One hundred fifteen coral and granite islands rising from the Indian Ocean make up the Seychelles, a pristine hideaway of white-sand beaches, majestic granite cliffs, palm-fringed jungles, and astonishing azure waters. Trading in exclusivity, luxury, and undeveloped natural environments, the Seychelles is an ideal beach escape for those who can afford all that gorgeous privacy.
With its countless perfect beaches and secluded coves fringed by sea-sculpted granite boulders, the Seychelles is a favored backdrop for fashion shoots and once-in-a-lifetime dream vacations. It has earned its reputation as an exclusive and costly destination, but in recent years, numerous self-catering options, locally owned guesthouses and two- and three-star hotels have opened their doors, making these islands more accessible. However, if ultraluxurious pampering, breathtaking style, and total privacy on some of the world's most stunning beaches are what you seek, Seychelles has them in spades, but not on a budget.
Beyond the luxury resorts—and really the basis for their existence—the Seychelles claim some of the world's best-preserved tropical habitats. Originally a huge granite shard attached to India's west coast, some event—probably a volcanic eruption or meteor impact—caused what would become the Seychelles to break free and begin its northward drift. Over time, that single mass became a shimmering line of islands, transformed by their isolation, 1,600 km (994 miles) from mainland Africa in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Known as the Galápagos of the Indian Ocean, most of the islands were never settled by people (though many served as notorious pirate hideouts), and thus still harbor important populations of rare plants, birds, and animals, including the heartbreakingly beautiful ferry tern, the gentle giant tortoise, and the Coco de Mer—once thought to be the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. On the islands where human-introduced predators like cats and rats have been removed, astonishing populations of seabirds thrive, allowing visitors a glimpse of what the first explorers might have seen.
Those first explorers were probably seafarers hailing from Austronesia, followed in turn by Arab traders. The first European to pass through was Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama in 1502, followed by the English in 1609. A transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, the islands were used by pirates until 1756, when the French took control, laying down their "Stone of Possession" (visible today at the museum in Mahé) and naming the islands after Jean Moreau de Séchelles. Britain and France fought over the islands from the late 18th to early 19th century, with Britain finally gaining control in 1814. Achieving independence from Britain in 1976, the Seychelles today is a true success story of people who claim origins from all over the world and live together with an unusual and inspiring degree of harmony in diversity.
SPLASHING IN SOLITUDE
Home to the world's most beautiful (and empty) beaches, Seychelles' tropical waters are one big playground for snorkeling, diving, fishing, and kayaking.
Jungle-clad granite islands, where you can look a giant tortoise in the eye, have also become seabird sanctuaries, where the abundance of winged creatures will blow your mind.
From "busy" Mahé to the empty beaches of coralline Denis to the überluxury of private-island resorts to the entirely undeveloped nature sanctuary of Aldabra—every island offers something different and unforgettable.
Old French Victorian mansions, colorful gardens, a cuisine that blends Indian, French, and Southeast Asian influences—the friendly Seychellois culture is a lovely and unique melting pot.
WHEN TO GO
The Seychelles has two seasons: the cool southeast monsoon (May–September), and the hot northwest monsoon (October–April). During the cool season, breezes prevail, skies can be partly cloudy, temperatures are lower, and the sea less than perfect for diving and snorkeling. The hot northwest monsoon brings crystalline waters, incredible heat, and occasional but serious rainstorms, interspersed with perfect blue skies. The cusp months of November and April are optimal, with the best of both on offer. The super busy (and far more expensive) high seasons fall in August, and Christmas to New Year's.
Accommodation – On the main islands, you can find hotels on the low end between 725-1,255 SCR per night. There are many high-end places, with rooms starting at 2,300 SCR a night. Most people come here as part of a package so accommodation tends to be included in the package you go. It’s rare that you would book accommodation separately.
Food – You can eat relatively cheaply here if you steer away from hotel restaurants. Price range will be anywhere from 315-1,650 SCR.
