Seychelles offers a holiday experience as unique as it is varied, drawing on the amazing diversity of 115 pristine islands to ensure that every visitor returns home with his or her very personal memories. The vast majority remain timeless miniature worlds, flourishing in splendid isolation far from the stresses and strains of a hectic planet. Natural purity with an authentic touch is the cornerstone of a philosophy that echoes the needs of today’s discerning travellers for a tranquil yet vibrant destination, unspoiled by commercialism, where they can feel secure and rediscover their inner needs for simplicity, authenticity and innocence. It is equally a statement of our intention to safeguard our precious island home and its exceptional environment, taking great pains to ensure that tourism development is both ecologically sustainable and in the best interests of the local community. For these reasons we take pride in the new momentum being given to Seychelles tourism by a variety of exciting new products. They represent not only affordable exclusivity, but also offer unique benefits that set them apart from those of other tropical destinations and provide the visitor with a refreshing individually-tailored tropical island experience that is welcoming and fulfilling.
The national airline Air Seychelles (HM) operates scheduled flights from London, Paris, and Rome in the European sector. Regional and peripheral sectors include Mauritius, South Africa and Singapore. Qatar Airways (QR) and Emirates (EK) fly to and from Seychelles providing connecting flights to various worldwide sectors through their hubs in Dubai and Doha. Other airlines flying to Seychelles include Air France (AF), Kenya Airways (KQ), Condor (DE), Air Austral (UU) and Air Mauritius (MK). Visitors arriving in private aircrafts are welcomed at Mahé International Airport after having cleared all relevant formalities with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The amazing diversity of Seychelles’ 115 islands offers visitors an ever-widening choice of spectacular venues for an unforgettable tropical vacation. There are two categories of islands: the granitic “Inner” that cluster around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, whose verdant peaks climb skywards from virgin forests and powder soft beaches, and the “Outer”, a sparkling array of flat, coralline islands extending westwards towards the coast of Africa that includes legendary Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The “Inner Islands” are the cultural focal point of Seychelles where lives the majority of the population while the “Outer Islands” remain miniature worlds, little touched by man, thus offering a unique and incomparable island experience. Of all Seychelles’ islands, only 16 have hotels, some of which offer luxurious amenities and the ultimate 5-star experience while others offer the homey comforts of beachfront or hillside chalets, an authentic Creole ambiance and hospitality. Each offers its own natural charm and appeal, assuring the visitor of a memorable tropical experience. Island hopping is seamless in Seychelles with scheduled and chartered aeroplane and helicopter flights and marine ferry services easily available.
This fertile, granite island with verdant forests, towering peaks and over 65 beaches enjoys diverse flora and fauna with striking endemic species to be discovered by organized excursions as well as on walks and trails through lush countryside. North Mahé, home to famous Beau Vallon beach, tends to be more populous than other regions of the island, and discreetly features a range of hotels of all sizes, guesthouses and villas. South Mahé presents, in contrast, a wonderfully pastoral aspect and is home to some of the island’s prettiest beaches and villages too, all made accessible by an efficient network of roads. Victoria, one of the tiniest capitals in the world, has managed to retain much of its original charm and character with outstanding examples of traditional architecture, a busy market, shops, boutiques and service providers. Numerous hidden coves and bays can be visited on snorkelling expeditions with some even explorable by semi-submersible.
La Digue, lying 45 kilometres from Mahé and 7 kilometres from Praslin, is the fourth largest island in Seychelles. Celebrated for its granite boulders that seem to have been sculpted by a divine hand to adorn beaches of breathtaking beauty such as Anse Source D’Argen, La Digue serves as an ideal stepping stone to the nearby islands of Grande Soeur and Petite Soeur, Félicité, Coco and Marianne.The island, where more traditional modes of transport such as bicycles and ox-carts still hold sway, is accessible mainly by traditional ferry arriving and departing from the quaint jetty of La Passe. La Digue’s authentic island-style accommodation is mainly situated on the west-coast, while the east remains more or less untouched. At the L’Union Estate, visitors will have the chance to view some of the traditional local industries of times past while nature lovers will have the opportunity to seek out the rare black paradise flycatcher (Veuve), once feared to be close to extinction but now protected in the La Digue Veuve Reserve.
