The Seychelles is a beautiful country of 115 granite and coral islands, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Located 932 miles east of Africa and 1135 miles northeast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, getting there takes some work. A transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, the Seychelles islands are known for their pristine beaches and untouched nature reserves that make a visit worthwhile.
The main attraction- No trip to the Seychelles is complete without a visit to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on Praslin Island (pictured), this is the only place in the world to find the rare coco de mer palm and home to rare birds such as the Seychelles bulbul, fruit pigeon and the black parrot.What to do- Pristine and uncrowded beaches, some framed by age-old granite boulders, offer powder-soft sands, turquoise waters and good opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing or pure relaxation. Artists’ studios, national reserves, marine parks, water sports, golf, horse-riding and guided nature tours show travelers some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on earth.
Getting there- Air Seychelles is the national carrier, operating non-stop scheduled flights from Mauritius and South Africa (Johannesburg) into Mahé International Airport. Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates also provide flights to various destinations through their hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Language- Languages spoken in the Seychelles are Seychellois Creole, English and French, all of which share the title of being the official language of government and business. Tourist areas are most commonly English-speaking.
Local currency- The GB Pound Sterling (£), the US Dollar (US$) and the Euro (€) are all accepted, as well as some other major international currencies. Exchanging foreign currency into Seychelles Rupees can only be done at banks, authorized money dealers at the Seychelles International Airport, or with a hotel cashier.
Staying there- A wide range of new and refurbished hotels, Creole guesthouses and exclusive island retreats are currently on 16 of Seychelles 115 islands. Other islands are expected to develop hotel facilities in the near future, which could be good or bad, depending on how one views tourism and all it brings.
Seychelles, with an estimated population of 86,000, has the smallest population of any African state but this week celebrated its 100,000th visitor to arrive in the islands for 2012. Also this week, Air Seychelles celebrated the arrival of its first Airbus A330-200 aircraft, named Aldabra in honor of Aldabra island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Seychelles’ most remote and pristine islands.
One more thing you need to know: “How to Visit Seychelles on a Budget” by Gadling’s Alex Robertson Textor.
Update, July 27th 2012: Quinn and & Co, the firm that handles PR for Etihad, reached out to tell us that Air Seychelles also flies into Abu Dhabi from Mahé.
[Flickr photo by MrFederico]