weekend away - Seychelles
Written by Linda Jackson
Few destinations hold more allure as archetypal tropical islands than the Seychelles archipelago, famous for its huge, smooth granite boulders, lush vegetation, and powder-soft sand, where divers are drawn like magnets to the turquoise crystal-clear waters.
Nestled in the Indian Ocean, cocooned from any adverse influences of over-commercialisation because of its isolation, the Seychelles archipelago consists of 115 islands, the majority small and uninhabitable. Huge movements of the earth’s crust, oceanic volcanoes, and the separation of India from Africa millions of years ago created the Seychelles, a collection of idyllic islands located some 1,000 miles off the coast of Kenya; the inner islands are the world’s only mid-ocean granite islands, the outer islands are coralline. ‘Ownership’ of the Seychelles changed many times during the struggle for supremacy in India between Britain and France in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, with Britain finally occupying the Seychelles in 1811 (the 1814 Paris Treaty confirmed sovereignty). The then-resident French administrator was permitted to remain; consequently the Seychelles has maintained much of its French character, culture, and language to this day. As for the cuisine, it is deliciously diverse: a fusion of European, African, and Asian with a twist of local flavour.
Diving and snorkelling in the Seychelles are amazing pastimes. With visibility commonly exceeding 30 metres and water temperatures reaching 28°C, the region is one of the prime scuba-diving locations in the Indian Ocean. The Seychelles archipelago is encircled by reefs teeming with a rich variety of fish including the bat, parrot, clown, and butterfly fish. Huge granite boulders, adorned with corals and clams, provide some spectacular swim-through underwater scenery, while several encrusted wrecks host an abundance of marine life.
For exceptional underwater entertainment make the lush hilly island of Mahe your base for a weekend away. In the crystalline waters expect to see myriad colourful fish, eagle and giant sting rays, sharks, giant groupers, and moray eels, blue-striped snappers, hawksbill turtles, and maybe even the splendid green turtle. The Sainte Anne Marine National Park is a prime location for snorkelling and scuba-diving among coral reefs, while snorkelling in the shallow waters amid a plethora of small fish at Anse Royale is the nearest you’ll get to swimming in an aquarium. Manta rays, unbelievably graceful gentle giants, have even been spotted off the northwest coast of the island. There are dozens of dive sites along the coast; schools for both beginners and advanced divers; scuba-diving excursions operated by specialists to the best dive sites; and glass-bottom boat trips over reefs teeming with a kaleidoscope of exotic fish.
Connect Mahe, Seychelles Distance: 3,335 km Flight Time: 4 hours, 55 minutes Frequency: 4 flights a week
Victoria, a gem of a town on Mahe, is one of the world’s smallest capitals and easily explored on foot. A replica ‘Little Ben’ clock tower is the focal point; giant sculptures dot the streets, colourful shop stalls and vibrant blooms line the main road.
Mahe is where the archipelago’s international airport is located, so island-hopping excursions by either a short plane hop, high-speed catamaran, or ferry are easy. Hop to La Digue with its sculpted granite boulders (a photo-shoot favourite), where bicycles and ox-powered ‘taxis’ are the mode of transport; or to Praslin (island), famous for its giant coco-de-mer palms in the Vallee de Mai rainforest.