The Seychelles Tourism Board markets its islands as ‘another world’ and that is exactly what I found on my visit: a tropical paradise, remote and exquisite, teeming with rare species of bird and an abundance of vibrant marine life. I was spoilt for choice – wherever I looked it was difficult to drag my eyes away!
The Island’s unspoilt beauty has made it a world-renowned honeymoon destination. Now, however, the Seychelles is developing into a prime MICE location for an unrivalled mix of business and pleasure in an idyllic setting.
Eden Bleu Hotel as a MICE venue
Quality service was apparent as soon as I landed in the Seychelles, with an exceptionally friendly welcome from staff on our arrival at the Eden Bleu Hotel. Eden Bleu, the newest conference and business hotel in the Seychelles, is a convenient ten-minute transfer from the international airport and 5km from the capital Victoria. This 5-star property is located on the new marina development, Eden Island, which is connected to Mahé Island by a 200-metre bridge. Eden Bleu has already won the title of ‘Best Conference Hotel’ in the World Travel Awards on two occasions. With this accolade and its bold claim to be the ‘most digitally advanced hotel in the Indian Ocean’, it has a lot to live up to - and it delivers…
The hotel’s conference facilities are spacious and luxurious, contributing to its fast-growing reputation for incentive programmes. Eden Bleu doesn’t have the feel of a traditional business hotel. With its high ceilings and large open foyer, the layout of the hotel is designed to flow, offering an airy space for registrations and tea breaks.
Eden Bleu has 74 deluxe rooms, including 12 luxury suites, all with sensational views overlooking the marina - and there is also a Presidential Suite. Its rooms can be booked for private dining and meetings. Additional accommodation is available via Eden Islands Luxury Accommodation Apartments, Maisons and Villas.
The fully air-conditioned Ballroom is ideal for product launches or conferences, as it can accommodate 340 theatre style or 250 for banqueting and divides into two separate spaces for simultaneous meetings. With a width of 6m, the Ballroom showcases the biggest LED screen in the region. It is equipped with translation booths and the most up-to-date technology in the Seychelles, including high-speed Wi-Fi, a state-of-the-art sound system and sound-proof walls.
Eden Bleu has four Executive Boardrooms that follow a nautical theme. They are all named after different shades of blue. They each seat between 6 and14 people and can be used for meetings or private dining. Sliding doors, admitting natural light, lead out to terraces with stunning views of the ocean. The rooms are fully equipped with interactive ‘smart boards’ and high-definition LED screens for live video conferencing.
Wide choice of f&b at Eden Bleu<br> The main restaurant of the Eden Bleu Hotel is the Bourgeois Bar, where meals can also be enjoyed outside, looking out over the lush green mountainous landscape. The hotel offers guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in Creole culture, dining on world-class local cuisine. Unsurprisingly, it makes the most of seafood, with fish generally being enjoyed in 3 main ways – grilled or in salads or in curries. Our group enjoyed lobster, octopus, shellfish, crabs and shrimps. As someone trying many of these delicacies for the first time, I personally was in for a treat!
The chefs showcase their skills with a Creole buffet on the first Saturday of every month. If required by an organiser, the banqueting team can tailor a restaurant menu to suit the needs of specific events.
The islands’ natural attractions
The Seychelles boasts a balmy, tropical climate, warm and humid all year round. With an average of seven hours sunshine a day and temperatures typically 24-31degC, groups will want to make the most of the hotel’s infinity pool. This exceptional facility is flanked by palm trees and overlooks a spectacular marina with a backdrop of verdant mountains.
The hotel doesn’t have a private beach, but Eden Island is in a prime location for guests to experience the dazzling white beaches of the inner islands, as well as Victoria’s bustling and colourful market. Eden Plaza, with an array of restaurants and shops, is easily accessible on foot, just a two-minute walk from the hotel.
A veritable Garden of Eden
The Seychelles offers unrivalled programmes for incentives and for spouse programmes. On our first morning our hotel packed us picnic breakfasts and, in just 45 minutes, we made the journey by ferry to the Islands of Praslin and La Digue – home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. Praslin is the second largest Seychellois island. With a population of just 7,000, the island remains beautifully unspoilt.
