Anniversary celebrations at Constance Ephélia, Seychelles

Marking anniversary celebrations with a luxury holiday means you’re looking for more than elegant, spacious accommodation and luxe facilities, you want an entire experience that will last a lifetime.

Wedding celebrations at Constance Ephelia (1988)

Helen & Ken’s wedding (1988)

Twenty-fifth wedding anniversary

When Helen and Ken Smith returned to the Seychelles where they’d married 25 years ago to celebrate their anniversary at Constance Ephélia, they discovered that a warm welcome and excellent service were what memories are really made of.

Helen tells us, ‘We did a lot of research on which hotel to stay at as it was such a special occasion and read lots of reviews and then decided to choose Constance Ephélia. The resort looked so beautiful sitting between 2 beaches, it seemed to have everything on our wish list and more.’

Return to the Seychelles

It was the first time they’d returned to the Seychelles since their wedding and expectation was running high but when they arrived at Ephélia they realised they had nothing to worry about.

‘We honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better to celebrate this special occasion,’ Helen says. ‘We booked a junior suite and the location was stunning, next to the beach and whilst we sat on our balcony we could hear the waves lapping onto the shore…

‘We spent our days chilling by the pool and beach, playing lots of tennis, we went exploring to deserted beaches and also went kayaking a few times – brilliant.’

A 25th wedding anniversary at Constance Ephelia

Returning to the Seychelles for their 25th wedding anniversary

First class service at Constance

But for Helen and Ken it was the special attention paid to them by the staff that really made the holiday perfect. ‘The hotel was beautiful and far exceeded our expectations, comfort, location, choice of restaurants but it’s the staff that are the icing on the cake. They made it so very extra special, they genuinely go out of their way to ensure that you are having the best time.’

Helen cites the example of Chantal, Sales Manager at Ephélia who greeted them on their arrival at Ephélia and went out of her way to make their holiday especially memorable.

‘She arranged for us to have breakfast on the beach which was a fantastic experience, we had champagne delivered to our room, gifts on our bed, it honestly just went on and on, so very lovely. Then, just when we though it couldn’t get any better, they arranged for us to spend our last 2 nights in a hillside villa. Wow, wow, wow – unbelievable – we just kept shaking our heads at how lucky we were.’

‘We have bored everyone to death with our stories and we are sure that some people don’t actually believe what Ephélia and their staff did for us. It was incredible.’

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The Moray Eel – love them or loathe them?

Marine biologist and guest blogger Robin Aiello takes a look at the much maligned Moray Eel in this month’s creature feature.

The Moray Eel

The Moray Eel

Robin will be returning to Constance Halaveli in September 2013, to run further dive courses and talks following her hugely popular visit earlier in the year.

You either love moray eels, or fear them.

Over the years moray eels have gained an unearned reputation as an aggressive, ferocious animal. In truth, however, they are reclusive and shy, preferring to flee or hide from divers by pulling into reef crevices.

How the moray breathes

Despite their long, snake-like appearance, moray eels are fish – not snakes. And like all fish, they need to have fresh seawater pass over their gills to breath. But, since morays are relatively sedentary fish, hiding in ambush to catch prey like crabs, octopus and fish, they have developed another way to ‘breathe’ – they gulp water by opening and closing their mouths. Many people misinterpret this behaviour as ferocious and a sign of aggression – but it is merely the eel’s way of breathing.

Their elongated, serpentine shape allows these fish to swim through the complex reef framework of nooks and crannies. To avoid getting cut and scraped by sharp coral, they produce huge amounts of mucus to coat their smooth, scaleless skin.

Marine biologist, Robin Aiello

Marine biologist, Robin Aiello

How moray eels catch their prey

When you look at the head of a moray eel their ‘beady’ little eyes seem disproportionately small. In fact, morays have very poor eyesight, and are nearly blind. So how do they find their food? By following their nose. They have a highly developed sense of smell and large tubular nostrils for smelling prey. They also have very good hearing, which helps them to hunt.

