Seychelles Islands

The Seychelles Islands are located between Africa and India. Isolated by 1,000 miles from each, they are remote and unique. The capital Mahe is on the largest of the islands, with others so small they support just one tree. Most are beautiful above and below the water with granite outcroppings, rain forests, exotic flowers, soft white sandy beaches and fabulous snorkeling. Located near the equator, they offer warm weather at any time of year. These little islands are serene and uncrowded. Most have no human inhabitants and many are wisely protected by the government.

The Seychelles Islands were probably formed when Africa pulled away from India, gradually isolating the islands. Life here developed very unique flora and fauna over time. The islands have been populated only recently (within 200 years) and remain sparsely populated. Inhabitants of these warm, beautiful, sunny islands are calm, friendly and eager to show off their delightful surroundings.

SITES:

MAHE

Flying into Mahe is delightful with the forested mountains, turquoise seas, and tall palms. The capital Victoria is tiny and friendly. Snorkeling can be found around a small island just offshore, but we prefer to take a taxi up the coast a bit (15 minutes), where we saw lionfish, pipefish, fan corals and plenty of exotic fish just off the pretty beach in shallow water. In spite of being midday, there were few others on the beach.

Across the mountains (about an hour's beautiful drive) there is a marine reserve, but you will need to take the snorkeling boat out to this site.

Hotels are located on both sides of the island, with many guesthouses in Victoria. You will also find plenty of restaurants and shops within easy walk of Victoria located just a couple of miles south of the airport.

LA DIGUE

This small island is 3 hours by boat from Mahe or 1/2 hour from Praslin. La Digue has no cars, just ox-carts and bicycles to rent near the dock. The island itself is incredibly beautiful with huge granite boulders lining soft white sand beaches with plenty of greenery. Small guesthouses often provide bicycles and it's easy to bike anywhere except that the dirt roads do have a fair number of potholes and the bike seats are rarely well padded. The area around this island is quite shallow so snorkeling is difficult at low tide. Many bays are just a foot or two deep when the tide goes out. This island of 2,000 inhabitants is charming, friendly and most photogenic. The mountain rises to over 1,000 feet and birds of all sorts are abundant.

Several nearby islands are easily reached by boat (in 5 or 10 minutes). We snorkeled one spot between two of these islands in an area about 3-6 feet deep. Calm water, white sand, sunny skies and the shallow depth meant we could get very close to the dazzling coral and fish making for a delightful day.

To give you an idea of what we saw in an hour or two: emperor angelfish, queen angelfish, Koran angelfish, clownfish in an anenome, reef squid, trunkfish, batfish, many types of butterflyfish, longnosed filefish, huge parrotfish and more -- all viewed up very close.

La Digue is a great choice for snorkelers because it has an outer protecting reef and fairly shallow waters between it and many tiny islands. The water is usually calm, clear and beautiful. The calmest beaches are located on the same side as the pier. Crossing to the far side takes you to secluded, but rougher beaches.

PRASLIN

One of the more settled islands with 7,000 residents, Praslin attracts visitors with its Vallee de Mai, an exotic rain forest where you'll find the famous coco-de-mar palms. Accomodations include guesthouses as well as hotels. Diving and snorkeling are available in several locations. Many of the snorkeling sites are toward a point or out to a little island just 5 minutes from shore. This is where we first saw the huge Napoleon wrasse.

Many guesthouses and dive shops are mostly located in Baie St. Anne about 20 minutes north of the pier. Taxis are waiting at the pier. Small motor boats will take snorkelers out to St. Pierre Island. You can almost walk there when the tide is low.

Anse Lazio is about 1/2 hour across the island by taxi. This beautiful big bay has snorkeling all along the right toward the point. Swimming is excellent in the center. Lunch is served at the open-air restaurant.

COUSIN

This island sanctuary is located just 2 miles from Praslin. The entire island is protected and has only foot paths for touring. An excellent place to bird-watch, it's also home to giant tortoises. The beach is long and beautiful -- perfect for swimming. To snorkel, head to the left as far as calm.

CURIEUSE

Another protected island, Curieuse is just 1/2 mile north of Praslin. This nature reserve is attempting to protect the giant tortoise by establishing a breeding colony. You may visit, but there are no facilities on these protected islands. Snorkeling is good when calm.

DESROCHES

This is a coral island instead of granite, so is flat instead of mountainous. It's part of a large atoll with much of the atoll submerged. Desroches is 3 miles long, but the atoll is 50 miles across. Snorkeling and swimming are wonderful here as long as the ocean is calm. The monsoon can definitely bring waves making it unsafe.