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A Complete Guide to The Seychelles

by Shirley Erasmus

Warm, crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches surrounded by granitic black boulders and palm trees- sounds like paradise, right? You could call it that! Otherwise known as The Seychelles.

A Brief History of the Seychelles

The Seychelles have had a very short human history. The first people to settle in the Seychelles only did so at the end of the 18th century and before then the entire archipelago was completely uninhabited. The islands had been first sighted as early as 1602 by Vasco de Gama, but the first Europeans to set foot in the Seychelles were British: the British East India Company landed there in 1609 but did not settle there. The Seychelles have a long history of being a colony. First a French colony, then a British one, the Seychelles also saw the arrival, along with the settlers, of numerous slaves from various parts of Africa. This mix of nationalities gave birth to a multicultural and multi-ethnic nation. The fact that it has had such a short inhabitation of humans is clear from its incredible beauty, wild and unspoiled ecosystem, and the range of different nationalities.

The colonial history which goes back over two centuries has left the Seychelles with several monuments worth checking out. These range from a prominent clock tower in the middle of Victoria, to a former slave school (the Mission Lodge) situated at Mont Fleuri, on the coast of Mahé. There are around thirty monuments in the Seychelles most of which are protected because of their architectural, historic, or archaeological significance. Most of the main landmarks, oldest monuments, Creole buildings and colonial structures can be found on the island of Mahé.

Things you must see:

The Clock Tower (Little Ben)

Victoria’s Clock Tower, also known as ‘Lorloz’, is the most familiar and photographed of all the landmarks in the Seychelles. You’ll find it in the junction of Independence Avenue and Francis Rachel Street. The clock may look familiar… perhaps like a larger version found in London? Lorloz is a replica of the one that can be found on Vauxhall Bridge Road in London, affectionately named ‘Little Ben’.

Mission Lodge

Situated in Mont Fleuri on the island of Mahé, the Mission Lodge was originally known as Venn’s Town and was set up in the late 19th century by a Missionary Society. The lodge came into being in order to educate the first black slaves to be freed in the Seychelles. Today, the ruins of this former school are clearly visible. Visitors can also enjoy some truly spectacular views over the mountains and sea from a special lodge vantage point.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral replaced the original church which stood on this site that was destroyed during a particularly dramatic cyclone in the mid-19th century. The church was destroyed and rebuilt into this cathedral in 2001, with work being completed in 2004. In terms of architecture, this Anglican cathedral is a relatively simple affair, with a bright white facade and ornate towers, fronted by the obligatory tropical palm tree or two.

Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar

Standing out against its backdrop of lush green hills, this striking Hindu temple is the only one to be found in the Seychelles and is a relatively new addition to the town of Victoria, being constructed as recently as 1992. Named after the Hindu god of both prosperity and safety, Lord Vinayagar, the temple stands close to the centre of Victoria and features a prominent and very colourful ornate tower.

Where are the Seychelles?

The Seychelles are a group of islands (115 to be exact!) making up one country in the Indian Ocean. The capital and the largest city, Victoria, is 1,500 kilometres east of mainland Africa, meaning a flight to the Seychelles is only five hours long from South Africa! No need to stop over and catch connecting flights for us Saffas!

Seychelles Map

The Seychelles are not only for lazing about on the beach- though with 115 different islands and countless beaches to choose from, that is certainly an option. The islands also offer incredible hiking opportunities, local culture to explore and discover as well as snorkelling the gorgeous coral reefs.

The Best Islands to Visit

Most tourists visit the three main islands of the Seychelles: Mahé, Praslin, or La Digue. Mahé is the main island and the heart of local life and industry. However, it also happens to have some of the prettiest beaches in the archipelago. The capital city, Victoria, is also located on Mahé.

Each of these three islands have a very different vibe and a character of their own. When island hopping there are various ways of getting from one island to the next.

Picture this: you step off the plane after landing in the Seychelles and a hot wave of tropical, humid air hits you. The city is alive with hooting cars, palm trees and laughter. When you arrive at your accommodation, you quickly climb into costumes and wade into the warm, pristine water right outside your doorstep. Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles and you can tell. The city bustles with activity.

Mahé

The bustling energy of Mahé is the first stop for most people coming to the Seychelles. There are countless beaches to laze on and local busses which travel around the island – perfect for hopping on and off at various locations to explore. Wander around the Victoria market for souvenirs and fresh fruits and fish or go rock climbing, kayaking, scuba diving, or scale the granite rocks. Any of the adventure companies around the island will get you set up with all of the equipment that you need for a fun day out.

