The Seychelles is an Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar consisting of more than 100 islands. The Seychelles islands are the highest point of Macrene Ridge, an Indian Ocean ridge running in a generally north-south direction.
The main islands have only been settled for about 200 years.
The main island of Seychelles is Mahe which is 142sq km. Praslin, LaDigue and Silhouette are the next important.
During the Napoleonic Wars the islands passed from French to English rule then back again several times over, before the English finally took over as colonial masters in 1811. The English never really settled on the islands and the French influence remains strong. Many African slaves were also brought in to work on the land. After the abolition of slavery many of them were liberated in Seychelles, when illegal slaving ships were captured by the English frigates in the Indian Ocean.
Besides the African slaves and the French landowners, other nationalities also came to Seychelles – Arabs, Chinese and Indians have stayed and settled and the Seychelles population today is a wonderful mixture of all these influences, resulting in a complete lack of racial tension.
So many islands are within easy reach of each other, yet each has its own unique character. You can hop between Mahé and Praslin, for example, in just 15 minutes and explore the endlessly varied coves and inlets. Or venture a little further and savor the desert island-like qualities of smaller islands such as Bird or Denis. It’s so simple to do and you can add activities such as sailing or diving.
Mahé, measuring 28km long by 8km wide, is the largest island and cultural and economic hub of the Inner Islands, and the international gateway to Seychelles. It is home to the international airport and the nation’s capital, Victoria.
The island is home to almost 90% of the total population (or approximately 72,200 people) reflecting Seychelles’ diverse ethnicity and descent from African, Indian, Chinese and European populations, and is the seat of government and the chief centre of commerce.
With a backdrop of towering 1000m granite peaks, Mahé is an extraordinary treasure trove of flora that has evolved over centuries of splendid isolation.
Rare endemic plants found nowhere else in the world adorn Mahé’s mist forests in mountain strongholds, such as the Jellyfish Tree, the carnivorous Seychelles Pitcher Plant and the Seychelles Vanilla Orchid.
First visited by the British in 1609, Mahé was not visited again until Lazare Picault’s expedition of 1742 when the gradual process of settling the island began, first by the French whose direct influence continued until 1814 and then as a British colony until Seychelles gained independence in 1976.
Mahé is the transportation hub for island-hops and day excursions to neighbouring islands and all other islands within Seychelles. All scheduled domestic flights by Air Seychelles originate from Mahé to the serviced islands.
Praslin, with a population of 6,500 people, is Seychelles’ second largest island. It lies 45km to the northeast of Mahé and measures 10km by 3.7km. A leisurely tour around the island by car will take approximately 2 hours.
Praslin is the site of the fabulous Vallée de Mai, one of Seychelles’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The island features truly exquisite beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette, both appearing on the top-10 list of world’s best beaches in recent years.
Prior to settlement of the islands by the French in the mid-18th century, Praslin’s Côte d’Or was a favourite haunt of pirates.
The island was named Praslin after the Duc de Praslin, the French minister of marine in 1768 when the original ‘Stone of Possession’ was erected on the island in what is still known as Anse Possession.
Almost a century and a half later the visiting General Gordon (of Khartoum fame) became convinced that the Vallée de Mai was the original site of the Garden of Eden. This is where the legendary Coco-de-Mer, the world’s heaviest nut, grows high on ancient palms in a primeval forest. The Vallée is host to six species of palm to be found only in Seychelles.
Praslin stands at the forefront of Seychelles’ tourism industry with a strong tradition of hospitality and wide range of accommodation facilities. It also provides a base for excursions to neighbouring islands, some of which are important sanctuaries nurturing rare species of endemic flora and fauna.
Close neighbour to Praslin and to its satellite islands of Félicité, Marianne and the Sisters Islands, La Digue is the fourth largest island in Seychelles.
La Digue takes its name from one of the vessels in explorer Marion Dufresne’s fleet, sent by the French to explore Seychelles’ granitic islands in 1768.
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