But what I personally think is the most amazing thing about morays eels is how they catch and eat their prey. In addition to several rows of razor sharp teeth, these fish have a unique weapon that, so far, scientists have not found in any other animal – a second set of jaws!

These jaws, called pharyngeal jaws, lie inside the fish’s throat, and when the mouth is opened to attack, they are propelled forward into the mouth to grasp the prey. As the mouth closes again, they pull back into the throat, taking the prey with them! How weird and amazing is that?

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A Luxury Travel Blog describes Tsarabanjina as an ‘idyllic castaway island’

Craig Burkinshaw recently discovered the charms of Tsarabanjina, writing on A Luxury Travel Blog this week that this Constance gem is a ‘particular favourite’.

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

In a piece in which Craig describes the resort as one of the few offering luxury accommodation and service in the beautiful setting of Madagascar, he goes on to celebrate the tiny private island’s stunning natural setting and exceptional diving and snorkeling opportunities.

Founder of Audley Travel, Craig praises the resort’s laidback charm:

‘A charming feature is that the island has its own time zone, Tsarabanjina time. An hour different to mainland Madagascar, this is done to make the most of the daylight and only adds to the remote feeling of the island and resort.’

Craig goes on to extol the virtues of the fresh, sumptuous food and indulgent spa treatments on offer. Describing the accommodation Craig admires the use of natural woods and Malagasy crafts to create a comfortable environment with ‘plenty of luxurious touches’.

Craig sums up, ‘Overall Constance Tsarabanjina has the perfect combination of Robinson Crusoe escapism and a healthy dose of luxury.’

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Top tips for food and wine pairing

Matching the perfect wine with the perfect food to bring out the subtle, distinctive flavours of both is a delicate skill.

Chablis, “Terroir de Courgis”

Chablis, “Terroir de Courgis”

Here Constance Halaveli sommelier Cedric Jacobs selects his favourite wines and, with the help of executive chef at Halaveli Holger Joost, pairs them with a selection of delectable dishes.

1. Chablis, “Terroir de Courgis”, Patrick Piuze, 2010, France, Burgundy

I will always remember the first time I tasted this wine, I was in Bordeaux in 2011 for a famous wine exposition and a friend of Jerome Faure brought a few bottles from this producer to be blind-tasted. When the results came back, it was like I was back in school with my lecturer warning me that Chablis can be confused with wine from the Loire Valley due to the proximity of Terroir.

Courgis is the western city of the Chablis appellation and very close to Pouilly Fumé – a total confusion, yet an incredible discovery.

100 per cent Chardonnay – The hint of gunflint, citrus & exotic fruit and minerality could confuse the drinker with a Sauvignon Blanc. Showing an amazing purity in the mouth, a juicy, rich mineral wine with a perfect respect of the fruit.

Food Pairing:

Some time ago, the executive chef prepared prawns in 3 textures (seared, sous vide and tartar) served with mango salsa for me to taste. This would have been the perfect wine to drink to respect both of the wine and dish.

Chef Pairing:

Tiger Prawns in 3 textures (seared, sous vide and tartar) with mango and palm heart salsa curry emulsion.

VDP des Bouches du Rhône, Villa Minna

VDP des Bouches du Rhône, Villa Minna

2. VDP des Bouches du Rhône, Villa Minna, Red, 2007, France, Provence

This wine comes from the commune of Saint Cannat, a few kilometres from Aix-en-Provence and neighbour of the small village I am from, Ventabren. I discovered the wine from Jean Paul Luc 8 years ago when I started my sommelier formation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy to bring to the middle of the Indian Ocean. Eventually, the wines arrived and my love for them did not change at all.

A bold blend between Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The nose is crammed full of black cherry, almost kirsches, and dried fig aromas. After few minutes of aeration in the glass, violets, mixed Provençal herbs and spices are showing off. The mouth is fruitful and complex offering a beautiful freshness for a 2007 vintage showing that this wine still has guts to age even more.

Food Pairing:

Halaveli cheese selection – a selection of international cheeses with dried fruit, crackers & honey.

As a typical French man I cannot refuse a piece of cheese but being in the middle of the Indian ocean I do not have access to it that easily. I discovered here a Brie from Australia, the Jindi Triple Cream, battered more than a normal one and showing an incredible complexity. I could simply spend a whole night with friends pairing these two.

Waterkloof, Sauvignon Blanc

Waterkloof, Sauvignon Blanc

3. Waterkloof, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 – South Africa, Stellenbosh

I discovered this wine in October 2012 while visiting South Africa, more precisely the Cape Wine wine exposition in Cape Town. The first contact was with Paul Boutinot, the owner of the winery, and then his son Louis, who invited us to taste his wine.

The Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc is one of my ‘Coup de Coeur’ of the year for the purity that is present in this wine. A rich and complex Sauvignon Blanc offering citrus fruit, vegetal and fennel aromas on the nose for a mineral, salty, and long lasting finish – a great complexity for an easy drinking wine.

Food Pairing:

Halaveli Sushi and Sashimi selection with pickled ginger and soy.

Minerality and saltiness lead me directly to products from the sea and one of my first experiences with the Waterkloof, and the most memorable, was with Japanese Food: Sushi, Sashimi, Californian Roll… This unctuous wine matched perfectly these Japanese specialties.

4. Mullineux, “Granit”, Syrah, 2010 – South Africa, Swartland

Like the Waterkloof, this was a discovery that happened in South Africa during my last trip. We were welcomed by Andrea and Chris Mullineux in a restaurant called “French toast” in the city of Cape Town.

The cuvée Granit is, for me, majestic. The nose offers beautiful black berries, olive, spices and meaty aromas. On the palate, the wine is fresh, lively and spicy with an amazing fruit – the feeling of literally biting into berries. A feminine, yet complex Syrah which deserves to be aged for couple of years, but can be enjoyed right now.

Food Pairing:

Tuna steak and caramelized foie gras, warm salad of Shimeji, Edamame and tomato, celeriac puree.

Living in the Maldives for the past few years, tuna, the meatiest fish of the Indian Ocean, has become one of my favourite dishes. To complement this amazing fish, The Mullineux Syrah is a perfect match, especially when the tuna steak is served with a typical olive tapenade, grilled Mediterranean vegetables and a celeriac purée.

Barolo, Attilio Ghisolfi

Barolo, Attilio Ghisolfi

5. Barolo, Attilio Ghisolfi, 2005 – Italy, Piedmont

My most recent trip was to Italy where we visited mostly the north of the country seeking out small yet amazing winemakers. I had already worked with the wines from Attilio Ghisolfi for the last 2 years (in fact, Jerome Faure discovered them during a tasting in Italy a few years back) but I wanted to meet the man behind the superb bottle.

Cherry, balsamic, olive and chamomile all together coming to your nose for an amazing mouthful, this 100 per cent Nebbiolo is similar to a Pinot Noir but with firm Tannin – This wine from Attilio Ghisolfi, after a long and delicate aging in the cellar, shows beautiful and melted tannins, with impressive fruit – Can be kept for aging for another 10 to 15 years.

Food Pairing:
Angus beef tenderloin, Asian spiced spinach, truffle potato and horseradish crème.

Red meat is the first dish that comes to my mind when having a bottle of Barolo in front of me. More exactly, a nice, juicy Angus beef tenderloin, served in its own jus with a homemade truffle potato purée and horseradish cream.

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Top 7 luxury luggage must-haves

Luxury holidays and luxury luggage go hand-in-hand. Here is our selection of some of the finest luggage you could invest in.

Brics luxury travel trolley

Brics luxury travel trolley

1. Best hardcase holdall

The Rimowa Topas Titanium Multiwheel

This lightweight aluminium case is tough German engineering at its finest. The hard outer casing and TSA combination locks will ensure the safety of anything inside and the neat ‘add a bag’ clip mean you can combine Rimowa luggage into one item. Inside the multiple shoe, garment and laundry bags help keep clothes neatly separated.

2. Most stylish carry-on

Formal calf leather ‘country’ bag from Brunello Cucinelli

This beautiful calf leather carry on from Italian luxury brand Brunello Cucinelli is an instant classic echoing a Hemmingway age of travelling adventurers. Beautiful, tough and endlessly useful.

3. The hippest of holdalls

Brics 30” trolley with spinners

Toted by the likes of Halle Berry and Jennifer Aniston, high-end Italian luggage brand Brics is the current luggage of choice for Hollywood A-listers. This lightweight, large trolley will stylishly fit all your holiday luggage and, of course, comes with a range of matching accessories.

4. Ultimate luxury travel wallet

Noble Macmillan calfskin travel wallet

Noble Macmillan calfskin travel wallet

Noble Macmillan classic travel wallet

Available in a range of funky colours this soft calfskin leather travel wallet with a silk lining is hand made in Spain. The interior includes separate compartments marked with leather tabs for passport, travel documents etc. Noble Macmillan will even personalise it with your initials or a message of your choice.

5. Best hardcore carry-on

Victorinox Spectra extra-capacity carry-on

From the makers of the Swiss Army Knife comes the ultimate in hard case hand luggage guaranteed to keep all your possessions safe from knocks and drops at the airport. Available in a range of colours including Swiss Army red.

6. Most opulent toiletry case

Louis Vuitton Case with Mirror

There’s just something about Louis Vuitton luggage that exudes old-school glamour and this stunning, durable hard-shell case is no exception. With the traditional LV monogramed canvas and gold brass outside, and mirror and 14 bottle holder on the inside, this will keep all your lotions and creams safe for your journey and then look beautiful in your hotel bathroom throughout your holiday.

Mulberry adjustable iPad sleeve

Mulberry adjustable iPad sleeve

7. Best luxury iPad cover

Mulberry adjustable iPad sleeve

This stylish, functional leather iPad cover from Mulberry is made to house an iPad 2 or 3. The leather case can be flipped over to create a useful display stand, perfect for watching movies or making video calls. Classically unfussy the leather case is bare apart from the Mulberry tree logo. Available in a range of colours.

Going on honeymoon

Marine biologist journeys to the Arctic North

Marine biologist Robin Aiello visited Constance Halaveli earlier this year, where she ran a number of dive courses and talks. Currently in the Arctic North, Robin writes about her latest expedition.

Walrus' relaxing in the Arctic

Walrus’ relaxing in the Arctic

Greetings from the far north – the land of polar bears and walrus

I can assure you that right now, having just spent the past 8 hours driving a small rubber boat though thick sea ice in -1°C temperatures, I am dreaming of the warm tropical waters of Halaveli in the Maldives.

Expedition in Svalbard

I am up here in Svalbard, in the far North, above 79º latitude, working as the marine biologist on-board an expedition ship that is spending three months exploring the Arctic. So far, the season has been wonderful.

Polar bears and ice caps

The other day we started the morning with a male polar bear walking leisurely past our ship as we drifted in thick sea ice that spreads out as far as the eye can see. Polar bears are amazing animals with their huge paws, shaggy white coat of fur and piercing black eyes. They are just so regal and elegant – kings of the ice.

A Polar Bear

A Polar Bear

Later in the day we visited a beach with a dozen or so walrus hauled out. They are so funny – they lie for long periods of time doing absolutely nothing, then suddenly one will wiggle around, which starts a whole flurry of activity as they raise their heads, knock into one another with their tusks, until they slowly find a more comfortable position and settle back down to sleep some more.

As beautiful and dramatic as the scenery here is, I cannot wait to return to Halaveli in September to dive and snorkel the amazing reefs.

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Polar Bear

Up close and personal

 

Admiring the reflection

Admiring the reflection

 

A stroll on the ice

A stroll on the ice