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DISCOVER SEYCHELLES

The magical islands of Seychelles consist of 115 natural islands of which 41 are granitic and 75 are coralline.The islands have a rich history and culture and boast some of the most magnificent beaches and flora and fauna in the world

Geography:
The Seychelles archipelago lies in the Western Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar at the following coordinates: 4 35 S, 55 40 E

Seychelles total land area is 455sq km.

Its coastline measures a total of 491km.

The highest point in Seychelles is Morne Seychellois reaching 905m and is on the main island, Mahe.

Climate: Seychelles has a tropical marine climate.It experiences high humidity and is warmest during the northwest monsoon from March to May.The cooler season is during the southeast monsoon which falls between May and September.

Population:
Seychelles has an estimated total population of 86 500.
25.4% are between the ages of 0-14 years
68.5% are between 15 – 64 years
6.1% are 65 years and over

The population growth rate is 0.432%.

Average life expectancy in Seychelles is 72.34 years
Male: 66.98 years
Female: 77.86 years

Ethnic groups in the Seychelles include: French, African, Indian, Chinese and Arab.

Language:
Creole:91.8%
English (as an official language): 4.9%
Other:3.1%

The literacy rate in Seychelles is 91.8%

Religion:
Roman Catholic: 82.3%
Anglican:6.4%
Other: 11.3%

Historical Timeline:
AD851First Arab recorded sighting of Seychelles
1502Seychelles was visited by Portugal’s Vasco da Gama
1506Seychelles first appeared on Portuguese maps
1609Pirates used Seychelles as a base while terrorizing ships in the Indian Ocean
First British landing recorded by John Jourdain
1730Olivier Le Vasseur, La Buse, the well known Seychelles pirate is publicly hanged in Reunion.Just before his hanging he threw a piece of paper in the air with cryptic clues as to where he hid the treasure he had stolen.It is believed to be buried somewhere on Bel Ombre and the search for the treasure is still on today.
1742Mahe was named after the Governor of Mauritius – Mahe de La Bourdonnais when French explorer Captain Lazare Picault landed on Seychelles shores.This was the first landing of France in the Seychelles.
1756Seychelles was claimed by France and was formally named Seychelles
1768Seychelles sees it first settlers when the British Navy released a number of slaves
1770Coco de Mer was discovered by Barre
1778Lt Charles Routier de Romainvill from France established the first permanent settlement in Seychelles which today is known as ‘Victoria’
1794Seychelles is annexed by Britain
1802Cotton becomes Seychelles most important export followed by coconut oil and wood
1809First Seychelles Postage Stamp was issued (Seychelles previously used Mauritius stamps)
1811French administration comes to an end
1835Slavery in Mahe was abolished
1862Avalasse (storm) hit Seychelles
1875Slave school was opened at the ‘Mission’ at Sans Souis
1901The Botanical Gardens were opened under the curatorship of Paul Rivalz Dupont
1903Seychelles became a British Crown Colony under Edward VII
Clock Tower was erected in commemoration of the event in Victoria
1906Copra becomes Seychelles main export
1914Seychelles undergoes server economic hardship due to WWI
1924Victoria Hospital was officially opened
1926Electricity arrives to the island
1929The first motor car was introduced to the islands by M. Adolphe d’Emerez ae charmony
1939 - 1945Seychelles served as a base for Royal Navy Ships and RAF planes
1956Last surviving slave (Japhet Alice nee Africaine) died
1958Gris gris -a type of black magic and herbalism brought to Seychelles by the African and Malagasy slaves was banned by Britain forcing the practice underground for a time.
1961British Governor, Sir John Thorpe, died while trying to rescue two boys from drowning at Grand Anse
1964First Political Parties were formed in Seychelles
France Albert Rene formed the Seychelles People United Party
James Mancham formed the Seychelles Democratic Party (won elections is both 1966 & 1970)
1971Airport was built and opened by Queen Elizabeth
Tourism begins to soar
1975Seychelles becomes an autonomous colony
1976Seychelles is declared a Republic on the 29 June
A coalition government is formed between Sir James Mancham (President) and Albert Rene (Prime Minister)
1977Albert Rene seizes full power in a coup d’etat
1978Seychelles becomes a one party state under Rene
1982Aldabra proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site
1983Valle de Mai on Praslin is proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site
1991Seychelles becomes a democratic multiparty state
1993First multiparty election is held and is won by Rene (60% of votes)
1998Rene’s Seychelles Progressive People’s Front wins 30 out of 34 seats in parliamentary elections
2001President Albert Rene wins another term in office with 54% of the votes
2002President Rene’s party wins parliamentary elections
Opposition party (Seychelles National Party) increased its presence from one to eleven seats
2003Economic Reforms are introduced – Seychelles pulls out of Southern African Development Community (SADC) and three diplomatic missions are closed
2004James Alix Michel took over as the new President
Widespread damage is reported after giant waves, caused by an underwater earthquake off Indonesia, hit the islands
2006President Michel wins presidential elections.
Parliament bans political or religious organizations from running radio stations resulting in a rare outbreak of unrest
2007Elections are held early due to oppositions MP’s boycotting parliament after political parties were banned from owning radio stations.
Ruling party SPPF wins elections


Government:
Official Name of Seychelles: Republic Of Seychelles

Capital: Victoria - smallest capital in the world.