Transportation – Bikes, the best way to get around the islands, cost between 135-420 SCR for a day rental. A car is 925 SCR per day and is only available on the main islands of Mahé and Praslin. High-speed catamaran rides between Mahé and Praslin run around 925 SCR per person. A ferry schooner between Mahé and Praslin or La Digue will be about 265 SCR (but it takes 3x as long). Between Praslin and La Digue, a ferry schooner runs around 370 SCR. There are also small boat rides from Mahé to La Digue available.
Activities – Activities tend to cost about 660 SCR or more depending on what you want to do. Expect to pay top dollar for most things here.
MONEY SAVING TIPS
There isn’t really any great way to save money here. If you have come here as a package, everything will be included and that will be the best way to reduce costs – get something all-inclusive. Other than that, look for a special offer. Sadly, destinations like this aren’t really meant for budget travelers.
TOP THINGS TO DO AND SEE
Get sporty – There is plenty to do in terms of recreational activities. Golf, squash, badminton, tennis, biking, and hiking are all great ways to spend the day if you are tired of the beach. It is pretty cheap to rent a bike for a day and ride around the islands. There are also plenty of centers where you can rent sports equipment as well.
Nature Seychelles – Just over a mile southwest of Praslin, on Cousin Island, lies this great little reserve. There is a bird population here that exceeds 300,000 on an island that is less than a mile in diameter. It’s awesome to walk through the thick forest here and check out all the different species.
Do nothing on the beach – The beaches here are uncrowded, untouched, and void of any structures. They are beach heaven. The water is clear and bathtub-warm, so it’s always a great place to go swimming or snorkeling. The hike from Beau Vallon, along the coastline to Anse Major is awesome – it only takes about two hours and the beach at the end is magnificent and deserted.
Visit Aldabra Atoll – Stretching at over 20 miles in length, this is one of the largest raised coral atolls in the world. At the western end, there is a massive tidal lagoon, which is home to manta rays, tiger sharks, and thousands of sea birds. Aldabra is also considered the original habitat of the giant land tortoise.
Explore Vallee de Mai – This is a national park and world heritage site. It is home to a stunning array of flora and fauna, as well as the world’s largest seed—the Coco de Mer. This is one of two places in the world where the seed can be found. You can also see several varieties of latanier palms and screw pine.
Hike Nid d’ Aiglo – The highest point on La Digue, this hike is a great way to spend a day. The views of La Digue and of the neighboring islands are so magnificent, it is almost surreal. Remember to pack plenty of snacks and water.
Do some watersports – The Indian Ocean is known for warm water, and it is popular among watersports enthusiasts. Try anything from windsurfing and fishing to snorkeling or SCUBA diving. There are even glass-bottom boat tours available.
Dine – The food in Seychelles is delicious, and you will find an abundance of food here. Seafood, coconut, and curry are among some of the main ingredients on which you will feast. Coco Rogue is considered a ‘secret spot’ by locals and offers some of the best food around. Bonbon Plume, Tante Mimi, and Café Ognibar are also popular places to go.
Visit L’Union Estate – Back when coconut farming was the main industry on La Digue, this was the center of production. Just south of La Passe, this estate is now run as a sort of informal ‘theme park’. There are some interesting demonstrations to see and you can explore the Old Plantation House, the colonial-era graveyard, and the boatyard. There is even a pen housing giant tortoises.
Search for the Veuve Bird – La Digue is home to a wildlife reserve which was set up to protect the Veuve, AKA the black paradise flycatcher. There are under 20 pairs of birds in the reserve, but you can arrange guided tours which are supposed to guarantee a bird sighting.
Check out the Natural History Museum – If the weather is less than perfect (unlikely), you may want to get a break from the beaches and do something more educational. The Natural History Museum in Victoria is very small, but worth a stop if you’d like to learn a thing or to about the island wildlife. Entry is 15 SCR.
Wander the Botanical Gardens – Also in Victoria, the Botanical Gardens give you a deeper look at local flora and fauna, with the infamous coco de mer palms as one of the highlights. You may also see some animals, such as fruit bats or giant tortoises.