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Seychelles

Photo © baluba

Travel Guide Africa Seychelles

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Introduction

A creature from Moyenne island

A creature from Moyenne island

© All Rights Reserved vilmalotta

The Seychelles are a series of islands far off the African coast in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Predictably, the Seychelles' main attractions are its beaches and shimmering, turqoise waters. Snorkelling and diving are of the highest order - you can't really get much better than Seychellois waters in terms of natural beauty and abundance of fish and other sea creatures. The granite islands have the added bonus of featuring distinctive inland beauty.

The second major tourist function of the Seychelles is its bird population. Besides being impressively large, it is also strikingly unique, with some species of bird found here that are found nowhere else. Accordingly, four islands have been set apart as bird sanctuaries. Bird watchers should find enough to tantalize their senses for days.

Due to its remoteness, the Seychelles are an expensive destination. But if you've got the money, it's well worth the trip. Probably the best 'budget' island will be the main island of Mahé, where some guesthouses and B&B's are available.

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Brief History

While Austronesian seafarers or Arab traders may have been the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles, the first known European recorded sighting of them took place in 1502, by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral). The first recorded landing and first written account was by the crew of the English East Indiaman Ascension in 1609.

As a transit point for trading between Africa and Asia, they were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control of the islands starting in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance.

The British contested control over the islands with the French between 1794 and 1810. Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy, French administrator of Seychelles during the years of war with the United Kingdom, declined to resist when armed enemy warships arrived. Instead, he successfully negotiated the status of capitulation to Britain, which gave the settlers a privileged position of neutrality.

Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1810, and this was formalised in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. The Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903 and independence was granted in 1976, as a republic within the Commonwealth. In 1977, a coup d'état ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham, replacing him with France Albert René. The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1991. The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the requisite 60 percent of voters in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.

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Geography

The Seychelles are located to the northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 kilometres from mainland Africa. The number of islands in the archipelago is officiall over 150, but some of them are not more than some sand and a lonely tree. There are 42 granitic islands, including the main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, 44 coral islands, 67 raised coral islands and 2 coral sand cays.

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Regions/Islands

The Seychelles consists of 155 islands. Below are some of the most popular ones.

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Cities and Towns

  • Victoria, the Capital
  • Anse Boileau
  • Anse Royale
  • Anse Etoile
  • Cascade
  • Takamaka

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Sights and Activities

Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

Valléé de Mai Nature Reserve is on the Unesco World Heritage List on the island of Praslin. It is one of only two places in the world where you can see the coco de mer palm growing in their natural state. The other location is Curieuse Island. This valley's forest is just marvelous and the view of sunlight filtering through is just great! The famous coco de mer, from a palm-tree once believed to grow in the depths of the sea, is the largest seed in the plant kingdom. With some luck you might see the Seychelles black parrot here. As this is a fragile forest area, keep to the tracks and don't take anything away or leave behind.

Aldabra Atoll

The other UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Seychelles is the Aldabra Atoll, which contains four large coral islands which enclose a shallow lagoon. In their turn, this group of islands is surrounded by a beautiful coral reef. Because of the fact that it is rather difficult to access and due to the relative isolation of the Aldabra Atoll, it has been protected from human influence. As a result, this natural wonder is home to well over 150,000 giant tortoises, the world's largest single population. Other species of animals to be found are tiger sharks, manta rays and thousands of seabirds. If you want to visit, you have to get special permission in the capital Victoria. Only scientists are allowed to stay for longer times.

La Digue

The Seychelles contain many uninhabited islands which cost a fortune to visit, if at all possible. Of the main islands Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the latter one is probably the best one to visit, as it is the quietest. La Digue also is home to the famous Anse Source d'Argent, the picture perfect image of emerald waters, white palm fringed beaches and the very special round granite rocks. As it is the least developed of the main islands, it is probably the best to get away from it all without paying very high prices and maybe a place you want to stay much longer than you planned.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Anse Lazio - perfect beach
  • Praslin - more developed than La Digue, but still beautiful and with more options
  • Cousin Island - thousands of birds on a small island, near Praslin

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Weather

The Seychelles have a warm and humid climate but as the distance to the sea is never more than a few kilometers in most places, there usually is nice and cool breeze during most of the year. Temperatures are around 30 °C during the day and still above 20 °C at night most of the year. The best time to visit the Seychelles is during the southeast monsoon season which lasts from late May to September when both temperatures and rainfall are lowest. The warmer and wetter season is during the northwest monsoon which lasts from March to half May.

