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The ‘Jurassic Park’ of the Seychelles

Volcanic Silhouette Island – 20 kilometers north-west of Mahé and measuring 20 square kilometers – is the third largest island in the Seychelles.

Named after Etienne de Silhouette, the French Minister of Finance during Louis XV’s reign, the island has dramatic scenery with mountainous peaks up to 740 meters high; it’s also located within a Marine National Park.

The island was owned by the Dauban family – originally from France but who settled in Mauritius – and their 150-year-old plantation house still exists today as the Grann Kaz restaurant, which is now part of the Hilton Labriz Resort, the only hotel on the island. The house is a protected monument which has been lovingly restored to its former glory. Inside it’s like a museum, filled with antique takamaka (a local strong and dark wood) furniture. It also has its own in-house rum, infused with local flavors like vanilla.

Grann Kaz restaurant on Silhouette Island: authentic Creole food in an old plantation house. It has been lovingly restored and houses many antiques from its colonial past.

A few members of the large population of resident giant tortoises found on Silhouette Island, a haven for nature lovers.

But what really makes Silhouette worth a day trip from Mahé is its fantastic hiking paths and native flora and fauna. A big fan of wildlife, when I asked what kind of animals I can expect to see, I was told: “The sheath-tailed bat, giant millipede, grey slug local cricket and grasshopper.” As I loathe creepy crawlies and had never heard of this almost extinct bat, this didn’t really blow me away. But, once I heard it was also a breeding site for the Seychelles giant tortoises and home to the elusive black parrot, I got slightly more interested. By the time, I left the island I too was fascinated by its giant millipede, which can grow up to 35 centimeters long, and the last-remaining samples of this local bat.

Around 135 locals live on Silhouette Island, excluding guests and staff at the Hilton Labriz Resort, a plush five-star property. Tourists and day-trippers are also welcome thanks to the Silhouette Experience, the initiative of the Island Conservation Society (ICS), which has recently set up turtle, sheath-tailed bat and coral reef monitoring activities on the island. The package includes the boat trip from the Hilton Labriz’s jetty at Bel Ombre, Mahé, guided tour and walks around Silhouette, a visit of the giant tortoise farm and a Creole lunch at Grann Kaz.

The Hilton Labriz ferry takes guests and day trippers alike to and from Silhouette Island, a 30-minute boat ride from the main island of Mahé.

As we depart from the Bel Ombre jetty, dark clouds loom over Silhouette and the waves pick up. January is marked by the north-west trade winds which explains why the sea here is a bit choppy. Luckily, the crossing takes just 30 minutes; some hotel guests with poor sea legs opt for the James Bond-like helicopter transfer from the international airport.

If you fall in love with Silhouette, you might consider staying at the Hilton Labriz, not just to enjoy its spacious suites but to try out its fantastic Flintstone-like spa. Instead of knocking down boulders and trees to build the spa, the spa has been built around the natural vegetation. As a result, granite boulders peep up through the wooden floorboards in the treatment rooms, palm trees sway right next to the windows and the stunning relax area makes you feel a million miles away from reality.

If you’re looking for modern day comforts in a back-to-nature surrounding, the Hilton Labriz presses the right buttons. Vincent from Guest Relations has worked on many of the islands during his career in the hotel industry. He tell us that Silhouette is one of the best because “it’s just so peaceful”.

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