Mahé is also home to Morne Seychellois National Park and offers tons of outdoor activities and hiking trails for those who want to get some of the best views over the island.

Praslin

Praslin island is a short ferry ride or plane trip (the Sea Otter plane trip is a must do!) from the main island Mahé. Anse Lazio is perhaps the most well-known beach on Praslin, and an absolute must-see when you are traveling in the Seychelles Islands. It has been voted the world’s most beautiful beach countless times, and you would expect to arrive at a crowded beach, however, Anse Lazio is quiet and during off seasons, you can have the whole stretch of beach to yourself on a good day.

However, for me, the most amazing thing about Praslin is the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. This is one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a protected forest full of rare fauna, the most famous of which is the endemic Coco de Mer palm. This tree produces a coconut that looks surprising like a voluptuous bottom! You’ll see the Coco de Mer image all over the Seychelles, but to see one growing on a tree and to hold one (surprisingly heavy!) is really special.

Check out these great tips on buying a Coco de Mer in the Seychelles.

La Digue

La Digue was one of my personal favourite islands to visit in the Seychelles. The island is all dirt roads and a very different atmosphere to the hustle and bustle of Mahé and Praslin. There are very few cars on La Digue and you don’t see many taxis. The island spans just over ten square kilometres, so it’s easy to get around on foot or on a bicycle, which is what I opted for and absolutely loved. There are countless places to rent a bike from and cycling through a vanilla plantation is something I will always remember. Anse Source D’Argent beach is one of the most photographed beaches in the world, and it is an absolute must-see. You’ll pay an entrance fee at the L’Union Estate to get to the beach and this allows you to explore the park– there, you can find a museum, old coconut mills and giant tortoises (some of which are more than 100 years old)!

The Best Time to Travel to the Seychelles

I may be biased, but I don’t think there is a bad time to travel to the Seychelles, however, you may want to book your visit during a particular season depending on what you plan to do. Every season is warm enough for swimming in the gorgeous temperate ocean and being a tropical climate, you can expect moderate to warm temperatures throughout the year. During the rainy season you can expect afternoon showers almost daily, which break the humidity.

January, February, and March

These are the months to consider if you plan to see the endangered Hawksbill turtles hatch from their eggs and make their way to the ocean. There are few places where you can see this natural phenomenon because the Hawksbill turtle is a critically endangered species under threat of poaching, as well as natural hazards like being washed away by the waves or being eaten by ghost crabs, birds or fish. However, in the Seychelles, the Hawksbill turtle is protected by Seychelles law and international treaty. In September, the female turtles make their way onto the beach to lay their eggs and the hatching starts in January through to March.

You will want to book a hotel/ Airbnb that is close to a nesting beach such as Banyan Tree Seychelles in Intendance Bay on the island of Mahé or Constance Lemuris on Praslin.

The other good news? January to March is also one of the cheapest times to travel to Seychelles. You’ll have an easier time finding discounted airfare as it’s not peak travel season. November to March is generally the muggy Monsoon season, so expect lots of warm rain!

April

April is definitely one of the best times to travel to the Seychelles. The weather is warm, the winds are mild (important to consider for snorkelling), and diving conditions are great!

April is also the breeding season for many birds, so if you’re a bird watcher, this is a particularly good season to visit. For bird watchers, it’s breeding season and you’ll have loads of opportunities to spot the different kinds of birds that nest on the islands. Another reason to visit in April is The Seychelles International Carnival of Victoria and the Creole Festival. Both celebrate the island’s melting pot of cultures with colorful street parades and beach parties.

May, June, July and August

Welcome to the high season in the Seychelles! Make sure you book in advance if you plan to visit during these months because airfare can be quite expensive. The beaches can be a bit more crowded during these months, but there are always unexplored beaches to find, reefs to snorkel or dive and many hikes to go on. The southwest trade winds pick up again around this time, meaning the air is a little dryer and cooler (marginally so, though. Since the Seychelles is tropical year-round).

September, October, November, and December

October to December is the nesting season for Hawksbill turtles. These are the months where you will be able to witness hundreds of females make their way to the various beaches around the islands where they lay over 200 eggs at a time. The Seychelles is one of five largest nesting populations of the endangered Hawksbill turtle left in the world, so seeing these gentle giants clamber onto the beach, really is incredible. You can also volunteer to assist the turtle monitoring programme on the beaches of south Mahé from November to March each year. You will monitor priority beaches three times a week and make sure the beaches are accessible for the turtles.