Government Type: Republic

Independence: 29 July 1976 from Britain.

Legal System:based on English common law, French civil law and customary law.

Executive Branch:Chief of State:President James Michel (14 April 2004 – present)
Head of Government:President James Michel
Cabinet:Council of Ministers appointed by the president

Elections are held every 5 years.

Political Parties:Democratic Party (DP) - James Mancham, Paul Chow
Seychelles National Party (SNP) – Wavel Ramkalawan
Seychelles People Progressive Front (SPPF) –James Michel

Seychelles Flag:

The Seychelles flag was officially adopted on 8 January 1996. Red, White, Green – official colours of the Seychelles Peoples United Party.Blue, Yellow – official colours of the Democratic Party.


Economy:
Tourism and tuna fishing are the main drivers of the Seychelles economy with tourism providing more than 70% of hard currency earnings.

Seychelles main industries include:
Tourism (employs 30% of work force)
Fishing
Coconut and Vanilla processing
Copra
Boat building


Employment:
Agriculture: 10%
Industry: 19%
Service: 71%
Tourism: 30% (of service industry)


Exports:Canned tuna, frozen fish, cinnamon bark, copra, petroleum products, tourism

Imports:Machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals
The official currency of Seychelles is the Seychelles Rupee (SCR).
The Rupee is divided into 100 cents.
Notes are in denominations of SRC 500, 100, 50, 25 & 10.

It is not a freely convertible currency and can only be purchased or exchanged within the Seychelles.

Transport Systems:
Airports: 15 (8 paved, 7 unpaved)

Roadways:458km (440km paved, 18 km unpaved)

Merchant Marine:1 cargo ship
4 chemical tankers

Ports/Terminals:Victoria

Traffic Lights: 1

Communication:
Country code: 00248

Telephones: 21 400
Mobile Phones: 57 000

Mobile phone networks: Airtel, Cable & Wireless Seychelles

Radio Broadcast stations:AM 1, FM 1, Shortwave 2

Radios: 42 000
Televisions:11,000

Internet hosts: 72
Internet Providers: 1
Internet Users: 20 000

* Facts and figures courtesy of CIA – World Fact Book

Culture:
Intro
Seychellois culture is a direct result of the islands colourful history of exploration, slavery and plantation life.Explores and slaves alike brought with them their own cultures, customs and beliefs resulting in a culture explosion and fusion which lead to the miss matched, sometimes contradictory, yet fascinating Seychellois culture of today where simultaneous belief in the church and witch craft and speaking Creole and English is nothing out of the ordinary.

Language:
The Seychelles has three official languages; English, French and Creole with Creole as the main language spoken by everyone.Creole is derived from C17th French yet is dotted with a few African words and expressions resulting in a language that echoes the history of the slaves and one of the countries who tried to claim Seychelles as its own.
Many of Seychelles inhabitants, especially those in the service/tourism industries who often deal with foreigners, are also well versed in German and Italian although never having received any formal training in said languages.

Family/Marriage
Seychellois house holds often consist of an extended family arrangement with grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings living together in harmony under one roof.
No pressure is put on children to move out so it is also not unusual for a ‘thirty-something’ to be living at home.One generally only moves out only when moving in with a life partner.
Wedding ceremonies follow that of a typically traditional wedding with the bride sporting a white wedding dress as vows are exchanged after which a huge receptions is held.Some Seychellois believe that if a reception is to be held it must be an all out affair or must be skipped completely.In days gone by it used to be tradition that a week after the couple were married the party would once again come together to finish the celebration at the brides parents house, but this tradition has been fazed out almost completely now.

Religion
Approximately 90% of Seychellois are Christians with 89% of them being Catholic.On Sundays churches can be seen packed with brightly dressed figures all in their Sunday best.Religious feasts such as Easter and The Assumption of Mary are celebrations to be seen! Seychelles also has a small congregation of Muslims, Hindus and Bahais who festivals are a colour full site with street procession and bright costumes. (See festivals and events).

Black magic
With the arrival of African and Malagasy slaves, came the introduction of witchcraft, superstitions and gris-gris.Gris-gris is a form of black magic and herbalism used to gain revenge, increase one’s luck or even to gain the love of that someone special.It was outlawed by Britain in 1958 but survived underground for a time.It was believed that if you put a chicken bone under the pillow of the one you want to be with, they would confess their undying love to you.The practice of wakes is another result of gri-gris.It was believed that during the first night of a person death, a black magician could come and steal the body and turn the deceased into a zombie or mummy.Hence the wake – to keep watch over the deceased lest he come back as something dark and evil.