Praslin’s original name of “Isle de Palme” bears eloquent testament to its reputation as home to the Vallée de Mai UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the famous Coco-de-mer grows wild on palms 40 metres tall and some 200 years old. So impressive is this forest that it led General Gordon (of Khartoum) to state his conviction that this was the site of the original Garden of Eden. Seychelles’ second largest island, Praslin, lies 40 kilometres north-east of Mahé and is accessible by Air Seychelles domestic flights in 15 minutes or by catamaran ferry in 45 minutes. Praslin, divided by a ridge of hills intersected by a road that leads through the Vallée de Mai, possesses some of Seychelles’ most striking beaches such as Anse Lazio, widely acclaimed to be the most beautiful beach on earth. Featuring the only 18-hole championship golf course in Seychelles and a luxurious casino, Praslin also has a rich assortment of hotels and guesthouses whose strong tradition of Creole hospitality over the years has proved a strong favorite with visitors. The island is ideally situated for holidaymakers wishing to island hop to a handful of nearby exotic destinations such as La Digue, Chauve Souris, Curieuse, St. Pierre, Cousine, and the island bird reserves of Cousine and Aride. It is also a haven for nature lovers seeking rare endemic species or for those wishing to explore the island’s network of footpaths.
Alphonse is a triangular coral atoll sheltered by the crystalline waters of a turquoise lagoon situated southwest of Mahé. This exclusive island resort offers the spacious comfort of 25 air-conditioned thatched chalets and 5 sumptuous executive villas, each affording a splendid view of the ocean. The island offers an array of marine adventure facilities and services as well as the best salt-water fly-fishing in the world.
Privately owned Anonyme Island is a granitic island situated only a stone’s throw from Mahé where six chalets have been conceived to offer privacy, elegance and luxury. The island offers excellent personalized service combined with fine cuisine and a scenic setting that commands spectacular views of the other Inner Islands and the breathtaking tropical sunrises.
Bird is the most northerly coral island, surrounded by sparkling white beaches and crystal blue waters. Twenty-four individual beachfront bungalows offer a “back to nature” experience amid the gardens of an ancient coconut plantation, a bird sanctuary, a nesting site for turtles and the informal atmosphere of authentic island life, enriched by the presence of the world’s largest giant tortoise, Esmeralda.
Mahé’s closest neighbour, situated a mere 4 kilometers or so away, lies at the heart of the Ste. Anne Marine Park and is renowned for the good swimming and snorkelling opportunities it offers as well as for its several excellent beaches. Home to a population of well-established settlers most of whom commute to Mahé, Cerf now boasts two accommodation establishments that highlight the many charms of this quaintly traditional island.
Approximately six kilometres off the west coast of Praslin, Cousine Island offers a tropical island holiday experience with a degree of privacy found in very few places on earth. With four individual old French colonial style villas, exclusivity is the order of the day as a maximum of only ten guests are accommodated at any one time. Each villa nestles amid the natural vegetation and is positioned to ensure maximum privacy. A private nature reserve, Cousine is home to five of Seychelles’ endemic birds as well as to a variety of other endemic fauna and spectacular marine life.
Denis Island lies north of Mahé and comprises 25 distinctive, well-appointed cottages. The gentle, romantic ambience of this ‘island at the edge of the world’ makes it ideal for honeymoons, while its glimmering beaches are just made for soaking up the tropical sun and azure sea. An excellent cuisine, inspired by fresh harvest from the ocean and the home grown produce of the island farm will please the palate of the most exacting gourmet. Situated on the edge of the Seychelles Bank, Denis Island is also an ideal base for thrilling deep-sea fishing expeditions.
Remote and unspoiled Desroches Island, lying in the shade of a plantation of coconut palms and surrounded by 14 kilometers of breathtaking beaches, is situated 250 kilometers from Mahé. The resort boasts 20 junior suites arranged in a manner that reflects an authentic Creole architectural style while its surrounding islands are renowned for spectacular diving and big game fishing adventures.
This private island off La Digue caters to 16 guests in two luxury bungalows and four chalets. Set against a backdrop of lush vegetation and spectacular, steep granite outcrops Félicité allows you to experience total “island ownership”, privacy and comfort throughout your stay.
This idyllic tropical hideaway is the most easterly of the granitic islands and offers the ultimate private island experience. Featuring only 16 luxurious villas, seven outstanding beaches and some of the rarest flora and fauna on earth, Frégate offers refinement and elegance, breathtaking natural beauty, exquisite gourmet cuisine as well as a complete range of water sports and recreational activities.
North Island provides an eco-friendly island experience where a philosophy of “barefoot luxury” aims to provide the very best in seclusion, location and accommodation. There are eleven villas, each one handcrafted from natural elements to an astonishing degree of perfection and further complemented by individual plunge pools and a health spa commanding break-taking views of one of the island’s stunning beaches and the surrounding verdant hillsides.
The exotic, forgotten world of Silhouette represents Seychelles at its pristine best and boasts surroundings of unspoiled beauty, proposing a relaxing atmosphere perfectly in tune with the rhythms of nature. A new 116-room, 4-star hotel opened its doors in 2006.
Sainte Anne, situated in the National Marine Park, offers total intimacy. The property features 79 luxurious sea-facing villas nestled in an exceptional property spread over more than a kilometer along the island’s two main beaches. An unmatched gourmet experience within refined yet relaxed surroundings combined with a world-class spa promises the ultimate indulgence of mind, body and soul.
