10 Must Visit Spots in the Seychelles Islands

The Seychelles islands form an archipelago off the southeastern coast of the African continent. The islands are home to some of the world’s most pristine environments and unique species; they are also home to white sand beaches, tropical rainforests and mountains. With so much natural beauty to recommend them, the Seychelles truly are a tropical paradise. And since there are more than 100 individual islands to explore and discover, it can be difficult to pick just one Seychellois destination. We’ve selected 10 of the best to help you narrow down your choices.

10. La Digue

La Digue is one of the larger islands in the Seychelles archipelago, belonging to the Granitic Island group. La Digue is very popular with tourists and is one of the islands that has a cap on the number of tourists who visit each year. The island itself is only 10 square kilometers and biking is the primary mode of transportation on the island. It is famed for its white sand beach, Anse Source dArgent, where ominous granite formations loom behind swimmers and sun-bathers. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of the rare paradise flycatcher, an endangered bird that inhabits only a few islands in the Seychelles; it is most commonly spotted on La Digue. While you’re visiting this island paradise, don’t forget to sample the local cuisine: fried octopuses, lobsters with garlic and La Digue’s most intriguing indigenous dish, bat curry.

La Digue

9. Mahé Island

Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles, and home to the country’s capital city, Victoria. Part of the Granitic Islands, a group of 45 islands made up of some of the world’s oldest granite rock, Mahé is renowned for its dense tropical forests, its white sand beaches and its mountain peaks. The tallest mountain in the Seychelles archipelago, Morne Seychellois, is located on this island. Hiking through some of the island’s national parks is a must. Climbing to the summit of Morne Blanc takes about 45 minutes and offers some of the best views of the Indian Ocean. Also popular is a visit to Sainte Anne Marine National Park, the largest marine park in the Seychelles. If you visit Mahé, be sure to visit the capital city to get a taste of Seychellois cultureincluding its unique blend of cuisine.

Mahe

8. Silhouette Island

Silhouette Island is renowned for a couple of reasons. The first is its magnificent coral reefs, which offer excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving. More than 1,000 species of fish inhabit the clear, warm waters surrounding many of the Seychelles islands, which makes these coral reefs rife for exploration. On the terrestial side of things, Silhouette Island is one of the most mountainous in the archipelago, with 5 peaks soaring over 1,600 feet above sea level: Mont Dauban (2,464 ft), Mont-Pot-a-Eau (2,037 ft), Gratte Fesse (1,690 ft), Mont Corgat (1,647 ft) and Mont Cocos Marrons (1,600 ft). With all those peaks, you can imagine that Silhouette Island offers up some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Seychelles; be sure to bring a camera if you plan to visit.

Silhouette island

7. Bird Island

At first glance, Bird Island may not seem to have much to recommend it. It is the northernmost island in the Seychelles archipelago, approximately 60 miles from Mahé. The island itself is less than 1 square kilometer and is made up of coral, unlike the 45 Granitic islands to the south. Bird Island is also a private island resort, with just 26 bungalows renting to curious visitors. Nonetheless, Bird Island is renowned for its avian populationhence the name. Sooty terns, fairy terns and common noddies all inhabit the island, which provides an important breeding ground for them. Two species of turtles, the Hawksbill and the Green, are also common on Bird Island. If you want to do some bird-watching, Bird Island is your stop; don’t forget your binoculars and your camera.

bird island

6. Praslin

Praslin is one of the bigger islands of the Granitic group and, as such, is one of the more popular tourist destinations. Along with Mahé and La Digue, it is one of the islands that has the number of visitors capped. It is also one of only 2 islands in the world where the famed Coco de Mer palm tree grows. Praslin is also home to a market where you can buy the fruit of the palm, which is a national symbol of Seychelles. The island is also one of the best places to see and watch birds, functioning somewhat like a bird sanctuary for many of the Seychelles’ threatened and endangered avians. The Vallee de Mai is one of most famed parks in the country, and is home to many indigenous plants, such as the vanilla orchid.

