Supposed location of Adam and Eve's earthly paradise, the Seychelles have been attracting swooning honeymooners and loved-up couples to their pristine shores for many an idyllic summer. Meet in the shade of swaying palms, relax on some of the most beautiful beaches of the world, or let yourself sink into the rhythm of the Seychellois - life here is breathed with elegance and ease.Mysterious plants and pink beaches
It's not tempting apple trees you'll find here, but mysterious sea coconut palms - the only place in the world that you'll find them and almost endemic to the tiny Vallée de Mai on the island of Praslin. Around it, the islands of Mahé, La Digue, Silhouette and over one hundred others fan out into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Their beaches, often tinged pink by the granite rocks which surround them, are some of the most beautiful in the world and shelter giant land turtles, bats and a huge variety of birds and sea life.Variety above all
Each island has a unique composition, be it the effervescent charm of the capital Mahé, the slow-paced rhythm of life on Praslin or the total isolation of La Digue and Desroches, where the day is whiled away from the back of a bicycle or the comfort of an ox-drawn cart. Away from the main attractions you can also find fantastic nature reserves on the islands of Bird and Cousine, all-inclusive luxury on Denis and Sainte-Anne, unspoilt landscapes on Silhouette and extravagant hotels on Frégate and North Island.Can't decide?
With so much choice, visiting just one island is out of the question. A gentle cruise through the islands aboard a yacht allows you the pick of the 115 islands and islets, whether you're in search of seclusion or civilisation. For those who want to sail off into their own personal sunset, the archipelago offers a huge amount of freedom to explore its waters and far-flung isles, though some situated within national parks and marine reserves require prior entry permission.Take to the sea
The islands may have made a name for themselves with exquisite beaches and tranquillity, but fans of water sports will also be well-pleased with the diving, snorkelling, sailing and motorised water sports on offer. The sweeping beach of Beau Vallon on Mahé has great facilities, courses for first-timers and incredible underwater life to explore.Into nature
If water sports don't float your boat, head inland to discover a world of mountainous terrains, covered with tropical forest, winding walking routes and dense plantlife. Of the many parks, reserves and gardens, one of the most splendid is the UNESCO-protected Vallée de Mai. The valley is home to six endemic species of palm tree alone and is the only remaining place you can find the endangered black parrot in the wild.
With a sun that rises long before 6am, the Seychelles belong to early birds. You'll find that darkness falls around 7pm and that most activities are limited to eating, drinking and relaxing in the cool of the early evening. A trip is made all the easier by a three- (in summer) or four- (in winter) hour time difference, as well as great weather all year round and no risk of cyclones.
If you're on the hunt for the world's best beach, those at Anse Lazio and Source d'Argent regularly feature amongst the top ten. On La Digue, the beaches along the east coast, Grande Anse and Petite Anse, are absolutely magnificent and often deserted. Unfortunately, powerful waves and currents often claim victims along this stretch of shore, much like Lazare Bay on Mahé.
When you become tired of the beach, take a trip into Victoria, the pocket-sized capital of Mahé and one of the smallest in the world. As well as its central market, a colourful bazar which makes up the centre of local life, the town is also home to beautifully coloured creole houses, a market street for great shopping and emblematic monuments such as the Clock Tower, a sort of miniature Big Ben.
During the dry season, from May to September, certain islands are more or less invaded by seaweed, especially those on the south-east coasts. Though it completely disappears with the arrival of the monsoon from November to March, the beaches are cleaned regularly and shuttles are provided by most hotels to take visitors to those beaches which escape the worst of the slippery influx.
The Seychelles archipelago is a Creole country. Nowadays, the people embrace their Creole identity and language, not disdained as it was for so long. The Creole language is now taught in schools, spoken on the radio, in church and official speeches by government ministers. This renaissance of Creole culture has given new pride to the Seychellois people and makes for an incredibly vibrant nation of which to be a part.
Seychellois people are above all very natural people, almost immediately addressing new acquaintances and foreign visitors in an informal way. Everyone is treated as family, whether blood related or not and you will never fail to feel welcomed into the community at large. Hedonism is deeply rooted in the Seychellois mentality, never worrying about tomorrow or next week.
Local cuisine is based on rice and fish. Chicken, octopus (called zourite) or fish cari is the national dish. It is generally quite hot (a chilli and lime sauce is always left on the table for seasoning). Fish is most often served grilled or roasted and the focus is on coral fish such as wrasse, parrotfish, threadfin, red snapper, stickleback and jack. Crab also has a place of honour, whether they are small crabs, locally known as trouloulous, or giant crabs.
For those with expensive tastes, the "millionaire dish" is made with fresh heart of palm. To prepare it, you actually have to fell a tree so as to extract its heart. If your taste buds are open to new flavours, try one of the Seychelles' specialities - bat stew, whose meat tastes not unlike venison. Sweet-toothed travellers will also be pleased to know that the islands provide every kind of tropical fruit imaginable: mangos, guavas, passion fruits, jackfruits, soursops, small bananas, melons, pineapples, grapefruits...the list in never-ending!
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In shops, you will find very creative textiles (batiks, sarongs and t-shirts), designed by young local artists. Seychellois craftspeople also make pretty baskets, hats and mats. You also find beautiful jewels, mixing gold, coral and seashells on Mahé and in the boutiques of some hotels. So as to protect the tortoise, an endangered species, it is recommended not to buy jewels which use their shells.
One of the most meticulous crafts is the making of boat models. The most original souvenir to take home still is the coco de mer or "coco fesse". Split in two, it makes an original-looking fruit basket. Shops are normally open Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm, to 2.00pm on Saturdays and are shut on Sundays.