The Seychelles, one of the world’s last frontiers, promises adventure and breathtaking natural beauty in pristine surrounds. Seychelles Tourism Board shares with SpaChina readers the mystery of the Seychelles
The Seychelles’ 115 granite and coral islands extend from between 4 and 10 degrees south of the equator and lie between 480km and 1,600km from the east coast of Africa in the western Indian Ocean. There are 43 Inner Islands in all – 41 granitic and 2 coralline and a total of 72 coralline Outer Islands.
This Indian Ocean republic is an archipelago of timeless beauty, tranquillity and harmony that is famous for its world-beating beaches and for its great diversity which rolls from lush forests down to the warm azure ocean.
The Seychelles is a living museum of natural history and a sanctuary for some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on Earth. With almost 50% of its limited landmass set aside as national parks and reserves, the Seychelles prides itself on its record for far-sighted conservation policies that have resulted in an enviable degree of protection for the environment and the varied ecosystems it supports. Nowhere else on Earth will you find unique endemic specimens such as the fabulous coco-de-mer, the largest seed in the world, the jellyfish tree, with only eight surviving examples, the Seychelles’ paradise flycatcher and the Seychelles warbler. From the smallest frog to the heaviest land tortoise and the only flightless bird in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles nurtures an amazing array of endemic species within surrounds of exceptional natural beauty.
The cosmopolitan Seychellois are a colourful blend of peoples of different races, cultures and religions. At different times in its history, people of African, European and Asian origin have come to the Seychelles, bringing with them their distinct traditions and customs and contributing to the way of life and to the vibrant Seychellois culture. One can see these influences at work throughout the domains of local art, cuisine, music, dance and architecture.
For instance, the architectural design of some of the grand old houses with their steep roofs are representative of a style adapted for comfortable living in the tropics that displays influences from Seychelles’ French and British colonial heritage. Modern architecture attempts to assimilate traditional styles with practical features designed to capture the island breezes. Creole music and dance have their roots in African, Malagasy and European cultures with rhythms traditionally accompanied by simple drums and string instruments which, today, include such recent imports as the violin and guitar. The traditional moutya is an erotic dance derived from the days of slavery and still features today, together with the sega with its colourful lyrics; the kanmtole, reminiscent of a country reel, and the Kontredanse, an import from the French court.
The Seychelles’ climate is one which is always warm and does not reach extremes of heat or cold. The temperature rarely drops below 24°C or rises above 32°C. All but the remotest southern islands lie outside the cyclone belt making Seychelles’ a year round destination for sun worshippers and beach lovers.
Seychelles’ Inner Islands
The Inner Islands which are mostly granitic, cluster mainly around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, forming the cultural and economic hub of Seychelles, as well as the centre of its tourism industry. Together they are home to the majority of Seychelles’ accommodation facilities as well almost the entire population of the archipelago.
Mahé is the largest island and cultural and economic hub of the Inner Islands, and the international gateway to Seychelles. It is home to the international airport and the nation’s capital, Victoria. The island is home to almost 90% of the population, reflecting Seychelles’ diverse ethnicity and descent from African, Indian, Chinese and European populations, and is the seat of government and the chief centre of commerce.
With a backdrop of towering 1,000m granite peaks, Mahé is an extraordinary treasure trove of flora that has evolved over centuries of splendid isolation. Rare endemic plants found nowhere else in the world adorn Mahé’s mist forests in mountain strongholds, such as the Jellyfish Tree, the carnivorous Seychelles Pitcher Plant and the Seychelles Vanilla Orchid.
There are over 65 beaches to enjoy. You can go diving, fishing, sailing, or walk the town Victoria, visit the botanic gardens and other private gardens. Don’t miss the delicious Seychellois cuisine and sunset cruise before leaving the island.
Mahé is the transportation hub for island-hops and day excursions to neighbouring islands and all other islands within Seychelles. All scheduled domestic flights by Air Seychelles originate from Mahé to the serviced islands. A leisurely tour of the island by car will take 2 to 2 1/2 hours and reveal the lion’s share of Seychelles’ accommodation facilities, places of cultural interest and other attractions.
Four Seasons Resort Seychelles
Covering a secluded area of 170 acres on the southwest coast of Mahé, Four Seasons Resort Seychelles is a remote, hillside retreat that embraces the natural simplicity of treetop living. It occupies an isolated position overlooking the idyllic bay of Petite Anse, just 18 km (30 minutes’ drive) from Mahé international airport.
The resort comprises 67 villas and suites, and 27 Four Seasons Residences that descend down a lushly forested incline to the private, horseshoe beach of Petite Anse with powder-white sand. Each of the tree-house villas and suites is perched on stilts amidst a jungle of coconut, mango, jackfruit and cinnamon trees. Standard features in all villas include infinity-edge plunge pool, open-air shower, glass-walled bath room and expansive, private outdoor living space with sunset views over the Indian Ocean or surrounding tropical landscape.
The resort features two restaurants and two lounge bars, an outdoor swimming pool, a water sports pavilion offering a range of watersports, a fitness centre, library, art gallery and Kids for All Seasons Programme. A dive centre and Tropicsurf school, with expert staff, are also situated on site.
At the uppermost point of the resort, far above Petite Anse Bay, Le Syel Spa epitomises the sense of tranquility and seclusion found throughout the Resort. Crowned by Mahe’s most spectacular views, it reveals the heavenly potency of local ingredients while inviting an elevation of inner and outer self that will change your perspective on the meaning of wellbeing.
Shrouded in mystery, legend and tales of love, Seychellois coco de mer is a rare native palm tree with the largest seed in the plant kingdom. Here at Le Syel Spa, a blissful five-step ritual – The Miracle Of Coco De Mer celebrates the nourishing benefits of Seychellois coco de mer: an energising body scrub; nourishing body mask; rich body butter massage; bath with beautiful bay views; and application of luxurious body lotion.
Another signature experience is Heavenly Fusion Massage. Choose your preferred oil from the resort’s lovingly crafted blends of organic Seychellois goodness: Rejuvenating Cinnamon, Moisturising Coconut or Relaxing Lemongrass. Then melt into a cultural celebration of the Seychelles in massage form: techniques from Malaysia, India, Europe and Asia applied with medium to firm pressure to ease muscular tension and induce a deep sense of wellbeing.
When the sea breeze whispers its secrets to the stars, the Spa rooftop transforms into a powerful place to ponder the Seychelles’ sublime serenity. The exclusive night spa experience — Starlit Serenity, available to just one individual or couple a night, includes a blissful open-air Shell Serenity Massage using shells filled with marine minerals and sea kelp to warm and relax the body.
You can also practice with resident yogis during a private or group class at the outdoor yoga pavilion, atop the Resort within the jungle canopy overlooking the Indian Ocean – or anywhere else that moves you.
Praslin is Seychelles’ second largest island. It lies to the northeast of Mahé. Only fifteen minutes by plane or helicopter from Mahé Island, or a scenic fifty-five minutes by ferry, will take you here.
Praslin is the site of the fabulous Vallée de Mai, one of Seychelles’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The island features truly exquisite beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette, both appearing on the top-10 list of world’s best beaches in recent years. This is where the legendary Coco-de-Mer, the world’s heaviest nut, grows high on ancient palms in a primeval forest. The Vallée is host to six species of palm to be found only in Seychelles.
Praslin stands at the forefront of Seychelles’ tourism industry with a strong tradition of hospitality and wide range of accommodation facilities.
Raffles Praslin Seychelles
On the beautiful north-eastern tip of Praslin are 86 contemporary pool villas, touched by the sublime beauty of white powdered sands, opal-hued oceans and lush green hills, among the most spacious in the Seychelles. Each villa at Raffles Praslin features a private outdoor pavilion, complete with plunge pool, to soak up views of the spectacular Indian Ocean.
Enjoy a relaxing time at either of the outdoor infinity pools, seek Creole-inspired cuisine at Losean, and step into the sanctuary of Raffles Spa.
Steps away from the coastline of Anse Takamaka, amidst stunning surroundings, Raffles Spa carefully designed to calm the spirit and awaken the senses. The luxurious spa features 12 treatment pavilions, showcasing the spectacular view of the blue ocean, tropical gardens and dramatic granite boulders. The couple’s spa suite is fitted with steam showers, Japanese soaking tubs, and observation decks where guests can enjoy stunning vistas in privacy. There is also a relaxation area with saunas, steam rooms, and Jacuzzis, a yoga pavilion, TechnoGym® equipment, and a hair and nail salon.
Raffles Spa Journeys are a considered mix between traditional and local methods, each ready to be expertly personalised to ensure that your sensory escape is everything you hoped for and more. And every aspect is carefully designed to offer a sensory journey that reflects the unique setting of Seychelles.
With Asian inspirations in mind, the Raffles Seychelles Signature Massage was thoughtfully crafted to ensure deep relaxation, promote circulation and relieve aches and pains. Encompassing several techniques of Thai, Balinese and Eastern influences, this massage offers passive stretching, followed by a full body deep relaxing oil massage to alleviate muscle stiffness. Using Aromatherapy Associates oil, this unique blend of essential oils inspires a sense of positivity and wellness. An ideal massage for those who experience tightness and muscle pain, perfect for after a long journey or strenuous physical activity.
