Motti Verses

Hunters for paradise on Seychelles Mahé island

With crescents of sugary-soft sand, cerulean waters, leaning palm trees and beaches, Mahé is Seychelles main island. It is not only the gateway to our hunt for paradise, but also home to the Seychelles’ capital city Victoria. Its picturesque market is reputed for its liveliness, color and eccentric vibe, offering varied items like fresh produce, fish and souvenirs. It allows one to experience the island’s culture. Seychelles Craft Village is located in the notable Grann Kaz Plantation House and its adjacent servants’ houses. Handmade souvenirs, gifts and even historic old ships models are offered. The nearby Botanical Garden boasts over 280 plant species, including the manual-planted Coco de Mer, Seychelles’ famous palm tree. Its most popular attraction is the giant tortoises, which visitors can feed and enjoy.

Victoria market, an experience of the island’s culture (photo by Motti Verses)
Feeding the giant tortoises in the Botanical Garden (photo by Motti Verses)

A boat tour to Sainte Anne Marine National Park with its 6 islands close to Mahé, including the small marvelous Moyenne Island, is an enjoyable experience. Diving sites have coral reefs and additional surprises. During this relaxing boat trip my most recalled memory I possess from my first trip to the Seychelles 28 years ago arose. It was the meeting with a British gentleman, Brendon Grimshaw.  In that period I conducted, as Head of Public Relations of Hilton hotels Israel, the first ever press trip from Israel to the islands.  Air Seychelles launched for the first time a route to Ben Gurion airport. Together with four leading food and travel writers we explored the archipelago. The visit to the small marvelous Moyenne Island was included. Grimshaw was a  journalist who lived by himself on the island surrounded by numerous tortoises. A  hallucinating scene. He told us his unbelievable life story over a glass of beer in his small house yard, under the coconuts trees. When we heard he purchased Moyenne Island in the early 1960s for £8,000 we thought he was pulling our leg. He was not. The journalist from Dewsbury, England, moved to his island with nothing but a dream and lived there till he passed away 11 years ago. Moyenne was close enough to be accessible from Mahé for supplies and yet a world away. For my money, Grimshaw was the happiest person on the globe. Now, when I approached his grave on the paradise island  I was deeply saddened. An appropriate final rest for a successful hunter for paradise.  Ever since, the island turned into a picturesque national park and I urge you to visit it.

The tomb of Brendon Grimshaw; his tortoises are still there (photo by Motti Verses)
The marvelous Moyenne Island , one of the endless hidden corners (photo by Motti Verses)

Another bliss pursuer for paradise is celebrated Italian fashion photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri. The 85 years old professional photographer is renowned with images of Audrey Hepburn and Jerry Hall. One of the giants of fashion on film, going beyond any superficial narrative. He discovered the Seychelles in 1975 and fell in love with the islands that provided him an inspiration. With a feeling he must own a place there, he built a stylish house perched on an oceanfront cliff on a dream place in southern Mahé, overlooking the Anse Aux Poules Bleues bay. He sold his property a while ago and just recently, 18 months ago, it was inaugurated as a luxury hotel – Mango House Seychelles LXR, Mahé. We chose to make this paradise hotel as our home on the island.

I must say, it was a dreamy experience. This intimate retreat offers 41 sea-facing villas and suites with distinctive décor mirroring the natural beauty of the Seychelles. The villas include mosquito bed nets spread by the team at night time, reinforcing the local atmosphere. The main building is called ‘the house’, where the celebrity photographer lived. The moment one enters this monumental structure you are struck by both the size and the classy design. The ocean view, seen from the floor to ceiling windows, is heartwarming. It was hard to imagine how the original house looked after the hotel’s new design, however I am confident it was no less stylish. Just outside, a relatively small infinity pool turned immediately to my own retreat, with daily dips, especially during sunsets.

‘The house’, a monumental structure with a classy design (photo by Motti Verses)
The villas include mosquito bed nets spread by the team at night time (photo by Motti Verses)
My own daily retreat, the infinity pool overlooking the ocean (photo by Motti Verses)

Numerous fine dining establishments are located in the house. Born in the relatively neighboring French colony island of Reunion, Executive Chef Olivier Barré is doing wonders in the high end variety of those pampering restaurants, making this journey also an unforgettable culinary experience. Mango House also offers a luxurious Spa and we didn’t miss the opportunity to enjoy heavenly treatments. We were asked to choose the blend we prefer out of five options. Island energy blend was our unanimous choice and the hour we spent in this wellness shrine will be remembered for a long time.

High end variety pampering restaurants, an unforgettable culinary experience (photo by Motti Verses)
Island energy blend was our unanimous choice at the wellness spa (photo by Motti Verses)
Mango House private beach, breathtaking (photo by Motti Verses)

As the hotel is relatively small guests get to know the friendly hospitable team members. It is certainly a home feeling, exactly what one expects in such an upscale accommodation.  Amanda Lang, a Mango House leading management executive, is highly proud of the service provided, “Mango House is the nuts of the beauty of the Seychelles, as we employ amazing Seychellois team members with us. Guests always enjoy dazzling smiles and storytelling as we are very sociable. We are always about to know our clients, getting to know how they are going to spend the time with us, so we become their home”, she says. I can certainly say that service at the Mango House is one of the best I have experienced during my travels.

Recently the Seychelles tourism department announced that the total of arrivals to the islands last year was 334,552. Certainly getting closer to half a million and an increase of 81 percent compared to 2021. “Europe is the leader for our tourism, with Germany remaining top with the UK, France, Switzerland, Austria & Italy having performed strongly in the past”, says Hendrick Calles, General Manager of Hilton Seychelles Northolme, whom we met during our trip. Paradise hunters can also be motivated for professional reasons. Calles moved to Mahé from his latest jobs in Oman and numerous locations in Africa. ”Due to the nature and frequentity of the different airlines’ arrival days, most  tourists stay for 7 nights. Planning a visit to the Seychelles is definitely needed. The long rains run from November through to March, with the wettest months being January and February. The winter months then run from May through to the end of October offering dry weather. April and May are green and verdant, whilst September and October can feel dry”, he says.

Hilton GM Hendrick Calles:”most tourists stay for 7 nights” (photo by Motti Verses)
Powdery-white sands, scenic beaches, dense forests in Mahé (photo by Motti Verses)

Pleasant Calles is Argentinian-French, certainly a unique merger. When he had to stand by one side in the recent World Cup final, he supported Argentina, pressured by his son. He certainly got my blessing. The pleasant gentleman has managed the hotel since June 2022 and he believes that his hotel is the preferred accommodation option in the north part of Mahe, especially for those searching for a romantic escape with incredible pool villas perched on a hill overlooking the Indian ocean.

Buying a house on this paradise archipelago is also an option. The Seychelles has allowed foreigners to buy property here since 2007, but with certain restrictions. The government must approve all purchases and homes can only be rented if they are on a government-approved resort.

Overall the hunt for paradise for tourists is meaningless on Mahé. Those who come again are just looking for their powdery-white scenic beach and relax there until eternity. Certainly it is much more enjoyable the Gian Paolo Barbieri way, in a retreat like Mango House.

About the Author
The author is a hotel expert, traveler, writer, videographer and the former Head of Public Relations of Hilton Hotels and Resorts in Israel
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