An archipelago that emerged between two continents, Seychelles features many characteristics of both Africa and India. Counted as an African nation and yet resting 1,600km east of Kenya in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the 115-strong necklace of islands consists of a mixture of granite outcrops and coral atolls.
The Seychelles islands first appeared on Portuguese maps as early as 1505, although they are likely to have been visited by Arab traders much earlier. In 1742, the French Governor of Mauritius sent an expedition to the islands, followed by a second group of French settlers in 1756 (and their indentured Indians and African slaves) who reasserted formal possession by the French colony of Mauritius.
The islands remained in French hands until the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, at which time they were ceded to Britain – with Mauritius – under the 1814 Treaty of Paris. Seychelles has no indigenous population and as a result of the ethnic mix of settlers, most Seychellois inhabitants are a Creole of French, English, African and Indian descent. The country finally achieved independence in 1976 and the population now sits at 87,000, around 90% of whom live on the main island of Mahé.
Today, the islands of the Seychelles are a tropical paradise much loved by visitors keen to experience its inviting beaches, dazzling sunsets and world-class diving.
Although Seychelles has a miniscule footprint of 444 square kilometres, the fact that it is spread across 115 islands and atolls ensures few visitors see it all. The archipelago consists of the Inner Seychelles, mostly granite islands and home to the main tourist resorts, while the Outer Seychelles are primarily uninhabited coral atolls which are usually accessed by private yacht or chartered plane.
Most travellers arrive on the principal island of Mahé, and if you’re hoping to see something other than endless expanses of pristine white beaches, it’s a good place to start. However, it’s important to note that even Mahé has 65 beaches fringed with crystal clear waters.
On arrival at the airport, make your way to Victoria, the world’s tiniest capital city. Here you’ll find most of the country’s tourist attractions including the Natural History Museum, the Codevar Craft Centre and the Botanical Gardens, complete with tropical plants native only to Seychelles. Mahe is also home to a number of artists’ studios at Anse aux Bleues and Anse la Mouche. If you’d rather enjoy the tropical outdoors then Mahé’s hilly – and often cloud-topped – rainforests make for a great nature hike. On the west of the island is Beau Vallon; gorgeous beaches with plenty of water-based activities on offer.
Seychellois dining has been greatly influenced by the islands' rich cultures, and its Creole cuisine makes much use of the nation’s fish, coconuts and spices. Traditional Creole dishes include grilled octopus basted with crushed chillies, garlic and ginger, and spicy shellfish and pumpkin soup, while other favourites include grilled barracuda, cooked over hot coals or coconut husks to impart extra flavour, and the local delicacy of salted fish. Known locally as Pwason Sale, salted fish is best described as an acquired taste. Fresh fish is sold from roadside stalls; listen for the sound of a conch shell being blown, a traditional sign that that latest catch has been brought ashore.
The nightlife in Seychelles is very active and caters mainly to tourists. Some of the biggest nightclubs are in the capital, Victoria, although many other nightspots can be found in hotels across Mahé and Praslin.
With 115 Seychelles islands to explore, take the time to experience as much of the country as possible. The Mahé group consists of 42 granite islands, all within a 56-km radius of Mahé. A popular destination is the island of Praslin, 44km north east of Mahé. Praslin’s tropical forests have been touted as the location of the mythical Garden of Eden, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Vallée de Mai is the only place in the world where the greatly-prized Coco de Mer palm fruit grows. If you’re considering a complete escape, indulge your desert island fantasies on one of the Outer Islands, the majority of which are uninhabited.