Music & Dance
Music and dance lie at the core of Seychellois culture and was, during the time of slavery, one of very few ways in which slaves could express themselves.Musical instruments consisted mainly of drums (Tamtam) and tambour and string instruments such as the zez and mouloumpa.Today, Seychelles music is influenced largely by country and western and reggae/rap leading to the introduction of guitars, violins and keyboards.

There are two main traditional dances in Seychelles, the Sega doused in African flavor and the Moutya fuelled by the anger and suppression of mixed race slaves.The Sega consists of people dancing by swaying their hips and shuffling their feet around a fire to the beating of drums while lyrics recounting events of every day life sail through the air.
The Moutya is a more erotic version of the Sega and is accompanied by a potent brew consisting of coconut palm sap mixed with sugar to give it an extra kick.Dancing starts off slowly in time to the beat of the drums, but speeds up and becomes more erotic as the beating becomes faster and faster and faster.

Art
Seychelles is coloured by a number of artist and a variety of art forms including painting, sculpting, batik and jewellery making.Art works generally depict sensual scenery, tropical vegetation and the browns of beaches and blues of the oceans who tease them.On Mahe there are a number art galleries exhibiting work of famous artists including Michael Adams and Edgard Marday. (Please see Places of Interest)

Cuisine
Creole cuisine draws from a variety of culinary styles resulting in tastes to please every pallet.With curry’s from India, rice dishes and stir fries from China, garlic, ginger and herbs from France, rice and fish (the countries staple diet) is turned into mouth wateringdishes every time.Among the Seychellois favorites are tec tec soup (made from small white shells collected off the beach), fruit bat stew, shark chutney and millionaires salad (made from palm hearts).
Favorite beverages include EKU or Seybrew beer, brewed and bottled in Seychelles, as well as citronella and vanilla tea.

Flora
With almost 50% of its total land mass set aside for conservation it is not difficult to fathom that Seychelles is teaming with a number of endemic specimens found nowhere else on earth. Its unique topography of sandy shores, thick forests and mountains is what makes it possible for the islands to support such a diverse collection of flora.

One of the most well known endemic species is the Coco de mer. It is found growing wild on only two of the 115 islands of the Seychelles, Praslin and Curieuse.Its nut, consisting of two halves joined in the centre, is the largest in the world and can easily weigh more than 20kg. The Coco de Mer is one of only six endemic palms, all of which can be seen at the Vallee de Mai on Praslin.
Mahe Island is no stranger to unique vegetation either thanks to the eight surviving specimens of jellyfish trees found tucked away amidst the thick mountain vegetation.Believed to be extinct, samples of this unusual tree were re-discovered in 1970.The jellyfish tree is easily identified by its flowers which look like round jellyfish minus their long tentacles. Another interesting tree to look out for is the Cannon Ball tree.With only two in whole of Seychelles it is a sight not to be missed.One of them can be found at the National Botanical Gardens and the other on the grounds of The Hilton Seychelles Northolme Hotel & Spa.

Colouring the islands shore are 766 species of flowering plants and 85 species of fern, 69 of which are endemic to Seychelles.Within spraying distance of the sea’s salty water, one will find 54 species of shrubby salt bushes and preventing coastal erosion is what is left of what once used to be miles of mangrove forests.

Glacis or weathered down granite on exposed mountain sides, do themselves act as perfect habitats for certain plants to grow.They often have small pockets filled with mosses etc which can act as fertilizer.Within these small pockets, pitcher plants grow quite comfortably.They are well known for their pitcher like receptacles which contain liquid capable of digesting insects that may fall into the pitcher.

Beneath the waves, the Seychelles is home to 350 species of red, brown and green seaweed and eight species of sea grass.The different types of sea grass act as shelter for small fish and serves as the main diet for sea turtles.

Fauna
From its skies to the floor of its ocean, Seychelles has much to offer in terms of fauna.
Most notable is its remarkable range of bird species and its giant tortoise congregation.

Endemic species of birds found on Mahe include the Scoops Owl, Seychelles Kestrel and White Eye.On Praslin one can see the Black Parrot, Seychelles Blue Pigeon and the Seychelles Cave Swiftlet.La Digue is home to the ever rare Paradise Flycatcher with Fregate housing the Black Paradise Flycatcher as well as the Cave Swiftlet.
(For more information, please see ‘Birding’)

Seychelles has three endemic mammal species including the Seychelles fruit bat which is caught by locals and turned into a curry.Other species include the Aldabra Fruit Bat and Sheath-tailed Bat which weighs between 10 and 11 kg.

Eleven endemic species of amphibians and16 endemic species of reptiles live on Seychelles soil including the turtles and tortoises which have become seurnonamous with the islands thanks to the giant land tortoise, Esmeralda.Esmeralda is a giant male tortoise who resides on Bird Island.He has slowly made his way into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest living land tortoise weighing a total of 304kg.He is said to be approximately 214 years old and is believed to be the oldest creature on earth.