Mr Smith and I are definitely in need of a romantic holiday. The day after our wedding, we leave our two small children behind with the grandparents, along with a stressful wedding-planning few months. I can feel myself relax as the irritation of my mother’s oft-repeated sentence, ‘You should have got married before you had kids’ starts to become a distant memory.
As the plane descends from a 12-hour flight to the Seychelles, we gawp at the beautiful series of white sandy bays that fringe the isle of Mahe. Our driver glides along a winding coastal road weaving through tiny villages backdropped by lush green mountains. The island is Creole- and French-speaking but since 19th-century British colonisation there’s been left-hand drive and English road signs. After 25 minutes we approach Anse Louis on the southwest; we spy the delicate thatched roofed villas of Maia, perched high on a hill, peeping through the trees.
Tropical gardens give way to a refuge of pure tranquility. Greeted at the gates by our own butler she bypasses any mundane check-in and whisks us onto a posh golf buggy to climb the narrow lanes through fronds and flowers. A pair of large carved native wooden doors open to a stone-and-pebble pathway to our villa almost hidden in the jungle on this isolated peninsula.
Designed by American landscape artist and architect Bill Bensley, the villas echo each other in design, size and floorplan, all intended to have a Balinese air. 12 acres of coconut and mango groves and rare plant species ensconce the 30 villas and most of the luxury abodes have Indian Ocean view. The shorefront villas are beloved by families who want direct access to the beach; the rest nestle into the hillside with heart-fluttering ocean views and maximum privacy thanks to their higher location. Ahem, did you hear that Mr Smith?
When a resort requires that the people who bring you drinks do yoga each morning, and it chooses its butlers according to their ‘emotional intelligence’, you know you’re a long way from Butlins. Over just-squeezed juices and a divine tropical fruit platter, Sopa invites us to take full advantage of always having her at our beck and call. Coconuts left hanging on the outside of the wooden doors will mean ‘do not disturb’, and we have her direct line should we need her assistance at any time. Cooking our breakfast, helping plan our days, discreet housekeeping, luggage duty (I especially love the unpacking service as there’s no drearier task on arrival), all fall to an eager Sopa. Even dinner reservations, changing the iPod soundtrack (our music preferences were pre-requested) and running our bath (she needs an hour’s notice it is so deep) are our butler’s domain.
At first it seems hard to get used to. But it isn’t long before I have our trustworthy Sopa sewing a marabou feather back onto my white cocktail dress. Nothing is too much trouble. Previous guests even requested the outside bath be filled with seawater, which had to be carried up in containers from the beach.
A ballroom of a bedroom hosts a superking bed with the softest Egyptian cotton sheets; giant doors slide away to reveal the view over a vast infinity pool that seemingly merges with the Indian Ocean. Three showers (all stocked with queen of luxury cosmetics, La Prairie) include two palm-flanked alfresco numbers that have you bathing as though in the depths of the jungle.
Padding past fat daybeds, an outside bathtub, sunloungers semi-submerged in a shallow pool and a lower deck for nabbing the late-afternoon sun, we skip down wooden steps down the hill to our own private swathe of white sand. ‘It’s like having our own desert island,’ smiles Mr Smith with a familiar glint in his eye.
Fishing, snorkelling and cookery lessons can be arranged by your butler, sure. But are you surprised to hear some Maia guests aren’t seen for a week after arrival? As Maia prides itself on its gardens I prise myself from Mr Smith and our private paradise to trail the head gardener on a tour of the hundreds species of flora. Cinnamon and lemongrass is among the vegetation tenderly planted and lovingly cared for, amid an abundance of the double coconuts, or Coco de Mer. Native to the Seychelles, story has it when sailors spotted the shells floating in the sea they believed them to be mermaid derrières. (When I relate this to Mr Smith, he tells me with another twinkle, he thought it was a posh erotic boutique in Covent Garden.)
Somewhere that is certain to coax out of your villa: Maia’s spa. Following the dainty lanes through red hibiscus blooms, helinconia, bread fruit trees, elephant ears and poinciana plants that make Maia so enchanting, we reach the spa’s imposing hand-carved wooden doors. Behind these open-air massage beds on low, teak platforms are surrounded by rainforest: all we can hear is birdsong and water trickling among the rocks. Treatments are a mix of Californian and Indonesian inspirations carried out by technicians who have trained for six months in Bali. Tensions, however pent-up, melt away – as this recent bride and fashion-stylist mum can attest.
Sopa runs our fragrant bubble bath on our last night and sprinkles it with frangipani petals plucked from surrounding trees. She leaves us to watch the sun disappear behind the rocks from our tub. Tealights lure us from our ablutions down the steps to our lower deck where she has set out nibbles and a bottle of champagne on ice. Magical. Then, while we sip our aperitifs, the restaurant chef prepares a private barbecue of lobster, scallops and fresh fish with mango and spices. Beat that for a memory in the honeymoon archive.
On our departure, Sopa presents me with a basket of hand-tied bundles of fresh lemongrass. They are ready to steep in hot water when I get home, a reminder of what I sipped during our special stay at what can only be described as the closest thing on earth to heaven. Relaxation is the order of the day – and night – at Maia, everything is done to ensure guests are pampered into a long-lasting state of complete serenity. We feel not only thoroughly spoiled, but enriched and nurtured, having been treated to time in our very own private dreamworld.