Idyllic freedom

Coral sand, coconut palms and giant tortoises: a visit to Desroches Island

The Aldabra giant tortoise lifts its head in curiosity. Its gaze is serene and direct, almost striking a pose, as if to acknowledge our presence. This rare land animal, which is almost one metre long, enjoys a life of complete freedom here together with 150 other members of the species and the safety of the protected, carefully developed and largely untouched natural idyll on Desroches: the large, densely forested palm island fringed with sandy beaches, is one of the Outer Islands of the Seychelles – and therefore among the lesser-known destinations of this island paradise in the Indian Ocean, which is rightly at the top of the list of dream destinations.

Tiny dots, scattered as if by chance in the deep blue expanse of the Indian Ocean. Lush green pearls with glisteningly white dream beaches and lagoons in radiant turquoise, some with mighty granite grey rocks, mangroves or high mountains: the Seychelles offer a unique and diverse natural backdrop, which couldn’t be more like paradise. Almost half of the land area is a protected environment, guaranteeing the preservation of many rare plant and animal species such as the Aldabra giant tortoise, the black Seychelles parrot or the Coco de Mer palm with its famous, uniquely shaped coconuts. The location, close to the equator off the east coast of Africa, promises a tropical, summery climate all year round, which is ideal for a relaxing island timeout. Depending on the time of year, you should also expect some rain. The Seychelles are divided into the Inner Islands and the Outer Islands. The former include well-developed islands with a wide range of tourist attractions – above all on the main island of Mahé as well as Praslin and La Digue. Mahé, with its international airport, is usually the first port of call; it and the capital city of Victoria are the urban centre of this island country which has a flair influenced by its French and British colonial past. The Outer Islands are far less visited, thinly populated and not as developed. The Amirantes, Adabra Atoll and Farquhar Islands, for example, are virtually untouched jewels and true insider tips for all those who want to experience a genuine Robinson Crusoe feeling – just like Desroches, where exquisite 5-star comfort is hidden amidst pristine vegetation.

Republic of Seychelles: Island state in the Indian Ocean
A total of 115 islands, spread over a marine area of about 1.35 million km2
Main island: Mahé
Capital city: Victoria
100.113 inhabitants on the Inner Islands
152 inhabitants on the Outer Islands
Gross domestic product per capita: 19,466 USD / 1st place among African states
74 coral islands
41 granite islands
Official languages: Seychelles Creole, English, French
Time zone: GMT +4
Air temperatures: 24° to 30° C
Water temperature: 26° C all year round
Inner Islands: 266 km2 surface area
Outer Islands: 211 km2 surface area
Largest proportion of conservation areas worldwide
30% of the total area (410.000 km2) is protected
UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site: Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

At 3.24 km² Desroches is one of the larger Seychelles islands in terms of surface area. This flat island, 6 km long and maximum 1 km wide, belongs to the Amirantes Islands, about 230 km from Mahé. It was named in 1771 in honour of the then governor of Mauritius, Francois Julien des Roches. When the island became part of British territory during the 19th century, it was known as 'Wood Island' and the trees as well as palm trees were used for timber and copra. The preservation of the lush vegetation and natural habitats for flora and fauna on Desroches today reflects the government’s clear commitment to sustainable development with maximum environmental and climate protection. Only a small propeller plane flies to the island, which welcomes its visitors with gently undulating bays and a 14-km-long fringe of the finest coral sand. Apart from a few businesses and buildings belonging to locals, there is only one hotel resort here. It goes without saying that a stay at the Four Seasons Resort on Desroches Island is an absolutely exceptional experience. Surrounded by the endless ocean and magnificent natural beauty, a colourful and delightful world suddenly opens up, packed with amenities, exquisite cuisine and multifaceted possibilities. You can be active and experience outdoor adventures or succumb to idyllic tranquillity – the choice is yours. A freedom that Prince William and Princess Kate of England have also enjoyed on several occasions.

Stranded in paradise: this is what it feels like when you reach the Four Seasons Resort on Desroches Island. The main building, villas and suites nestle amid extensive beautifully manicured gardens, each facing the sea, each possessing pleasant spaciousness, a private pool as well as indoor and outdoor shower. The décor and furnishings skilfully incorporate island flair: warm colours, natural materials and an airy atmosphere. Naturally, you can also expect outstanding cuisine here: a richly varied breakfast buffet and international dishes are served in the main restaurant 'Claudine', next to the large communal swimming pool. Those who prefer light, fresh cuisine will be spoiled with Japanese specialties in 'The Deli' – its sushi, sashimi and lobster deserve special recommendation. Not forgetting 'The Lighthouse' which offers, among other things, an irresistible dry-aged beef that will make you go into raptures. Before dinner, the open lounge is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset from the lighthouse’s viewing platform. Naturally, you can also have the menu of your choice served privately on the terrace of your own villa. Or you can dine under a thousand shining stars on the beach itself, with your feet in the warm sand, accompanied by the gentle lapping of the waves.

You may well see a stingray swimming past during a kayak trip along the coast. Or you may bump into George, the oldest inhabitant of the island, somewhere on the island. Despite being 125 years old, this giant tortoise with the furrowed shell is still good on his feet. If you are in the mood for discovery, why not climb into the saddle of one of the hotel’s own bicycles and explore the jungle-like tropical forests and the light coconut palm groves; or stop at one of the official hotel beaches where you can refresh yourself in the sea and with drinking water, and find the comfort of showers and toilets. The kilometre-long beach is also open to the public in other places and unfolds its pure beauty – just palm trees, sand and the sea. After an excursion like this (or even after surfing, snorkelling or diving), a massage treatment at the spa of the Four Seasons is the perfect way to recuperate. Wonderfully relaxed, you are then ready for another heavenly evening in paradise.

If you have some time to fill owing to the flight times between Desroches and Mahé, you should take the opportunity for a stopover (or longer...) at the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles on the main island. This is worthwhile, on the one hand, owing to the elegant atmosphere and the excellent comfort, which you can enjoy in this fantastically beautiful house. On the other hand, the slightly elevated location above perhaps Mahé’s most beautiful beach, the Petite Anse, promises an incomparable view and further unforgettable impressions. An all-round perfect conclusion before you return home.

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