James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, wrote about the Seychelles, its “palm-fringed lagoons,” “blood-heat seas paved with fish, “the drooping palms”, “giant sandragon trees,” the riot of underwater colour, sergeant majors, guitar fish, sting rays “like towels placed on the sand”, rock beauties, trunkfish and “fifty varieties of cowrie”.
007 went to the Seychelles once. But he wasn’t made aware of any sustainability practices and didn’t adopt any sea cabbage or cauliflower and do his bit for coral reef rehabilitation and environmental protection. Or became conscious of the time he was taking and the amount of water he was using in the shower.
Fleming visited the paradisiacal 115-isle coral and granite archipelago in the east Somali sea section of the west Indian Ocean in 1958 and wrote “The Hildebrand Rarity” there.
The short story, which was first published in “Playboy” in 1960 and then in “For Your Eyes Only”, is many people’s favourite for the title of the next Bond film although it may have to be dumbed down.
The book is about a six inch fish and Milton Krest, a power mad villain who liked to flog women with the tails of stingrays. The name came from the local ginger tonic Fleming discovered on Mahé before $20 cocktails and glasses of South African wine and $15 local Takamaka rum became standard. Although he probably had smoked marlin for breakfast as modern castaways do today.
Northolme is Mahé’s oldest luxury hotel and the smallest in the Hilton Resorts Worldwide stable. A keen spear fisherman, Fleming stayed at the stilted cottage hillside now gated complex with prime snorkelling ten metres from the ocean edge. Modern rooms come with or without Infinity pools overlooking two private beaches, Silhouette Island and Beau Vallon beach.
Reached by foot or electric buggy taxi through lush tropical flora including a rare cannonball tree, you can stay in sunset-facing, cliffside King Sunset villas with “semi-private balconies” and a whirlpool bathtub, making use of the community Infinity pool or have one of your own and a jacuzzi in a Grand Ocean Pool villa with huge twin sink and monsoon shower bathroom. Floating aperitifs with smoked salmon cumin cookies and chicken and caviar Vol-au-vents are served in your pool.
Guests staying at Northolme – children must be over thirteen – can take part in the hotel’s eco-friendly sustainability and conscious travel activities which are part of the famous luxury hospitality brand’s “Travel with Purpose” commitment.
Special sustainability days and regular “Earth Hours” allow guests to witness first-hand how impactful small behaviours can have on protecting the environment.
The hotel’s healthy dining restaurant, WAVE, has an environmentally-forward-and-aware menu, with dishes including ‘the blended burger’, a patty containing 30% mushrooms and 70% sustainably sourced beef and thereby reducing the CO2 generated by the dish by 29%.
Small sand timers in guest villas’ bathrooms to urge guests to think about their water usage whilst showering.
The Mahé Restaurant above the pounding surf serves hibiscus salad, fish platter for two, wild octopus, roast spiced pineapple, reconstructed Seychellois niçoise, roasted fish with buttered breadfruit and fried calamari. Prosecco comes at $70. But the Asti is free at breakfast.
Further along the clifftop, after your Happy Hour passion fruit mojito, cucumber dry martini, Wave offers fish, past and meat dishes and a dessert rejoicing in the name of a Messed up Chocolate Marguerita with tequila jelly and milk, mango and cocoa mousse.
To help increase fish biomass, you can also adopt some stony table and brush coral like sea cabbage or cauliflower and contribute to reef rehabilitation by supporting the hotel’s on-rope coral cutting nursery and artificial reef in its fight against marine degradation, coastal development, increasing sea temperature stress, anchor damage, bleaching and the Crown of Thorns starfish.
Used to Jamaica, Fleming wrote about island fever and “exasperating humidity” which made men hang themselves by their braces. But things have changed. There is now A/C (set at 23˚), sunblock and many things, aside from the water sport, hammocks and sun loungers, to keep you occupied on L’ Ile D’Abundance.
As the world’s smallest capital, the sightseeing on Mahé is limited to its 1903 mini Big Ben and the island’s forty-something beaches. The best way to find the best and most deserted ones is by foot. The other way is to be shipwrecked and washed up on them.
For those who prefer to spend their holidays upright and active rather than languid and horizontal, the 115-island earthly paradise also has fifteen hiking trails. Mahé boasts nine. You can also get escorted tours along the clifftop edge of the Morne National Park to Anse Major.
From black parrots, bulbuls, dancing snails which vibrate when touched, tiny leaf frogs, skinks, chameleons which look like they are wearing lipstick, there is much to take in. You quickly perfect an impersonation of a native gecko with independently moving eyes.
Even the drive to the Belle Ombre trailhead and the start of the granite rockface walk to Anse Major takes you through Chinese hibiscus, patchouli, bougainvillea and frangipane as well as mahogany and silk trees.
On the Seychelles, you never forget you are only 300 miles from the equator. Every day is a paradise of pleasure in the garden of the gods.
“Look out for wooden horses” said Julienne Madeleine my escort, pointing out a giant stick insect. Do get a guide. Or two. Footing can be tricky. “Walk like a tortoise. Real slow. And watch out for falling coconuts. Or you will never leave Paradise.”
Refreshing us with soursop and cocoplum, picked from overhanging bushes, her taxi driver husband Robert pointed out bonnet carre firework plants. Beneath snorkellers studied the local nudibranchs. Snorkelling in the Seychelles is like putting your head into a tropical aquarium.
After an hour negotiating the glacis, we arrived at the deserted beach and a shack selling coconuts for $3. Nectar doesn’t come cheap in paradise. Nor does the ambrosia.
The Northolme’s sister hotel, Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa on Silhouette Island is half an hour enclosed boat transfer from Mahé.
In 2020, Hilton Clean Stay was introduced, bringing an industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection to hotels worldwide. Northolme may be for over 13s, but its new Sustainability Playbook teaches guests of all ages in-villa energy and water conservation practices. Its organised Beau Vallon Beach Clean Ups are in response to the unsettling calculation that by 2050, the world’s oceans could contain more plastic and other man-made fibres.
Fleming wrote once about life in the doldrums. One of the characters in “The Hildebrand Rarity” says “It’s only the poor frozen Europeans who dream of coral islands.”
As well as making the most of the complimentary snorkelling and kayaking, James Bond would have learned a few things at Northolme. Not least how not to drink a mojito or Mr Sakumar the resident mixologist’s signature Absinthe-Minded house cocktail without the bio-degradable, single use and very woke pasta straw going up his nose.
Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, North Coast Road, Glacis, Victoria – Mahé, Seychelles.
Tel: +248 4 299 000
The hotel is surrounded by white sands and tropical gardens and is only 7km from Victoria. There is direct beach access with complimentary snorkelling and kayaks, an infinity pool and a luxurious spa. Every private villa has a balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Type of Hotel: 5-Star Luxury Hotel & Resort
Number of Rooms: 56 rooms, suites and villas.
Price Band: High
Insider Tip: Snorkel, as the hotel has two small bays which offer the best snorkelling just a few yards offshore and the kit is free.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa