Far from any continental land mass, the islands of Seychelles have long been likened to a string of pearls set in the azure.
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. Of these 115 islands, 41 Inner Islands constitute the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands on earth while a further 74 form the 5 groups of low-lying coral atolls and reef islets that are the Outer Islands. Seychelles is home to no less than two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the legendary Vallée de Mai on Praslin where the wondrously shaped Coco-de-mer nut grows high on ancient palms and fabled Aldabra, the world's largest raised coral atoll, first seen by early Arab seafarers of the 9th century A.D.
Seychelles, one of the world's very last frontiers, promises adventure and breathtaking natural beauty in pristine surrounds still untouched by man.
The history of Seychelles can be told as a tale of intrepid explorer's fearsome pirates and brutal battles for some islands' bountiful treasures. The first exploration took place only in 1742 by some early navigators probably looking for fresh water or food while doing their passage to Asian countries.
Its first settlement landed in 1770 by the French, leading a small party of whites, Indians and Africans. The islands remained in French hands until the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, evolving from humble beginnings to attain a population of 3,500 by the time Seychelles was ceded to Britain under the treaty of Paris in 1814.
Under the British, Seychelles achieved a population of some 7,000 by the year 1825. Important estates were established during this time producing coconut, food crops, cotton and sugar cane. During this period Seychelles also saw the establishment of Victoria as her capital, the exile of numerous and colourful troublemakers from the Empire, the devastation caused by the famous Avalanche of 1862 and the economic repercussions of the abolition of slavery.
Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976 and became a republic within the commonwealth.
Today, the 87,122 strong Seychellois populations continue to reflect its multi-ethnic roots. 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 Seychelles, bringing with them their distinct traditions and customs and contributing to the way of life and to the vibrant Seychellois culture.
The main language is Creole but most people speak English and French. Creole is a phonetic language similar to that found in the other territories where there has been French influence such as New Orleans.
One can see the mixture influences at work throughout the domains of local art, cuisine, music, dance and architecture.
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.
Local artists continue to exhibit diverse styles that echo the multi-ethnic backdrop of the islands and bear testament to the various influences which have come to bear. 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 Flora and Fauna
Seychelles is a living museum of natural history and a sanctuary for some of the rarest species of flora & fauna on earth. Much of the Seychelles beauty lies in its natural wildlife untouched for centuries, making the islands a sanctuary for many rare and unique plants and birds. There are 81 unique species of plant life, which can only be found within the Seychelles.
With almost 50% of its limited landmass set aside as national parks and reserves, 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 Seychelles warbler. From the smallest frog to the heaviest land tortoise and the only flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, Seychelles nurtures an amazing array of endemic species within surrounds of exceptional natural beauty.