- The totally tropical taste
- Seychelles, Seychelles on the sea floor
An archipelago of 155 islands that lie scattered like birdseed to the east of Africa, the Seychelles are known throughout the world for their idyllic tropical climate and desert-island beauty.
First discovered by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in the early 16th century, this smattering of granite and coral lumps has been, in its time, home to everyone from Arab traders taking a breather on the spice route to pirates using the islands as a base for their raids. Nowadays, the indigenous population is swelled by wealthy long-haul travellers, looking for – and finding – a version of paradise that verges on caricature. Beaches of soft, white sand peter out into turquoise waters, where the sort of brightly coloured fish you would usually only see on The Blue Planet weave their way between strands of luminescent coral. Behind the sand lie forests of dense tropical foliage – in which you will see more greens than at a Friends of the Earth demonstration – where a wide variety of fauna, much of it unique to the region, makes its home.
When early sailors – who, admittedly, also used to confuse dugong with mermaids – saw coco de mer seeds floating in the sea, they thought they were a woman’s disembodied buttocks. Take into account all the homemade rum they would have been drinking, and you can see why they might have come to this conclusion. These enormous nuts, which traditionally only grew on two islands in the Seychelles, are an example of island giganticism – the same phenomenon that explains giant tortoises and Komodo dragons. See them growing in the wild in Praslin’s Vallee de Mai.
- Taxis are fairly plentiful on Mahé, especially in Victoria, where there are several ranks (taxis are unlikely to stop for you if you attempt to hail them on the street). If the taxi has no meter, make sure you agree a fee in advance, otherwise this could lead to problems at the end of the journey. Drivers will usually give you their mobile number, and pick you up when you’re ready. There are a few taxis on Praslin and La Digue, but such a service is non-existent on the other islands.
- Tipping culture
- A five to ten per cent service charge is usually added to bills in the Seychelles, so tipping is not seen to be obligatory.
- Packing tips
- As the equatorial sun sets at about 6pm each day, make sure you bring a good book – your Seychelles holiday could be the ideal opportunity to finally tackle The Mill on the Floss. Alternatively, bring a giant lettuce leaf with which to tempt the giant tortoises.
- Recommended reads
- For an excellent overview of the islands’ history, try Rivals in Eden and Hard Times in Paradise, both by William McAteer. Joseph Beuys: Diary of Seychelles is a fascinating account, through photographs, artwork and documents, of the time the German artist spent planting trees on the islands.
- Seychellois cuisine is predominantly Creole, though many of the top hotels and resorts have French- and Asian-inspired menus. Creole food uses a lot of fish – so expect to see red snapper, tuna, shark, job fish and lots of other varieties cooked up with spices and coconut milk, and served with rice. If you’re feeling particularly brave, then why not tuck into a delicious bat? Islanders love them roasted, curried or stewed with vegetables.
- Seychelles rupee. £1 is approximately SCR16.
- Time zone
- GMT + 4 hours
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Seychelles: 248
- Do go/don't go
- Because of its position just below the equator, the Seychelles is an ideal place to visit at any time of the year. The islands are at their driest between May and October, their wettest between December and February, and their most humid between October and April.