The Seychelles have the most beautiful beaches in the world. According to experts and many travellers. Once this region was the domain of ruthless pirates. Even now, there are countless tales of hidden treasures.

Year in, year out, the beaches of the Seychelles are proclaimed as the most beautiful in the world. The tropical location, the palm trees, the white sand, and the enormous granite rocks along the beach that give it an unnatural atmosphere. But there’s more. Under water, there is ample opportunity for snorkelling and diving, while on shore you may also encounter exceptional animals. The islands consider the preservation of nature as a survival strategy.

Sunset on the Seychelles
Sunset on the Seychelles. Corno van den Berg

The Pirates
The islands of the Seychelles have long been the domain of pirates, they were even considered to be the first inhabitants. There are many stories about them, some sound as if they came straight from an old adventure book for boys. In 1947, the former British officer Reginald Cruise-Wilkins got his hands on a document of the notorious pirate Olivier Levasseur.

Its cryptic message supposedly referred to an alleged treasure on Mahé, the largest island. The treasure map implied something to do with the mythological character Hercules. It is unclear what the contents of the treasure are, because Wilkins looks for it all his remaining life and found nothing. At the start of the 21st century American Robert Graf gives it another try. He searches for ten years, but also remained empty-handed.

Silhouette Island has a similar story. The island used to be home to the illustrious pirate Jean François Hodoul, who arrived here in 1790 and managed to capture no less than seven English ships in 1797. The cargo was worth 1,5 million euro at that time. However, this ‘treasure’ was never found. The local population always speculates about what may be hidden under the white sand.

Not the pirates, but the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first one to see the islands. The year was 1501. The Portuguese were not keen on starting a colony here however, as agriculture was far from easy and the islands do not produce anything significant. It’s unknown how many of the 155 islands Da Gama has seen. The number of 155 is official, but many people stick to only 115. The total surface of land is about 450 km2. Less than one-third of the islands are inhabited. The island nation is located north of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, approximately 1,600 kilometers east of the African continent.

Renting a bike on the Seychelles
Renting a bike on the Seychelles. Corno van den Berg

The islands once were part of the African mainland, just like India and Madagascar were. Scientists believe this to have been over one hundred million years ago. According to the theory of plate tectonics, the earth consists of various plates, moving relative next to each other. Madagascar broke loose about 90 million years ago, followed by the Seychelles some 25 million years later and India another 10 million years after that. The land slowly drifts north, where India bumps into Asia, causing the Himalayas to form…

The composition of the islands is exceptional. The 73 islands on the outer ring consist of coral, rising barely three meters above sea level. Some of them have coconut trees growing on them. Contrary to many volcanic islands, like Hawaii, the 42 Seychelles islands on the inside of the archipelago consist of granite. They are mountainous and have real rainforests and hills. The peak Morne Seychellois is 905 meters high and lies on Mahé.

It wasn’t until around 1756 that the Seychelles were inhabited. The French tried to set up plantations for vanilla and cinnamon there, among other things. Their workers were African slaves. In 1794, following a short battle, the island group fell into the hands of the British. The following decade the two countries would fight each other another seven times over the islands. In 1814 it receives the official status of British colony. When slavery was abolished in 1835, many liberated slaves remain living on the Seychelles. On 29 June 1976, the Seychelles gained independence.

A tortoise on the beach of Curieuse Island
A tortoise on the beach of Curieuse Island. Corno van den Berg

That the islands can stir up big surprises becomes apparent in the years 1995 and 1997. First a giant tortoise, which was considered extinct, suddenly appeared and then a large research project revealed yet another ‘extinct’ species. This placed the Seychelles firmly on the map of nature lovers and environmentalists.

These days, the Seychelles attract two types of tourists, roughly speaking. Of course you can find many beach buffs here. They come to enjoy the sun, the beach, the climate and each other’s company. This is a popular destination for weddings. However, nature lovers are booking trips to the island group at an increasing rate as well. A tour of the country is gaining in popularity now, where groups of people will visit several islands. It’s an ideal way to see the diversity of the archipelago.

Must-do! tips:

Rent a private island

It’s the dream of many travellers: your very own island with no other people… It can come true at the Seychelles. Many of the islands of the Seychelles are uninhabited, while some of them are entirely made up of exclusive resorts. Many of the Seychelles islands are uninhabited.

However, some of these do have accommodation available. You can rent them for a day, or a week. You will only be disturbed by the boat with supplies for food and such. However, this dream will cost you quite a lot…

More information: www.privateislandsonline.com

Count whale sharks with scientists

Every year, the whale sharks in the waters around the Seychelles are registered. Enthusiasts, as well as tourists, are most welcome to help out. It is a unique way to enjoy these friendly animals and to listen to scientists telling about their migratory behaviour, their diet, etc. Your money will help to look after this giant species.

