There is a place on earth that can truly be described as a tropical paradise; it is called Seychelles. This collection of granite and coral islands, situated close to the Equator, offers uniquely indigenous flora and fauna, perfect beaches and a relaxed holiday atmosphere. Officially known as the Republic of Seychelles, the Indian Ocean archipelago nation consists of 115 islands and covers an area approximately the size of France. While most of the islands remain uninhabited, the majority of the 80,700 Seychellois live on the island of Mahé (72,000), Praslin (6,500) and La Digue (2,000). The official and most widely spoken language is Creole, although most people also speak English and French. Many Seychellois make a living from fishing or tourism and the largest single employer is the government.

History and politics

Nautical historians believe the Pheonicians and Greeks were the first civilisations to visit the Seychelles. However, the first recorded proof was a map transcribed by the Arabs in 1505.

It is widely documented that Seychelles was named after the French finance minister Jean Moreau de Sechelles in 1756. In 1814 the British controlled Mauritius, by default due to the Seychelles dependency on Mauritius, the country also fell under British control. In 1976 the Seychelles become independent from the British Commonwealth. A coalition government was formed by the two leading parties; Seychelles Democratic Party, with James Mancham as President, and Seychelles People’s United Party with Albert René as Prime Minister. Following a coup in 1977, the Seychelles became a single party state, headed by Albert René as President, who adopted a communist agenda with close ties to the former Soviet Union.

In 1992 the Seychelles converted to a democratically elected multi-party system in which Albert René won a majority landslide. In 2004 Albert René stood down as president and handed over his post to vice president James Michel, who in 2006 was elected and is currently serving as president of the Seychelles.

Photographer: Gerard Larose
Photographer: Gerard Larose

Luxury eco-tourism

Most tourism is centered around the inner islands, while the outer islands, due to their isolation, have so far remained undeveloped and uninhabited. Perhaps the most spectacular of the outer islands is Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll. Aldabra is a protected Unesco World Heritage Site, where a population of 152,000 giant land turtles live and roam freely.

The Seychelles is an eco-tourism hotspot especially popular amongst European holiday makers, with many first class hotels as well as budget accomodation to chose from. However, the islands have not yet developed the volume of tourism comparable to nearby Mauritius or various popular Caribbean sun, sea and sand destinations.

A government policy has been to limit the number of visitors to prevent the negative impacts of mass-tourism. A law forbids new hotels being constructed higher than the tallest palmtree, therefore protecting beaches and coastlines. Nearly half of the Seychelles total landmass has been set aside as nature reserves.

Beaches are an integral part of Seychellois culture and society. Here locals meet up for picnics during weekends and public holidays on the many beautiful beaches surrounding the main islands of Mahé, La Digue and Praslin.

Some islands, such as Frégate, Alphonse, Cousine and North Island, have only one resort each where nature conservation projects employs resident ecologists working towards in preserving the natural environment. Conservation efforts include the reintroduction and breeding of endangered species and the eradication of alien mammals, such as rats, and non-native plant species that have been brought to the islands as a result of human settlement. Aride is a nature protected island with no accommodation and uninhabited with the exception of some resident conservation workers. The island located 10km from Praslin and can be visited by day trips.

Several new properties are being constructed to meet an increasing demand for luxury accommodation. In the Seychelles, these are typically villas generously spaced out from one another, rather than hotel buildings or bungalows clustered within enclosed resort areas. These developments follow strict environmental practises according to the code of standards set out by the Ministry of Environment.

Climate and living standard

The inner islands are located approximately 7° south of the Equator within a zone virtually free from cyclones, hurricanes and monsoons, making the Seychelles an excellent all year round holiday destination. The climate is tropical and humid, always warm and without extremes; temperatures seldom drop below 24° or rise above 32°.

Seychelles enjoy a high living standard, access to free education, a long established social welfare system and high quality healthcare. Seychelles is famous for stunning beaches, unique coconuts and a vibrant traditional Creole culture.