Praslin is home to the world’s largest and heaviest seed, the Coco de Mer. I really had a struggle lifting it off the ground! This legendary coconut is unique but found in abundance at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Valley de Mai, which has remained largely untouched since prehistoric times. The double coconut’s uncanny resemblance to the female anatomy stimulated the imagination of the first sailors to land on the Seychelles after their months of isolation at sea. The location has been imbued with mystery as well as the source of numerous myths since its discovery. Some believe that the Valley de Mai could be the original site of the biblical Garden of Eden. It’s easy to see why. The dense forest is overflowing with plant life – soaring palm trees and rare species of flora and fauna, including a rare black parrot, the Praslin snail and the Green Day Gecko. Hikes and tours around the Valley de Mai can be arranged for both small and large groups. With a variety of different trails, groups can choose the hike which best suits them.
Praslin is the central port for the departure to numerous Seychellois islands, including La Digue. The spectacular beaches on Praslin and La Digue are acclaimed for being some of the best beaches in the world and I admit to being truly mesmerised. We visited Anse Lazio on Praslin and Anse Source D’Argent on La Digue. Anse Lazio, fringed by palm trees, was a stunning stretch of white sand and clear turquoise waters, teeming with varied marine life – a postcard paradise amidst its mountainous surroundings. Tucked away under the trees was a giant tortoise pen – a protected species in the Seychelles. We fed the tortoises fruit but had to be careful not to let them bite our fingers.
The island of La Digue, flat and smaller than Praslin, has bicycles as its traditional form of transport. With few cars and only 2000 inhabitants, La Digue has a stress-free and relaxed island vibe. We ate lunch at a restaurant called The Fish Trap, which had an eye-catching view over a tranquil bay and served flavoursome Creole cuisine. Cycling across La Digue was a memorable experience and is a great way for groups to see the island. We took in a rich diversity of flora – vanilla fields, hibiscus, orchids, coconut plantations – all making the air smell sweet and balmy. We were accompanied by birdsong as we rode past the largest granite boulder on the islands, an impressive sight, as well as a historical cemetery.
Anse Source D’Argent is breathtakingly beautiful; its soft white sands and reef-sheltered waters are framed by huge otherworldly granite boulders, making this beach an exceptional photographic opportunity. In fact, it’s reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world. Not only this, but it was also the backdrop for films such as Tom Hank’s ‘Castaway’. One can swim in its warm, shallow waters amongst tropical fish - but be warned, they can nibble your feet!
The average sea temperature is between 27-29 degrees. Beyond the beaches, Seychelles can offer groups a wealth of unique experiences. On the second day we set off for game-fishing. With over 800 species of fish, the Seychelles waters offer diverse marine life. Groups can try their hand at catching barracuda, tuna, swordfish, rainbow runners, sailfish and, if they’re feeling lucky, even marlin – just to name a few. Whilst out fishing, we also kept our eyes peeled for dolphins. In the evening, guests can enjoy eating the fish they caught, expertly cooked by restaurant staff and served as traditional Creole dishes.
On our last day we visited the capital Victoria, the business and cultural centre of the islands. Victoria is one of the smallest capitals in the world and is best experienced on foot. The city is located at the foot of two mountains, one being The Morne Seychellois, the highest peak in the Seychelles. These mist-topped, soaring peaks make for an impressive backdrop to the city. Victoria’s market is bustling and colourful, with rows of stalls selling tropical fruit, fish and an array of home-grown spices. One can look out for the ‘mini Big Ben’ as well as the brightly coloured Hindu temple.
We then had an enjoyable rum-tasting session at Mahe’s rum distillery, the source of Takamaka rum. The distillery is well set up for group tours, which also include a look around the aesthetically pleasing gardens. Afterwards, the most spectacular stretch of beach can be found under the palm trees on the other side of the road.
As the end of our trip dawned, none of us could bear the thought of leaving the Seychelles. It really had felt like a trip to ‘another world’ - just the impression you want to create on an incentive.
ITCM was hosted on the trip by Seychelles Tourism Board (http://www.seychelles.travel) and Eden Bleu Hotel.