By Glynn Burridge
Since that distant time when Seychelles’ 115 granite and coral islands became scattered over a secluded corner of the Indian Ocean, they have remained sanctuaries for some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on earth. So rare, that the Vallée de Mai which nurtures the legendary coco-de-me, was once thought to be the original site of the biblical Garden of Eden.
The islands are also synonymous with stunning natural beauty, the wonderful harmony enjoyed by the multi-ethnic society and a near perfect climate where the temperature is always somewhere between 24 and 33 degrees Celsius, earning the islands a reputation as ‘land of perpetual summer’.
The Seychelles Islands’ brand, the ‘Seychelles Islands…another world’ echoes the grand diversity, awesome natural beauty and cultural vibrancy that characterise the Seychelles holiday experience. And today, with enhanced air access to Europe, Africa and Asia with airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Air Seychelles, Kenya Airways, Condor and Transaero, Seychelles is effectively just one stop from anywhere on the planet and accessible as never before.
The ‘Seychelles Islands…another world’, is the embodiment of the concept that Seychelles remains one of the purest, most environmentally intact destinations on earth offering great a diversity of experiences and accepting around only 200,000 visitors a year.
Certainly, one of Seychelles’ greatest assets is the exotic assortment of its multitude of islands and the variety they offer to visitors wishing to take in a selection of islands during the course of their stay.
Out of all of Seychelles’ islands currently only 16 have hotels, several of which offer the most luxurious amenities and all of which possess their own natural charm. They offer everything from the opulence of world-famous 5-star resorts to the picturesque charms of affordable smaller hotels, Creole guest houses and self caterings. The islands of Bird and Denis located to the north of Mahé, Frégate to the east and Desroches to the south each offer diverse and unforgettable island experiences.
Equally, the wonderful variety of Seychelles’ flora and fauna with its high proportion of endemic species nurtured within one of nature’s last pristine sanctuaries makes it an exciting destination for naturalists, ornithologists and eco-tourists alike. Nowhere else on earth are to be found unique specimens such as the jellyfish tree, with only eight surviving examples; the wondrous Coco-de-mer; the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher, and thirteen species and seventeen subspecies of bird life. The Vallée de Mai, once thought to be the original site of the Garden of Eden, and legendary Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll, are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From the smallest frog to the heaviest land tortoise and the only flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, Seychelles boasts an amazing array of endemic and indigenous species waiting to be discovered along its several nature trails.
With 115 diverse islands spread across an area of 1,400,000 sq.km of sparkling waters, one can well understand seafarers who believe that God created Seychelles with the sailor in mind. Chartering a yacht provides perhaps the most rewarding way of discovering the hidden treasures of the archipelago at one’s own pace and whim, cruising in cyclone-free waters and enjoying a dazzling array of inner islands with golden beaches fringed by warm, turquoise waters.
It should not be overlooked that Seychelles has some of the richest fishing grounds in the world and you do not have to venture far from the shoreline to break fishing records. Seychelles boasts one of the most varied catches on the planet which varies from sailfish, whaoo and tuna to barracuda, trevally, streaker and even the mighty marlin.
With so many islands scattered across the Indian Ocean between 4º and 10º south of the Equator, it is little wonder that another of Seychelles’ outstanding resources lies in the impressive diving opportunities it offers to experienced and novice divers alike. Myriad dive sites promise a marine extravaganza as diverse and vibrant as it is unique. This living aquarium enjoys comfortable year-round temperatures of between 24º and 30º Celsius and lies outside the cyclone belt. Colourful reef fish, octopus, lobster and turtle flash in the shallows surrounding the inner islands, while more adventurous dives offshore include the ‘Ennerdale’ wreck and rocks that are the playground for larger groupers and stingrays.
No account of Seychelles’ riches can be considered complete without mention of its reputation as ‘the islands of love’ and it is little wonder that lovers are inspired to take their vows and wed in this gentle and romantic atmosphere. Sensual Seychelles creates the idyllic ambience for an unforgettable wedding day or honeymoon beneath swaying palms alongside silken waters fringed by the silver-soft sands of discreet island hideaways as has been endorsed by the recent honeymoon of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and a host of VVIP’s besides.
All in all, you can’t get much further away from the Madding crowd. And it’s amazing how blue skies and white beaches can clear the mind and inspire the imagination. That is why as a venue for small conferences and select company incentives, Seychelles represents a powerful partnership of business and pleasure.
For today’s weary traveller, fatigued from the stresses and strains of an unrelenting modern lifestyle, the Seychelles spa & wellness experience represents a powerful antidote offering soothing treatments designed to melt away the stresses and strains of modern living, energise the weary body and nurture the soul.
Whether nestling in dreamy, mountain-side pavilions overlooking the ocean or occupying stylish niches within the luxurious cocoons of 5-star resorts, Seychelles’ spas offer natural elegance and refinement in pristine surroundings promising the ultimate voyage of personal transformation.
There is also great golf available on the islands with a 9-hole course on Mahé and an 18-hole championship course on Praslin offering a sublime golfing experience combined with stunning panoramas of virgin forest and azure ocean.
Seychelles has all this to offer and more but perhaps its most enduring attraction is the security it offers and its enviable pace of life amid the tranquillity and multi-racial harmony of the islands.
Here, cocooned within the reassuring atmosphere of a large family, there is still ‘time to enjoy’ the finer things of life and to appreciate the elements of a truly refreshing Creole culture and enviable island lifestyle.