Situated off the East Coast of Africa, the Seychelles is renowned for having some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. The various small islands making up the Seychelles offer soft sand, turquoise waters, supreme tranquillity and exotic resorts, making it one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the world. An idyllic holiday awaits!
The Seychelles’ 115 islands fall under two distinct groups – the tall granite, Inner Islands cluster, mainly within the relatively shallow Seychelles’ plateau, 4° South of the equator and roughly 1 800km distant from the East coast of Africa, while the low-lying coralline cays, atolls and reef islands of the Outer Islands lie mainly beyond the plateau up to 10° South of the equator. These Outer Islands are divided into five groups: The Amirantes group lying 230km distant from Mahé, the Southern Coral Group, the Alphonse Group, the Farquhar Group and finally the Aldabra Group somewhat a 1 150km from Mahé. There are 43 Inner Islands – 41 granitic and 2 coralline – and a total of 72 coralline Outer Islands.
The Inner Islands which are mostly granitic, cluster mainly around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, forming the cultural and economic hub of Seychelles, as well as the centre of its tourism industry. Together they are home to the majority of Seychelles’ accommodation facilities as well almost the entire population of the archipelago. The Outer Islands are those situated beyond the Seychelles plateau. They comprise 72 low-lying sand cays and atolls lying anywhere between 230km and 1 150km from Mahé. These islands are less visited than their granitic cousins due to their relative remoteness, these pristine miniature worlds – some little more than sand spits or lonely rocky outcrops – offer untouched habitats for many species of wildlife. Only two islands among the Outer Island groups, namely Alphonse and Desroches, currently offer accommodation facilities. They boast luxuriously appointed lodges as well as unparalleled opportunities for sailing, fishing and diving in places where few have gone before.
The currency in Seychelles is Seychellois Rupee (SCR), however many hotels accept GBP or EUR as a form of payment. The official languages are Creole, English and French and Roman Catholic is the dominant religion in the Seychelles. Mahé is the capital city and Praslin and La Digue are the two other major islands. The time zone is UTC/GMT +4 hours.
Fauna and Flora
Seychelles is a living museum of natural history and a sanctuary for some of the rarest species of Fauna and Flora on earth. With almost 50% of its limited landmass set aside as national parks and reserves, Seychelles prides itself on its record for far sighted conservation policies that have resulted in an enviable degree of protection for the environment and the varied ecosystems it supports. Nowhere else on earth will you find unique endemic specimens such as the fabulous Coco-de-mer, the largest seed in the world, the jellyfish tree, with only eight surviving examples, the Seychelles’ paradise flycatcher and Seychelles warble.
Seychelles is also home to two U.N.E.S.C.O World Heritage Sites like Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll and Praslin’s Vallée de Mai, once believed to be the original site of the Garden of Eden. From the smallest frog to the heaviest land tortoise and the only flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, Seychelles nurtures an amazing array of endemic species within surrounds.
THINGS TO DO
The diversity of the Seychelles landscape rushes up to greet you the moment your aircraft begins its descent and promises a long list of things to do.
Seychelles is famous for having some of the best beaches in the world, pristine and uncrowded. Some are framed by age-old granite boulders. Others offer powder-soft sands, turquoise waters and sublime opportunities for swimming, snorkeling or pure relaxation. There are great opportunities for island-hopping between the 16 islands that currently offer accommodation. These range from sumptuous 5-star resorts to rustic island lodges and cozy beachside bungalows. On your way, you will discover such gems as the legendary Vallée de Mai, home to the legendary Coco-de-Mer.
You will find proud national monuments, beautiful Creole houses, artists’ studios, national reserves and marine parks, as well as breathtaking natural wonders above and beneath the waves. Various excursions will introduce you to the pleasures of glass-bottom boating or enjoying a choice of water sports. There’s also golf, horse-riding and guided nature tours to enjoy some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on earth. Not forgetting the mellow Seychelles nightlife where you can take in a casino, some local bars and fine restaurants offering unforgettable Creole and international cuisine.
Bag your own beach
Mahe is the largest island in the Seychelles. Its finest beach has to be Anse Major, in the north-west, accessible only by foot (or fishing boat). It’s an easy one-hour walk from the bus stop at La Scala (Bel Ombre) through shaded valleys and across weather-beaten granite rock faces, ending in a pretty descent on to white sands.
