Thinking of holidaying in the Seychelles? You’re probably drawn by dreams of turquoise waters, golden sands and spectacular sunshine. Beaches are bountiful; in fact, there’s a different one for every single day of your stay.
But there’s more to the Seychelles than just beaches. There’s plenty to do when you’re not soaking up the sun on the sands:
Spend a day in Victoria, capital of the Seychelles
A day trip to Victoria, capital of the archipelago, is well worth it. Located on the north-eastern side of Mahé, the city was founded as the headquarters of the British colonial government. Victoria is one of the smallest capital cities in the world and retains a delightful provincial charm.
Set against a backdrop of hills, the town boasts several attractive colonial sights including the courthouse, botanical gardens, bustling, colourful markets, plus several museums and cathedrals.
Don’t miss Victoria’s iconic clock tower which is a replica of a clock near London’s Victoria station. The city’s quaint yet brilliant Natural History Museum has a quirky claim to fame: it contains the world’s heaviest nut: an 18 kg coco de mer.
Strap on a snorkel or scuba tank
Shark Bank off the coast of the island of Mahé is widely considered to be the best deep-sea diving spot in the Seychelles, let alone in the rest of the world. The granite plateau is home to an abundance of marine life which is easily visible in the crystal clear waters.
Whale sharks, massive eagle rays and octopi swim alongside the turtles, hump-head parrotfish, pincushion starfish, yellow snappers, lion fish and puffer fish. A mesmerising array of bright yellows, reds, greens and blues awaits you.
If you prefer wrecks to wildlife, there’s the Ennerdale to explore, a 216 metre, 74,000 tonne tanker which sunk in 1970 after hitting uncharted rocks.
Swim with giant tortoises
The giant, nearly four feet-long Aldabra tortoise was once on the verge of extinction. But it has been brought back from the brink at the UNESCO-listed Aldabra Atoll, one of the largest coral atolls in the world.
Around 152,000 of these giant reptiles live freely on the uninhabited islands. The atoll is made up of four islands enclosed in a shallow lagoon, also home to a variety of other species, including the white-throated rail (the only surviving flightless bird in the Western Indian Ocean), oceanic flamingos and rare flora and fauna, making it hugely important for ecological and evolutionary studies.
Due to the atoll’s isolation and protected status, visits are fairly exclusive but you can book a mini-cruise from Mahe.
Party at the carnival
If you’re in the Seychelles in April you may well arrive in time for the annual carnival. The Carnaval International de Victoria has been held annually in the streets of the capital since 2011 bringing three days of extra fun to the city. You will be treated to a riot of colourful costumes and a parade of floats drawing participants from around the world.
The carnival is a bit like London’s Notting Hill Carnival and celebrates the great diversity of the Seychelles’ population. In fact, the organisers of the Notting Hill event have been known to give the Victoria Carnival a creative push from time to time so you can expect a spectacular show.
Amble through the islands’ oldest historic site
Bel Air Cemetery is the oldest historic site on the islands and contains a jumble of tombs, vaults and shrines for some of the Seychelles’ most famous residents.
Founded by the French in the 18th century as the islands’ first official burial grounds, the cemetery holds the graves of Charles Dorothée Savy who was just 14 when he was poisoned by his fearful neighbours. Pierre-Louis Poiret was also buried here who is believed to have fled the French Revolution, taking refuge in the Seychelles.
Perhaps the most talked about stories about Bel Air’s occupants is that of Jean- François Hodoul. Hodoul was employed by the French Government when he captured and plundered seven British ships in 1797. Legend has it that Hodoul’s treasure is buried on Silhouette Island, northwest of Mahe.
Wonder at the beauty of Thérèse
Isolated and uninhabited by humans, this small islet off the western coast of Mahé offers the chance to discover its wild rock pools and undisturbed tortoise colony. Two of the islet’s rocky peaks resemble a giant’s staircase – look out for Thérèse Peak, towering some 164 metres above you. Enjoy a day of snorkelling, sailing, windsurfing or fishing or simply kick back on the wonderful white sands.
The boat trip from Port Glaud on Mahé takes just five minutes. Despite being uninhabited, there’s no need to bring a full picnic to the island as there’s one restaurant, perfect for sampling the local Creole cuisine.
Take a hike through prehistoric forests
Praslin National Park’s UNESCO World Heritage listed Vallée de Mai is one of only two places on the planet to harbour naturally growing Coco de Mer trees.
The Coco de Mer trees are famed for their enormous fruits, which take the shape of a woman’s lower torso and have huge fronds soaring some 30 metres in the air. Look out for them as you hike the three prehistoric forest trails, also spying birds like the Seychelles bulbul, the pretty blue pigeon, the Seychelles warbler and the shy, endangered black parrot. Free guided visits currently leave at 09:00 and 14:00 hrs each day.
Grab a rod and reel
Bird Island’s location at the edge of the Seychelles continental shelf means the sea floor drops rapidly to 2,000 metres, helping to make it an excellent spot for deep-sea fishing. Salt-water fly fishing is at its best off Alphonse and Desroches Islands while Marlin can be caught off Denis from October to December.
Bird Island also boasts excellent shore fishing for fly fishermen and beach casters – favourite spots are the reef flats, where you can catch bonefish and trevally. To add to the pleasure of the day, you can taste your catch at Bird Island’s beautiful eco-lodge where the kitchen is happy to prepare your prize.