Between the Equator and Madagascar, the archipelago of the Seychelles is made up of some 115 islands, strewn like confetti in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The mere name Seychelles conjures up travel brochure pictures of immaculate white sand, lush green vegetation and turquoise blue water. These natural treasures, preserved from the ravages of mass tourism, can be explored on foot, by bicycle, by boat or kayak, or even better, scuba diving.
Seychelles’ pride and joy is its nature, whether it be on land, in the air or in the water: vividly coloured tropical fish, land and sea turtles, thousands of wild birds and exuberant plant life, including nearly 2,000 species of plants, of which at least 250 are indigenous and 80 endemic to the islands.
1 # Island of Mahé
Luxurious mountains, flower-decked gardens, high slopes carpeted in tea fields and gentle valleys planted with fruit orchards and aromatic essences invite the visitor to slow down and take the time to enjoy the present. The coastline is equally mesmerising, depicted by a string of bays lapped by water that is every shade of blue under the sun. Lined by coconut trees, Anse Intendance, one of Mahé Island’s most paradisiac beaches, will knock you out by the beauty of its white sand and crystal-clear water. A great favourite with surfers for its superb waves, the bay is nonetheless ideal for swimming if the sea isn’t too rough. The Jardin du roi and Scenic Black Forest Drive on Mahé are not be missed either.
2 # Praslin
The second largest island of the Seychelles is a haven of peace and quiet that nothing seems to disturb. Praslin is first and foremost of a rainbow of colours from the island’s red soil dotted with black granite boulders to the silvery white of its shimmering ocean bed and opulent verdant flora in the Vallée de Mai (photo). The granite beach of Anse Lazio is simply irresistible.
3 # Bird Island
The 1km/0.6m² island of Bird appears like a green lawn on the ocean, rimmed with white sand emerging out of a turquoise lagoon whose clear waters are rich in coral life. Coconut, filao, mango and papaya trees provide shelter to large numbers of giant turtles. You may even meet the largest turtle of the Seychelles, perhaps the world, Esmerelda, who weighs in at a mere 300kg/662lbs and is the ripe old age of 180 years! Bird, however, as its name suggests, is above all paradise for birds and home to a permanent colony of black terns, cardinals, zebra doves, martins, white-tailed tropicbirds, greater crested terns and elegant sea swallows. A multitude of land and wading species migrate here to avoid the harsh European winters.
4# Digue Island
Digue is perhaps the most insular and also the most authentic of the granite Seychelles islands with its patchwork of vanilla, saffron and patchouli crops. From inexpensive guesthouses and tempting little restaurants along shaded walks lined by modest gardens, you will fall in love with this island rich in fantastic beaches. Anse Argent is among those, dotted with huge pink granite boulders, coconut trees and coral reefs, to such an extent that is regularly voted the most beautiful beach in the world in many internet competitions.
©J. Fuste Raga/Prisma/age fotostock
5 # Aldabra Island
One of the so-called outer islands (like Bird), Aldabra cannot be visited on a whim: you must book a trip to Aldabra well in advance and obtain the necessary authorisations. A UNESCO World Heritage nature reserve site, it is gradually opening up, mainly to scientific tourism and is very carefully controlled by the Seychelles authorities. If you are lucky enough to visit the world’s largest lagoon, whose waters teem with fish, you will be able to see several thousand giant land turtles (between 70,000 and 180,000), sea turtles who come here to lay their eggs, giant crabs whose pincers can crack a coconut open in a second and thousands of birds – terns, sacred ibis, Seychelles blue pigeon, frigatebirds, kestrels from Madagascar, herons and pink flamingos.
©D. Hall/age fotostock
Seychelles tourist site: Very comprehensive site with information about accommodation, restaurants, practical information, calendar of events – essential reading!