This tiny granite island rises proudly from the sea just a stone’s throw from Praslin’s famous coast of Côte d’Or to offer an intimate hideaway that blends seamlessly with its environment and provides a cocoon of tropical comforts suspended between granite rocks, turquoise ocean and cerulean sky.
The cosmopolitan Seychellois are a colorful and harmonious blend of different races which stem from African, European and Asian roots, all of whom have brought something of their own customs and way of life to the islands. The result is a charming Creole culture enriched from many continents. Despite being a British colony, the original early French influence remained strong. African slaves were brought in to work the land and after the abolition of slavery they were liberated.
There are three official languages: English, French and Creole. Creole is spoken by everyone and is an adaptation of 17 Century French with additional words and expressions coming from African languages and from Madagascar. It has been elevated to national language status, earning the same respect as English and French. Today Creole is a written as well as a spoken language.
According to the 2002 census, the population of Seychelles stood at around 81,000 with 70,000 living on Mahé, in particular around the capital Victoria, 8,000 on Praslin and the remainder on La Digue and scattered among the rest of the islands.
Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, but there are also Anglican, Protestant and Seventh Day Adventist churches together with smaller Muslim, Hindu and Bahá'i communities based on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Mass and other parish feasts are colorful occasions when Seychellois dress up in their Sunday best and socialize.
Creole architecture is another important cultural aspect of the islands. The designs of some of the grand old houses, with their steep roofs and shutters to catch the island breezes, are representative of an architecture adapted for comfortable living in the tropics. Today's architecture attempts to assimilate traditional styles.
Music and dance are an integral part of all Seychelles festivities. Creole music and dance have their roots both in African, Malagasy and European cultures. The music is played to the accompaniment of drums such as the Tambour and Tamtam and simple string instruments. Foreign influence has introduced the violin and guitar, both of which play a prominent role in today's music. The popular local dance, the Sega, danced to the rhythm beaten on the drums, features an energetic shuffling of the feet and swaying of the hips. The colorful lyrics recount simple daily events. The traditional Moutya is an erotic dance derived from the days of slavery when it was perhaps the only way for the slaves to express themselves, something they did brazenly with slow and suggestive movements at gatherings on the beach under the moonlight. One foreign dance import is the Kamntole, which is danced to the accompaniment of banjos, accordion, violin and triangle and which is faintly reminiscent of a Scottish reel. One component is the Contredance, an import from the French court. This dance is accompanied by banjo, triangle and the instructions of the ‘Komandan’ or Commander who calls the sets.
The broad range of Creole cuisine is an eloquent reflection of the diverse ethnic mix of the islands. It features the subtleties and nuances of French cooking, the exoticism of Indian dishes and the piquant flavors of the Orient. Grilled fish marinated in a sauce of crushed chilli, ginger and garlic is a favorite, as are octopus and chicken curries prepared with coconut milk. A dazzling array of fresh fish is readily available and is easily transformed into a wide selection of succulent dishes with the help of condiments, fruits, spices and herbs on sale in the local markets. Many hotels and restaurants offer various forms of Creole cuisine and international dishes. Creole cuisine is resourceful, echoing a time before supermarkets. Chatinis, made from grated green fruits offer a tasty accompaniment to fish or meat dishes while mangoes, golden apples, and coconut products, heart of palm, tubers and local delicacies such as octopus and fruit-bat form an impressive culinary array.
Seychelles is an artist's paradise - where inspiration and creativity go hand in hand with the sensual scenery and the relaxed harmony of the Seychellois. Seychelles' artists exercise their skills across a broad spectrum and their works range from the small memorabilia through to magnificent collectors items. Local products available include: books, paintings, stained glass, coconut shell and husk products, works featuring sea-shells and corals, clothing, gold and silver and other forms of jewellery, as well as products made from recycled materials, fibers, bamboo, metal and pottery.
A tour around the principal islands will allow the visitor to savour the rich artistic expression on display in the many charming galleries and out-of-the-way workshops.
In August 2005, STB launched the first Bazar La Brin, or Sunset Market, at the Beau Vallon beachfront, providing local vendors and artisans with an opportunity to sell their wares, Seychellois with an additional chance to do their shopping, and tourists to enjoy the vibrant Creole atmosphere with a chance of interacting with locals. The Bazar, which showcases a wide range of local arts and crafts, also features stalls offering authentic Creole food and beverages with local musicians also contributing to the ambiance.
The Festival Kreol, is held annually at the end of October. It is a manifestation of Seychellois and Creole identity and a celebration of the culture of the islands as experienced through music, dance, arts, crafts and cuisine. True to the Creole spirit of sharing and of openness, it offers a fascinating week filled with color, sounds, flavors and fragrances from a corner of the Creole world that treasures its traditions. For further information please consult: www.seychelles.net/festivalkreol