Secluded Paradise: Seychelles

Somewhere off the east coast of Africa, surrounded for hundreds and hundreds of miles by tropical sea, lies a lush paradise of such legendary beauty that it was once thought to contain the Garden of Eden. Rising up from the deep blue depths of the Indian Ocean are ancient granite islands covered in verdant green forests; amidst these are dozens of shallow coral atolls and shimmering reefs. Welcome to Seychelles.

This archipelago of 115 islands is often overlooked by tropical vacationers, and many regular visitors are just fine with that. They would rather keep Seychelles one of the world’s best kept secrets. But for those willing to explore this stunning island nation, a rich and unique experience awaits.

First settled by the French and then by the British, Seychelles has been its own sovereign republic since 1976. Over two centuries of varied influence has led to a cultural melting pot of ethnicities and traditions unlike any other. The natural diversity has led to a vibrant and harmonious society that enjoys sharing its roots with the rest of the globe. French-inspired Creole cuisine is abundant, along with renditions of the sombre moutia, the customary dance of the Seychelles. There is plenty of reason to dance, as the island chain enjoys a sublime climate with copious sunshine and few extremes. Even tropical cyclones rarely invade this peaceful paradise.

Sun worshippers from all over the planet flock to Seychelles’ gorgeous beaches and coastal waters. Unlike many other tourist destinations, the beaches here tend to be immaculate and free of crowds. Many offer views of majestic granite boulders jutting out into the sky. Every water activity imaginable, from swimming to snorkeling to scuba diving, is available. World class diving opportunities abound. For those seeking something more relaxing, glass bottom boating and some of the gentlest sailing on the globe can be chartered at reasonable prices. Perhaps the most spectacular attraction is Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral reef, recently named a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Site. All shades of vibrant color reflect back on the clear, turquoise sea, creating a brilliant scene.

Once you venture inland, Seychelles becomes a living museum of natural wonders and a refuge for some of the rarest plant and animal species on earth. Nearly fifty percent of the land mass is composed of national parks and reserves. The island nation has long prided itself on a tradition of environmental protection and conservation. This is the only place in the world that one can find amazements like the paradise flycatcher, the jellyfish tree, and the Seychelles warbler. The celebrated Vallee de Mai, of mythical Eden fame, is home to the largest living seed in the world, the Coco-de-Mer.

Many visitors find that the best route to adventure is island-hopping. Each individual isle has its own scenery and activities to discover: horse-back riding, guided (or unguided) nature tours, hiking among towering waterfalls, golf, casinos, bars, and fine restaurants. Sixteen of the islands offer overnight accommodations ranging from beachside huts to five star lodges, so you are never stuck in one place. The hub of it all is the main island of Mahe, where the beautiful capital of Victoria lies, as well as the international airport that connects Seychelles to the outside world. The national airline Air Seychelles frequently provides flights to four European countries and three large cities around the Indian Ocean. In addition, numerous inter-island flights are available. Overall, getting to, from and around the islands is rarely a problem. Convincing yourself to leave may present the biggest challenge.

Despite its amazing natural beauty and warm, friendly atmosphere, Seychelles remains off the radar for many travelers. Granted, there are a multitude of scenic places to visit in the world, but few can compare to the spectacularly pristine land and seascapes of this age-old paradise. If you are the type of adventurer who loves to explore at your own pace, without battling the throngs of overcrowded beaches and trails, there might not be a better place in the world for you to visit. By yacht, seaplane, horse, or foot, your journey among the isles of Seychelles is sure to be a once in a lifetime experience. The only limit is your imagination.

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