Unconventional Things to do in the Seychelles

I hear you; why would you want to do anything other than lie on the pristine beaches, sipping a cocktail and occasionally dipping into the crystal-clear waters, while in the Seychelles? I guarantee you; these unconventional adventures are worth it!

Visit the World’s Smallest National Park

Moyenne Island in the Seychelles has an interesting history. The tiny island was bought in 1962 by a journalist by the name of Brendon Grimshaw (he only paid £8,000 for it too!). The problem was the island was so densely overgrown you couldn’t even get onto it past the beach. However, after many years of toil, it is now home to 16,000 plants and trees, mahogany, palm, mango, and pawpaw that Grimshaw personally transferred and transplanted to attract the host of native birds that flocked from neighbouring islands. Today, Moyenne Island is a tortoise nature reserve as well as the world’s smallest national park which has more species per square foot than any other national park in existence! Grimshaw personally transported and bred roughly 120 tortoises onto the island. Now they roam freely and are fiercely protected. When visiting the island today, you are reminded that you are in fact a guest on the island; by a sign that reads, “Please Respect the Tortoises. They are probably older than you.”

Send a Postcard- from Underwater

I’m not joking! The underwater mailbox just off the coast of the Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove hotel in Beau-Vallon Beach is the first of its kind in the Seychelles. While you’re at it, take a look at the snorkelling trail and underwater art gallery, featuring the work of well-known Seychellois artist, Georges Camille. The trail and mailbox are open to the public and anyone can explore the trail and gallery or post something in the mailbox.

Visit the Seychelles version of the Galapagos Islands

Aldabra Atoll is home to over two-thirds of the world’s population of giant tortoises. It is the second largest coral atoll in the world and has remained virtually untouched throughout history. Because of this historic isolation, a variety of exotic species call this little coral formation home. The biggest and most likely to spot, is the giant tortoise, of which there is thought to be a population of at least 100,000. Aldabra is also home to the world’s largest species of crab, the coconut crab, and a rare type of bird known as the Aldabra Rail which is the only flightless variety of its type left in the world.

Taste the Best Rum Ever

I may be biased here, but Takamaka Rum is the best I have ever had. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself! Takamaka Rum is a brand of rum distilled, aged and blended in the Seychelles, at the Trois Frères Distillery initially an old tropical spice plantation (which is now also a national heritage site), on the main island of Mahé. The distillery has been operating since 2002, and was founded by the d’Offay brothers, Richard and Bernard d’Offay. It is the first and only commercial rum producer and exporter in the Seychelles. Their Distillery and Garden Tours are followed by Guided Rum-Tasting and are open every day of the week. The best thing about Takamaka? You don’t have to go to the Seychelles to get it (although I really, really recommend that you do- you can now but a bottle from Takealot )

Go Snorkelling for Treasure

I really shouldn’t be telling you this… but a visit to the Seychelles could make you £100 million richer. Legend has it that pirates have stashed treasure all over the Seychelles and people have been searching for these treasures for hundreds of years. I’m convinced that Il Cache, a tiny island within swimming distance from Cerf Island (a little island 4km off Mahé and only accessible by boat). I’ve been to Il Cache on several different occasions. Once I was chased off by angry hornets, and once I was horrified and amazed to see a Lionfish floating dangerously close to the beach, where I was snorkelling (they are extremely poisonous to the touch!). Suspiciously, Cache’ means ‘hiding place’ and the tiny island definitely seems like a place to find a pirate chest. History has it that various coins that have been discovered on the island led some to believe that there was buried pirate treasure here, but so far this has never been found. Since the island has no roads and at low tide it is possible to walk all the way around it- I’m inclined to believe it has to be somewhere and apparently; so is the Smithsonian!

Local Foods to Try in Seychelles

The Seychelles has a unique mix of nationalities and cultures which makes their food an exciting mash-up of delicious dishes inspired from Indian, African, French, British and Chinese cuisines, so there’s something for everyone! As with any country, there are dishes that are quite bizarre and unusual (fruit bat curry, anyone?) but for the most part the food is fresh and delicious!

Fresh Local Fish

When in the Seychelles, you naturally must try freshly caught fish grilled to perfection right on the beach with a Seybrew (the local beer) in hand. 

You’ll find any kind of fish, prepared any way you like, from smoked to steamed to baked or served covered in banana leaves. Locals like their fish grilled and stuffed with garlic, chilli, and ginger. Creole culture is prevalent and so the flavours of curry, spices and sweet and sour translate into the food. Barracuda is a very popular fish that is served in this style.

