Seychelles has become a nation dependent upon tourism. Rather than rely upon international chains with uniform feels, the industry prides itself on a local, Creole, feel to each resort. Sunil Shah and his father spent five years creating and overseeing construction of Enchanted Island Resort in an effort to offer guests an experience of Seychelles as it once was.
Modern-day Seychelles is a country with an economy that relies upon tourism to provide for its citizens and attract foreign investment. When the nation’s first major airport, Seychelles International Airport, opened in 1971, tourism became the dominant force in the economy. Plantation work was pushed aside as locals flocked to jobs in tourism and the government encouraged investment in the sector to upgrade hotels and related services.
Today, tourism remains a major component of the Island’s economy. The various islands of the archipelago are home to some of the most spectacular resorts in the world. Celebrities from all corners of the globe flock to Seychelles to relax in the luxurious accommodations found throughout the nation and enjoy the natural wonders of the islands.
Enchanted Island Resort is a new luxury hotel that opened in 2013 on Round Island. Rather than embracing the modern architecture and style of the nation, Enchanted Island looks back in time to recreate a vision of the Seychelles as seen through the eyes of the one of the nation’s most prominent families.
Enchanted Island Resort and the Shah Family
Sunil Shah spearheaded the creation and construction of Enchanted Island Resort alongside his father, Anant Jivan-Shah (AJ). Sunil and AJ come from a family that is deeply rooted in Seychellois culture. Building the resort took the duo five years and cost nearly $9 million, an investment that came from the family’s personal wealth. Both the older and younger Shah are accountants by trade, owning and operating AJ Shah & Associates in the capital city of Victoria.
The pair had a unique vision in creating Enchanted Island Resort. Sunil was determined to create a resort that reflects the creole heritage of Seychelles in every way possible. He wanted the architecture, landscaping, style, and much more to reflect a combination of today’s Seychelles, and the Seychelles of 80 years ago. The overall goal was to create a vision of the romantic Seychelles that people remember from the 1930s and 1940s; a vision of Seychelles as recalled by his father and grandfather.
The Shah family occupies a prominent place in the history of Seychelles, and is determined to help preserve the island’s creole culture with powerful local business endeavours. Sunil’s grandfather, Jivan Shaha, arrived in Seychelles in 1894. At that point in history, the nation was still a colonial territory of the United Kingdom. Jivan had arrived from Kutch in the northwest of India. Sunil’s uncle was a well-respected Seychellois historian, Kantilal Jivan-Shah.
Old Seychelles, Reborn
There is no aspect of the resort’s design and style that went overlooked by Sunil and his father. They were determined to create a destination that would remind guests of that romantic, old Seychelles that their elders reminisce over.. Throughout its five-year construction, Sunil scoured the globe for antique pieces (furniture, art, and other décor) that would whisk visitors back in time to Seychelles’ glorious past.
Sunil contacted agents throughout the world to help him locate the right pieces to create the atmosphere he and his father wanted at Enchanted Island Resort. Sunil secured antique writing desks, collector’s posters, and other décor through auctions in France and Spain. One of his personal pursuits in life is the collection of posters with various themes. Given he poured his heart and soul into Enchanted Island Resort, admitting that he experienced pain, anger, and tears during its construction, it seemed only fitting for him to donate some of his own posters to the hotel’s walls.
At the end of the day, he wants every guest of Enchanted Island Resort to arrive and feel as though they’ve just stepped back in time. The vision is to recreate an atmosphere reminiscent of the age of steam ships, laid back island lifestyles, and relaxed environments that are lost in the hustle and bustle of modern life.
A Peak at Enchanted Island Resort
The Shah family built Enchanted Island Resort on Round Island, which is located in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park. The resort is just a 10 minute boat ride from the main island of Mahe and Seychelles International Airport. Unlike many other resorts, which give a feel of over development, Enchanted Island has just 10 villas.
The resort has two unique villas and eight signature villas for guests to enjoy. The Private Pool Villa has direct access to a pristine beach and is an ideal Creole-inspired villa, including a design and charm reminiscent of the harmony that exists in the Seychellois culture. Occupying a secluded stretch of Round Island, the villa offers private indoor and outdoor living spaces, luxurious accommodations in the bedroom, complimentary WiFi access, LED screen TV with satellite programming, and a DVD player.
The Owner’s Signature Villa is the resort’s other unique villa. With a similar Creole-inspired design and architecture, the Owner’s Signature Villa offers direct access to three beaches, an infinity pool, private deck, gazebo, private garden, and en-suite bathrooms for each bedroom. The master bedroom includes an outdoor rain shower and French bathtub.
Additional accommodations at Enchanted Island Resort consist of the Enchanted Signature Villas. Each villa was designed and built to exist in harmony with the surrounding environment. Guests can enjoy direct access to beaches, infinity pools, and the best combination of modern amenities (WiFi, LED TVs, and DVD players) and rustic separation from the world with tranquil surroundings.
The island includes the Bounty Restaurant, featuring contemporary international gourmet cuisine with Creole influences. The Castaway Bar offers the perfect setting for an exotic cocktail and majestic sunset. Private, in-villa, dining is also available for guests. Additional facilities include Serena Spa, the Tresor boutique, a gymnasium with cardio equipment, and complimentary snorkeling equipment and kayaks to help visitors explore the waters surrounding the island.
Recognition for Preservation
Enchanted Island Resort hosted its first guests in December 2013. Since then, numerous high-profile visitors have stayed at the resort. Celebrities, such as The Rolling Stone’s Ronnie Wood and International tourists from the Middle East, Europe, Russia, and other corners of the globe have holidayed at Enchanted Island Resort.
Sunil has stated time and again that the goal of this project was to preserve traditional Creole architecture, interior décor, and design facets. Enchanted Island Resort has been recognized by the national government for its efforts. Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St. Ange and Minister for Home Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan have congratulated the family for investing in the local tourism industry. Speaking at the official opening of the resort in January 2014, Minister St. Ange said the following:
For Sunil, Enchanted Island Resort was about more than just preserving Creole and Seychellois culture. Following his father’s advice, Sunil created Enchanted Island Resort with the same passion he would create his own home in Seychelles. That is exactly the experience he wants all his guests to have at Enchanted Island Resort. He hopes they all feel at home in the old Seychelles.