The Seychelles’ 115 granite and coral islands lie between 480km and 1,600km from the east coast of Africa in the western Indian Ocean.
This Indian Ocean republic represents an archipelago of timeless beauty, tranquillity and harmony and is famous for its beautiful beaches and diversity.
The Seychelles is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the legendary Vallée de Mai on Praslin where the Coco-de-mer nut grows high on ancient palms and Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll.
Of the 115 Seychelle islands, 41 Inner Islands constitute the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands on earth. The Inner Islands cluster mainly around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, forming the cultural and economic hub of Seychelles and is 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 remaining 74 islands form 5 groups of low-lying coral atolls and reef islets known as the Outer Islands. The 5 groups in the Outer Islands are the Amirantes group lying 230km distant from Mahé, the Southern Coral Group, Alphonse Group, Farquhar Group and the Aldabra Group, some 1150km from Mahé.
Mahé, is the largest island of the Inner Islands and is home to the international airport and the nation’s capital of Victoria. With a backdrop of towering 1000m granite peaks, Mahé is an extraordinary treasure trove of flora that has evolved over centuries of splendid isolation. Rare endemic plants adorn Mahé’s mist forests in mountain strongholds, such as the Jellyfish Tree, the carnivorous Seychelles Pitcher Plant and the Seychelles Vanilla Orchid.
Praslin is the Seychelles’ second largest island. It lies 45km to the northeast of Mahé and measures 10km by 3.7km. A leisurely tour of the island by car takes approximately 2 hours. The island features truly exquisite beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette
La Digue is the fourth largest island in Seychelles and is named after one of the vessels in explorer Marion Dufresne’s fleet, sent by the French to explore Seychelles’ granitic islands in 1768. Apart from hosting the Seychelles’ black paradise flycatcher, one of the rarest birds on earth, La Digue’s biodiversity features the chinese bittern, cave swiftlet, waxbill as well as two rare species of terrapin.
La Digue’s forests also contain a wealth of flora in the form of delicate orchids, tumbling vines of vanilla, as well as trees such as Indian almond and takamaka. Gardens blaze with hibiscus and nepenthes against a backdrop of swaying coconut palms.
Félicité, a picturesque and steep granitic island, was a coconut plantation until the 1970s and was home to the Sultan of Perak, one of Seychelles’ most colourful exiles, who spent five years on the island before moving to Mahé.
Aride, perhaps the most unspoiled of all the islands, is situated 10km north of Praslin and is known as the ‘seabird citadel’ of the Indian Ocean. The island became protected as a reserve in 1967 and its seabirds include the world’s only hilltop colony of sooty terns, the only breeding sites among the granitic islands for the red-tailed tropic bird and roseate tern and the world’s largest colony of lesser noddies.
It also boasts one of the densest population of lizards on earth and the natural home to one of Seychelles’ rarest endemic plants, Wright’s gardenia.
Curieuse is a reserve managed by the Seychelles Centre for Marine Technology. Once known as Ile Rouge on account of its red earth, Curieuse was eventually named after one of explorer Marion Dufresne’s vessels which explored the islands of the Praslin group in 1768. Aside from Praslin, Curieuse is the only other island where the Coco-der-mer grows naturally, and also boasts an endemic vine and eight different species of mangrove.
Today Curieuse is home to an exciting giant land tortoise rearing project. The island is also an important nesting site for hawksbill turtles.
The Seychelles promises adventure and breathtaking natural beauty in pristine surrounds and the only way to truly explore its hidden treasures is by boat.