Over the millions of years that Seychelles lay isolated and undiscovered, a unique flora and fauna evolved. Birds and plants found nowhere else on earth have survived to the modern age and continue to thrive thanks to enlightened attitudes which have resulted in more than 50% of the land mass being set aside as nature reserves, National Parks and protected areas, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Vallee de Mai, in Praslin. Seventy-five plants are found in the granite islands and nowhere else on earth with a further twenty-six endemic plants confined to the Aldabra Group. The unique land birds also include many found only in Seychelles including the last flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, the Aldabra Rail and the enigmatic Seychelles Scops Owl, found only on Mahé. Reptiles include by far the world’s largest population of Giant Tortoises. Pristine reefs host a huge range of fish (over 1,000 species recorded), corals and other marine life forms. Seychelles is the ultimate wildlife paradise.
Of the 115 islands in the Seychelles archipelago, 41 inner islands are granitic and 74 are the low-lying coral islands.
The Inner Islands which are mostly granitic, cluster mainly around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, forming the cultural and economic hub of Seychelles, as well as the centre of its tourism industry. Together they are home to the majority of Seychelles’ accommodation facilities as well almost the entire population of the archipelago. There are 43 Inner islands in total – 41 granitic and 2 coralline.
Mahé is the largest island: 32 kilometres by 8 kilometres and is the most populated one with 90% of the Seychelles population (about 80 000 people). It is home to the capital, Victoria, the main port and the International Airport. This spectacular island is dominated by huge mountains (Morne Seychellois reaches a height of 905 metres) and is covered by lush tropical vegetation. Seventy five beaches with beautiful soft sand are scattered around the island.
The small island of Ste Anne as well as its neighbours Cerf, Moyenne and Round islands are easily accessible from Mahe for a half day or full day excursion. All of them are part of the Ste Anne Marine National Park, one of the first Marine National Parks of the Indian Ocean which was constituted in 1973. The coral reefs are ideal for snorkeling and diving. Each island has its own unique character, while all are cloaked in luxuriant vegetation and surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches
Praslin, the secon d largest island is home to Vallée de Mai, an imposing 45-acre valley that was baptised as the Garden of Eden by General Gordon of Khartoum-fame. It is famed as the stronghold of the legendary Coco-de-Mer palm, unique to Seychelles. It bears the world’s largest seed, and erotically shaped double nut. Huge shaped rocks alternate with beaches all around the island. This island lies approximately two and a half hours by schooner, one hour by fast ferry or 15 minutes by air from Mahé
La Digue, the third largest in terms of population, is ideal for a tranquil and relaxed get-away, with its heavenly fine white sand beaches simply out of this world. Transport here is mainly by ox-cart or bicycle. The island is accessible in fifteen / thirty minutes by boat from Praslin
At one mile to the north east of Praslin, the small island of Curieuse is strictly protected. A Conservation Project focus on Giant tortoises originating from Aldabra: the small ones are protected in pens, while the adults roam freely on the island. A walk on a raised path allow visitors to explore a mangrove forest.
This nature reserve is managed by BirdLife Seychelles and is famed for its huge seabird colonies and rare land birds, including the Seychelles Warbler and Seychelles Magpie-robin, two of the rarest birds on earth. During the breeding season, Hawksbill Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs above the tide level
Aride Island Nature Reserve is owned and managed by Island Conservation Society. It is home to more seabirds of more species than the other 40 granitic islands combined together with 5 endemic landbirds, thousands of frigatebirds and the fragrant Wright’s Gardenia, found nowhere else in its natural state.
This island is a jewel among the Seychelles Inner Islands. It is a tiny tropical island part of the Curieuse National Park and an excellent site for snorkeling and diving
Silhouette is the the third largest island in the Seychelles but has a tiny population confined to the plateau. Most of the land is mountainous with five peaks over 500 metres and covered in dense forest where many endemic plants survive. Most of the island is protected within Silhouette National Park.
Other inner islands include:
Anonyme, Bird Island, Cerf, Chauve Souris, Conception, Cousine, Denis Island, Félicité, Frégate, Grande Soeur, Ile Cocos, Long Island, Moyenne, North Island, Petite Soeur, Round Island.
Most islands outside the inner islands group are coralline and spread towards the south and south west. See the general map of Seychelles. These 74 outer islands are coral, flat, sandy and planted with coconut trees. They are less visited than the granitic islands due to their relative remoteness and they offer untouched habitats for many species of wildlife.
They fall in four distinct groups: the Amirantes group, the Southern Coral group, the Farquhar group and the Aldabra group. Only Desroches island which is in the Amirantes group currently offers luxurious accommodation facilities. While Alphonse island can only offer accommodation to fishermen on fly-fishing trips.
Alphonse, situated at 450 km south-west of Mahé, is a typical coralline island. Unspoiled and protected by a coral reef, it boasts one of the most attractive turquoise lagoons.
Aldabra, the world largest coral atoll, is well-known for its unique and untouched environment. It is the home of 80000 giant tortoises, of the last remaining flightless bird of the Indian Ocean and of other unique landbirds. Turtles and vast colonies of seabirds come to Aldabra to breed. Among 273 species of plants, 26 are endemic taxa of which 22 are species. It became in 1982 Seychelles first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Special permission is required for anyone wishing to visit this remote island in order to ensure the protection of its fragile eco-system