YOU can tell a lot about a nation from its cuisine. So the first thing I do on arrival at Mahé, the Seychelles’ largest island, is journey up a winding mountain road to Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden.
This restaurant distils everything I will come to love about the Seychelles into one multi-sensory dining experience. Perched in the jungle-clad hills above Anse Royale beach, I can see pristine white sand and the glimmering Indian Ocean from my table.
The humid air, while bad news for my hair, is dense with the scents of fruits, spices and plants growing in the restaurant garden. Lemongrass, sugar canes and cinnamon shoot up in thick patches; juicy green pomelos weigh down tree branches.
All of this produce arrives on my plate in simple but perfectly executed dishes. Spiced silver snapper laced with fiery chillies and lime; crisp shredded apple salad; a mojito so flavourful I can’t tell if I’m more enlivened by the rum or the bright citrus zest. This is farm-to-table dining at its least pretentious – when the ingredients are this fresh, there’s no need for any faff.
The same applies to the Seychelles. This archipelago of 115 islands off the coast of East Africa is famed for its unspoilt beauty, with world-renowned beaches and a balmy climate where temperatures rarely dip below 24˚C. It doesn’t take me long to acclimatise. Many of the hotels boast a beachside location; I lounge for hours on the blissfully quiet beaches at Avani Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa, which is on the budget-friendly side, and The H Resort Beau Vallon Beach, a more upscale resort.
Beau Vallon beach is easily Mahé’s most gorgeous. The dictionary definition of a tropical paradise, it has a long, sweeping bay of powdery sand, clear shallow water and coral reefs. Birdsong and the faint rustle of palm fronds are the only sounds to be heard.
In the evening, the sky dances with colour as the sun sinks below the neighbouring island of Silhouette, and everyone stands still as though observing a fireworks display. It’s the simple pleasures that matter most here.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to do in Mahé. I visit Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles. There’s a lively market with mounds of bananas, pineapples and plump fish at one end and hand-woven textiles at the other.
A few streets away I spy an eye-catching Hindu temple, and a clock tower said to be a miniature replica of Big Ben. Hints of the island’s colonial past can also be found in Morne Seychellois Park at Mission Lodge, which once served as accommodation for liberated slaves. Take a guided tour to learn of the lodge’s historical significance, then make your way to its pavilion – one of the Seychelles’ most famous vantage points, where it’s said Queen Elizabeth once took tea – for breathtaking panoramic views.
Mahé is best explored by hiring a car. Traffic is practically non-existent, and as I twist and turn through lush forests, I feel like I have the island all to myself.
Whether you drive or not, it’s easy to travel to other islands once you’ve had your fill. I hop on a catamaran to check out next door neighbour Praslin, home to Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. Coco de Mer palm trees tower above me at this stunning World Heritage Site.
From Praslin I take the boat to La Digue, a charming, sleepy island with the most photographed beach in the world, Anse Source d’Argent. Giant tortoises pad around granite boulders, like a scene from a Pixar film.
On every island, no matter where I dine – from casual cafés to high-end hotels – I’m spoiled by the food and drink. Smoked octopus salad, coconut fish curry and fresh lemongrass tea are as soul-nourishing as the stunning surroundings.
My one regret is that I don’t sample breadfruit. Apparently, if you eat this local delicacy, you are guaranteed to return to the Seychelles. If good fortune brings me back here again someday, I’ll be eating it by the plateful.
Fly direct to Mahé with BA from London Heathrow (britishairways.com).
Double room at Avani Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa from £290 a night (minorhotels.com/en/avani/seychelles-barbarons).
Junior suite at H Resort Beau Vallon Beach from £500 a night (hresortseychelles.com)
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe