Seychelles

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Where in the world?

Seychelles on OpenStreetMap

Location

Seychelles is a country composed of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean]. There are about 100 thousand permanent residents. Most people live on the largest central islands. The islands are closer to Africa than to Asia but for practical purposes they are a stand alone country in the middle of the Indian Ocean. They do not specifically belong to any mainland culturally or historically. The islands had no native population and developed as a French and later British colony. The nation is independent now.

Getting there

Many international flights fly to Victoria (SEZ), Seychelles' capital on Mahe island. At the time of writing, the airlines include British Airways, Air France, Etihad, Emirates, Turkish Airlines and several other. This range provides options for connections and frequent flyer programs. If you need a connection, it is likely to be only one stop. Length-wise, it takes about 10 hours from London, 8 hours from Istanbul and 4.5 hours from Dubai.

Language

There are three languages spoken in Seychelles: Creole, French and English.

Electricity

240 V, 50 Hz, British socket with three thick slots.

Currency

Seychellois rupee ~ 0.05 USD, but it is used only for small transactions. It is expected that tourists pay in major currencies, mostly Euro. USD can be also used but not as popular as Euro.

Why visit Seychelles?

A hidden spot of Mahe island

The islands have unique natural features, relatively high income per capita and advantages of technological development. Although similar by location, Seychelles are very different from Maldives. The main islands are neither volcanic nor coral. They are remnants of a prehistoric continent Gondwana and represent tips of mountains. Millions of years of erosion carved peculiar drape-like or fold-like shapes into granite boulders. These large oddly shaped boulders are rare in the world as most islands elsewhere are volcanic or coral and have no exposed granite. The islands also have white sandy beaches, lush vegetation with mountains and hills covered by tropical rain forest. White sandy beaches fringed by the hallmark boulders and palm trees are the classical components of a postcard-like picture of Seychelles. This beauty combined with the well developed transportation, luxury accommodations and other perks of civilization makes Seychelles a hot vacation spot.

The islands also offer large areas of nature reserves with tropical flora, fauna and marine life. In addition to the peculiar granite boulders, there are unique species of animals and plants, such as giant tortoises and Coco de Mer. The tortoises are similar to those living in Galapagos islands. Coco de Mer is a bi-lobed coco nut. It does not grow anywhere else and has been a subject of myths and misconceptions for centuries. The best way to see tortoises and Coco de Mer is to visit Praslin and Curieuse islands. There are many nature hikes and remote spots where you can be all alone. Also, as on any island there are water activities. So, if you are a nature lover and an active person you can find things to keep you busy.

Culturally, there is a blend shaped by the previous periods of French and British colonization with influence of Indian cuisine. The islands were initially uninhabited and later populated by sailors, colonists and slaves. The locals speak English, French and Creole, a French derivative language. Staff at the resorts may speak only English as many come from India and other countries. If you are familiar with the Caribbean, the culture in Seychelles is somewhat similar to the French-British Caribbean islands like St. Lucia.

Food is heavily influenced by the Indian cuisine. Seychellois curries are the local specialty. As expected, there is abundance of fish, sea food, and tropical fruits and vegetables.

Accommodation-wise, it is generally expensive but, unlike Maldives there is more variability of accommodation and vacation styles. Your choices are not limited to just expensive luxury resorts. On-land accommodations range from B&B to highly expensive private luxury resorts, depending on an island. The high end resorts are of high standards. Then, there are options for liveaboard sailing on sail or motor yachts and catamarans. Sailing options are not more expensive than resorts and a vacation can be split into two segments: on-water and on-land.

When to go?

La Digue island

We chose Seychelles for a specific date in May because of weather. May to October is supposed to be a dry period, with winds picking up around July. December to February is supposed to be a wet period. We did not have strong winds in May but had plenty of rain. The locals say weather lately has gone crazy. It can rain or shine at any time of the year. So, you can aim for weather but be prepared for anything. It is a moving target nowadays.

Where to stay?

