Gay sex was legalized in 2016. But what’s life really like for Seychelles’ LGBTIs? As a top hotel reaches out to queer tourists, GSN visits to find out
Think Seychelles, think huts on stilts. At least that’s the image that used to spring to my mind: little flecks of loveliness among uncomplicated sea/sand landscapes.
While such remoteness can of course be found across many of the Seychelles’ 119 islands, Eden Bleu Hotel – which I stayed at earlier this year with a group of LGBTI journalists – offers something somewhat unexpected in terms of location.
This sprawling resort is found on the 140-acre, manmade Eden Island. It in turn is connected to the Seychelles’ main and largest island, Mahé.
As such, the capital city of Victoria [below] is only 7km, or a 12-minute drive, away. Home to 26,000 people (one quarter of the county’s population), it’s one of the world’s smallest capitals.
Given its size, there’s not tons to see and do. But a stroll around town and mixing with locals was refreshing. Meanwhile, the Victoria Botanical Gardens, featuring 10,000+ plant species, and the astonishingly ornate Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple [below] also come highly recommended.
What’s also useful about the location is it’s a great base for exploring the wider destination without hopping on-and-off planes.
For example, one day, we jumped on a ferry to La Digue Island [pictured, bottom], home to the otherworldly Anse Source d’Argent, often considered world’s most beautiful and photographed beach. It was perhaps the highlight of our trip.
Furthermore, there’s the close proximity of Seychelles International Airport. It’s 6.6km, or 10 minutes by car.
Eden Bleu is a five star property, and the six-person villa my group stayed in – complete with private infinity pool – was certainly of a high standard. It was gorgeous.
My huge sea view room, tastefully decorated in creams, browns and whites, was faultless. My stay marked the first time I’ve volunteered for a nap I didn’t need on a trip because the bed and sheets were so inviting. The room was uncluttered but cozy and comfortable. I woke up feeling like a new person. The room and villa had every imaginable mod con.
For a cheaper but still very decent room (there are 87 in total), opt for the huge main building. It’s characterized by clean lines, open space and a slightly more sterile, modern decor. The building certainly stuns from the outside, with its near-symmetrical appearance.
On the main-site, you’ll find Marlin Bleu Restaurant, Bourgeois Bar and the Empereur Terrace, where you can drink and dine with a view of the swimming pool and marina.
From impossibly fresh and colorful seafood and fruit to elaborate, lethal cocktails, I enjoyed everything I ate and drank Eden Bleu.
That said, I found the snack/lunch menu rather limited. (The breakfast buffet, on the other hand, was extensive). By the end of my stay I found myself longing for some new options.
An explosive, specially-created menu on my group’s first night served to highlight the chefs’ (perhaps underutilized) flair. It was one of the best meals I’ve eaten this year: a rich seafood stew to start, followed by an elegantly-presented sous vide red snapper with mussel ragout, grilled prawns and breadfruit croquette. This was followed by ‘chocolate delight’, comprised of chocolate mud pie and white chocolate soup (!).
Service and amenities 4/5
The resort is massive, and the only practical way to get around is by buggy. I had an absolute blast driving it around.
One night, however, while driving to dinner, we got drenched. (The temperature of Seychelles usually falls between 24-32°C. But thunderstorms appear out of nowhere – something you don’t see in brochures). Why the buggies weren’t covered and/or the villa didn’t come stocked with ponchos, I’m not sure.
No complaints about the staff, who were helpful, friendly and often went the extra mile to cater for my very demanding group.
If I was to criticise anything, it would be the hotel’s website, which I found difficult to navigate and lacking certain information. I also only really got the hang of the touchscreen food and drinks menus by the last day.
LGBTI life 3/5
Same-sex sex remains illegal in 33 African countries, including the Maldives, another Indian Ocean island nation popular with same-sex honeymooners. The Seychelles, on the other hand, legalized sex between men in 2016. (It was never illegal between women)
While I’m ambivalent about travel to anti-LGBTI countries, I can’t fathom why same-sex couples vacation in the Maldives when the Seychelles offers a similarly ‘romantic’, but safer experience – even if marriage equality is a way off.
I can’t speak for the values and attitudes of all Eden Bleu Hotel staff, but I never once felt uncomfortable, and it’s arguably to the hotel and tourist board’s credit that they collaborated to host UK-based LGBTI journalists at all.
That’s not to say the queer scene here’s developed. It’s not. LGBTIs among the Seychelles’ modest 95,000-person population are scattered across different islands. (Many working in resorts and hotels as part of the gargantuan tourism industry). So there are no bars and clubs, for example.
‘We used to hang out at this bar every Friday; that used our thing,’ local community member Nadia told GSN after dropping by Eden Bleu for a chat. ‘But because we went there, everybody came to see us. It was annoying, so we stopped!’
‘People are scared’
Nadia’s friend Fabianna, who founded the travel group LGBT Sey, added that some LGBTIs don’t attend meet-ups and remain closeted because ‘the Seychelles is small. Everybody knows everybody. This’s the main problem. People are scared.’
Indeed, anti-LGBTI sentiment persists in some corners of Seychelles’ society, where Roman Catholicism’s the most dominant religion. (Muslim, Hindu and Bahaï communities also exist here.)
‘They’re very loud; you can’t shut that up,’ says Fabianna of homophobes. ‘So we try to stay out of the public eye and influence policy behind the scenes. We’re proud of that. We had input on the anti-bullying policy. We have conversations with people who understand where we’re coming from, rather than engage instead of engaging with those who do not have a grasp on the issues.’
‘I’ve experienced hardship’
One recent issue faced by community members, Fabianna explained was ‘people were circulating collages of pictures of men’s Grindr pictures on Whatsapp, saying: “These are the dirty gays.”‘
‘I’ve experienced hardship myself,’ added Nadia. ‘Family-wise it wasn’t that difficult. But society-wise, because I’ve got kids, because say things behind my back and to my face. “Why are you coming out?”‘
That said, Fabianna adds that ‘the community is bigger than people might think.’ As per next steps, LGBTIs want to ‘challenge existing laws. Some couples are interested in adopting, marriage. [A legal counsellor told me] “there is nothing in the law to stop same-sex marriage.” What we need is a couple to go to the state and say “We want to get married,” and see the reaction. But the problem is, people don’t want to put themselves out there.’
While the journey towards sexual equality is ongoing, I can’t help but feel optimistic for the Seychelles, where one imagines a tolerant tourism sector and an influx of LGBTI tourism becoming a real tipping point.
For more information about Eden Bleu Hotel, visit the official website.
Seven nightly prices on a bed & breakfast basis in the Presidential Suite from £3,975 ($5,021, €4,518) per person based on 2 people sharing, and a Luxury Marina View Room for £1915 per person for two people sharing at the Eden Bleu Hotel. A nightly rate on a bed & breakfast basis in a six bedroom villa cost from £1,100 ($1,389, €1,250) for 12 people per night. Contact Details: Southall Travel; tel: +0800 408 8042; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Jamie Tabberer
Source – Gay Star News