The Seychelles with Kids
Traveling from Copenhagen to Singapore on an around-the-world trip with my 10-year-old, we could have added stops virtually anywhere in Europe, Africa or Asia. We chose the Seychelles – for several reasons. First, my son loves remote islands. His annual trip destinations have included Easter Island, Palawan and the Maldives. The Seychelles were a natural continuation. Second, we’ve stayed at Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman and Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives the past two years and had loved both. When Six Senses opened Zil Pasyon in the Seychelles last year, I followed along on social media and immediately added it to my travel wish list. I had no idea when I’d be able to visit, but I wanted to go! Third, we were traveling around the world in 2½ weeks and already visiting North America, Europe and Asia. I liked the idea of adding an African nation to the itinerary – even if the Seychelles are only technically in Africa.
Traveling to Six Senses Zil Pasyon
Most flights to/from the Seychelles travel via central Africa or the Gulf states. From Copenhagen the best routing was Qatar Airways to Doha, Qatar and continuing on to Mahé in the Seychelles. Two 5.5 hour flights, with a one-hour connection in Doha, and we were there. A perfect schedule would have had both flights during the day, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option on any airline. So we left Copenhagen at 5:15pm, and then departed Doha at 2am. We reached Mahé at 8am. The only good thing I can say about the journey is that our second flight was almost empty, so we each had our own row. At least we got a little sleep.
Now there are two options for reaching Six Senses Zil Pasyon: you can either transfer to a 15-minute Air Seychelles domestic flight to Praslin Island, be driven maybe 15 minutes across the island, and then take a speed boat to the resort (half an hour). Or you can take a 15-minute helicopter ride from the Mahé airport directly to the resort on Félicité island. The choice is obvious – until you look at the pricing. The Air Seychelles option is roughly US$180 each way for one adult and one child ticket, with the boat/car transfers at $200 each way. The helicopter is $1,100 each way. We decided to do both – we splurged on the helicopter ride to the resort (because helicoptering into a private African island sounded really cool, and my son had never been on a helicopter before), and then we booked the domestic flight back to Mahé. We later learned that a lot of guests do the same thing.
We LOVED the helicopter ride! It took all of half an hour to leave the Mahé airport, be driven down the road to the helipad, get a safety briefing, board the copter, and fly to the island. I’ve been in helicopters before, in Hawaii especially, where a lot of passengers got nauseous. This was nothing like that – it was a very smooth ride, fairly low over the ocean, with no sudden twists or turns.
We arrived at the Six Senses helipad at 8:40am and were met by several staff members, including our GEM (Guest Experience Maker) Karen. As we arrived WAY before the standard check-in time, Karen took us to the Studio, a villa near the center of the resort, with beds and a shower where we could base until our villa was ready. We quickly got cleaned up, went to breakfast, explored the resort a little, took naps, and went to lunch. Then we checked into our villa.
We were upgraded to a two-room villa, which was 1) great, since I could see the setup for a family of five or six; and 2) ridiculous, since it was HUGE and far more room than my son and I needed for our three-night stay! We essentially had two villas, each with a king-size bed and a full bathroom, with a large central outdoor area connecting them, and a private pool (of course). It’s not an exaggeration to say that Six Senses Zil Pasyon is nicest place I’ve ever been – and I’ve stayed in a lot of 5-star hotels and resorts around the world. The rooms are stunning, the bathrooms are amazing (swinging benches!), the deck was perfect for relaxing, and the view through the trees was gorgeous. One of the best things about our villa, though, was its location. The resort has a central dining/bar/pool area, and then a pathway goes left and right from there with all of the villas – half in one direction and half in the other. The furthest villas require a buggy ride (easy to get) whenever you want to go anywhere. We loved being in Villa 1, closest to the central area, with no buggies required. And we were on the spa side of the resort, which worked well when I got a massage, and when we walked up for sunrise and sunset (the spa has an amazing view of both).
What We Did
Over the course of three full days we explored the island, we took advantage of a lot of the Grow with Six Senses kid activities, we ate very well, and we took full advantage of our villa. Highlights:
There are three primary beaches – one close to our villa and the helipads (Anse Peniche), one by the bar and restaurants (Anse La Cour), and Grand Anse, at the far end of the path (as far from our villa as you could get). There aren’t lounge chairs at the beaches, as the tides come up too high, but there are always towels and water available. We loved Grand Anse especially (we took the buggy to/from the beach), and went up a couple times to rock hop, read, relax and play frisbee. We saw very few other people at the beaches – the resort only has 30 villas, so there are never more than 60 guests on the island at a time.