A beach accessible only by sea

We found that the best way to explore Seychelles is to combine a period of liveaboard sailing with a stay in a resort. Exploration of the islands on a yacht is especially attractive in Seychelles. Most tourists visit the larger islands of Mahe, Praslin, Curieuse, La Digue and Silhouette. However, the islands are different. Even the boulders have a different degree of erosion. In some islands the boulders are rounded, without the hallmark "folded" surfaces. You will also likely need to move between islands to see the tortoises and Coco de Mer. The best way to see the giant tortoises is go to the Curieuse Island Marine National Park, while Coco de Mer grows in abundance in Vallée de Mai park on Praslin. La Digue island has some of the best public beaches and some are near deserted. Mahe has the capital and the airport, but many best spots are accessible only by a boat. Generally, many beautiful virgin places in Seychelles are accessible only by the sea. There are ferry connections between the islands but making multiple trips can tire you out. Therefore, we thought that visiting several islands on a yacht would give a more rounded and enjoyable experience. As islands are in direct sight of view from each other, navigation is easy and sailing is safer. A fleet of rental boats is available, either bareboat if you have skills, or with a skipper. A large cruise ship is not a substitute as it neither gives flexibility nor provides access to isolated sites. For our needs, we chartered a skippered sail yacht Tina from seyscapes.co.uk. The owners Edwin and Tina were our captain and cook. The movie shows our cruising trip between Mahe, Praslin, Curieuse, La Digue and Silhouette islands. During the trip we absorbed the unique beauty of Seychelles, learned about Seychelles giant tortoises and Coco de Mer as well as enjoyed the more common attributes of sailing such as fishing and snorkeling. The footage represents what one can expect while undertaking a similar exploration trip and provides a sample itinerary. Boat charters are also available from other companies such as Dream Yacht Charter, Moorings, SunSail and others. We have not rented from these companies and cannot recommend one over another. After the cruise we stopped at the Hilton Labriz resort on Silhouette island. The resort and the island appeared to us as a balance of value, luxury, privacy, and beauty. We were not wrong, for our taste and preferences.

What to do?

View while snorkeling
Aldabra giant tortoise of Seychelles
Coco de mer

The most common reason to visit Seychelles is a tropical luxury vacation. Therefore, relaxation and enjoyment of the natural beauty are the main activities.

Honeymoon

Seychelles fits the bill as a honeymoon destination. You can find some idyllic atmosphere and privacy in the resorts. There are no overwater bungalows like in Maldives and French Polynesia, but some beachfront properties offer beautiful views and privacy. We thought that our pool bungalow at the Labriz resort on Silhouette was good for a beachfront suite. We personally went to French Polynesia to celebrate our anniversaries, but that was our choice. We left Seychelles to celebrate a big birthday. Overall, we found that Seychelles is not a destination where you feel like most guests are honeymooners, like Bora-Bora, but it certainly can be on the list for those planning a honeymoon.

Water activities

Water activities, as expected are the main type of activities. Accessibility to swimming and snorkeling in the ocean can be an issue at some locations. You need to do your research. In some areas reef profile, surge or winds make places difficult to swim. We encountered three spots where beaches were gorgeous but we could not swim either because of shallow coral or strong waves. The resorts can take guests for snorkeling trips in these situations. That issue could be another reason to combine two islands or sailing with a resort during your vacation. At the resort where we stayed most tidal areas were too shallow for swimming. We did not mind since we just came from a week of sailing, but for those who stayed at one spot only it could make a difference.

SCUBA

SCUBA diving in Seychelles is a controversial issue at the time of writing. We heard stories that it used to be very good, but coral bleaching took a toll lately. As of 2019 all places we snorkeled or dove had largely dead coral. The fish was there, but the coral was bleached extensively. Prices for diving were high though. So, we found that diving few times was OK, but the activity was getting boring and expensive rather quickly. At the moment (2019), Seychelles was not a prime diving destination. Hopefully, the coral will come back. The bleaching is due to the rising water temperatures, so it is not clear where it can come back. You would need to read latest reports elsewhere to check for current conditions.

Nature reserves

We mentioned the nature reserves. Two of them should be at the top of the list as you can learn about the giant tortoises and Coco de Mer. The best opportunity to see the giant tortoises is at the Curieuse Island Marine National Park. Curieuse island also has remnants of a leprosorium with a Doctor's House and a walk through mangroves. Coco de mer are abundant in Vallée de Mai park on Praslin. Vallée de Mai was once claimed to be "Garden of Eden" and is a large place to enjoy tropical jungle in safety.

Hiking trails

All islands that we visited had hiking trails. Some on Silhouette island were so long and mountainous that we had to turn back half way. Wear appropriate footwear, do not venture in your slippers. The trails may satisfy even experienced hikers. There are some small animals and critters that you can see on the way and you can generally enjoy getting through the jungle and exploring isolated beaches. La Digue island offers bike rentals as the island has almost no cars. It is possible to bike around the entire island if you have time and desire to do so. We found that beaches at La Digue are beautiful and near deserted. We were all alone at times, especially at the further beaches. Curieuse island has a trail through mangroves and further along the shoreline. Wear appropriate shoes when you visit the island to see tortoises.

Seychelles coastline

As always, we have no affiliation with any attractions companies or resorts. We simply share our experience and opinions.