Located off the African continent’s east coast in the Indian Ocean, Seychelles is the new destination hot spot for all types of vacations, ecotourism, culture adventures, water sports and just plain fun-in-the-sun. It is no wonder Prince William and his wife Kate decided to spend a 10-day honeymoon there. The paradise islands fit for royalty offer couples seclusion, romance and lots of dipping and diving.
The luscious terrain, beautiful beaches, and peaceful resorts scattered in different areas around the islands make Seychelles the perfect getaway vacation spot for everyone. Add delectable cuisine, upbeat entertainment and friendly people, and you get a sunshine Mecca to die for.
Families Are Attracted to Seychelles Ecotourism Adventures
Many people — young, middle-aged and even senior citizens — are heading to Seychelles. The turquoise waters in a place where the weather is almost always temperate attract vacationers from all over the world. Not only are the islands a romantic escape for couples, but a vacation there is fun for the whole family. A wealth of child-friendly adventures, from water activities to cycling and meeting giant tortoises, to just plain sunshine fun outdoors await you in Seychelles. The whole family can enjoy the swimming pools, tennis courts and dining facilities at one of the many resorts and hotels.
With almost 50% of its landmass set aside as national parks and reserves, there are many opportunities for the whole family to experience a full day of the great outdoors. Morne Seychellois National Park is where you will find the islands’ tallest mountain on Mahé Island, the main island where the international airport is located.
Another must-visit park is St. Anne’s National Park, a marine park where you can ride boats with glass bottoms. Over 1,000 varied species of fish can be observed at different marine parks around the islands. Living worlds of sea creatures lie just below the beautiful turquoise waters where you can also get in a little snorkeling.
Mahe Island, Seychelles Celebrates Creole Culture and Arts
Seychelles has been the buzz word in the tourism industry not only because of the visit by the royal couple but also because of their first multicultural carnival last spring. I attended the International Carnival of Seychelles in its capital city of Victoria on Mahé Island, the most populated island where most tourists go for activities and entertainment.
Of all the nice resorts here, I stayed at the Carana Hilltop, located right across from the seductive white sand beaches. Shaded by coconut palms and all kinds of fruit trees, with the stunning mountains and tropical forest as the backdrop, it was more like a home away from home, and the perfect base for me to go to the Carnival, explore the island and experience the Creole culture at my own pace.
The vibrant Creole culture is the result of the Seychellois people who are mainly blends of African, Asian and European ancestries. These ethnic groups came to the islands at different times throughout its history bringing with them their distinct traditions, customs and religions. All have contributed to the Seychellois way of life, giving the island a reputation of being a colorful melting pot of cultures. These multicultural influences can be observed throughout the domains of local art, cuisine, music, dance and architecture.
I indulged a little in the dance culture doing the moutya, a popular, erotic dance derived from the days of slavery that is still done today, especially during festive celebrations. The Creole music and dance have their roots in African, Malagasy and European cultures with rhythms traditionally accompanied by simple drums and string instruments.
The islands are also known for its delectable Creole cuisine that often features the subtleties of French cooking, the exoticism of Indian accents and the distinct flavors of the Orient. I got to sample signature island cuisine including grilled fish and seafood dishes with sauces of crushed chilies, ginger, garlic and coconut milk, along with locally grown fruit like sweet fried bananas.
International Carnival of Seychelles in Victoria
I had the time of my life at the 2011 Seychelles Carnival International de Victoria which was a cultural extravaganza of parades, floats, receptions, gala dinners and all types of entertainment. Over 60 different nations were invited to take part in this monumental, multicultural event. People from different countries around the world came to experience what the Carnival and the Seychelles islands had to offer.
Like other carnival-goers, I attended musical concerts in the evening and experienced the fun-in-the sun during the day. After Carnival fun, some of us ventured inland to do the jungle trails, some went kayaking, while others just relaxed and enjoyed the peacefulness of this utopian island.
Seychelles Marine Adventures and the Aldabra Atoll
The Republic of Seychelles consists of 115 islands. In addition to Mahé, there are Praslin and La Digue. Together, these Inner Islands form the cultural and economic hub of the nation and contain the majority of Seychelles’ tourism facilities as well as its most stunning beaches.
With a backdrop of lush towering hills, big glacis boulders and splendid natural beauty, the islands are a sanctuary for some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on earth. A one of-a-kind ecotourism vacation, it is a top spot to watch birds and see giant tortoises in their natural habitat.
The turtles can be found in the Aldabra Atoll, the world’s second largest coral atoll that is an uninhabited and extremely isolated part of the Seychelles islands. You’ll be amazed at the Aldabra giant tortoise, one of the largest tortoises in the world. Children have been spotted riding these turtles for amusement.
The Aldabra Atoll, about 700 miles from the main island of Mahé, is one of Seychelles two UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of its distinctive flora and fauna including the giant turtles.
The other heritage site is Vallée de Mai on Praslin, where you will find the rare birds including the bulbul, fruit pigeon and the black parrot. Valle de Mai is also home to the rare coco de mer palm tree that produces the unique double coconut. The second-largest island of Seychelles, about 5000 people live on Praslin in small villages scattered all over the island which is about 7½-miles long by 3-miles wide.
Trip Planning Details and Quick Facts about Seychelles
So it is high time to take a different type of African vacation. You don’t have to wait until the next Carnival to go, even though this would be an ideal time to experience all that Seychelles has to offer. And you don’t have to be royalty to visit, even though you may feel like you are once you get there. The paradise islands offer vacation experiences of a lifetime.
The approximate flight time from New York to the capital city of Victoria, located on Mahe, is 17½ hours. You can do two-country flights to break this time up. There is a packaged deal offered by Emirates where you can spend time in Dubai or in another African country before going on to Seychelles
Seychelles is a for the most part a safe country. Even though petty crime is sometimes a problem, violent crimes against tourists are rare. To reduce the risk of theft, tourists should keep their eye on valuables and put them in hotel safes. Use precaution and lock hotel windows at night, even when someone is in the room. Also note it is not advised to swim alone at isolated beaches, especially at night, due to strong currents. Exercise caution surrounding the waters near the southern islands near the east coast of Africa as pirate activities have been reported, including the seizure of a private yacht.
Currency in Seychelles is the rupee (or roupi). It is subdivided into 100 cents. As a tourist you’ll be obligated to pay in a major currency like euros, dollars or pounds on most occasions because of a new law passed in 2008. So don’t exchange too much money for rupees. Also you may not to spend them all and exchanging back from rupee to a foreign currency is extremely difficult and limited.
Public transportation by bus is good but usually requires several transfers to reach a destination. Taxis are also available and readily accessible. Driving is on the left side of the road. Roads are rather narrow and winding, so drivers should exercise caution on the roads that most of the time have no shoulders and inadequate lighting.
The three official Seychelles languages adopted by the government are Creole -the first language, English – the second language and French – the third language. Many islanders speak all three.
Seychelles Tourism Board CEO Alain St. Ange once said that he was sure that journalists would become ambassadors for the islands after a visit. And you know what, he was right. I am now a self-proclaimed ambassador for Seychelles. After one visit, I know that you will become an ambassador also. For more information and hotel suggestions, visit the Seychelles Tourism Board site.
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