Some 1,500 kilometres off the east coast of mainland Africa, the 115-island archipelago of the Republic of Seychelles constitutes a paradise playground for the rich and royal. The islands were first settled by the French in 1770, who brought with them a party comprising other natives of Europe, India and Africa. The nation has continued to be a cultural melting pot ever since. Victoria presides as the country’s capital and is its business and cultural hub.
Getting there and away
Seychelles International Airport is about 11km southeast of Victoria on Mahé Island. It is the home base of Air Seychelles and serves aircrafts from other local and international airlines, which connect this beautiful nation to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The airport is also a hub for inter-island travel, with domestic flights throughout the day. While visas are not required, it’s advisable that accommodation is booked before you embark on your flight there.
The Seychelles Public Transport Corporation has a daily bus service on and Mahé, which runs from morning to evening on nearly every available road on the island. These buses are fairly cheap and one usually passes by every 15 minutes, although schedules can be erratic. Taxis are metered and are a good option for short trips. However, for travel across the island it is best to hire a car as this will likely work out to be a cheaper option. Bicycles make a nice alternative and can be hired.
Where to stay
Seychelles has the unfortunate reputation of offering only expensive accommodation but there are still plenty of options for all wallets in Victoria. Avani Hotel is 25 minutes from the airport and comprises of private villas hidden away on a hillside amongst small beach coves. The views are spectacular. For a more intimate experience, Le Sans Souci Guesthouse offers luxury for a better price. The welcome is warm and service is friendly. Calypha Guesthouse is an even cheaper option but is comfortable and emits an authentic creole vibe. A must visit is Coral Strand Hotel on Beau Vallon Bay for the more business savvy traveller.
Seychellois cuisine is strongly influenced by its rich cultural history. La Perle Noire restaurant in the Beau Vallon area is a romantic spot boasting a tropical garden and fresh fish. Prices match European standards however. Marie-Antoinette Restaurant (+248 4 266 222) is one of the best places on Mahé to enjoy authentic Seychellois food prepared in the traditional creole way using local organic ingredients, while the Pirate’s Arms offers a more affordable and mainstream choice.
Music and dance are the life-blood of this island nation. Creole music and dance are rooted in African, Malagasy and European cultures. The traditional moutya is an erotic dance derived from the days of slavery, while the sega is the mainstay in many clubs. The famous Lovenut Nightclub is in the centre of Victoria where you can mingle with the locals. Close to a taxi stop, this high-tech club caters for everybody but a strict dress code is enforced. Tequila Boom and Katiolio are other preferred clubbing spots.
In the city
A day on foot is ample time to see Victoria, one of the smallest capitals in the world. A wander through the city will take you through Victoria’s distinctive but practical architecture. Colonial French and British designs are tempered by wide, cool verandas and steep, climate-friendly roofs. Sights to see include the Natural History Museum, which is dedicated to the natural wildlife of the islands, and the famous Victoria Botanical Gardens. Also worth a look is the clock tower, modelled on that of Vauxhall Clock Tower in London, which has been standing since 1903.
While many of the islands’ hotels have high-end boutiques, Victoria is naturally the best place for shopping, market crawling and souvenir hunting. Locally made trinkets, such as sea shell and pearl jewellery, textiles and straw hats, needlework and crochet, paintings by local artists and woodwork, can all be found here. The fish and fruit markets are also great for an early morning excursion into the heart of island culture. Practical shopping is best in Victoria as there are few retail districts on the other islands.
Out of the city
The archipelago is a haven for sports, both water- and land-based. Exquisite, untouched beaches and the mild waters of the Indian Ocean are perfect for sporting enthusiasts. Scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing are very popular and can be done pretty much anywhere in Seychelles. Boating and windsurfing are also offered but the winds should be checked beforehand. Vallée de Mai is a national park and world heritage site, which is home to amazing indigenous flora and fauna, such as the world’s largest nut – the Coco de Mer as well as the Aldabra giant tortoises. In addition, the Aldabra Atoll is the world’s largest coral atoll, stretching about 35 kilometres east to west and enclosing a tidal lagoon.
Language and culture
Traditionally, the Seychelles islands have attracted a broad diversity of immigrants that has included freed slaves, European settlers, political exiles, adventurers, traders of Arab and Persian origin as well as Chinese and Indians. Languages spoken in the Seychelles include Seychellois Creole, English and French. A few phrases in French will therefore suffice to navigate the islands. The main religion is Roman Catholicism but exists in harmony with the Muslim, Hindu and Bahaï religions.
Health and safety
Like many tourist hotspots, pickpocketing is a problem in Seychelles, and it is best not to leave belongings unattended or venture into lonely areas. Tourist police have a strong presence on the island of Mahé and are recognisable by their blue or white golf shirts. The heat and humidity in Seychelles can be unbearable so formal business attire should be eschewed in favour of light cotton clothing. While tap water is safe to drink, bottled water should be drunk in less inhabited areas.