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Slowed my pace and walked with careful intention as i continued to scale my way ever upward over one final granite boulder. The hike i had begun less than 90 minutes earlier from the Six Senses Zil Pasyon (sixsenses.com) was now leading me through the verdant jungles and into the rocky hills as I climbed higher up the island of Fe?licite?. My efforts to stabilize myself had nothing to do with my footing despite the uneven terrain, yet everything to do with not disturbing the bottle of Champagne that I was transporting to the highest point of what is likely the Seychelles’ most scenic island.

I had timed my hike up to Coco de Mer perfectly so that I would reach the peak with enough time to uncork the bottle and release its contents into the matching pair of Champagne glasses my personal Guest Experience Maker (GEM) at the resort had packed. He had mentioned the idea upon check-in, and was insistent that it would be well worth the light hike for the chance to enjoy a traditional Seychelles-style sundowner experience from so high up. That morning I had spent my time island-hopping and getting my hair styled by the wind as I sped from island to island, and, as I sat down on a soft blanket with a glass of still-chilled Champagne in my hands, time seemed to stop.

With a warm smile, my guest and I gave the first toast to that GEM, and, as our glasses clinked a second time, the sky seemed to respond in equal warmth with glittering flecks of red and gold reflecting offthe waters below.

THE ISLANDS

Despite its proximity to East Africa (only 932 miles from mainland Africa), the first settlers of this attractive archipelago actually came from France, inhabiting the islands for four decades until being ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Th e Seychelles claimed their independence from British rule in 1976, becoming a republic within the commonwealth, but evidence of the French and British influences are still present in everything from the architectural design of the grand old houses on the islands and the imported flavors that have blended their way into the local Creole cuisine.

The Republic of Seychelles is now a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Commonwealth, and La Francophonie. Only 42 of the 115 coral and granite islands are populated, acting as the home for more than 90,000 Seychellois who share the land with an amazing array of flora and fauna. Almost 50 percent of the islands are designated as national parks or reserves, and conservation is a large part of the culture and convention.

Rare species like the giant Aldabra tortoise (the heaviest land tortoise), the Gardiner’s frog (the smallest frog in the world), and the Aldabra Rail (the last flightless bird in the Indian Ocean) make their home on the islands, alongside the rare jellyfish tree, the Seychelles’ paradise flycatcher, and the remarkable Coco-demer seed (the largest seed in the world).

The Seychelles is thought to be home to the original site of the Garden of Eden, and the space is now known as Praslin’s Vallee de Mai and is designated as a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Site, along with the world’s largest raised coral atoll at Aldabra. Although the rare wonders and extraordinary landscapes in the Seychelles are what top the headlines and stories from around the world, it’s the pristine beaches, stunning coral reefs, and easy way of life that keep visitors coming back to this African paradise.

STAY AND PLAY

This year, the Seychelles was recognized by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) as the most improved country over the past decade in terms of climate and energy strategies, so it comes as no surprise that the top resort in the country employs an island conservation manager and maintains an environmental perspective on all aspects of the resort’s operations. Th e country has been slowly reclaiming its natural ecosystem after the years of abuse it took from unsustainable farming and hunting practices from the early colonizers; practices that nearly obliterated many indigenous species. Although many of the five-star hotels and island retreats are beginning to adopt sustainable processes, none can match the seamless blend of sustainability and luxury that the Six Senses Zil Pasyon provides. Th e hotel occupies one-third of the granitic island of Fe?licite?, the fifth-largest of the Seychelles islands, and features 30 villas, the smallest of which spans no less than 1,880 square feet. Each villa boasts its own infinity-edge pool and comes with a private Guest Experience Maker (GEM) that arranges activities and attends to guest’s comfort throughout the stay.

The resort also manages its own reverse osmosis plant and crystal water refinery, a project that allows them to produce high-quality drinking water for their guests without the use of plastic bottles. Th ey also operate a working chicken farm and an organic garden that supplies the kitchen with fresh produce in an aim to one day become fully self-sustained on the island. Farm fresh menu items are found at each of the five dining facilities, including interactive dining experience at the Chef ’s Kitchen inside The Island Cafe? and the wellness inspired menus at Ocean Kitchen, where sustainably caught seafood is prepared with the short boat ride from the island, including Praslin Island. Th e island’s crowning jewel is Valle?e de Mai (whc.unesco.org), originally thought to be the actual site of the Garden of Eden, where visitors can gaze at the rare Coco de Mer palm that grows naturally in this unique environment. Praslin is also home to a championship 18-hole golf course as well as the famous Anse Lazio beach, renown for its postcard quality scenery.

A 10-minute boat ride from the resort will transport visitors back in time while on La Digue Island (seychellesladigue.com), where ox-carts and bicycles are still the main forms of transportation. Th e island is one of the best in the archipelago for body surfing, but it’s worth the inland trip to the Union State Park to get a rare sight of the large number of giant turtles that reside in the park. Flavor is foremost on La Digue, where visitors looking to get a taste of authentic local cuisine need look no further than Chez Jules. Th e petite cafe? is best known for their fresh juices and fresh fruit cocktails, but it’s their octopus curry in coconut milk with boiled breadfruit and rice that even the locals rave about. The cafe? is regarded as one of the best places to sample authentic local cuisine, but it’s a title closely shared with the highly favored Marie Antoinette Restaurant (marieantoinette.sc) on Mahe?. Marie-Antoinette Restaurant hasn’t changed much since it first opened in 1972—it was declared a national monument in 2011—where a shared plate of battered parrotfish still acts as the perfect precursor to their famous fruit bat curry.

The flavors of the Seychelles are best experienced over at least a week, but for more information, visit seychelles.travel.