Skip the Caribbean—Travel to These Hidden East African Isles Instead
When my email pinged with an invitation to visit the Six Senses Zil Pasyon resort in the Seychelles, I'm a bit embarrassed to confess that I had to open up Google Maps to find the hidden East African isles. Positioned more than a thousand miles off the coast of Kenya, the 115 small scattered islands are so remote that they quickly vanished into the vastness of the Indian Ocean when I zoomed out one click too far on the map.
In the middle of a particularly stressful workweek, the timing of the invitation felt serendipitous. If a getaway to a wellness-oriented luxury resort on a private island isn't the perfect remedy for stress, then I don't know what is. Given the fact that you're reading this story, it goes without saying that I readily accepted the invitation, and after 25 long hours of traveling, I arrived in paradise.
Although I went into the trip knowing that three days of pampering spa treatments, sipping on coconut-infused rum, and waking up to sweeping ocean views would do wonders for lowering my stress levels, I didn't realize that immersing myself in nature for such a short period of time would have a lasting effect on my perception of work/life balance.
Scroll on to find out what it's like to stay in a luxury villa in the Seychelles islands and what I learned about stress management while I was there.
Unsurprisingly, part of the appeal of the far-flung Seychelles islands is their remoteness, which makes them ideal for a relaxing retreat but means traveling to them can be a bit of a trek.
After landing on the main island of Mahé, I hopped into a van along with the three other guests visiting the resort to make the short drive from the international airport to a private helicopter pad where we boarded our ZilAir flight to the smaller island of Félicité. As I nervously climbed into a helicopter, I kept reminding myself that unspoiled white sand beaches awaited me on the other side, but my nerves quickly subsided as we flew over turquoise-hued ocean waters and lush, rainforest-covered islands.
After a short 20-minute flight, we touched down on the private island. As soon as we disembarked, we were whisked away to the resort's ocean-front cafe to sip on much-needed coffee and feast on an irresistibly colorful spread of tropical fruits. Once we satiated our appetites, we were driven by golf cart (the best way to traverse the island's hilly terrain) to our own private villas, each with sweeping ocean views that you have to see to believe. Not to be hyperbolic, but the views make the phrase "breathtaking" feel inadequate.
When I opened the door to my private villa, I audibly gasped. I mean, can you blame me? The dreamy bed, draped with a pretty and practical mosquito net canopy, was positioned in such a way that I could look out onto the deck and let my eyes sweep over panoramic views of the Indian Ocean.
And have I mentioned the infinity pool? Complete with a built-in chaise lounge, I spent most of my free time on that first afternoon slipping in out of consciousness while reading The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao in the shallow waters.
After spending a few hours relaxing in our private villas, we met back up at the ocean-front cafe to enjoy the sunset while sipping on champagne. Sitting in a hammock suspended over the impossibly blue Indian Ocean, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery.
Although MyDomaine's headquarters has an unbelievable view of Los Angeles, a cityscape simply can't contend with the sea. I was reminded of the importance of taking a minute to appreciate my surroundings whether I'm on an island or at my desk.
The next day, I set out exploring the island. Feeling ambitious, I grabbed one of the resort's bikes thinking I'd cruise around the island, but the hilly terrain (not to mention my out-of-shape legs) prevented me from making it too far (despite the misleading photo above).
Strolling by foot, I spotted star fruit and mango trees on my way to Félicité's main beach, Grand Anse. Given that I'd usually be stuck in my car on my commute to work on a Monday morning halfway around the world around this time, I appreciated the slower pace and the opportunity to be more present in my surroundings.
After a morning of splashing my way along the shoreline, a spa treatment was in order. The resort's spa facilities, which are built into the island's granite boulders and have thematic names based on their views, add to the overall experience of immersing yourself in nature.
As if I wasn't relaxed enough after my afternoon massage, rum tasting was next up on the itinerary. Using local ingredients like lemongrass and vanilla, a passionate chef crafts a selection of potent infused rums. Several shots in, I was more than ready for our Creole-inspired dinner.
On our penultimate day, we hopped aboard a dingy to go snorkelling at the nearby Coco Island. After one of my fellow travelers had an unfortunate run-in with a sea urchin, I was a bit wary of the water. But I'm so glad I didn't bow out of the activity because after our guide carefully led us through the more precarious parts of the reef, seeing the tropical sealife up close was incredibly cool. Though I grew up hitting the beaches of southern California, there's nothing like the blue surgeonfish to be seen in the cold Pacific coastal waters.
On the last evening on the island, we headed to the very top of the granite island for happy hour with Hilton, the general manager of the resort, and Anna, the resort's sustainability manager, to learn more about the efforts the resort is making to have a positive impact on the ecology of the island. Most notably, the resort is working to restore the original flora and fauna of the island as well as the coral reef habitat off the shore.
After sipping champagne and watching the sun slip into the ocean, we made our way back to the beach for an elaborate barbecue dinner complete with grilled lobster, prawns, and plenty of fresh fish. We ended the night with a bit of star gazing with the resort's resident astronomer before it was time to retire for the last night in our luxurious villas.
Leaving the island, I felt revived and ready to take on the hundreds of emails that were no doubt waiting for me in my inbox. Boarding the helicopter, I knew that my short reprieve from Gmail was well worth typing out the phrase "I'm sorry for my delayed response" over and over.
Beyond a few days of relaxation, I'd gained the perspective to prioritize making time to step back, immerse myself in nature, and let go of the stress of work from time to time.
Even though the Seychelles aren't quite as accessible as the Caribbean, I can honestly say (even after enduring a nine-hour layover en route back to Los Angeles) that these pristine isles are worth making the extra effort—at least once in your lifetime.
Which luxury destination is on your travel bucket list? Tell us in the comments below.
This press trip was paid for by Six Senses Zil Pasyon. Editors' opinions are their own.