"The islands bristle with mountains and are largely covered with coconuts, palms, mango trees, palmettos, ebony, latenia," wrote a British sailor of the Seychelles in the early 17th century. "The islands provide a great deal of fish and a prodigious quantity of hawksbill turtles and several other species of land and sea tortoises. The woods are full of birds…the air is healthy; the water abundant and good." His bones may well have long been at the bottom of Davy Jones’s locker, but that same sailor would unquestionably still recognise much about the shimmering, scattered group of 115 granite and coral islands he describes.
Set in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa, the Seychelles are an artist’s palette of electric colours; talcum-powder white sand, cerulean blue sea, green stretches of forest and red gold sunsets make everything seem surreal, a reflection of unbelievable beauty.   If your idea of the perfect holiday is the perfect beach, there are many to choose from. Some are stunning ribbons of glittering sand with surfing-perfect waves, others small, palm-framed coves bounded by speckled pink granite boulders and with hardly a soul in sight. Choosing a favourite is like trying to pick your favourite flavour of ice cream – they're all heavenly. Drop in to celebrated Anse Source d'Argent, sequestered Anse Marron,  spectacular Anse Takamaka and picture-perfect Anse Lazio.  
But beaches aren’t the only enticement: 5 island wildlife and bird sanctuaries, tangled verdant jungle on Silhouette Island (situated 12 miles northwest of Mahé, it’s just 5 miles long and 3 miles wide), deep-sea fishing off Denis Island, (a dot of an islet almost directly north of Mahé), as well as hikes and bike riding offer a variety of attractions for visitors. Music and dance are popular, and you may well find yourself being invited to join in the Moutya - a dance with strong African and Malagasy rhythms - or the famous Sega, usually performed at cultural events and festivals. In short, this idyllic nation is the ideal destination for discerning beach lovers, cultural explorers and adventure-seekers who travel the world in quest of  the best diving and sailing holidays.
   

People  

Characterised by a religious, matriarchal society and open-minded, warm and friendly, the Seychellois have their ethnic roots in Africa, Europe, India, and China, with many African and Asian traditions, superstitions and culinary ingredients incorporated into the local way of life. The vast majority of the 90 000 population live on Mahé Island, the archipelago's biggest, with many islands left almost totally uninhabited. The official languages are Creole, French, and English, with English being the language of tourism (although if you happen to chat to a local, it’s useful to know a few words of French) and the French-based Seychelles Creole the language of everyday use.
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Places  

Mahé
By far the biggest and most modernised of the Seychelles islands, Mahé is home to the country's capital city, Victoria, and to about 90% of the people. In Victoria, highlights include a silver-painted replica of London's Little Ben and the Natural History Museum. Go to the outdoor market in the morning to see the day's fresh fish catch displayed, whilst other stalls are stacked with brightly-coloured fruit, vegetables and spices. Outside the city, you can hike across the rugged interior of Morne Seychellois National Park, dive crystal waters and snorkel with whale sharks in glorious bays. The west coast is one long line of magnificent beaches, but there are plenty of other attractions close at hand. Be sure to stop in at the Takamaka Rum Distillery for a tour and a delicious sample or two, for example. And wherever you are, a bus or car ride of no more than 20 minutes will take you to stunning natural beauty spots.
 
La Digue
A quick sail from the main island of Mahé to La Digue, and you’ll find a laid-back island with a tiny population of just 2,000 people, only a few surfaced roads and virtually no motorised road vehicles (except for a few taxis). The smallest of the three main inhabited islands, La Digue is probably best explored by bicycle and has some of the most iconic beaches in the archipelago; sparkling aquamarine waters, beautiful bays studded with breathtaking beaches, and velvety green hills shrouded in thick forest.  

Ste Anne National Marine Park
Comprised of six islands off the coast of Mahé near Victoria, in 1973 Ste Anne National Marine Park became the first national park in the Indian Ocean. Snorkelling and scuba diving reveal the diversity of marine life in the coral reefs, and you can visit most of the islands in the reserve. Along with its mangroves and crocodiles, Ste Anne Island is an important nesting site for hawksbill turtles. On  Round Island, a former leper colony, you can explore the ruins of the hospital, take a nature walk, or eat mouthwatering Creole cuisine at the local restaurant. Île Cachée is an important breeding site for noddies and a protected nature reserve. At Cerf Island, you can swim, snorkel, or dive along the gorgeous reefs or bask on the unspoilt beaches, while on privately owned Moyenne Island you’ll find nature trails, reconstructed settlers' homes, pirate graves, and a small, thatched chapel.  

Anse Lazio
On the north shore of Praslin Island, Anse Lazio (Chevalier Bay) is one the of island's most picturesque beaches. Flanked by rounded granite boulders, this long stretch of platinum blonde sand merges with crystal clear waters in heavenly hues of blue. The shallow east end is protected by coral reef and offers excellent swimming and snorkelling. Takamaka trees fringe the beach, providing patches of shade for relaxing, and hungry visitors can refuel at restaurants on either end of the beach.  

