Today, the 9th of September, 2009, there are 115 islands making up the Seychelles group, but some of these idyllic coral atolls lie so low in the water that that number is bound to change. These ever changing map conditions could be why only 83 of the islands have names, and around half of them are permanently uninhabited, which is actually good news for aspiring castaways, especially those given to sailing. For the rest of us the Seychelles are the destination of tropical day dreams...here's help drifting away...
Aaahhh... That was lovely wasn't it. A photo is friendlier on the eyes when it comes to the Seychelles. Now you're in the mood here are some more Seychelles travel daydreams, and some suggestions about how to make them a reality, at least for a week or, even better, two.
16 of the Seychelles islands have visitor accommodation; some, like the largest island, Mahé have options ranging from campsites to five star hotels, but some, like Cousine are private island resorts, with space for as few as eight guests. All the islands have beaches made of fine white sand, lined with bright blue waters, and beyond that coral reefs, it's a tropical daydream given, but like a row of gorgeous sisters each has their own private charms as well.
Mahé is the capital and the largest island, and it's also home of the world's smallest city, Victoria, which means more people, more night life and more non-beach-centric attractions. This is also the port, or airport, most visitors arrive at.
The local working markets are colourful, and double as tourist bazaars, selling local crafts as well as fresh fruit and veg, so they're a good place to start getting a feel for the place, which you'll soon find is still tinged with its colonial upbringing – just check out Victoria's clock tower: the miniature spit of the one on the Houses of Parliament in London. For more on that visit the Seychelles National Museum, which also has exhibits presenting the colourful range of fauna and flora endemic to these sandy atolls, including a huge, now extinct crocodile, and the suggestively shaped Coco de Mer double coconut, very famous round these parts.
To see one in the flesh, or more correctly the furry skin, visit the Botanical Gardens or the Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden.
Praslin is the second largest island, birth place of the Coco de Mer, they only grow naturally on two islands, and home of the Vallée de Mai nature reserve, a jungle valley, the home of hundreds of different kinds of endemic birds, including the Black Parrot. After you've toured the Vallée, tour the beaches, Anse Volbert, for the fineness of its sand, Anse Lazio, for the sheltered cove of turquoise waters, ideal for snorkelling and the famous Creole restaurant, and Anse Georgette.
Curieuse Island is a tiny one just off Praslin, and the only other natural home of the Coco de Mer, it used to be a leper colony, but these days it's the protected home of a Aldabra Giant Tortoise colony. You can't stay overnight but it's only a short boat trip away.
Third largest in the Seychelles group, Silhouette still only has a population of 135, most of them living in La Passe, and there to help look after the guests on the island's resort. Silhouette has its share of natural loveliness, but this time, in addition to the powder soft, white beaches, it's manifest in a couple of mountain peaks: at more than 600metres, they're impressive by Seychelles standards - which help create the conditions to support a lush, primeval forest, home to some very rare creatures. Off shore it's no less beautiful and there are more unusual and rare creatures living amongst the corals.
The peaks, forest, and total lack of cars make this a tropical island option for walkers, as well as nature lovers.
La Digue is the fourth largest inhabited island of the Seychelles group, with a population of around 2,000, mostly living in La Reunion. La Digue's claim to fame, and appeal are its beaches, most especially Anse Source d'Argent, one of the most photographed beaches in the world. La Digue's interior is covered, in part, by the protective umbrella of the Veuve Nature Reserve, home to the very rare Black Paradise Flycatcher.
Cerf is a small island off the coast of Mahé, with a population of about 100 – some of them quite famous. The island is within the boundaries of the Ste Anne Marine National Park, and is surrounded by a spectacular coral reef, so the two hotels and guest lodge on Cerf require early booking – it's very popular with divers and snorkellers. Electricity and water comes from the mainland but there's no real infrastructure here, but who needs infrastructure in paradise.
Is known for its birds... Its coral shores are also home to hawksbill and green turtles, and off shore you might spot a dugong. One of the most northerly of the Seychelles, Bird Island has been privately owned since the 60s when a an exclusive 24 bungalow resort was built on it. The resorts owners have been conscientious about looking after their environment though, and the creatures who live and nest here do so with protection.
Denis, named for the first name of a French explorer, in case you were wondering, is at the northern end of the Seychelles, by Bird Island. Made of coral and dotted with coconut palms, the island hosts a private holiday resort – with only 25 chalets. If you were going to have an island named after you this one would be a good pick.
A maximum of seven other guests will share this islands one kilometre long beach, so quiet and privacy are assured, for guests and for the local turtles who lay their eggs here.
This island is known for its snorkelling, rare creatures and its exclusive resort (Brad Pitt has stayed in one of the 16 private villas) – no day visitors allowed. It was originally known for its frigate birds, but these days the rare Magpie Robins and Aldabra Giant Tortoises are more famous. It's also shares with the rest of the Seychelles a reputation for having lovely beaches, Anse Victorin was named one of the best in the world by The Times.
Alphonse island is mostly covered by the Alphonse Island Lodge and inhabited by the people who work there, who also manage the facilities needed for the great diving and snorkelling, deep sea and fly fishing, and generally relaxing in the lap of luxury. The rest is just the island's own natural beauty bounty showing though.
Some of the other private resort islands are Anonyme (7 rooms), named for the boat the was wrecked here, and good for scuba divers, North Island (11 luxury lodges), Felicité (16 guest maximum) and Desroches Island (20 villas).
If you have time for more than one island, there are light aircraft flights between the larger islands. Popular multi-island trips combine Mahé and Praslin, Mahé and La Digue, Silhouette Island and Praslin, Denis and Praslin or even Mahé , Praslin and La Digue – but that just begins to prove how many options there are. The other option is to live on a boat and sail between islands at your leisure. The main yachting party circuit potters around Mahé and Praslin, visiting Denis, Bird, and Cousine, but on your own vessel you can sail, or be sail-ed, the greater distances between the outlying islands and have a whole island or coral atoll to yourself.
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