The Seychelles is a group of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, located near Madagascar, the Maldives and Mauritius. The nation, a republic, boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, consisting of the island of Aldabra, the world’s largest coral atoll and Vallee de Mai on Praslin Island, which has been compared to the Garden of Eden.
A haven for divers — both snorkel and SCUBA — Seychelles has six national marine parks, where coral islands are rich with more than 1,000 different species of fish. The turquoise water, clean white sand beaches and exotic plant and animal life make Seychelles a popular holiday destination for weddings and honeymoons as well as attractions for sailors and divers.
One of Seychelles’ best-known beaches is Anse Lazio on Praslin Island. Framed by huge rocks on both sides, Anse Lazio beach is shaded by picturesque coconut palms leaning out toward the gently rolling waters of Chevalier Bay.
Mahe Island is the largest of the Seychelles, and location of the capital, Victoria. The international airport as well as 90% of the population can be found on Mahe Island.
Perhaps the most renowned holiday resort in Seychelles is the Banyan Tree, a family of romantic luxury resorts with locations also in the Maldives, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and China, although each location is uniquely fitted to its culture and geography. Other highly recommended resorts are operated by Constance (Lemuria Resort on Praslin Island), Le Méridien, and Taj. In addition, you will soon see them joined by Four Seasons, Southern Sun, the Crown and Champa Group, Universal Enterprises and Per Aquum.
The Banyan Tree, on Mahe Island, covers about 117 hectares of dramatic coastline and its 800 meters of beach frontage overlooks what has been called one of the world’s ten most beautiful beaches.
Popular land-based activities include hiking along well-marked nature trails followed by pampering tired muscles in luxurious spas at five-star resorts. The Lémuria Resort on Praslin sports a championship 18-hole golf course recognized by the PGA, providing challenges for amateur and professional golfers.
Remarkable animals formerly found but now nearly extinct on these holiday islands include the giant tortoise and saltwater crocodile (caiman). Birders will be happy to see a Seychelles Flycatcher, Kestrel, Blue pigeon, Sunbird, Swiftlet, White Eye or Scops Owl. Seychelles are popular with fisherman, eager to catch such magnificent trophies as sailfish and marlin. Seychelles waters are also rich with shark, giant barracuda, rainbow runners and wahoos.
All residents of the Seychelles are immigrants, with the largest ethnic groups composed of French, Africans, Indians and Chinese. The two official languages are French and English.
The islands were probably first discovered by Portuguese sailors in the 16th century. They were colonized by France in 1756, who named the archipelago after a government official, Jean Moreau de Sechelles. The Seychelles were ceded by Britain in 1814 and became an independent republic and member of the British Commonwealth in 1976.
Flying time to the Seychelles from the USA is about 30 hours, making it more popular with Europeans than North Americans. But its world-class scenery, diving sites, as well as its luxurious holiday resorts and cuisine, not to mention the friendly locals, make the Seychelles Islands well worth considering as a holiday destination for anyone who does not have to worry about budgets.