If asked to imagine the perfect tropical hideaway where crystal clear water laps against pristine white sandy beaches, then the Seychelles must surely spring to mind.
Although only a handful of the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles are open to tourism, together they give the Seychelles its most famous attraction: impossibly beautiful secluded beaches, several of which are always featured in the annual compilations of 'the world's top ten beaches'. And with an average year-round temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, there is no 'wrong' time of year to visit.
The numerous small coves, formed by huge granite boulders, mean that honeymooners can seek out their own 'private' beach, especially on the smaller islands, and have made this destination one of the most popular romantic getaways for the past two decades.
However there is more to ogle than each other: many of the islands and the waters around them are designated nature reserves and are home to awesome numbers of birds, rare giant tortoises and other tropical flora and fauna. Island hopping is the key to a diverse and rewarding holiday in the Seychelles.
Demographics and Stats
The 80,000 Seychellois have African, Chinese, Indian and European roots and unlike other islands of the Indian Ocean they have elevated their native spoken tongue 'Creole' to the status of official language. English is their second language and most are also fluent in French. The vast majority of the population are Roman Catholic and reside on Mahé Island, although there are a small percentage who belong to the Anglican church.
Markets and stalls are the norm here; don't expect to find large shopping malls! Local music CDs and tapes offer the distinctive Creole sega sound and creative handicrafts (made using raffia and palm leaves, or from coconuts) will serve as a reminder of the lush tropical vegetation. The thriving local community of artists capture the magnificent beaches and sunsets you will experience while there, along with some of the more quirky elements of Creole life.
If you are hoping to buy a one-off craft or souvenir to remind you of your stay in the Seychelles, then it's possible to pick up a bargain in one of the craft markets on Mahé Island. For a real shopping experience, Seychelles-style, check out the Sir Selwyn Clarke Market in Victoria on a Saturday morning to ramble among the fish stalls loaded with the catch of the day and the mounds of seasonal fruits and vegetables. A souvenir or two can be gleaned from the spice trays and more orthodox purchases from the craft shops upstairs. You may be tempted to go for the shark's teeth and shells, which some stallholders offer, but the politically correct should shun such eco-unfriendly offerings.
Shops are generally open between 09h00 - 16h00 Mon-Fri and from 08h00 - 12h00 on Saturdays. Only the smaller shops stay open Saturday afternoons and Sundays. There is no tax refund system in place in the Seychelles, but there are duty free shops where you can purchase items at discounted rates on presentation of passport and ticket.
Currency: Seychelles Rupees (SCR) SCR= 100 cents
Notes: 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500.
Coins: 5,10, 25, 1 and 5.
Credit cards: Visa/Mastercard/Access are all widely accepted. Shops display signs on the door if they accept them.
Being an island nation few people tour the Seychelles like they would in other countries. Most people remain in a single resort for the duration of their stay. If staying on Mahé or one of the larger islands it's possible to explore via public transport or hire car, or pre-booked excursions. Before you plan your visit, it's worth bearing in mind public holidays which may affect timetables.
On Mahé there is a regular bus service from the capital to outlying areas. Most bus routes operate every 30 minutes from 05h30-19h30. On the larger islands notably Mahé and Praslin a taxi service and several car hire firms operate. International flights land at Mahé and from here Air Seychelles operates an inter-island service in a variety of small planes to Praslin and the larger islands in the group. Motorboats (schooner or catamaran) offer regular services between Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
No vaccinations are needed as a legal requirement for entry into the Seychelles with the exception of yellow fever. If you have travelled from an infected area and are over the age of 1, then you will be required to produce a yellow fever certificate.
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The Seychelles enjoy a warm tropical climate and year-round average temperatures of 30°C. Consequently any time of year is perfect for visiting. October to March are generally the wetter months, but showers are normally short, followed by warm sunshine, which also helps to keep the island green and lush.
The islands are affected by the south-east trade winds from May to September which bring windier weather and stronger currents.
From October to April when the north-west trade winds arrive, the weather becomes a lot calmer, creating perfect conditions for snorkelling and diving, as visibility is at its best.