One of the world’s most spell-binding beach holiday destinations, the islands of the Seychelles radiate charm and sophistication – miles of white coral sands that dip invitingly into clear, warm turquoise waters.
The name alone conjures up images of hidden pirate treasures and a tropical island paradise. If you like beaches, there are miles of white coral sands that dip invitingly into clear, warm turquoise waters. If you enjoy swimming, you’ll find the Indian Ocean was almost created with your pleasure in mind.
Sun-worshippers will revel in year-round, balmy temperatures. For the more active and adventurous, there are more than enough sights to choose from; street markets and plantation houses, to medieval forests and the rare black parrot. Over 100 islands make up the Seychelles archipelago, with much to interest everyone. Much of the Seychelles’ beauty lies in its natural wildlife. Untouched for centuries, the islands are sanctuaries for many rare wonderful plants and birds.
Whichever of the Seychelles islands you visit, you are assured of a warm welcome and a fond farewell.
History & Economy
Some of the oldest islands on the planet, the Seychelles Archipelago was uninhabited save for the occasional pirate until French settlers from Mauritius and their slaves arrived and planted crops and spices in the 18th century. Following their rise to power in the Indian Ocean, the British took over the Seychelles in 1814 but other than their anti-slavery stance ran the islands according to French practices.
Consequently, the islands have retained their French flavour though it was from Britain that the Seychelles won their independence in 1976.
The Seychelles economy once revolved around its plantations – cinnamon, vanilla, and copra were the chief exports – but the opening of the archipelago’s international airport in 1971 changed the country for good. Fuelled by tourism which now occupies 30% of the workforce, economic growth was rapid and the Seychelles now has the highest Human Development Index in Africa.
People & Culture
The people of the Seychelles have their ethnic roots in Africa, Europe, India, and China but the culture is distinctly Seychellois with many African and Asian traditions, superstitions and culinary ingredients incorporated into the local way of life. The vast majority of the 86 000 population live on Mahé Island, the archipelago’s biggest, leaving many islands virtually or totally uninhabited.
Characterised by a religious, matriarchal society, the Seychellois are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Music and dance are popular and visitors to the islands may find themselves joining in the Moutia – a dance with strong African and Malagasy rhythms. French and English are spoken throughout the archipelago though it is the French-based Seychelles Creole that is the language of everyday use.
Landscape & Wildlife
Dominated by classic ‘desert island’ scenery – flowering tropical vegetation, palm-fringed beaches and a dazzling blue ocean – the Seychelles Archipelago comprises 115 islands, separated into two groups. The more populated granitic inner islands are famous for their boulder-strewn beaches and forested, mountainous interiors; the coralline atolls of the outer islands are flatter, dominated by palm trees and are mostly uninhabited.
Millions of years of geographical isolation have led to a high rate of endemism among the archipelago’s plants and animals, best illustrated by the dozen species of bird unique to the Seychelles, two of which – the Seychelles white eye and magpie-robin – are the rarest in the world. Other Seychelles wildlife highlights on land include Aldabra Island’s giant tortoises – the worlds largest – bird watching on Bird, Cousine and Aride Islands and nesting hawksbill turtles between October and February but it’s the marine environment that delivers the most.
Thanks to a long history of marine conservation, the reefs of the Seychelles are among the best in the world and support over 1 000 species of fish. Needless to say, diving and snorkelling in the Seychelles are truly spectacular experiences and in many cases you can walk straight off the beach and swim to pristine coral reefs. The inner islands offer an accessible world of submerged boulders, cliffs and peaks while the outer islands boast remote reefs suitable for more advanced divers.
Set against the soothing blue of the Indian Ocean and with only granite boulders or the occasional cluster of palm trees breaking the long runs of powder-soft beaches, the islands of the Seychelles Archipelago are hard to beat as a beach holiday destination. And it’s not just the postcard-perfect beaches that sit among the world’s finest; with a scattering of award-winning resorts and super-stylish villas, a Seychelles holiday affords you the chance to live out your tropical island fantasy in pure, world-class luxury.
Imagine waking up in your magnificent suite and contemplating the day ahead: breakfast served on your private sundeck, a stroll along the beach, a massage at the spa, and then head off for some snorkelling or diving – the chances are you won’t even have to swim far as most of the islands are ringed by shallow reefs, so in a couple of fin flicks you’ll be surrounded by clouds of colourful fish and possibly a turtle or two. And to finish off the day, what better than sunset cocktails and dinner at the ocean’s edge.
Sound idyllic? It certainly is, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that the Seychelles is a top choice for a beach honeymoon or romantic break. Service is superb, logistics easy and with a wide range of small resorts and plenty of secluded coves on offer, it’s easy to find your own stretch of beach. And for true privacy and exclusivity, hop across to one of the Seychelles private islands such as luxurious Denis or Fregate Island where you’ll have the whole place virtually to yourselves.