The Hike to a Secret Beach
Penny and Jemma at the resort led us on a short 15-minute hike one day from Grand Anse to a secret beach area that was absolutely stunning. The path is easy – just take a stick to clear the spider webs – but the trailhead isn’t obvious, so ask for directions from hotel staff. When we arrived it was high tide so very little beach was visible, but when we return someday we’ll do it again at low tide.
There’s an island off the coast with additional beaches that we were told a lot of guests kayak too. Unfortunately it was fairly windy and the seas were choppy, and the watersports staff rightfully discouraged us from heading out there. Instead we stayed close to the island, kayaking up past the spa and back. It was work, but such a beautiful place to go kayaking.
My son and I play ping pong at home all the time, and we took a portable net, paddles and ping pong balls along on our summer travels to see if we could set up games anywhere. Our biggest success was at Zil Pasyon. The table at our villa was perfectly flat and, with a little blue painters tape, the net fit well. We played for several hours!
The private pool at our villa was so perfect that we never went down to the main pool. We also walked up to the spa pool once for sunset.
And one of the neatest elements at the resort: there are small LED lights embedded in the tiles of all of the pools. You would never notice them during the day, but at night they sparkle like stars.
There was a chess board in our villa. So we played chess! We also relaxed on our deck in between swims, and we read a lot. There was never a hurry to go anywhere.
Planting a Tree
The kids’ club at Six Senses Zil Pasyon is brilliant because it’s not a kids’ club. Instead the resort has an array of kid activities that can either be proactively scheduled (by Penny, the Grow with Six Senses coordinator), or done piecemeal during your stay. One of those activities is planting a tree. The resort and its plant experts have been restoring native species to the island for a decade, so when they have a specific plant or tree that they need planted, they let kid guests do the planting, and they include a marker that permanently (yep, it will be there forever) marks the spot. It will be fun for Henry to return someday and find his tree – actually fairly easy since it’s right in front of our villa!
Another kid activity is mixology. Kids can go behind the bar and work with the bartender to make their own drinks (non-alcoholic of course). It’s the only time in my travels I’ve seen an activity like that.
Enjoying the Sunsets
During our three nights we had one stunning sunset, one good sunset, and one blah sunset. You never know what you’re going to get. We watched the stunning sunset from the restaurant, the good sunset from the spa pool, and the boring sunset from the hammocks by the bar – disappointing since the bar hammock sunsets were our favorite element of Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives. We’ll hope for better luck next time! At any rate the drinks were good.
We love petanque, so we played several rounds at Six Senses. Lots of fun rolls.
Taking Advantage of the Ice Cream Cart
There’s a cart near the main pool that’s always loaded up with complimentary ice cream popsicles. We stopped by often! I highly recommend going for the chocolate-covered mango.
Twice a week the resort shows movies near the bar, with lounge chairs and hammocks set up for viewing. They even have wireless headsets so that the non-movie-going guests don’t hear anything. And for an additional charge, they will arrange private movie nights near the pétanque court where you get to choose the film. My son and I went for Liar Liar. It’s a classic. My son didn’t appreciate it.
The spa is gorgeous, set among the island’s boulders. I walked up one morning for sunrise while my son was sleeping, and we both went up for a sunset swim. I also had an excellent 60-minute massage – which I desperately needed after all of my recent travel.
There are two restaurants at the resort. Island Cafe has breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Ocean Kitchen (no-meat) is open for lunch every day and dinners every other night. And you can choose to eat breakfast in your villa (no additional cost or anything to sign) if you want instead. We ate one breakfast at the villa and three in the restaurant. Two lunches and two dinners were at Island Cafe and one lunch and one dinner at Ocean Kitchen. All dinners were themed – BBQ, sushi and creole seafood the three nights we were there. Everything was excellent.
And one of my favorite touches: if you can’t decide whether to have breakfast in the room or at the restaurant, there’s actually a coin (more like a wooden poker chip) in the villa that you can flip to decide! Heads, Breakfast in Bed. Tails, Breakfast at the Restaurant!
Per my introduction, we took a helicopter to the island and we departed by boat. The boat ride to Praslin Island was (predictably) gorgeous as we passed other islands, and we enjoyed the car transfer to the Praslin airport, since it let us see a little island life (95,000 people live in the Seychelles).
