Encompassing 115 granite and coral islands off the east coast of Africa, the Seychelles ranks right up there with one the most idyllic island getaways in the world. The islands are awash with white beaches lapped by sapphire waters, offset by green hills and granite outcrops, making the country an extremely popular destination for honeymooners and tourists looking for a dreamlike setting.
The archipelago is split into the inner islands (which are easily accessible) and the outer islands, many of which are privately owned and offer exceptionally exclusive accommodation.
The islands are busiest in December and January, and again from May to September. During the quieter off-season, temperatures rarely drop below 24 degrees, so it is still possible to enjoy a dreamy beach holiday with some great bargains thrown in for good measure. While the well-developed tourist infrastructure is synonymous with luxury hotels and resorts, there are a number of more affordable options available, ranging from quaint guest houses to self-catering villas.
Mahé is the largest island, playing host to the international airport and the capital of Victoria. As with many of the Seychelles islands, snorkelling, swimming and trail-walking through the tropical vegetation and rocky hills are the main attractions.
Victoria is a charming town with old colonial buildings, a buzzing market, beautiful botanical gardens and modern shopping plazas. Since tourism is extremely important to the economy of the Seychelles, the residents welcome visitors with open arms, treating them to a taste of the country’s colourful culture.
Praslin Island lies northeast of Mahe and has a more isolated feel, with beaches stretching as far as the eye can see. Places of interest include the lovely sheltered cove of Anse Lazio, as well as the Vallée de Mai nature reserve, which is listed as a World Heritage Site. The reserve is covered in undisturbed palm forest which hides the endemic coco de mer coconut tree, renowned to be the bearer of the largest seed in the world. Several rare endemic birds add appeal for nature lovers.
The third most popular island to visit, La Digue, is home to some of the most breath-taking beaches on the archipelago, and has a completely laid back vibe, making it a wonderful tropical escape.
To hop between these three islands, visitors can make use of the regular ferry service which transports locals and tourists alike. There are 38 other spectacularly beautiful inner islands to explore, seven of which have accommodation.
Bird Island attracts around one million sooty terns from May to September, while it is also home to Esmeralda, a 300kg giant tortoise rumoured to be more than 200 years old.
Continuing conservation projects on most of the islands have allowed marine life, rare endemic reptiles and rare birds to thrive.
The outer islands, the majority of which can only be reached by air, offer luxurious, secluded lodges which meet every vision of paradise. The group encompasses the Aldelabra Atoll, which is the largest raised coral atoll in the world and the country’s other World Heritage Site.
Of all the outer island complexes, only Alphonse and Desroches offer accommodation, complemented by wonderful fly fishing, diving and top class cuisine.