Island addresses for the rich, and playgrounds for the famous, the Seychelles have shed their former pirate hideaway image to blossom into the quintessential tropical getaway. With only a handful of inhabited islands, the archipelago boast fertile nesting grounds for endemic flora and fauna species numbering in the thousands with success stories of conservation efforts, ensuring its main tourism draw card is its reputation for unrivalled natural beauty.
Interesting Facts about The Seychelles:
- Some US$160 million worth of treasure is still believed to be buried on Mahé, put there by the notorious buccaneer Olivier "La Bouche" Levasseur, who is said to have growled: "Find my treasure, ye who may understand it" before he was sent to the gallows in 1730.
- Inner Seychelles’ granitic islands, the only ones of its type to be located mid-ocean, are also the oldest oceanic islands in the world.
- UNESCO-recognized Aldabra as one of the world's largest raised coral atolls, so big that the island of Mahé could fit in its lagoon.
- Aldabra houses the world's largest giant tortoise colony, one of which, named Esmeralda, is reputed to be the world's heaviest and oldest land tortoise.
- Approximately half of land in the Seychelles is under conservation, the largest percentage of any nation in the world.
Sprinkled in the Indian Ocean northeast of Madagascar, East Africa, the Seychelles are a cluster of over 100 islands totalling some 455 square kilometres. The vast majority of the action and local inhabitants are clustered on the 41 granitic islands that make up what's known as 'Inner Seychelles', with the remaining 74 or so coralline islands of 'Outer Seychelles' largely uninhabited and rarely visited.
The exceptional biodiversity of the Seychelles is only matched by the sublime seascape and deserted beaches, its rich variety of life perhaps best illustrated by the Aldabra group of islands. The UNESCO Word Heritage Site is home to several endemic plant and animal species, including Aldabra Rail, the only flightless bird in the Indian Ocean region. The islands also house the largest population of giant tortoises in the world (numbering some 100,000), the second largest Fregate bird nesting colony, and provide fertile breeding grounds for hawksbill, green turtles, and the pink flamingo. The atolls are also known for their coconut crabs, the largest land crabs in the world.
A great way to appreciate the fragile ecosystem and all its inhabitants – be it on Mahé, Praslin, Silhouette, or La Digue – is by grabbing a trail guide booklet at the tourist information centre in the capital, and better yet, booking a tour with a eco-guide to point out fascinating fauna and flora.
With 1.4 million square kilometres of pristine water to call their territory and a stringent conservation programme to boot, it's not to imagine why the Seychelles boast some of the best snorkel and dive sites in the world, ranging from marine parks for the casual snorkeller (try Curieuse Marine National Park near Victoria, Mahé, or Ste Anne Marine National Park, located off Praslin) to deep caves at Desroches Drop, the latter to be explored under close supervision from a dive master.
The Inner Islands offer an underwater seascape of granite reefs blanketed with a chromatic showing of sponges and soft corals, frequented by hawksbill turtles, octopus, schooling batfish, and hump-head parrotfish. For the invested enthusiast, live-aboard trips to the Outer Islands can be chartered to dive wrecks, canyons, walls and caves, with at least 12 types of sharks likely to be encountered, including tiger, bull, oceanic white-tip, hammerhead, nurse, reef whitecap, and whale species.
Break from nature
English, French, and Seychellois Creole are spoken in the Seychelles, reflecting the islands' colonial history and echoed in the culinary treats. Naturally, the cuisine revolves around seafood, which can be prepared in spicy cari, the red or green curry which flaunts Asian nuances with the use of coconut milk and lemongrass. Tuna and snapper are crowd favourites, as well as the delicacy of octopus.
In terms of entertainment, when the sun dips below the horizon, the Seychelles doesn't have as vibrant of a nightlife scene as big metropolitan cities, but that doesn't mean they are non-existent. The Pirates Arm and Katiolo's, both on Mahé, are arguably the most popular watering hole and club on the islands respectively, while on Praslin, night crawlers can hit the dance floor at The Jungle nightclub, or set a date with lady luck at Casino des Îles.
To do or not to do
Though there's nothing wrong about doing absolutely nothing in the Seychelles, many travellers like to have holiday activity options should the need arise. Golfers can practise their swing at the Seychelles Golf Club or Le Reef Golf Club, both 9-hole courses on Mahé. The islands' only 18-hole, par-70 golf course — the award-winning Lemuria Golf Course — is located on Praslin and features sweeping vistas over three sugar-white beaches.
For spa-goers, all the luxury resorts offer equally high-end relaxation experiences, while villa guests can enjoy elysian treatments right in the exclusivity of their own holiday residence. Though malls are (fortunately) non-existent in the Seychelles, there are a few bazaars where visitors can shop for souvenirs and snack on traditional delights in a relaxed Seychellois Creole market experience, all on Mahé in different locations — Bazar Victoria every Friday evenings, Bazar Ovan held every last Sunday of the month, and the legendary Bazar Labrinn on Wednesdays at Beau Vallon Beach.
Villa Holidays in The Seychelles
The shores of the Seychelles have graced the travel itineraries of royalty, entrepreneurs, and celebrities, some of which own elite properties on private islands. A sojourn in a holiday residence in the Seychelles promises uncompromising luxury amidst relentlessly stunning environs.
Travel & Transport
The island nation has only one international gateway — Seychelles International Airport (SEZ), located near Victoria on Mahé. The airport is serviced by a few airlines such as Qatar, Ethihad, Emirates, Kenya, and the national carrier Air Seychelles, with originating destinations including London, Paris, Munich, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. There is also an airport on Praslin Island (PRI), which requires a transfer via Seychelles International Airport on the national carrier. Other intra-island commutes can be made via Helicopter Seychelles, and Cat Cocos offers daily shuttles between Mahé and Praslin. Getting around on the main two islands can be done easily by public bus or by car rentals.
The Seychelles Top 5 Travel Tips [Bucket List]
1. Whale of a Shark
Why stop at diving with sharks? From August to October, join the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles in the water to monitor and record details of whale sharks, and pat yourself on the back, for over half of the 125 Euros goes towards the conservation project costs. Only eight brave souls per trip, so book early. For the scaredy-cats, opt to adopt a shark (or a turtle) for just US$50.
2. Superlative Tour
Make your way through the "World's Most" list and see how many of the below natural wonders you can tick off on your list — the largest seed in the plant world (Coco de Mer palm) at Vallee de Mai, the only flightless bird in the area (White-Throated Rail) at Aldabra), the smallest frog in the world (the endemic Gardiners Frog) on Mahé and Silhouette Islands.
3. Enjoy the Ride
Plenty of dive action to be had around here, but the best way is to sit back and enjoy the ride. Drift dive through the pass into Aldabra's massive lagoon at speeds up to six knots, just make sure to wave at passing turtles and reef sharks along the journey.
4. Fish Fingers
If the thought of a 14-pound bonefish or 100-pound giant travely has you dreaming about your fishing rod, then head for the big blue to lure some big catch (leave your spear gun at home). Some areas are off limits to fishing, so book with a reputable operator. Try blue-water fly fishing at St. François or d'Arros atolls.
5. Whatever Floats Your Float
Travellers may choose the Seychelles to be alone with a special someone, but if you get the chance, get a feel for the collective Seychellois vibe. Try visiting a bazar (see above), or if you happen to visit during the first half of the year, check out the electrifying Seychelles International Carnival of Victoria to understand by way of floats, the rich multiculturalism of the islands.