Vallee de Mai

5. Frégate Island

Frégate Island was named for the frigate birds that once flocked to its shores. These days, you’re more likely to find tourists than the namesake avian (although the island is still an important nesting site for them). But Frégate Island hasn’t had to have numbers of tourists legislated like some of the other islands in the Seychelles. That’s because the island is privately owned and operated as a luxury resort. Only 20 residences are available at a time, which means you’ll have to book early and be prepared to pay if you want to make this island your Seychelles destination. Many people are ready and willingperhaps because the island boasts what the Times calls the world’s best beach, the Anse Victorin. Aside from lounging on the beach, snorkeling is a popular activity for those who make a stop on Frégate Island.

frigate bird

4. Moyenne Island

This tiny island was once uninhabited, until it was purchased by a former newspaper editor, Brendon Grimshaw. Grimshaw, who died in 2012, dreamed of making the island a national park in its own right and planted some 16,000 trees. Visitors could come ashore for 12 euros, tour about and eat at the Jolly Roger restaurant, which Grimshaw ran. The island is rumored to be host to hordes of pirate gold, but, despite evidence of human activity, none has ever been found. With Grimshaw’s death, the island returned to being uninhabited, although the government has now turned the 34-million-dollar island into Moyenne National Park, realizing Grimshaw’s lifelong dream. Come ashore and see birds, plants and even some Seychelles giant tortoises, once endangered, but now making a comeback throughout the islands.

 Photo By Camera Eye from UAE (A side of Moyenne Island) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo By Camera Eye, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Shark Bank

One remarkable feature of the Seychelles archipelago is the clear and warm waters of the Indian Ocean that surround most of the islands. This, coupled with the coral reefs and abundant marine life, make the Seychelles an ideal destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. Among the popular locations for getting under the sea is Shark Bank, a granite plateau that shelters an amazing array of fish and other aquatic life. Here you can encounter shoals of brightly colored tropical fish swimming alongside enormous stingrays and Napoleon fish. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon the odd whale shark, the biggest fish in the sea. And, despite the name, you needn’t worry about shark attacks out here; although some shark species do swim in these waters, attacks are relatively rare events.

reef

2. Aldabra Atoll

The Aldabra Atoll is the second-largest coral atoll, a ring-shaped reef that encircles a lagoon. It is located in the Aldabra group of islands, south of the Granitics. Relatively undisturbed by human activity, the coral atoll has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site on account of its biodiversity and pristine ecosystemswhich says something in a country renowned for its attention to environmental concerns. The Aldabra Atoll is home to innumerable bird species, as well as endemic plants and lizards. Perhaps the most famous residents of the atoll are the Aldabra giant tortoises. Once thought to be almost extinct, these tortoises are now found on islands throughout the Aldabra area and most other islands of the Seychelles, although Aldabra remains far and away the best place to see them in their natural habitat.

Aldabra Atoll

1. Victoria

Victoria is the capital city of the Seychelles, located on the Granitic island of Mahé. While it might seem strange not to simply lump it in with the island, Victoria has enough charm to demand its own entry on a list of must-visit spots. The city, which has a population of less than 30,000, is the center of Seychellois culture. As such, it is home to landmarks like the 3-winged bicentennial tower, constructed to mark the 200th anniversary of the city’s founding. Victoria is also the de facto shopping capital of the country. While perhaps not as cosmopolitan as other capital cities, Victoria’s markets feature local handicrafts and represent the island-nation’s blended heritage. One of the most popular items to purchase at the market is a sarong; picking one up is almost a rite of passage for those who visit the Seychelles.

view from victoria

8 Places to Visit in the Seychelles Islands

There are few more beautifully exotic destinations on the globe than Seychelles Islands. This archipelago is made up of 115 coral and granite islands and sits between 480km and 1600km off of the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. First settled by the French in the 1700s, it was later claimed by the British. During the 1800s the Seychelles set up a vibrant trade settlement, with the establishment of numerous different plantations, which contributed largely to its population growth over the following century. The Seychelles were granted independence in 1976 and remain a member of the British Commonwealth. Today, it is a major draw for tourists. It is lush, tranquil and opulently beautiful, with pristine white sand beaches, unique topography set against lush tropical rainforests, and miles of turquoise waters winding through this island chain. It’s also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

1. Seychelles 101

This diverse group of islands fall into two categories:  the inner islands are tall and mostly made from granite. The outer islands lie more flat, and consist of cays, reefs and atolls (an atoll is a ring or horseshoe shaped coral reef, usually with a lagoon in the center. They usually sit atop an extinct seamount or volcano). In terms of accommodations in this group of islands, only 16 of the 115 islands currently have hotels, with a wide range of choices, from luxury resorts to guest houses.  In terms of getting there (and getting around) there are a number of direct flights from Johannesburg to Mahe International Airport in Seychelles’ capital, Victoria. To get between islands, there are domestic flights, charters and ferries.