Browse through our range of holiday itineraries or recommended accommodation – though with no fewer than 115 islands to choose from, you might struggle to pick just one when planning a holiday to the Seychelles. Chat instead to one of our Africa Safari Experts – they can put together an unforgettable Seychelles holiday itinerary by combining any number of islands, each with a unique feel and their own selection of beautiful beaches and accommodation, based on their personal travel experience.
Our top places to visit in the Seychelles:
- Mahe Island – everything under the sun
- Praslin Island – great beaches & cool forests
- La Digue Island – postcard-perfect beaches
- Seychelles Private Islands – the ultimate beach holiday
The Seychelles Archipelago is made up of 115 Islands, many of which are uninhabited. Most visitors stay on Mahé or Praslin but with so much to see we suggest a bit of island hopping: visit small-enough-to-cycle-around La Digue, treat yourself to a few indulgent days on the super-luxurious private islands, or fly to the remote Outer Islands, they are where to go in the Seychelles for the most exciting scuba diving.
Mahé Island: everything under the sun
Mahé is the largest of the Seychelles islands and has a scattering of sandy bays including the popular Baie Beau Vallon with its stretch-for-miles beach, good swimming, fantastic diving and snorkelling and plenty of restaurants to choose from.
There are many places of interest on Mahé so we’d recommend you hire a car, set out and explore! Take a leisurely drive past tea and vanilla plantations, up narrow roads that wind through forest-covered hills, and down into Victoria – one of the world’s smallest capital cities. You can easily spend a morning in Victoria strolling along the broad boulevards and visiting the local markets with their exotic fruits and spices – don’t forget to shop for pareos (sarongs) and handmade jewellery. Most of the hotels have entertainment in the evenings by local singers and bands and there are plenty of nightclubs in and around Victoria for those who want to dance the night away. Praslin: great beaches & cool forests
Although among the most visited of the Seychelles islands, Praslin is somewhat quieter than Mahé and its coastline of secluded coves makes it easy to find a crowd-free beach on which to put down your towel. And when you tire of the sand between your toes, visit the ancient forests at the Vallée de Mai – a World Heritage Site famed for its gigantic palm trees, rare black parrots, and the erotically-shaped Coco-de-Mer seeds (nicknamed the “love nut”) – It gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac, perhaps because of the singular shapes of the male stalk and the female fruit. Praslin is also home to three of the world’s rarest birds: the Seychelles bulbul, fruit pigeon and the black parrot.
La Digue: postcard-perfect beaches
An aura of charm and tranquillity surrounds La Digue. If you’ve ever wondered where those impossibly perfect pictures of the Seychelles were taken, chances are it was on the stunning island of La Digue. The traditional Seychellois way of life continues as it always has done on this laidback little island, and the best way to explore is to travel the way most locals do – by bicycle or by Ox cart. Cycle to palm-fringed beaches tucked between towering boulders, swim in clear warm water and soak up the sun on Anse Source d’Argent – one of the most beautiful beaches in the world perfect for long walks, safe swimming, snorkelling and fishing. On a walk through the woods of La Digue, be sure to spot the rare black paradise flycatcher.
Private Islands: the ultimate beach holiday
For those with the right budget, the private islands are where to go in the Seychelles for out-of-this-world luxury and total seclusion. Spacious villas open out onto pure white-sand beaches, private pools overlook the ocean and personal butlers provide impeccable service – candlelit dinner on your private deck or on the beach? It’s up to you!
Our top choices for a private island escape are Cousine Island or Denis Island but if you really want to feel like royalty then it has to be North Island – the honeymoon hideout for Prince William and Kate. Each island is reserved for the guests staying there so if you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to have your own tropical island, here’s your chance to find out.
Bird is a coral island best known for the one and a half million sooty terns which nest, breed and hatch their eggs from May to November. Apart from this spectacular colony of migrants, Bird Island has also a population of fairy and nody terns, cardinals, ground doves, mynahs, crested terns and plovers. The giant tortoise Esmeralda is also a resident of this island and is said to be about 150 years old. The island happens to be on the edge of the Seychelles Bank where the sea drops suddenly to over 1000 fathoms. It is therefore an ideal spot for those in search of big game fish. Bird Island is not only a paradise for the ornithologists, but is also a unique private island, completely surrounded by a sparkling white beach. The tranquillity of a spacious chalet with a terrace facing the sea and a delicious Creole cuisine served in a friendly atmosphere is the welcome extended to everybody on Bird Island.