More information: www.mcss.sc

Go island-hopping the Seychelles way

Bird Island on the Seychelles.
Bird Island on the Seychelles. Corno van den Berg

Many tourists just visit one island. However, it’s fairly easy to visit several. You can travel by small aircraft, and also by boat. Traveling by boat is much cheaper and you will have the chance to encounter a lot of marine life from around the islands. On the other hand, getting about by aircraft will give you unparalleled panoramic views of the islands. The choice is yours.

Get married on the beach

The Seychelles are a popular place to get married. The beach, the palm trees, the rocks, the intense blue waters and tranquillity combines this to the ideal spot for a wedding ceremony. There are many different locations to choose from, but most favourite still is the beach. Obviously, if you get married at home, it’s also the most perfect honeymoon spot ever.

Encounter a giant tortoise

These are majestic creatures who swim around peacefully looking for food. You will see the famous giant tortoises on several islands of the Seychelles. If you really want to learn more about their history, visit the Seychelles Giant Tortoise Conservation Project on Silhouette Island.

You will learn that at one point in time there were six different species, then by 1995 only one species was left. Fortunately now there are three again. In several locations you can also feed them, you can give them watermelon for example.

Walk through the Vallee de Mai

Vallee de Mai, Praslin, Seychelles Jonny Platt

The Vallee de Mai is a mysterious valley full of palm trees, on the island of Praslin. In some places it is almost dark, because the sunlight never reaches the ground. It is blocked by the enormous leaves of the coco de mer palm tree. This is a species you only find in the Seychelles. The forest is inhabited by many animals, such as birds, crabs and frogs. Most of these are endemic to this island group. The best time to explore this area is in the early morning, when the forest awakens.

Enjoy nature and wildlife on Aldabra

According to many, this is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The natural splendour is incredibly, but Aldabra is not easy to get to. Recently, an airport was built on the adjacent island of Assumption. From there you can take a boat to Aldabra. You can go snorkelling or dive among the sea turtles and the many sharks. Or you can go hiking and see the many land-dwelling tortoises, and try to spot bird species that are only found here. Hire a local guide on the spot who can share their knowledge.

More information: www.seychelles-s.info/seychelles-aldabra-islands.php

See hawksbill and green sea turtles lay eggs

Both the hawksbill sea turtle and the green sea turtle lay their eggs on the beaches of the Seychelles. To witness this is a remarkable experience. The hawksbill sea turtle will lay the eggs during the day, from mid October to mid January.

A famous place for this is Bird Island. The green sea turtle lays its eggs at night from January to the end of June. The animals will dig a hole, lay the eggs in it and cover the hole with sand. Once this is done, they crawl back to the water in a state of exhaustion.

Go diving

The blue water is not only extremely clear, it’s also home to scores of exceptional animals. Including sharks and stingrays amongst them. Also, the whale shark. With diving gear, you can go and explore the waters.

There are many trips on offer, varying from an hour to multiple days. Make sure you’re well-informed about the animals you may encounter, and beware of the current once you’re in the water as it can be dangerous in some places.

More information: www.diveseychelles.com.sc

Meet the ‘killer tree’ with sticky seeds

The Seychelles is home to a peculiar species of tree, the pisonia grandis. It is one of the strangest trees in the world. It has sticky fruit that kills hundreds of birds every year. The fruit gets stuck between their wings and will eventually take away their ability to fly.

The sea birds carry the seeds to other islands. When the animal dies, the tree will start to grow. It’s a bizarre struggle for survival. You can see the tree on several locations here, ask someone to point one out to you.

Go snorkelling with turtles in clear water

The waters of the Seychelles are extremely clear and contain many tropical fish, but also several species of sea turtles. The Hawksbill sea turtles regularly makes an appearance. You can see perfectly intact coral reefs straight off the beaches all the islands. But do make sure to ask if it’s safe because the current can be treacherous.

There are many excursions as well. If you prefer to keep it dry you take a glass-bottom boat, which will enable you to see the animal world below you.

Market in Victoria
A market in Victoria. Corno van den Berg

Best time:
These tropical islands can be visited throughout the year. The best time then depends on what you want to do.

  • Diving and snorkelling: This can be done all year, but two periods are best: March, April and May, when the waters are extra clear and there is little wind. September, October and November to see whale sharks.
  • See turtles lay their eggs: The hawksbill turtle will lay its eggs during the day between mid-October and mid-January. The green sea turtle lays its eggs at night from January to the end of June.
  • Hiking: This can be done all year, but the best time for this is from May until September when you will encounter many animals during your walks.
  • Birdwatching: The brooding season starts in April. Millions of sooty terns will brood between May and September. The birds migrate in October and things will quiet down a little.
  • Surfing and windsurfing: From May until September, conditions on the water are ideal for these water sports.

Be aware!
The sun burns relentlessly here, even if the sea may cool you off a bit. Prepare yourself properly with sunscreen.

The Seychelles have a reputation of being extremely expensive, which is not completely beside the truth. However, the islands do have budget accommodation, which are not expensive and often provide great views or a beach at your doorstep too. Be sure to look into this, you won’t be disappointed.

Islands