far from the madding crowds.

But none of those sandy stretches come close to Anse Georgette, surely the most beautiful beach in an island chain never short of a sexy bit of sand. Here on the north coast of Praslin, the Seychelles is really just showing off.

With its Instagram-worthy palm trees and bulbous granite boulders you’d expect Anse Georgette to be packed with day-trippers, much like Anse Lazio to the east or Anse Source d’Argent on the isle of La Digue.

Not so, thanks to its unique location in the grounds of Constance Lémuria, one of the leading five-star resorts in the Seychelles.

Lémuria is one of a pair of resorts in the Seychelles run by the Constance group. Constance Ephelia on the main island of Mahé is well suited for families and spa-focused travellers, but Lémuria is hands-down my choice for couples and honeymooners looking for a slice of tropical escapism.

The hotel first opened in 1999, but last year saw the iconic property close for a major refurbishment that has firmly cemented its reputation as one of the top resorts in the Indian Ocean.

Interior designer Marc Hertrich has reimagined both public and private spaces, infusing the Lémuria’s 105 suites and villas with a palette of island tones, and revamping the resort’s three restaurants and public space.

Gastronomy has long been a hallmark of Lémuria, from buffet-style restaurant The Legend to Creole-infused seafood fare at The Nest. Takamaka offers feet-in-the-sand casual dining and sushi with a Seychellois twist, but the highlight at dinnertime is surely DIVA, where contemporary global cuisine is matched by one of the finest wine lists in the region. Here Constance’s head sommelier Jerome Faure has collated a cellar of more than 12 000 bottles across 900 labels, encompassing both Old and New World producers. Prices are somewhat steep thanks to hefty government taxes and import costs, but the selection is superb and the sommeliers highly trained.

While the recent revamp has further improved Lémuria, it’s a resort that already had something of an unfair advantage. Aside from being home to the exquisite Anse Georgette, the estate is lounges across a scenic peninsula book-ended by two private beaches.

The restaurants and public spaces overlook the serene Petite Anse Kerlan, while the suites and villas give on to wilder Grand Anse Kerlan. A rocky shoreline and strong currents make it unsuitable for swimming, but between October and February guests can watch hawksbill and green turtles heave themselves ashore here to lay eggs. A few months later, lucky visitors may spot – from a safe distance – the hatchlings make that first dash for the ocean. At other times of the year, simply pull up a sun lounger and soak up the views of this island paradise.

Now I do enjoy a beach as much as the next man, but sometimes it’s necessary to expend a few calories to rekindle an appetite for the buffet. Happily there is no shortage of opportunity at Lémuria, a resort that lays claim to the only 18-hole golf course in the Seychelles.

“This course is a ball-eater!” warned the golf club manager, showing me around the practice and teaching facilities one sultry afternoon. He’s not wrong, I discovered the next morning, as I teed up on the par-4 1st.

Although the 18-hole track plays to a par of 70, and is a fairly short 5580-metres, the narrow fairways and devilish rough conspire to make it harder than it looks. And when I say rough I’m being kind: on most holes it varies between tropical jungle and impenetrable mangrove forest.

It’s also a course of two faces. The first dozen holes are laid out along a flat peninsula, and are reminiscent of a Mauritian resort course. Flat fairways, rustling palms and glimpses of a glittering sea make for a stress-free outing. Keep your camera ready for the charming par-3 8th though: considered one of the most challenging holes on the course, it demands a hefty tee shot to clear mangrove forests and reach the green.

While the first 12 offer entertaining island golf, things get really interesting from the 13th onwards. Course architects Marc Antoine Farry and Rodney Wright make full use of the dramatic island topography here, as fairways climb steep hillsides only to plummet down the other side. An elevated tee-box on the 14th requires a lofty carry to reach a tricky terraced fairway, with the green seemingly forever a lob wedge above your head.

But it’s the 15th that brings a smile to my face each time I play the Lémuria course. Without doubt the signature hole, the tee box here seems carved out of the mountainside, dishing up jaw-dropping views of both Anse Georgette and the Indian Ocean beyond. Sandwiched between the forested slopes and the deep blue sea you’ll spy a scrap of green 50 metres below your feet. Tee up, haul out a wedge and loft one gently into space. Sound easy? Don’t forget to watch out for the bunker and water hazards guarding the green.

The devilishly narrow fairways of the 16th charge back up through the forest, before a final par-3 and the elevated 18th that plummets back down towards the resort. I finish the round sweaty, smiling and a good few golf balls poorer than I started. This may not be the most manicured golf course I’ve played in the Indian Ocean, but it is certainly one of the most entertaining.

After a steaming morning out on the course it’s time to hit the sea. The calm waters of Anse Petite Kerlan are great for swimming, and the boathouse can sort you out with kit for a self-guided snorkelling adventure in the bay. The boathouse also offers sailing dinghies and kayaks, as well as daily scuba diving on nearby reefs.

While visitors tend to spend most of their time ensconced in the resort – and who can blame them – if you’re here on a longer stay it’s worth venturing out for a half-day visit to the remarkable Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve a 20-minute drive from the resort.

A proclaimed World Heritage Site, the reserve is home to more than 6000 Coco-de-Mer palms, the provocatively shaped seeds of which have become the emblem of the Seychelles. Aside from marvelling at the towering palms, a good guide can hep you spot the endemic Black Parrots that call the forest home. As one of the most popular sights in the Seychelles you’ll no doubt share the forest with plenty of other visitors, but it’s well worthwhile to discover this incredible slice of pristine prehistoric forest.

For the restless, day-trips by high-speed ferry can whisk you back to Mahé to take in the colourful market in the diminutive capital city of Victoria, to historic highland estates and across to the tiny island of La Digue.

But honestly? The Seychelles is about sun, sea and sand. The sightseeing is just to make ourselves feel better when we finally return to our rightful place: ensconced beneath tropical sunshine on a powder-soft beach. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be stretched out under a palm tree on Anse Georgette. Come and find me.

Who is OnAnotherPlane...

RIchard Holmes headshot web smallRichard Holmes is a freelance travel, food and lifestyle writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. His work on African and international destinations has appeared in a wide range of consumer publications both in South Africa and abroad.