Who else could be included in a tour of Raffles Canouan alumni? Louis Sailer, possibly, but he is completely immersed in running the gorgeous Leela Palace Delhi. Ah ha, Christoph Ganster, recently arrived here in Seychelles as GM of Raffles Praslin, on the second-biggest island of this Indian Ocean nation. This luxury hotel is over 90 percent owned by Prince Al-Waleed, who apparently was inspired by Canouan when sanctioning.
The layout of the 86-villa Raffles Praslin is like a section of a curved fan, land that drops steeply down from the top of the resort to the beach, at its base. Villas are on tall stilts, when required by the lie of the land, and somehow they have managed to put pools, plunge-size at least, everywhere. There are also main pools, a pair of parallel pools each 45 metres – yes metres – long, with some inset loungers. Back at my villa, 297, I can look down on much of the whole area below, all 30 hectares of it. This includes three beaches, giving 500 metres of pristine sand in all.
Looking up is equally fascinating as I know that, even as a keen and quite experienced cyclist, there is no way I could make it up there on wheels. Were I staying longer I would take the Raffles Trek, a two-hour heritage trail, off-site but near the hotel, that Raffles is sponsoring – it will be officially launched May 23rd, 2014. I would also take the hotel’s shuttle to the Vallée de Mai forest, known for its black parrots. And I would take a boat trip, 20 minute across to the uninhabited Curieuse Island, visible from all the bedrooms.
Leon, my butler, is from South Africa and he seems to be travelling the world, trying as many Raffles hotels as he can (he loves Singapore, of course, and I am sure he had a Singapore Sling – coincidentally Simon Hirst, who runs that hotel, was the opening boss here, on Praslin, back in 2011). Talking of drinks, here my lunch started with mango lassi, and went on to an absolutely addictive passionfruit mojito, but then fortunately food came, in the form of samples from Losean restaurant, like a chiffonade, in a tall glass, of Romaine plus crisp walnut and golden date. Follow this, as I did, with grilled calamari and a salad and you need to run up that steep-steep hill.
Christoph Ganster’s brother Michael is also running a hotel in the FRHI (Fairmont-Raffles-Swissotel) family, Fairmont Beijing, the pink glass one with the life-size working copy of La Scala, Milan, as part of the complex. Here, on Praslin, the opera has to be the natural sound of birds, plus some agreeable classical music over the speakers, and not too loud.
I head to the spa, a memorable outdoor space. Go down 24 stone steps flanked by 12-foot-high gushing water curtains, and then be led, along a zigzag of raised boardwalks, to your villa, its sides open to lush undergrowth. While being massaged and lulled to sleep, I thought that this is Architectural Digest in lush tropical greenery. The simplicity of my villa, its clean lines and lots of glass, with pale sea-blue fabrics and a dull red stone headboard wall, is oh-so AD. But even that iconic magazine cannot impart the gorgeous nature that surrounds and is part of this luxury hotel.