Silhouette Island
About 30 km off Mahé's west coast, mountainous Silhouette Island is renowned for its immense biodiversity. Apart from Mahé it's the only other island in the Seychelles with a mist forest, which cloaks the 731 m peak of Mont Dauban. The third largest of the granitic islands, Silhouette Island has a rugged terrain that has helped preserve its natural beauty. The park protects more than 2,000 species including birds, geckos, chameleons, turtles and skinks. You’ll find caves to explore, beaches with wonderful swimming and snorkelling, and diverse flora and fauna such as carnivorous pitcher plants, coco de mer palms, millipedes, slugs, and snails.          

Pleasures  

The Seychelles aren’t exactly famous for nightlife, so night birds will have to settle either for the two clubs (Katiolo down by the airport and Lovenut in Victoria), or for relatively calm evening pursuits like late night theatre in French, English, and Creole.  
When it comes to shopping, Victoria’s gloriously named Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke Market is a must. Built in the 1840s in early-Victorian revival style (and renovated in 1999), this national landmark is the place to buy the freshest fruit, fish and vegetables and the most aromatic spices. The vibrant heart of the capital, an attractive array of boutiques and shops selling a variety of souvenirs, clothing and local works of art further enhance the lively atmosphere.  
And whilst you won’t find the Seychelles ranked among the world’s greatest cuisines, the good news is that it’s still delicious. The local Seychellois Creole food is influenced by African, Chinese, French and Indian traditions, with careful blending of spices being a distinct characteristic. Great use is made of chillies, coconut milk and breadfruit, and there are 10 varieties of chilli, each with a different flavour and each used for different dishes.  
Fresh fish (red snapper, grouper, mackerel, shark and eagle ray, to name but a few) is plentiful and served many ways-  roasted, grilled, curried and raw – alongside chatini, a condiment made with thinly sliced marinated vegetables –  together with cooked vegetables like green mango or aubergine. Shark chutney is a typical Seychellois dish made with boiled and mashed shark meat that’s then cooked with bilimbi, (a small cucumber) and lime juice, after which fried onion, turmeric, salt and pepper are added. It’s usually served with lentils and shredded green papaya with rice. Another popular local delicacy for the gastronomically adventurous to try is rousettes (fruit bat meat) which is served in several different ways like en civet (stewed with vegetables) and which has a subtle, gamey flavour, a little like venison.
Bridging the gap between savoury and sweet is Ladob, a dish which may be eaten as both. The savoury version is made of sweet potatoes and ripe plantain and may include breadfruit, cassava or corossol (soursop). It’s boiled in coconut milk and salt fish is added. The sweet version is cooked the same way but with sugar, nutmeg and vanilla added instead. Other delectable desserts include bananas or papaya in caramel and cream sauce, bread pudding with custard, coconut or banana tarts, delicious coconut sorbet, and a mean coconut nougat.          

Do  

Avoid changing all your foreign exchange into Seychelles Rupees (SCR) at one time. Instead, calculate your daily requirements and change only what you need for a specific period of time.  
Be careful when it comes to walking alone at night or in secluded places like remote beaches.  
Resist the urge to collect seashells along the beaches as many are used as habitation by hermit crabs.  
Take your litter with you and dispose of it carefully.  
Remember that the sun in Seychelles is extremely strong and apply appropriate sun block for your skin.          

Don’t  

Buy souvenirs made from turtle shell (also known as tortoiseshell). Whilst once a flourishing industry, it’s now illegal.  
Change your money illegally with unauthorised traders. Instead use banks, hotel cashiers and  Bureaux de Change.  
Carry large sums of money, items of value or important documents such as passports with you.  
Feed sea birds, mammals, turtles or tortoises or disturb them or their nesting grounds.  
Wear swimwear and/or revealing clothes anywhere but on the beaches. It will be seen as disrespectful.          

Best time to go  

The islands of the Seychelles generally have warm, beach-perfect weather all year round.
April, May, October and November represent the transition times between the hot and humid northwest trade winds (from November through March) and the cooler southeast trade winds from April through October. A visit during these months offers milder conditions ideal for sunbathing, wildlife watching and scuba diving. No matter when you visit, temperatures will, on average be in the 80s. However, by visiting the islands in the spring and autumn, you'll avoid the heavy tourist crowds that descend in December, January, July and August.          

Best way to go  

As a mix of populated ports and never-inhabited coralline islets - with some beaches only reachable by private yacht - the best way to make the most of a Seychelles holiday is to make it a Seychelles sailing holiday.  
Start in Port Victoria on Mahé  Island, spend some time exploring the food, the bars, the markets and the sights, then decide where you go from here. Your boat can take you to any island you please, meaning your trip is completely customisable.  
Your boat’s customisable too…just choose from any of the beautifully equipped vessels.    
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Seychelles