“It’s nice to be lonely and isolated at times.”
An archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean remained isolated and uninhabited for centuries. So much so that even today just 8 of those islands have permanent human habitat. WHY? This may be the sole reason why the rare Coco-de-Mer trees grow naturally in these islands, why the most endemic birds find solace here, and why the hawksbill turtle can lay her eggs here in broad daylight. It might have taken years of patience and creative solitude for the Almighty to fit in minute intrinsic details to create a paradise on Earth. He used topaz blue waters, lush green hills, talcum white beaches, bright colorful reefs, granite rocks, a wide array of flora and fauna and finally with a masterstroke gave it a laid back feel. And we named it “Seychelles”.
French, English, Seselwa
Country: East Africa
Currency: Seychellois Rupee (SCR)
Official Languages: English, French, Seychellois Creole
Area: 459 sq. km
Time Zone: GMT +04:00
Area Code: +248
Once you land at the Seychelles International Airport, it’s as if there is a whole new world is waiting to embrace you with open hands and trying to make this a memorable trip for you. This starts off with the first warm welcome you receive from the person who is waiting to introduce you to this world. The world of Seychelles.
Seychelles has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The clear blue waters, the tropical forests, the powdery sands, the granite boulders, and the rich biodiversity, each has something to offer to you. And as you cradle in the lap of Mother Earth, you start being accustomed to her beauty and pride. You start swimming in those waters, walking amidst the forests, playing in the sands, climbing the huge boulders,making friends with her children and before you even realize you become a part of her. You become a part of Seychelles.
It’s not only the Mother, Seychellois people embrace you too. They share their house with you, they make you feel at home, they prepare food for you, they entertain you with their songs and dance, and they introduce you to their culture.
And as you are about to leave, it’s not the same Seychelles any more. A part of it goes away with you, a part of you stays behind. And maybe that’s why the weather here is always moist and sometimes, sometimes it rains.
Spread over an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1,374,000 square km but with a landmass of just 459 square km, Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, located Northeast of the Madagascar Islands and around 1600 km east of Kenya. These islands are mainly divided into the Inner and the Outer Islands. The inner-islands comprise of 45 mid-oceanic granite islands and 2 coralline Islands while the outer islands (also known asZilElwannyenSesel) are coralline islands formed of reef islets and coral atolls. The outer Islands are mostly uninhabited as there is no fresh water and hence only 1 percent of the entire population live here. The largest and the most populated granitic island is Mahe. Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, is located in Mahe. Other principal islands include Praslin, La Digue and Silhoutte. Two UNESCO world heritage sites, the famous Vallee de Mai on Praslin in which the rare Coco-de-Mer trees grow and Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll, are an integral part of this archipelago.
Though it’s believed that the Arab sailors discovered these islands in the 7th century but it’s not recorded. In1502, Vasco da Gama during his second voyage from India to Africa sighted the coral islands and named them after himself, Les Amirantes (Islands of the Admiral). The Amirantes found its place in the Portuguese map in 1506, while the inner granite islands were called the Seven Sisters. The Ascenion, a trading vessel of the English East India Company, en route to India, lost its course and accidentally found the North Islands on January 19th, 1609. These islands were an abode of fish and fowl and provided the sailors with all that they needed to replenish themselves and were also devoid of the threat from other human beings but the British did not settle here. These islands became the haven of the Caribbean pirates in the later half of the 17th century butremained uninhabited throughout most of the recorded history. After Isle de France (now Mauritus) was occupied by the French, the French administrator, Bertrand-Francois Mahe de La Bourdonnias, sent LazarePicault to map these islands. Picault named them Ile d’Abondance because nature had plenty to offer in these islands. Picault’s mapping was poor and so he was sent back in 1744. He renamed the biggest island after his patron, Mahe and the group of islands Ile de la Bourdonnais. In 1754, after the outbreak of what was known as the Seven Years’ War, Corneille Nicholas Morphey claimed these islands and renamed the largest as Isle de Sechellesafter the Minister of Finance of Louis XV, Viscount Jean Moreau de Sechelles. The first French settlement was established on St.Anne on 12th August 1770. It comprised of 15 white colonists, seven slaves, five Indians and one black woman. The colonists started growing spices and later shifted to much traditional plantations like cotton and sugarcane. Following the French revolution, the settlers formed a colonial assembly and decided to run the colonies all by themselves. Jean –Baptiste Queau de Quincy took command and tried to steer away the British until the colonies were formally ceded to Great Britain in The Treaty of Paris, in 1814. With the ban on slavery in 1830 throughout the Empire, the colonists had to shift to growing less labour intensive crops such as cinnamon, vanilla and coconut. In 1903, Seychelles became a separate British Crown Colony and a useful place for them to exile political prisoners. Seychelles finally gained freedom from the British rule on June 29th, 1976 when Seychelles was declared as an independent republic within the Commonwealth.
The current population of Seychelles is 94,968 based on the latest United Nations Estimate. 90 percent of the population live in Mahe. While the remaining 10percent are scattered in Praslin, La Digue and 5 other islands. 8 out of these 115 islands are permanently inhabited. Majority of the population are of Creole descent i.e from French colonial settlers and African slave labourers while the remaining are of European origin.
Seychelles has been attracting people from all over the world since its discovery and each group has left a mark of its own making it unique and culturally diversified. This attributes to the different kinds of religion that are practiced in these islands though the main religion is Roman Catholicism.82% of the population are Roman Catholics, 6.4% Anglican Christians, 2% Hindus and 1% Muslim. The Adventists or the Bahai also form a small part. Witchcraft, Blackmagic, superstitions and the use of talisman also have a prominent place in the Seychellois culture.
Seychelles has three official languages; Creole, English and French. Though the lingua franca is Creole or Seychellois Creole, which is a mix of African languages like Swahili and Malagasy with a huge French influence, Seychellois or the people of Seychelles are warm and cordial and Indian tourists can easily communicate with a little knowledge of English and French.
The Currency of Seychelles is Seychellois Rupee (SCR) and the current conversion rate is 4.71 Indian Rupees for 1 Seychellois Rupee.The Seychellois Rupee is subdivided into 100 cents. The denominations available in bank notes are SCR 10,25,50,100,500 and in coins are SCR 1,5,10 and 1,5,10,25 cents.
The Barclays is the main bank in the Islands. Though there are other banks in the Islands along with the Seychelles Commercial Bank. Banks with ATM facilities are there in Victoria, Anse Royale and at the airport in Mahe, Grand Anse, BaieSt.Anne and Cote D’Or on Praslin as well as La Passe for La Digue. Cash and major credit cards are acceptable all over Seychelles. Traveler’s checks are also accepted in most establishments.
Tipping is not usual in Seychelles as most top-end hotels and restaurants add a service charge of 10%- 15% on the bill. Bargaining is also not at all exercised in Seychelles. Though a little hackling over prices can be done but it’s restricted only to markets.