Certified instructors at Raffles Spa offer a variety of different yoga techniques, available in personal or group classes at the private studio overlooking the ocean.
Seychelles’ Outer Islands
The Outer Islands are those situated beyond the Seychelles plateau. They comprise 72 low-lying sand cays and atolls lying anywhere between 230km and 1150km from Mahé. Less visited than their granitic cousins due to their relative remoteness, these pristine miniature worlds, some little more than sand spits or lonely rocky outcrops, offer untouched habitats for many species of wildlife.
Of all the islands in the Amirantes Group, Desroches is the closest to Mahé (230km southwest) and the only island in the group offering accommodation. This coral island boasts 14km of immaculate beaches that fringe a lush grove of coconut palms interspersed by casuarina trees. Desroches was named after a former French governor of Mauritius, and like many of Seychelles’ islands, was once a prosperous coconut plantation.
The island is serviced by air from Mahé in a flight-time of approximately 50 minutes, and offers spectacular opportunities for deep sea fishing, fly-fishing and diving.
Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island
Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island, the only resort on this 6 kilometre-long coral island, offers modern accommodation, tropical gardens and 14 km of palm-fringed, white sand beaches.
The rustic villas and bungalows with decked patios, private pools and beach access are intimate retreats and make you feel like a castaway who has struck gold. Guests are welcomed to dine in a casually chic beachfront setting, catering to every culinary desire through eclectic international menus. 24 hour In-Villa dining is also available.
With a private beach and the shimmering waters of the Indian Ocean, an array of water activities are available upon request, from snorkelling the coral reefs and diving to fishing and stand-up paddle boarding. Guest can also unwind and relax at the spa which offers a tailored wellness programme.
Five spa treatment suites are surrounded by the island’s exotic flora and fauna, creating a natural sense of tranquillity to soothe both body and mind. This tranquil world aims to take guests deeper into the embrace of Desroches and therefore curated a signature range of sensory experiences around the characters of Desroches. For instance, in the Rhythms of Desroches treatment, massage and music meet with a sea-inspired sand, salt and aloe scrub and body mask; a harmonising sound bath of chimes, rain sticks and singing bowls; and a soak in regenerating sea salts accompanied by calming ocean sounds. Your experience ends with a Sound of the Waves Massage, featuring a soothing rolling technique that mimics the sound and motion of waves using eggs filled with heated baobab seeds. The Flavours of Desroches draws on the island’s edible, skin-beneficial ingredients. It begins with a detoxifying facial using the enzyme-exfoliating properties of papaya and pineapple, followed by a deeply cleansing coconut mask. Then slip into an ‘edible’ coconut water bath infused with lemongrass, before a circulation-boosting massage with warm pindas of pink and black pepper, coriander and cardamom. Your experience ends with a sweet lemony Desroches Tea Ceremony, flavoured with lemongrass (to boost digestion) and buchu (an ancient ‘elixir of youth’). In addition, there are also Fragrance of Desroches, Textures of Desroches, Spectrum of Desroches, and Essence of Desroches experiences.
Other facilities at the resort include a fitness centre, teen’s club, ‘Kids for All Seasons’ program and pop-up movie nights, plus a chance to learn about the giant Aldabra tortoise at the island’s dedicated Tortoise Sanctuary. Learn about the variety of vegetation and marine life at the Resort’s interactive Discovery Centre, where 3D models, informative displays and animal skeletons are showcased.
Diving in Seychelles
With 115 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean between 4° and 10° south of the Equator, Seychelles offers diverse and impressive diving opportunities.
The Inner Islands, remains of a submerged mountain range, rest on a shallow plateau with prolific marine life and excellent PADI diving facilities available to access a multitude of dive sites.
The Outer Islands to the south of the archipelago are all coralline or sand cays and mainly uninhabited, presenting the experienced diver with excellent opportunities to explore where few have gone before.
Seasons & Conditions
Diving is possible all year round but is governed by an island’s position and the prevailing winds. Generally speaking, the best conditions for both the Inner and Outer Islands are in the calm periods, April-May and October-November, when the water temperature can rise to 29ºC and offers excellent (up to 30 metres) visibility.
From May to September the winds are stronger and blow south-easterly. Visibility and temperature may thus drop during August with water temperatures of around 25°C. A wet suit of at least 4mm is necessary.
Dive Types & Depths
With 43 Inner Islands to choose from, variety is the order of the day. All of these northerly islands offer impressive granite reef locations where the sculptured rocks can be covered with soft corals and sponges, and fish life is prolific, due to the archipelago’s isolation and also strict conservation rules.
Wreck dives are available in some areas but only the islands to the south have wall dives, drop-off dives and drift diving opportunities as well.