Seychelles

2. Mahe

Mahe is the largest inhabited island in the Seychelles. It has over 60 beaches as well as a mountainous countryside that is covered in rainforests and jungles.  Mahe is appealing because of its variety; travelers can relax on their choice of beaches or explore caves and coves, discovering bays and waterfalls. A hike up the mountainous terrain can be grueling, but will offer views that make the climb well worth the effort and then some. Kayaking and snorkeling are popular here as well. The island is populated with small towns and villages, great for wandering and exploring. There is a decidedly Creole influence on Mahe, reflected in the food, architecture and culture.

Mahe Seychelles

3. Morne Seychellois National Park

Morne Seychellois National Park is the jewel of the mountainous interior of Mahe, with lush vegetation and absolutely staggering views of the rest of the island and surrounding waters. This park covers a remarkable 20 percent of the entire Mahe land mass and is comprised of a wide variety of vegetation and terrain. Think mangrove forests on the coastlines that climb up through jungle covered mountains to reach the highest peak in the country. The park is only accessible through walking trails, so a hike through this lush part of the world is immersive and connective with the natural beauty that surrounds you- without distraction.

Morne Seychellois National Park

4. Praslin

Praslin is the second largest island in the Seychelles and promotes an unpretentious, chilled out vibe. Like its island neighbors, Praslin rolls with miles of forest on the interior, wrapped with miles of white sand on the coastline and has loads of beaches to choose from. Two of Praslin’s beaches (Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette) are frequent members of top beach lists in the world. Golfers will want to make Praslin their island of choice, with the only 18 hole championship golf course in the Seychelles at the Constance Lemuria hotel.

Praslin Anse Georgette

5. Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

The story goes with the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island that the vegetation is so lush, colorful and varied that it was once seriously considered to be the original Garden of Eden. In the midst of this expansive reserve is a natural palm forest, preserved in its near original state for centuries. This palm forest is also home to the “Coco de Mer” (which is the largest seed in the plant kingdom). The Coco de Mer, which resembles a female pelvis in shape, was considered proof that this reserve was indeed the Garden of Eden by British General Gordon.  This reserve is a UNESCEO World Heritage Site.

Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

6. La Digue

This lush paradise with coastline characterized by sandy beaches, inlets and secluded bays, set against a backdrop of rolling green hills populated with jungles and towering trees is like a snapshot from a travel brochure. It’s that pretty.  This is the third largest of the Seychelles inhabited islands, but feels intimate and secluded.  There is no airport on La Digue, but is accessible by ferry and private boat. It’s not far from  Mahe and Praslin, so many people either use La Digue as a home base to island hop, or come for a day trip. There are a number of hotels here to suit any budget. Cycling is the best way to see this small island, soaking in the outdoors, and enjoying the ocean breezes.

La Digue

7. Anse Source D’Argent

Located on the south side of La Digue, Anse Source D’Argent is one of the Seychelles’ most beautiful beaches, hands down (and that’s quite a title, given the striking beauty of the dozens of Seychelle beaches). It is reportedly the most photographed beach in the world, and understandably so. It’s a total reflection of what you see in your mind’s eye when you picture tropical paradise, beach-style. It’s not just the rolling white sands that meet up with clear turquoise water; the beach is buttressed with sculptured granite boulders that have literally been shaped by the hands of time.  As far as photo ops go, it’s hard to replicate the quiet, natural beach beauty captured here.

Anse Source D’Argent

8. Aldabra Atoll

This is another of the Seychelles UNESCO sites.  The Aldabra Atoll is the world’s largest raised Coral Atoll (an atoll is a ring or horseshoe shaped coral reef, usually with a lagoon in the centre. They usually sit atop an extinct seamount or volcano). This atoll is comprised of four coral islands that encircle a lagoon. The geographic composition of this atoll has made it isolated which has removed it from human influence, which impacted its native ecosystem.  As a result, there are well over 150,000 giant tortoises inhabiting this area.

Photo by: Seychelles Islands Foundation - SIF
Photo by: Seychelles Islands Foundation – SIF