There are few resorts that rise to the level of Banyan Tree, Seychelles. We decided to spend a couple of days recovering from the long flight before boarding our Silversea cruise. When we arrived, we were escorted up the beautiful sweeping staircase to the main building where we were welcomed and taken to the veranda with its magnificent view of the ocean. Here we sat and sipped iced ginger tea and freshened up with a cold scented cloth. A hotel representative came out to the veranda to check us in and give us our room key. After breakfast, we went back to the lobby where one of the hotel employees asked to take our picture. We weren’t sure why and we didn’t really look our best after being on an aircraft since Tuesday, but we smiled and the photo was taken in front of one of the banyan trees. On our last night at this wonderful place, the photo, framed in silk with a small Banyan Tree logo at the bottom, was placed on our bed at turndown as a memento of our stay.
From the lobby, guests are offered complimentary “buggy” (golf cart) rides to the villas, which can be a fair distance away. Each villa has a lockable gate leading to the patio (ours was at the end of a beautiful stone pathway surrounded by vegetation), private pool, outdoor veranda and villa. In case you missed it, I said private pool. The private infinity pool is a great place to take a cool splash after lying in the sun, or to sit and sip cocktails at sundown. After the pool is cleaned each day, lots of beautiful tropical flowers are floated on the surface. Nice touch! There is a large Balinese-style lounger that can accommodate two next to the pool. The private veranda features a teak dining table and chairs and a sofa. A ceiling fan keeps the breeze circulating. The jet-pool, complete with floating blossoms, is built into the large boulders that had most likely been part of the landscape since the beginning of time. The view of the lush surroundings and the ocean from our Pool Villa By-the-Rocks could not have been more spectacular.
The villa itself, with its contemporary Creole architecture and high sloped ceilings, is rustic but elegant. You enter from the patio through double sliding glass doors. The king-sized bed faces a wall of glass that looks out over the ocean. For our arrival, our room attendant had scattered flower blossoms on the bed and spelled out “Welcome to Banyan Tree” in pieces of palm frond. There is a sofa with lots of loose throw pillows, coffee table, desk, chair, and entertainment center with satellite TV and mini-bar. A tea/coffeemaker was provided along with a selection of coffees and teas. Local artists were commissioned to produce paintings for the bedroom based on the island’s legendary Coco-de-mer nut, and indigenous artifacts offer a unique sense of place. This feeling is enhanced by the scented oils and incense that were burned each evening in our villa and the Asian-inspired CD that filled the space with peaceful, relaxing music. The villa bathroom is spacious and spectacularly outfitted with Banyan Tree products, each packaged in individual small earthenware pots. There are “his and her” vanities with beautiful vessel sinks and two closets with a dresser between them containing the safe. The “hers” vanity has a magnifying makeup mirror and a hairdryer. The toilet area also had a bidet. Bathrobes, slippers, spa sandals and a beach bag are provided, all made of material sporting the Banyan Tree signature brown-and-cream floral design. Complimentary bottled water placed by the bed each night was also nestled in a pretty bag made from this same fabric. The sunken shower/tub has a wall of glass overlooking the ocean. Of course, there are blinds you can lower in case you are concerned about privacy. However, there is little chance that anyone will see you since the villas are so well positioned that it is almost impossible to see another villa.
The Banyan Tree Seychelles also offers outdoor tennis courts, mountain bikes, water sports facilities including snorkeling and canoeing, a health club/gymnasium, a helipad, game room/library, and a wedding pavilion. Wi-Fi is available in the lobby and main hotel building and there is an internet connection in each villa. There are two bars, La Varangue where you can enjoy tapas or a fragrant shisha (water pipe), and the pool bar which overlooks the spectacular free-form infinity pool. The hotel could also arrange for sightseeing and island-hopping, diving and fishing expeditions. All the wonderful in-suite amenities and more are available for purchase at the Banyan Tree Gallery, which showcases indigenous arts and crafts. It is at the Gallery that we discovered that the scent of the oil and incense burned each night in our villa changes daily.
The accommodations and overall setting puts Banyan Tree Seychelles at the top of our list in worldwide pre-cruise/post-cruise accommodations. However, notwithstanding the on-premises Thai restaurant, Saffron, in our opinion, the resort’s dining experience did not measure up to the quality of the rest of the property. Food is very expensive here compared to Europe or the USA. Our evening Thai buffet was $75 (US) per person, not including drinks and gratuities. However, the food at Saffron was exceptional and plentiful. The main restaurant, Au Jardin d’Espices, serves international favorites in a casual setting overlooking Intendance Bay and was the place where we had breakfast each morning. The breakfast menu and buffet were good, but we found the menu for other meals to be uninspired and service here was spotty. We tried the specialty Creole-inspired restaurant, Chez Lamar, one evening and, while the food was good, the service was very slow and you had better like seafood because there are no alternate red meat or chicken dishes offered. We dined al fresco at Chez Lamar in a beautiful setting on a patio overlooking a wetland area and were serenaded by a guitarist playing and singing lovely music. We never had room service, but were intrigued by the possibility of having a barbecue outside by our pool or having dinner served to us on the beach. Both were dining options offered by the Banyan Tree.
The Banyan Tree Spa, on the other hand, is perhaps the best we have enjoyed anywhere in the world, on land or sea. It is situated on a hillside overlooking the ocean and surrounded by lush tropical foliage. We indulged in a 60-minute couple’s massage that was performed in an open-air massage pavilion with a view of the ocean from a vantage point high above the treetops. The sounds of birds singing and the roar of the ocean were natural here and did not have to be achieved via CD as in other spas we have visited. It was just like what you see in the magazine ads, but never see in real life. Banyan Tree Spas take a holistic approach to physical and spiritual well-being, providing a sanctuary for the senses. The handpicked therapists undergo 500 hours of training in Banyan Tree’s Spa Academies in Thailand and Indonesia, where they are immersed in the Banyan Tree Spa philosophy. A stay at Banyan Tree Seychelles would not be complete without a visit, or several, to the spa where therapeutic spa treatments and wonderfully soothing massages will rejuvenate the body and mind.
Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts has a policy of hiring its employees from the local communities. Turnover rate is very low and new staff are recruited through a referral program. Consequently, all know each other and some are even related. This makes for happy employees and it shows in the friendly atmosphere and great service provided at the Banyan Tree. This Corporate Social Responsibility extends to the environment, as well, through the establishment of the Green Imperative Fund to widen the reach and effectiveness of the company’s pro-environment efforts. Projects could range from marine life conservation and urban clean-up programs to community health and education support. This fund gives Banyan Tree guests an opportunity to participate by contributing $1 per person for every night they spend in a Banyan Tree property. This contribution is made under an “opt out” agreement and the Banyan Tree matches the contributions dollar for dollar to develop the Green Imperative Fund. The Banyan Tree Seychelles has a turtle conservation program and monitors its wetlands for birds and fresh-water turtles.
Banyan Tree Seychelles is a truly magical place with its own signature blend of romance and Asian sensuality. The philosophy behind the hotel is “based on providing a place for rejuvenation of the body, mind and soul – a Sanctuary for the Senses.” Mission accomplished.
Banyan Tree Seychelles CruiseReport.com Editor’s Rating: 9 out of 10
For more information, visit their website at www.banyantree.com