Outer Island diving is rich and varied, featuring everything from mini-walls and canyons to migrating Manta Rays, numerous wreck sites and some of the finest Gorgonian fans in the Indian Ocean.
Diving on Aldabra’s terraced walls is dramatic and Green Turtles are common both in water and on their habitual pilgrimages up the beach to nest. The Cosmoledo atoll offers huge hard coral bommies with 3 metre Gorgonian fans and massive barrel sponges all under the watchful guard of inquisitive Potato Bass. Astove’s settlement reef presents another awe-inspiring wall dive whose reef top is incised with crevasses and caves and boasts a large resident Green Turtle population.
Dive depths vary, ranging from 8 to 20 metres for inshore sites and up to depths of 40 metres for dives offshore.
Seychelles offers year round diving experiences in waters mainly outside the cyclone belt and dive centers around the country cater for novice and experienced divers alike, offering a number of specialised courses.
Divers should bring proof of certification and medical clearance for any medical problem.
Most dive centres offer modern dive equipment rental and service facilities. However, repair facilities for divers’ own gear may be limited, subject to availability of specific spare parts.
It is recommended there be a 24-hour safety window between the divers’ last dives and their next flight.
What to Pack
Light clothing suitable for Seychelles’ warm tropical climate is recommended and visitors should prepare themselves for the relatively hot, humid atmosphere. Also, for plenty of sun.
Bring hats, sunglasses and adequate UV protection – SPF30+ is advisable. It is important to remember that even on an overcast day the tropical sun is still strong and able to cause unpleasant sunburn.
Visitors suffering from a specific medical condition should be sure to bring an adequate stock of the appropriate medication along as well as their preferred brand of sun cream, mosquito repellent etc.
Consult a detailed bus schedule, which can be obtained from the bus depot, for exact departure and arrival times.
Independently operated taxis are available on Mahé and Praslin, and a handful on La Digue. You can hail one from the street, at designated taxi stands or by simply phoning a driver directly. It is advisable to request a metered ride, or if a particular taxi is not equipped with a meter, quotes should be negotiated and agreed prior to the trip. Many drivers will take clients on sightseeing tours for a set tariff. Vehicles are driven on the left-hand side.
You can also discover the islands by bicycle, readily available for hire on La Digue and Praslin, where they are a popular mode of transport. Island-hopping is made possible through a regular network of air and sea transport.
Air Seychelles operates a shuttle service between Mahé and Praslin. The flight lasts only 15 minutes with an average of 20 return flights every day. Air Seychelles also operates other inter-island flights, usually on the request of hotels to Bird, Denis, Desroches and Alphonse Islands.
Also part of the air network is Zil Air, a helicopter charter company which is specialising in island transfers, excursions and chartered scenic flights throughout Seychelles. The Islands Development Company (IDC) specialises in charter flights mostly to the Outer Islands of Seychelles.
Money & Banking
The local currency is the Seychelles Rupee (SCR). Exchange rates are featured on the Central Bank of Seychelles website, in the Nation newspaper and are also available at all banks.
Banking hours are generally Monday-Friday 0830hrs-1430hrs, and Saturday 0830hrs-1130hrs. All banks process traveller’s cheques and foreign exchange transactions. Passports are required for visitors’ transactions and nominal commissions may be charged. ATM facilities exist at major banks on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue and at the airport on Mahé and Praslin. Please note that these provide cash in local currency.
Exchanging foreign currency into Seychelles Rupees must only be done at banks, with authorised money dealers such as a bureau de change, or with other licenced operators. Visitors should refrain from exchanging money with any individuals who approach them in a public place as there is a very high possibility that those persons are engaging in unauthorized dealing, possibly with counterfeit currency.
BE WARNED! It is a criminal offence to change money with any person or business other than those authorised to do so and who are mentioned above.
Irrespective of the nationality of the visitor and his or her family members, there are NO VISA requirements to enter the Seychelles. However, the following documents must be shown in order to obtain immigration clearance at the Seychelles International Airport:
1. A passport valid on the date of entry to and exit from the Seychelles
2. Return or onward ticket
3. Proof of accommodation; including contact details
4. Sufficient funds for the duration of the stay
Presentation of all of the above documents will grant you a Visitor’s Permit that will be issued upon arrival by the Seychelles Department of Immigration.
The Visitor’s Permit is initially valid for the period of visit of up to one month. It can be extended for a period of up to three months from the date of issue and capable of further extensions for successive periods not exceeding three months at a time to a maximum period of twelve months, provided that the person still meets the criteria of a bona fide visitor.
The visitor’s permit is issued free of charge for the first three months after which there is a fee of SCR5,000 for extension covering each period of three months or any part thereof.