A former British colony that gained independence in 1976 and covering just 455km2, the Seychelles has been a port of call for over 300 years since the islands were first discovered and settled by the French. However, some historians believe that seafarers and traders came here as long as 3 000 years ago, claiming that steps leading down to the sea from one of the mountains on the island of Praslin are the work of Phoenician sailors and not of erosion as geologists claim.
Although French and British influence is prevalent everywhere, the Seychelles enjoys a peaceful and harmonious multi-ethnic society that is a melting pot of different races, traditions and religions from all over the world. These influences are also reflected in the Seychellois food, ranging, from Indian, Chinese, European and African to delicious traditional Creole cuisine.
Many tropical islands lay claim to being “paradise”, but the year-round, endless-summer tourist destination of the Seychelles can compete with them all. It’s not just the world-famous beaches of silky white sand, the turquoise, indigo, sapphire and cobalt blues of the warm, calm Indian Ocean, the teeming marine life, warm hospitality and fine resorts that make the Seychelles special – it’s also the hauntingly beautiful, thick primeval-looking indigenous forest that covers most of the two biggest islands, Mahé and Praslin (prah-lin).
Visitors can also expect to see boulder-strewn hillsides, rocky mountains, deep valleys, lush ferns, flowering bushes and plants, wetlands, an easily accessible marine national park, as well as an 18-hole championship golf course, where the 15th tee is reputed to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
Seychelles has an admirable conservation record, with over 50% of its limited landmass dedicated to national parks and reserves.
Although nearly all of Seychelles’ beaches are picture-perfect, Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette on Praslin, and Anse Source d’ Argent on La Digue Island, are lauded as perfect tropical island beaches. Anse Source d’ Argent, whose soft, white sands are perfectly framed by granite rocks, is often listed among the world’s top 10 beaches and is reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world. Mahé’s public beach, Beau Vallon, is also breathtakingly beautiful.
There are all manner of water sports and activities to be enjoyed, from windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and canoeing, to snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, mooching along in a paddle boat, or just swimming in the calm blue waters.
Once believed to be the original Garden of Eden, the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site, forms the heart of the Praslin National Park, where the unique coco de mer palm tree, the world’s only double coconut, and source of many of the islands’ myths and legends as well as the inspiration for many of its handcrafted souvenirs, is to be found.
The unique Port Launay Coastal Wetlands – Seychelles’ first Ramsar site – on the main island of Mahé, are home to seven different kinds of mangrove tree, as well as fish, birds, shrimps, insects, and both migratory and resident bird species.
Another unique attraction is the Aldabra Atoll, a World Heritage Site and one of the world’s largest coral atolls, comprising several islands surrounded by a coral reef. It’s famous for its thousands of seabirds and as a refuge for the world's largest population of over 150 000 giant tortoises. Although expensive and difficult to access, a visit to the research station on Picard Island, where visitors are welcomed by trained staff, will be the experience of a lifetime.
No visit to the Seychelles, however, is complete without visiting one of the local markets buzzing with life and full of vibrant colours. Here your clients will find local produce, fish, flowers and fruit, as well as locally made cotton sarongs, flowered shirts, shell jewellery, hand-painted place mats and curios, most of them decorated with the ubiquitous turtle or coco de mer motif.