Our Etihad flight from Mahé to Abu Dhabi was at 2:40pm. To catch that flight we left Six Senses at 10:30am, arriving at Praslin at 10:55 or so. The car ride to the airport took roughly 15 minutes. We were scheduled on a 12:10pm Air Seychelles flight to Mahé, but because we arrived at the airport early, they moved us to their 11:30am departure. I love flexible airlines! We had an hour and a half or so at the Mahé airport before boarding our onward flight.
What We Didn’t Do
With only three days on the island we chose to enjoy and explore the resort. If we had stayed a little longer we would have taken advantage of the boat to the nearby island of La Digue for a day (10am to 4pm). And we didn’t snorkel, since the water was just a little too choppy and my son’s not a huge fan of snorkeling anyway, but I heard it was excellent.
We also didn’t do most of the Grow with Six Senses activities, simply because we didn’t have time. Some of the things we missed: a beach scavenger hunt; a creole dance class (ok, there’s no way my son would have done that anyway); meditation/yoga; an organic gardening experience; blindfolded ice cream tasting; coconut painting; cupcake decorating; and sandcastle building.
I said earlier that Six Senses Zil Pasyon is the nicest place we’ve ever been. Well, it’s priced at that level – definitely a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list item. The nice thing is that, even though it’s a splurge, there’s so much to do that it’s possible to get your money’s worth!
Pricing is quoted in Euros, so the stronger the dollar is against the Euro, the less expensive a stay will be. Right now, at 1.20/1 or so, villas start around US$1,500/night. The 2-bedroom villa where we stayed is roughly $4,000/night. But there are virtually always longer discounted stays, where, for example, you can stay five nights for the price of four. So that helps. And there are periodic specials when it’s not peak season.
Breakfast is included in all room packages. Lunch and dinner add to the expense. Every Six Senses that we’ve been to has been fairly remote, but I’ve felt that they all priced food appropriately. I can’t say that about other hard-to-get-to places we’ve stayed.
Six Senses GEMs
I mentioned our Guest Experience Maker (GEM) Karen above. Basically, every family/couple is assigned a GEM – a butler, for lack of a better word, who is always available. We experienced this at the other two Six Senses resorts as well, and at other places like Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico. It sounds intimidating, but it’s not. Karen showed us to the villa the first day and checked us out at the end of our stay, and in between she made sure we knew about everything going on at the resort, she called to remind us of appointments (spa, tree planting, etc…), she stopped by our table when were dining to check in, she arranged movie night for us, and she could have made anything else happen as well (e.g. a private lunch on a remote beach). At the end of our stay I tipped her $100. I’m sure some people don’t tip, and others probably tip a lot more. It seemed reasonable?
When to Go
The Seychelles are just south of the equator and the weather is warm anytime. The best months weather-wise (fewest winds) are considered to be April/May and October/November. December, January and February see the most rain. The best months price-wise at Six Senses Zil Pasyon (looking at the availability calendar for the next year) are September 2018, November-December (pre-Christmas) 2018, June-July 2019, and September 2019.
Six Senses Zil Pasyon is incredible on every level. Hopefully my photos capture some of the beauty. The water really looks like that! And we loved the boulders everywhere. The Seychelles are a chain of continental granite islands, left behind when Africa and India separated 200 million years ago, and the boulders are still there from that breakup. It’s a very different feel from coral and volcanic islands.
We stayed three nights and would have loved to have stayed longer. The resort was full when we were there but it felt like it was empty. We saw maybe three other people on the beaches. Kayaks were always available. Hammocks were always available.
I always notice kid touches at resorts – the little things that make kids feel welcome. Six Senses does this well. In addition to kid-sized robes and slippers, there are games everywhere, low hammocks everywhere, and even kid-sized lounge chairs by the main pool. I haven’t seen that anywhere else!
The kids’ program (Grow with Six Senses) is brilliant. We’re not kids club people. I’ve actually seen some really bad kids’ clubs recently – small rooms with crafts where parents check their kids in for a half day or a day. Our kids have never been interested in that, and we’ve never proactively checked them in anywhere. And on an island like Félicité, it would be a shame to be inside anyway. The menu of kids activities takes full advantage of the island and integrates the culture of the Seychelles, and everything can be done just by the kids (with Penny of course), or with parents tagging along. Kids can choose to do any or all of the activities (depending on what days they’re there) or nothing.
Note: We were guests of Six Senses Zil Pasyon, but that in no way influenced this post! Our previous stays at Six Senses resorts in Oman and the Maldives were just as good. Six Senses simply does everything right – from service to food to resort design to understated luxury to kid activities.