Snorkelling here is some of the best around and like most beaches it is supervised by the tourist police. They sit under a shady tree, keeping your belongings safe while you swim. There are several picturesque and often empty bays to investigate in the island’s South, it is definitely worth hiring a car – but beware, there are treacherous currents and swimming here is not advised.
Take a hike
Almost all of Mahe from the Morne Seychelles mountain in the north to Police Bay in the south, is covered in luxuriant green. Squadrons of tropic birds and fruit bats patrol over thick Jurassic forest that reaches to the 2 700 ft summit of Morne, Mahe’s tallest peak.
The best way to explore is to take a half-day hike along one of the many trails within the Morne Seychellois National Park. Look for tiny frogs hiding in pitcher plants and the harmless endemic wolf snake basking in patches of sun. If you choose only one walk, spend 45 minutes reaching the summit of Morne Blanc. It perhaps has the finest view in the Indian Ocean.
Birds of paradise
From Mahe you can easily see the smaller granitic islands of Praslin and La Digue lying side-by-side 25 miles to the North. You can reach them either using the speedy Cat Cocos ferry to Praslin (45 minutes) or for the more swashbuckling, a cargo schooner directly to La Digue (three hours).
Life is effortless on La Digue where the boulder-strewn beaches are even prettier than on Mahe. Rent bikes and pedal to Grande Anse where turquoise breakers pummel the beach. Keep an eye out for the Seychelles paradise-flycatcher, an endangered bird of which the locals are deeply proud.
Victoria is the Seychelles’ tiny capital. You can explore it in a pleasant two-hour stroll. Highlights include a silver-painted replica of London’s Little Ben – itself is a miniature of Big Ben – and the islands’ Natural History Museum. The streets are rarely busy, except on Saturday mornings and there are many small shops where you can refuel with samosas.
Go to the outdoor market in the morning to see the day’s catch laid out with red snappers, grouper, mackerel, sharks and eagle rays. This is fish as fresh as it gets! Other stalls are stacked with colourful fruit, vegetables and spices. It’s easy to fill a bag with exotic star fruit, mangoes and coconuts.
A Cadbury treat
Aride Island is the nearest the Seychelles comes to its pristine state before it was discovered by the outside world. It is one of the finest tropical island nature reserves in the world, bought for posterity in 1973 by British naturalist Christopher Cadbury (of the chocolate-making family).
There are more birds of more species here, than on the other 40 islands combined, with a million breeding seabirds and land birds found only here such as magpie robins, fodies and blue pigeon. The sweet-scented Wright’s gardenia grows nowhere else. There is no accommodation, but there are daily boat trips to this destination.
Beau Vallon, in the northwest of Mahe, is a favourite bay for locals and tourists alike. But there is no need to fret about scuffles over prime territory. Even at its busiest, it is relaxed and unspoilt!
Several hotels and some good dive centres are dotted along the beach and you can find a handful of humble but good restaurants. Watch the sun set into the ocean and then try Baobab Restaurant for an excellent pizza. Beau Vallon hosts a lively Wednesday evening market. Stalls serve up curry and chapatis to go.
The Seychelles’ climate is one which is always warm and does not reach extremes of heat or cold. The temperature rarely drops below 24°C or rises above 32°C. All but the remotest Southern islands lie outside the cyclone belt making Seychelles a year round destination for sun worshippers and beach lovers. It is generally cooler when the North-West trade winds blow during the months of November to March. The sea is generally calm and the weather warm and humid, with average winds of 15 – 22 kilometers per hour.
A larger amount of the annual rainfall falls during the months of December to February compared to other months. The average number of rainy days (days with 1 millimeter or more rainfall) in December, January and February are 18, 17 and 11 days respectively. It is also fairly cloudy at times during those months and therefore less sunshine. The weather is hottest from December to April, and the humidity is high – often 80% or higher.
The months of May to October bring drier, cooler weather and livelier seas – particularly on south-eastern coasts – and winds of 19 -37 kilometers per hour are common. On average the number of rainy days during this period is 11 with long periods of sunshine. Dry spells of two weeks or more are fairly common.