Blessed with a stunning natural beauty, from the sea to rugged mountains, from sandy beaches to lush forests, the picture-perfect tropical islands of the Seychelles provide a dream come true for nature lovers.

Seychelles island, La DigueWith white sands, crystal-clear water, palm trees and a year-round warm equatorial climate, the archipelago has the deserved reputation for offering the sun-and-sea worshipper an idyllic beach holiday and honeymoon couples a heavenly hideaway. But more than this, the unspoiled natural beauty of the islands is exceptional.

Situated just south of the equator in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles archipelago comprises well over 100 islands including both low-lying coralline and spectacular granitic islands. In the indigenous forests, visitors can see rare birds and plants that are found nowhere else on the planet.

The best known animal on the Seychelles is the giant land tortoise that was originally found only on the Aldabra atoll, now a World Heritage Site. These long-lived creatures have since been introduced to several of the islands. Living on Bird Island and over 150 years old is the famous Esmerelda, thought to be the oldest tortoise in the world.

Most notable among the endemic forest plants, and a flagship species of the Seychelles, is the enormous palm tree the coco-de-mer. Also known as the double coconut, it produces the largest nuts of any tree in the world, with some specimens weighing as much as 66 pounds (30 kilograms). The literal meaning of coco-de-mer is coconut of the sea, and the reason for this is that early European sailors in the Indian Ocean used to see the giant two-lobed nuts floating in the sea. The mystery of the origin of the seeds was only solved following the discovery in the 1700s, reportedly by the French, of the uninhabited islands of the present-day Seychelles.

Adding to the allure of the seed of the coco-de-mer is that the suggestive shape of the nut led to a belief that it is an aphrodisiac. The seeds became highly prized and commanded high prices in international trade and they remain a popular curio today. Trade in the seeds is now tightly controlled and the remaining populations are protected.

These rare plants occur naturally only in the Seychelles on Praslin and Curieuse islands. Praslin island’s Vallée de Mai nature reserve is a World Heritage Site and a sanctuary not only for the vulnerable coco-de-mer but also for many other rare plants and animals. Cultivated stands of the iconic palm have also been planted on Mahé and Silhouette islands.

The Seychelles is famous for its coral reefs that are home to an astonishing range of marine life. Over 900 species of fish and 100 corals have been identified in the coastal waters. The clarity of the water makes it possible to snorkel or scuba dive in near-perfect conditions. In addition to the colourful reef fishes, other marine inhabitants include sea turtles and dolphins.

River in junglesAlso related to the ocean environment, the variety and number of sea birds is another draw card for visitors. For example, over two million sooty terns nest on Bird Island, and common on many of the islands is the beautiful and photogenic white fairy tern. Other seabirds on the islands include noddies, boobies and the spectacular frigate birds.

In addition to the natural attractions and scenic beauty of the islands, the friendly hospitality of the Seychellois people is well known. Today’s inhabitants of the Seychelles have mixed African, European and Asian origins. The main languages are Creole, English and French. The cuisine, noted for its seafood, reflects a blend of diverse traditions. The people of the islands are happy to share their relaxed lifestyle with the many visitors who come to the islands seeking tranquillity.

Most of the islands are uninhabited, but a wide choice of places to stay is offered on about 16 of the islands. Accommodation ranges from beautifully appointed exclusive hotels to family-orientated resorts to eco-lodges to guesthouses and self-catering apartments and cottages.

The international airport is on Mahé Island near the capital Victoria. In addition to Air Seychelles, several other international airlines make regular flights to the Seychelles. Many Indian Ocean cruise ships include the archipelago in their choice of destinations. And once you are there, island hopping is possible using inter-island routes by plane or by boat. Chartered helicopter flights are also available.

Even those with only a passing interest in magnificent natural scenery and wildlife will find much to enchant them in the Seychelles. It’s worth noting that it is not only the emblematic coco-de-mer that enjoys protection in the Seychelles. Over 43% of the land, and vast areas of the surrounding reefs and marine areas have protected status. Hiking the footpaths and trails along the shorelines, in the mountains and nature reserves can be a rewarding and memorable experience, with trails to suit all levels of fitness.

The Seychelles is an unmatched holiday destination with something for everyone. The warm and clear waters of the beaches and marine reserves cannot be bettered, and they offer safe swimming and snorkelling in calm conditions. Welcoming not only those seeking romance and the sun, the islands also attract nature enthusiasts that include scuba divers, birdwatchers and hikers.

So, if you want to get away from it all to relax and unwind – with the option of a little adventure on the side – the turquoise waters, emerald-green forests, friendly hospitality and delicious cuisine of the sun-soaked Seychelles await you. Why not start planning your island holiday now?