Outer Private Islands: phenomenal diving & snorkelling
The outer archipelago of the Seychelles is made up of several groups of coral islands. Few of these far-flung islands are inhabited, some are not much bigger than a sand spit, and most are surrounded by the deep blue stain of pristine coral reefs. The diving here is simply phenomenal: there are columns and caves to explore and a staggering marine life – ranging from tiny reef fish to turtles, mantas and hammerhead sharks – to discover. And best of all, there’s virtually no one else around. The mushroom-shaped islands of honeycombed pinnacles of limestone are known locally as “champignons”.
Only a couple of the outer islands have accommodation – we’d recommend Desroches Island, lying about 230km from Mahé and a great option for a remote romantic break.
Scattered just below the equator, the islands of the Seychelles generally have warm, beach-perfect weather all year round. The hottest months are December to April and the wettest are January and February – although it generally rains in short tropical downpours after which the sun comes out again.
The question of when to go to the Seychelles often comes down to the seasonal trade winds that wash seaweed up onto some of the islands’ beaches. From May to October some beaches on the southern coasts of Mahé and Praslin Island are affected, and while a seaweed-free stretch of sand is never far away (and hotels will even drive you there in their complimentary shuttle), if you’re seeking those postcard-perfect views on your Seychelles holiday then we’d advise chatting to one of our Africa Safari Experts to find out where to go and which months to avoid.
Divingis excellent all year round but if you dream of crystal-clear conditions – and visibility up to a staggering 30 metres! – Then the best time to visit the Seychelles is in the months of April to May and October to November. Planning on combining a visit to the Seychelles with other African safari destinations? Read our advice on the:
- Best time to visit Uganda
- Best time to visit Kenya
- Best time to visit Tanzania
- Best time to visit Rwanda
- Best time to visit South Africa
For more information on when to go to the Seychelles, simply enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts.
There’s nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts – get Sun Africa Expeditions’ essential Seychelles travel advice before you go.
Money & Spending
The unit of currency in the Seychelles is the Rupee although Euros and US Dollars are widely used. Credit cards are generally accepted at hotels and resorts while prices for car hire, diving, park fees and any other extras are usually quoted in Euros (or less frequently in US Dollars). In fact the only time you’ll ever really need Seychelles Rupees is for purchases at local markets or restaurants.
Unlike the all-inclusive Mauritius resorts, many of the hotels in the Seychelles don’t include lunch or dinner in their daily rate. You may have the option of a full board supplement but be advised that food and drink prices are generally quite high so be prepared to splash out a bit to truly enjoy the delicious international and Creole cuisine on offer.
Tipping is not obligatory in the Seychelles; however, any extra change is greatly appreciated. Tipping at your hotel is entirely at your discretion. You can either tip individual staff members whose service you appreciate by leaving money in an envelope for them. Otherwise just leave a general tip at reception which will be shared equally among the staff.
For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts – they’d be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average year-round temperatures: 22°C to 30°C
Rainy season: October to February
Refer to “best time to visit the Seychelles” for advice on the best times of year for scuba diving.
What to Pack
When packing for your Seychelles holiday include plenty of light clothing for the country’s warm, tropical climate. As most of your days will be spent on the beach, you’re advised to pack hats, sunglasses and sunscreen, along with plenty of casual beach wear – swimming costumes, sandals, sarongs, shorts, t-shirts and summer dresses. And if you are planning on exploring some of the trails and walks available around the islands, include a comfortable pair of walking shoes in your suitcase.
Most Seychelles hotels will expect you to have smart-casual eveningwear for dinners along with appropriate footwear. It’s a beach holiday after all so you don’t need to be overly formal – long trousers for men and dresses for women are perfect.
If you are bringing a camera, stock up on film and battery supplies or extra chargers before you leave home as these are not readily available in the Seychelles.
Flights & Getting Around
Seychelles International Airport: served by several direct flights as well as from Johannesburg and Nairobi, the airport is located close to the capital city Victoria on Mahé Island.
It’s easy to hop between islands if you’re not staying on Mahé itself: Air Seychelles runs frequent flights to Praslin; fast catamarans and leisurely schooners travel between the islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue; and charter flights and helicopters whisk guests off to the more remote private islands.
Most of the Seychelles islands are relatively small and easy to explore on foot or by bike but if you’re staying on the larger Mahé or Praslin islands we’d suggest hiring a car. Roads are often narrow but in good condition, traffic is light and distances are short.
Passport & Visa Requirements
Irrespective of nationality, there are no visas required to enter the Seychelles. However, all visitors must be in possession of a passport valid for the entire duration of stay, a return or onward flight ticket and proof of accommodation. Upon presentation of these documents, you will be granted a Visitor’s Permit which is issued free of charge and is valid for three months from the date of issue.