From the rain-lashed windows of the 20-seater turbo-prop bobbing about perilously in the wind, it appears as if it’s rising out of the ocean, huge and craggy, like a giant sun-tanned islander in a palm frock. Just as you are wildly scouring the landscape to find a cave to set up a ramshackle shelter and a beach to scrape out a large ‘SOS!’ in the sand, there appear what seem to be (no, it can’t be!) the unmistakable contours of a golf course. ‘Capital!’ you tell yourself—nothing like getting a round in while waiting for a passing ship to spot the smoke signals and whisk you back to civilisation.
“What fun!” yells out Adam Christophe, the young man in the open cockpit, even as the vintage airplane shudders and creaks to a halt on a short clearing in the forest.“ You know, most pilots on those big commercial jets miss this sort of thing,” he says, bursting with adrenaline, to the pale-as-white-faced group of passengers falling over themselves to disembark.
There’s nothing quite like taking three back-to-back flights to get the feeling that you are, in fact, on a bonafide getaway. And Praslin Island, at the edge of Seychelles’ marine territory in the Indian Ocean, makes the grade with flying colours. On the north-west coast of this Lilliputian atoll, cascading down a densely-forested hillside, lies the imaginatively-christened Constance Lemuria resort. The 18th-century notion of the ‘Lost Land’ of Lemuria—a hypothetical continent in the Indian Ocean, which was believed to have sunk beneath the waves—has lost currency, but you get the idea.
Moving along, visitors are pleased to note—after driving into the resort’s gates—that the very golf course visible from the air, which provided that solitary glimmer of hope in the face of impending tragedy, is, in fact, on the resort’s premises. The dense vegetation parts to reveal a flight of wooden stairs leading up to what appears like the entrance to a hidden lair. The sense of blending in with the landscape is all-pervasive at the Lemuria and is amplified as you peer down from the lobby at the water flowing down through the three tiers of infinity pools leading down all the way to Kerlan Beach and a discreet lagoon.
Coming back to the Lemuria Golf Course, this is no boutique layout added as an afterthought to the resort: it’s a full-blown championship layout with some spectacular holes overlooking the sea, tonnes of elevation changes and presents a serious challenge. This course was ranked seventh in all of Africa last year. No small feat that, considering it’s the only course in Seychelles.
The course meanders along the coastline punctuated by elevated tees, water hazards and narrow fairways, and the back-nine is the tougher and prettier stretch. The par-3 150 yard 15th hole is quite extraordinary: with the tees perched high on a rocky ridge, which offers spectacular views of the ocean, and the green way down in the vale. It makes for an interesting shot, to say the least, with the ball falling as much as 60 ft from the tee to the green. Lemuria GC is also probably the only course in this part of the world with a beach so beautiful that even non-golfers come to the course just to be able to make their way there. Next to the 15th green is a small gate almost hidden in the foliage. Part the bushes and the famous Anse Georgette beach emerges into view—an Eden-ish picture-postcard crescent of white sand in what seems like a private cove.
Praslin Island’s sinful Eden-ish vibe has a lot to do with the famous Coco-de-Mer, which is found almost exclusively on this little island. This enormous coconut, which closely resembles a woman’s derriere, only grows on the venerable giant palms at the Vallee de Mai Nature Park in Praslin. Not surprisingly, the nuts were the subject of much mythological and magical speculation in the past. Victorian General Charles George Gordon, who popped by the island in 1881, thought he’d reached Eden and that the Coco de Mer was the original forbidden fruit. Today, people restrict themselves to drinking the nuts’ ‘aphrodisiacal’ water.
But besides that, depending on how long you choose to leer at the Coco de Mer (it’s a coconut, get over it), there’s really not that much to see around Praslin unless you take a ferry and go island hopping. There are some interesting ones around, the pick of which is undoubtedly La Digue, an impossibly small islet with the most stunning beaches in Seychelles.
The island has larger counterparts in the same neck of the woods—Maldives and Mauritius—to be sure, but when it comes to a retreat, then Praslin Island is an exile. While Mauritius is too large and accessible to be genuinely secluded—heck it can even be seen from space—Praslin is the remotest speck of tropical jungle in the Indian Ocean, where you can ogle at coconuts while lying on your stomach and get a deep-tissue shiatsu pampering at the same time. And the Lemuria Golf Club, along with the vulgar titillation of the Coco de Mer, is the most compelling reason to visit this isle of idyll. The air ferry for Praslin leaves every 30 minutes from Mahe: just make sure your pilot isn’t in it for the adventure.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game