Hotels We Love

Embracing Wild Calm in the Seychelles

by California Chaney
The The Lighthouse Bar at the Four Seasons Desroches Island. All photos courtesy of Four Seasons, unless otherwise noted.

DESROCHES ISLAND, Seychelles — It took a few days for my heart to stop racing after an action-packed photo safari with the Four Seasons Serengeti in Tanzania. The experience was ingrained in my senses: the roar of a lion waking from his nap in the sun, a dazzle of zebra galloping at dawn, a cheetah sprinting for dinner. My eyes were dry from not wanting to blink and miss a leopard leap from its perch on an acacia tree. The energy was visceral and unforgettable.

I swapped the bush for the beach on my next adventure with Four Seasons Safari and Islands Collection. Nine hundred miles off the coast of East Africa, the Four Seasons Seychelles on Desroches Island is the only property on a three-mile-wide, white-sand coral island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I landed in Mahé — the largest island of the Seychelles archipelago with international arrivals from Dubai, Doha, and several European airports — for a connecting flight to Desroches Island. The 35-minute ride arrives directly onto the Four Seasons' private runway. The 20-year-old hotel's one neighbor, Island Conservation Society, tends to the tortoises in the area, including George, a 120-year old giant Aldabra giant. He's Desroches Island's oldest inhabitant and roams the island freely like he owns the place, because he basically does.

Aerial of Desroches Island.
Left: Cruising the hotel's jungle pathways. Right: George, the 120-year-old reptile King of Desroches Island. Photos by California Chaney.

An Island to Call Home

The resort is located on the island's western peninsula. Seventy-one breezy beach villas and bungalows dot white-sand beaches and lush coconut groves. Each is their own slice of paradise, complete with an outdoor lap pool, garden, and west-facing views of the sunset dipping into the Indian Ocean. An additional 13 residences scattered along the beach have three, four, or five bedrooms; a full kitchen; and a dedicated butler. Upon arriving, I was whisked via golf cart from the tarmac to my beachside villa. As the door swung open, the salty air rushed in, along with the beautiful smell of teak wood. With the ocean gently lapping from the window, it felt like I was on my own sailboat, ready to cast away. 

And cast away I did. Coming from a safari, I had adapted to the animal clock: early-morning bush drives and sundowners at hunting hour. On the island, I leaned into a different flow of nature. I quickly acquainted myself with the cheerful beach cruiser waiting outside my door, filled the basket with strong sunscreen (the UVs in the Southern Hemisphere are no joke), a great book, and a snorkel borrowed from the adventure center (more on that later). I cruised throughout the property, across the runway (when the coast was clear) and into the dense jungle grove. Four Seasons manages only the stretch of land on the southwest side of the island. With no other hotels or residents, the rest of the island is free for exploring. Dirt bike trails wind through verdant canopies, cutoffs leading to secret swimming spots along nine miles of beach. I occasionally encountered another guest, hotel staffer, or employee of the conservation society, but most of the time I had the place to myself. 

This was just one way I spent a day on Desroches. Also on offer are beach yoga classes, sound baths, cooking classes, spa treatments, tennis lessons, scuba diving, and surf lessons, with no set flow or typical resort-style schedule. Going off the grid was the best amenity I've ever experienced. 

The arrival to the hotel's private airstrip.
A beachside villa.
Photos by TropicSurf instructor Juzzy.
Pool? Beach? You don't have to decide.
Outdoor dining at Lighthouse.

After hours of exploring and swimming, I was ravenous. The food here is excellent — and not just because the only other option is fishing for your dinner. Claudine, the alfresco restaurant by the pool, serves beautiful tropical spreads that are great after a day of adventuring. At night, the menu circumnavigates the globe — pan-Asian, Lebanese, Creole. On the far west side of the island, The Castaway Bar terrace is magical for sunset cocktails and beachside surf-and-turf beneath the lighthouse. The hotel also offers amazing in-room dining experiences and beach picnics and sushi bars for larger groups. 

At night, the hotel hosts stargazing and moonlight yoga on the runway. Backed by an incredibly bright Milky Way, it looked like the shooting stars were coming in for a landing.

Outdoor living room at one of thirteen villas.
Every room at the resort includes a private pool and palapa with direct access to the sea.
Scuba diving off the island reefs.
Photos by TropicSurf instructor Juzzy.

Ways of the Water

For surfers, there's no bigger treat than having a lineup of crystal-clear waves all to yourself. Several ocean outfitters set up on the property offer scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing. Tropic Surf is a luxury surf camp whose pro surfers ensure surfers of all levels find their best waves. Varying swells hit different sides of the island. Beginners start on the sandy shoreline of the protected beaches, while more advanced surfers are towed out to the reef break via jet-ski for fun, long-riding barrels. No matter the wave, surfers strike gold on this undisturbed paradise. 

Fourteen world-class dive sites surround the property at the point where the turquoise lagoon descends into the dark blue, revealing vibrant reef walls and hidden passageways to ocean caves. 

On my final night, I spent time on the sand just outside my room, dreading my impending return to normal life after two blissful weeks in Africa. The moon glistened above the ocean and the jungle rustled and chirped behind me. After days of savoring a nowhere-to-be, no-one-to-see agenda, I had a deep appreciation for the greatest luxury of all: life that could be as wild as I wanted it to be. 

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