Made up of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are a beach lover’s paradise. Every anse (Creole for 'beach') reveals yet another stretch of sugar-white sand, backed by lush tropical jungle and lapped by crystal-clear waters.
The most famous is Anse Source d’Argent, with its distinct granite boulders and Hollywood looks. Regularly named the most beautiful beach in the world, and the ‘star’ in movies like Castaway and Crusoe, you'll find it on the island of La Digue. Not surprisingly, it can get busy. Early morning or late afternoon after the day trippers have left, is your best bet.
Snorkellers will love Anse Lazio on Praslin, the Seychelles' second largest island. A coral-rich wonderland sits just off the eastern end of this stunning white beach. Beau Vallon on Mahé Island is as lively as it it is lovely. And Anse Intendance at the southern end is big, empty and beautiful.
Come the weekend, the beaches south of the airport on Mahé come alive, with local people picnicking and playing music under takamaka trees, and vendors selling Creole cuisine, drinks and clothing.
Wildlife lovers and birdwatchers will adore the Seychelles. The islands are home to the world’s smallest frog and and some of its biggest tortoises, as well as 12 endemic species of birds.
You can spot the Gardiner’s tree frog on the Morne Seychellois hiking trail on Mahé. Its green-to-brown skin shows a distinctive dark band extending from its mouth, but your eyesight will need to be good: it is only 11mm long.
Thankfully, the giant Aldabra tortoises are easier to spot. Every hotel, restaurant and distillery on the islands seem to keep them as pets, but you can find them living in the wild on North Island, Cousin Island and Curieuse Island and, of course, Aldabra atoll, where they originate from.
Birdwatchers will want to seek out the rare Seychelles black parrot, the islands’ national bird, as well as the Seychelles magpie robin and Seychelles warbler – both of which have been saved from extinction. The warbler is most easily spotted on Cousin Island, a former coconut plantation that was turned into a nature reserve when the last of the warblers were discovered there. Visitors are only allowed on the island at certain times so you’ll need to organise your trip on Praslin.
Hardcore twitchers should head to Bird Island, a private reserve teeming with birdlife. The island can only be reached by a once-a-day plane, necessitating an overnight stay at the island’s highly regarded resort.
If you can drag yourself away from the Seychelles’ mesmerising beaches, a world of adventure awaits. The larger islands are blessed with rugged mountains and verdant jungle, all relatively untouched and ready to be explored.
There are walks and hikes to suit every level of fitness and ability. The Anse Major trail on Mahé is an easy stroll through incredible granite boulders. The Anse Georgette trail on Praslin is a moderate trek between two beautiful beaches on the island’s north point.
The hike to Morne Seychellois, the highest point on Mahé, is a challenging five-hour hike – but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views across the islands.
Fusion is not a new concept in Seychellois cuisine. The influence of traders from Africa, China, Europe and India has its legacy in the delicious local Creole dishes. It also helps to have such easy access to the bounty of the sea. You’ll find tuna, bonito, sea bass, red snapper, barracuda, king mackerel, gilt-head bream and lobster, cooked in every imaginable way.
A popular delicacy is zourit (octopus), made into a creamy curry. Another must-try is tec tec, small mussels collected on the beach and then cooked with pumpkin into delicious soup. Quick and easy Indian snacks like samosas are found on most street corners.
Those with more adventurous palates might want to try the local shark chutney. Or even the bat curry. It is available from most Creole takeaways, but locals will tell you that it is best at the Marie Antoinette Creole Restaurant on Mahé. if you want to try fruit bat ravioli, check out Mahé’s La Plaine St. Andre.
To get an overview of Creole cuisine, head to the Boatshed at Beau Vallon for their regular Creole buffet. The buffet offers a dizzying array of Creole classics and favourites with the added bonus of being ‘all-you-can eat.’ For a bargain Creole meal, ask a local to recommend their favourite takeaway. A tasty coconut curry from one of these places will only set you back a couple of pounds.
The Seychelles offers some of the most diverse diving in the world. From coral gardens just offshore, to wildlife-rich deep-water wrecks, there is something for every diver.
The main diving islands are Mahé, La Digue and Praslin – part of the inner island group that are remains of a submerged mountain range. They rest on a shallow plateau with prolific marine life. The Outer Islands to the south of the archipelago are all coralline or sand cays and mainly uninhabited, presenting the experienced diver with excellent opportunities to explore where few have gone before.
The best time to dive the Seychelles is April, October or November when the seas are calm and you can dive with sharks and manta rays. During the monsoon season of late May to September, the visibility is lower, but the presence of lots of plankton brings whale sharks.