You’re planning a trip to the Seychelles? Lucky you! Mother Nature was very generous with these 115 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean and has spoiled them rotten. Undeniably, the beaches are the big attraction, and what beaches: exquisite ribbons of white sand lapped by topaz waters and backed by lush hills and big glacis boulders. And nary a crowd in sight.
With such a dreamlike setting, the Seychelles is, unsurprisingly, a choice place for a honeymoon. But there’s much more to do than simply cracking open a bottle of champagne with the loved one in a luxurious hotel.
Having earned a reputation as a paradigm of ecotourism, the Seychelles is a top spot to watch birds and giant tortoises in their natural habitat. And a vast living world lies just below the turquoise waters, beckoning divers of all levels. When you tire of beaches you can venture inland on jungle trails, indulge in fine dining or enjoy the sublime laid-back tempo.
And time has come to spread the word: yes, this paradise is accessible to us all. On top of ultra-luxurious options, the Seychelles has plenty of quaint, affordable self-catering facilities and guesthouses, often situated on some of the best land. Though it remains an expensive destination, its tourist authorities are now targeting non-millionaires, promoting these economy options. But fear not: mass tourism it will never be.
Full country name: Republic of Seychelles
Area: 455,3 sq km (176 sq miles)
Gouvernement: Democratic republic
Languages: English, french, creole
Religion: 83% Roman Catholic with Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist, Muslim, Baha’i and other minorities.
GDP: US$590 million
GDP per head: US$7000
Major industries: Fishing, tourism, coconut & vanilla processing, copra, boat building
Major trading parteners: China, Singapore, France, South Africa, UK, Germany
Communications: The international dialing code for Seychelles is +248. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Direct lines to most countries are available at most hotels. There is excellent GSM 900/1800 coverage for mobile telephones, and most hotels offer a postal service, email and Internet connection. There are Internet cafes in Victoria.
Time: local time is GTM+4
When to go
The seasons in the Seychelles are defined by the trade winds. These bring warmer, wetter airstreams from the northwest from October to April. From May to September the southeast trades usher in cooler, drier weather but the winds whip up the waves and you’ll want to find protected beaches. The turnaround periods (March to April and October to ¬November) are normally calm and windless.
The rain generally comes in sudden, heavy bursts. Mahé and Silhouette, the most mountainous islands, get the highest rainfall. January is the wettest month by far, and July and August the driest.
Temperatures range ¬between 24°C and 32°C throughout the year.
Although the Seychelles lies outside the cyclone zone, cyclone activity elsewhere in the Indian Ocean can still bring unseasonably grey, windy weather between December and March.
Hotel prices shoot up and accommodation can be hard to find during the peak seasons from December to January and July to August. Easter can also get busy.
The Seychelles are all about water. Snorkelling is a must-do for every visitor - the best sports around Mahé are Ste anne, Anse Soleil, Petite Anse and Île Souris. Off Praslin, try around Chauve Souris Island. Diving, particularly around the outlying islands, is considered world class. There are several schools offering courses and equipment is available for hire. Windsurfing is particularly popular on Mahé and Praslin. Plenty of charter operation will take you deep-sea fishing.
For hydrophobes, the Seychelles still has plenty on offer. There are some fine challenges for rock climbers, particularly on Praslin and La Digue, where there s great block and cliff-face climbs. There are some great hikes, many of which are described in great detail in a series of brochures produced by the Tourism Division.
Attractions - Victoria
Coral reef diving is possibly the main sporting attraction in the Seychelles. Spearfishing is forbidden and, perhaps as a consequence, the fish are not afraid of people.
The clear water makes conditions perfect for underwater photography. The coastal waters are a haven for 100 species of coral and over 900 species of fish.
The annual Subios underwater festival is held in the Seychelles over a three-week period in November and attracts underwater experts from all over the world. Snorkeling is also very popular, with many snorkeling spots conveniently close to the beaches;