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Getting there

Plane

Air Seychelles is the national airline of the country and is based at Seychelles International Airport (SEZ) near the capital Victoria on the main island of Mahé. It has flights to and from Bangkok, Johannesburg, London, Milan, Munich, Paris, Port Louis (Mauritius), Rome and Singapore.
Doha (Qatar Airways), Dubai (Emirates), Nairobi (Kenya Airways), Frankfurt and Munich (Condor) and Reunion (Air Austral) have flights to the Seychelles as well.

By Boat

There are no international passenger services, so it all comes down to being lucky enough to catch a ride on a cargo ship or yacht.

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Getting around

Plane

Air Seychelles flies between Mahé and Praslin at least 20 or 25 times a day. Smaller planes fly to La Digue and the islands of Bird, Denis, Fregate, Desroches and Alphonseand and Assumption Island and Coetivy can be reached by air charter. To end, there also are many VIP charters to private islands.

Helicopter Seychelles also flies between the main islands Mahé, Praslin and La Digue and has some charter flights to and from other smaller islands.

By Train

There are no passenger trains on any of the islands of the Seychelles.

By Car

Renting a car is possible on the islands of Mahé and Praslin and can be surprisingly cheap. Most international as well as local companies have rental cars at the international airport on Mahé and a few companies have cars on Praslin. You can get anywhere with a car and with so many beaches and viewpoints to explore, this is probably the best way to get around if you are with at least 2 people. Most roads are paved, but roads on Mahé can sometimes be narrow and winding. Traffic drives on the left and your national driver's license is sufficient.

By Bicycle

Especially the smaller islands of Praslin and certainly La Digue are perfect to explore by bike. Although bicycles are for hire on Mahé as well, the steep hills and bigger distances combined with heavier traffic makes this a less popular island to explore by bike. Most other islands can easily be explored by foot.

By Bus

The SPTC (Seychelles Public Transport Corporation) runs daily bus services on the islands of Praslin and Mahe during most of the day except late evening and night times. Most buses usually pass by every 15 minutes or so along the main roads. These buses are an excellent and cheap way of getting around but don't give you the opportunity to go everywhere.

By Boat

There are several daily round trips between Mahé and Praslin with a high speed catamaran, taking around one hour. Cat Cocos now offers fast and reliable transport between the two islands.
There are also around 5 round trips daily between Praslin and La Digue by ferry, taking around 30 minutes and the schedule is timed to interconnect with the Mahé to Praslin service.

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Red Tape

Most nationals do not require a visa. Travellers must have valid passports, valid for at least 6 months, proof of onward or return transport and a hotel reservation. These are asked for at the airport, though usually naming a hotel will be sufficient as well.
Extensions are possible for up to a year, but will cost you if you intend to stay more than 3 months ($40).

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Money

See also Money Matters

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Language

The official languages of Seychelles are Seychellois Creole, English and French. Seychellois Creole, a French-based creole language, is by far the most commonly spoken language in the archipelago, being spoken natively by about 95% of the population. Nevertheless, the country was a British colony for over a century and a half, and thus, English is the main language used in government and business. The French language was introduced before the British rule and has remained in use largely thanks to the Franco-Seychellois minority and the language's proximity to Seychellois Creole.

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Sleep

Accommodation on the Seychelles ranges from top notch luxurious resorts down to budget guesthouses and everything in between. There are few real cheap places, but there are some budget places to stay, mainly on Mahé and Praslin. The latter has nice mid-range places as well.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to the Seychelles. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering the Seychelles) where that disease is widely prevalent.

Still, it's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to the Seychelles. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended. If you are staying longer than 3 months or you might consider hepatitis B and typhoid vaccinations.

There is no malaria, but dengue sometimes occurs, especially in more urban areas. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net, there is no vaccination for dengue.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

The Seychelles are a safe group of islands and you won't face any major problems, other than possible hazards regarding weather or some diseases. But in general, the whole atmosphere is pretty relaxed and only small problems like pickpockets might pose some threat.

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

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Quick Facts

Seychelles flag

Map of Seychelles

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Capital
Victoria
Population
81,000
Government
Republic
Religions
Christianity (Catholic, Protestant)
Languages
Creole, English
Calling Code
+248
Nationality
Local name

Contributors

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Seychelles Travel Helpers

  • gavinb

    My name is gavin and am from england. i have been living in seychelles for three years.working as a marine engineer for a large yacht charter company. I can help by providing cheap accomadation on the main island of mahe in my appartment.

    Ask gavinb a question about Seychelles

Accommodation in Seychelles

This is version 26. Last edited at 12:01 on May 6, 13 by Utrecht. 22 articles link to this page.

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