Breadfruit Chips

Incredibly moreish, breadfruit chips can be found all over the Seychelles. Breadfruit is an unusual looking large green fruit with a starchy inside that is very similar to a potato in texture and taste. In the Seychelles, locals fry the thinly sliced breadfruit into salted crisps or make ‘slap’ chips with thicker slices. It can also be used in curries and roasted similar to how you would roast potatoes.

Freshly Picked Fruit

Being a tropical island, the Seychelles is abundant in fresh tropical fruits. Tiny, flavoursome bananas, mangos and papayas. Often you can pluck the fruits off trees growing along the roadside or have a refreshing smoothie at a beachside fruit stall. The Seychelles is abundant in any kind of fruit you can imagine! If you’re lucky enough to find a place that sells local jams make sure to buy a bottle. The Seychellois make jams from bananas, papaya, starfruit and coconut (the coconut jam is utterly to die for!). Seychelles jam recipes have you cook the sugar till almost scorched before you add the fruit in, which is why they have a deeper, delicious, caramelized taste. You can also enjoy desserts such as bananas or papaya in caramel and cream sauce, bread pudding with custard, coconut or banana tarts, delicious coconut sorbet, and even coconut nougat.

Curries

Curries are a main dish in the Seychelles, especially the ever-famous Coconut curry that is usually served with rice. This creamy curry is prepared by frying onions, ginger, garlic and a number of masala spices. Of course, the island is abundant in coconuts, so freshly made coconut cream is then added with curry leaves and a pinch of saffron to complete this traditional Creole dish. The curry is sweet and slightly spicy, it hits the spot after a day spent exploring.

Bat 

Yes, you read that right! If you’re a little more adventurous, bat is one of the most popular delicacies, among the large variety of exotic food of the Seychelles. The meat is prepared from the wings of fruit bat; large bats you’ll find swooping around as soon as the sun starts to go down. Anse Soleil Restaurant and Marie Antoinette Restaurant are two of the most famous restaurants in Seychelles, known for serving the traditional Creole dishes, such as Bat curry.

3 Seychelles Adventure Trip Ideas

Idea #1: Zipline Through the Treetops

Adventure Intensity: Moderately Insane

After spending a few days lazing on the pristine beaches, snorkelling the reefs, and drinking cocktails, you may be craving a bit of adventure. This is a great option if you want to explore the tropical forests of the Seychelles and get in a bit of excitement, but not too much to scare you away for good!

The zipline base is located at the Constance Ephelia Resort at Port Launay, on Mahe Island. They have 8 zip lines that range from 85 meters to 120 metres. These run over the lush tropical jungle forest canopy and massive granitic boulders of Mahe’s forest. SMAC Adventures is your guide for the day and they ensure that you are safe and well equipped to go ‘flying’ through the forest. The guides are knowledgeable and provide loads of information about the indigenous plants, birds, and insects you’ll see between the eight platforms. Make sure you ask your guides to take you to the lookout point over the turquoise waters of Port Launay Marine National Park below, where you can take a dip after your exciting tour through the treetops.

Idea #2: Rock Climb Giant Granite Boulders

Adventure Intensity: On the Crazy Side

 Hey, while you’re hanging out at the Constance Ephelia Resort at Port Launay, on Mahe Island why not try your hand at some rock climbing? Dust your fingers with some chalk and get those climbing shoes on (they provide them for you!). Once again, SMAC Adventures will help to guide you up some of the 18-metre-high granite rocks. 18 meters sound too crazy to you? Good news is that there are five routes that have been colour-coded according to their degree of difficulty. Once you get to the top, you abseil down and take on the next one!

Idea #3: Deep Sea Fishing

Adventure Intensity: Almost normal

How do you feel about big game fishing, night fishing, deep sea, or bottom fishing? If any of these piques your interest at all, Then the Seychelles Sports Fishing Club is your best bet for this adventure.

You can embark on a half- or full-day fishing expedition, around 40 kilometers offshore where there are sharp drops of up to 2 000 meters. Deep sea fishing is so big in the Seychelles, that they host six major fishing tournaments each year. You can expect to catch a huge variety of fish from sailfish, barracuda and tuna to swordfish, shortbill spearfish and black marlin.

The Seychelles also holds several International Game Fish Records. Due to conservation efforts, tag and release is widely practiced, which protects fish stocks. 

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