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Diamonds In The Ocean
After God had finished creating the world, he had a handful of diamonds left over. He came upon a place just east of Africa where he thought to himself, Here I can create something marvellous, and so he scattered the remaining diamonds in the ocean. Thus the Seychelles were born.
Officially the Republic of the Seychelles is an archipelago nation of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean some 1,500 km west of mainland Africa, northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 km east of Kenya. Seychelles has the smallest population of any sovereign state of Africa.
There are 42 granitic islands including Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, Fregate & Silhouette, two coral sand cays north of the granitics, Denis & Bird, two coral sand cays south of the granitics. There are 29 coral islands in the Amirantes group west of the granitics, 13 coral islands in the Farquhar group, south-south west of the Amirantes and 67 raised coral islands in the Aldabra Group, west of the Farquhar Group.
As the islands of the Seychelles had no indigenous population, the current Seychellois are composed of people who have immigrated to the island. The largest ethnic groups are those of French, African, Indian and Chinese descent. The official languages are French and English along with the Seychellois Creole, which is primarily based upon French.
The Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903 and independence was granted in 1976 as a republic within the Commonwealth. Seychellois society is essentially matriarchal with mothers tending to dominate the household.
The granitic islands of Seychelles are home to about 75 endemic plant species, with a further 25 or so species in the Aldabra group. Particularly well-known is the Coco de Mer, a species of palm that grows only on the islands of Praslin and neighbouring Curieuse, sometimes nicknamed the "love nut " because of its suggestive shape, it is the world largest seed.
Giant tortoises from Aldabra now populate many of the islands of the Seychelles and these unique reptiles can be found even in captive herds. The Seychelles hosts some of the largest seabird colonies in the world and Aride Island has the world's largest colony of Lesser Noddy and Audubon's Shearwater. The marine life around the islands, especially the more remote coral islands, can be spectacular with more than 1,000 species of fish has been recorded.
The inner islands are the centre of activity with the majority being mountainous with a few outlying coral islands at the edge of the plateau. The main island Mahe, with the capital Victoria, is home to the majority of the resident population. This area is north of the cyclone belt with a climate moderated by the trade winds and dominant mountains that promote year-round diving conditions.
The Amirantes are a group of coral islands and sand-bars to the south west of the inner island group, strictly speaking they comprise the Amirantes group to the north and the Alphonse group to the south and are true "coral islands". This area is on the outer fringe of the cyclone belt and is accessible at only limited times of the year, September to May and tends to have a much drier climate than the Inner Islands. There has been very little tourist infrastructure developed with lodges on Resroches and Alphonse only.
To the south and south west of the Amirantes now some 10 degrees south of the Equator are the Southern Islands which comprise the Farquar and the Aldabra group of islands. These islands are on the edge of the cyclone belt and accessibility is limited to mid October to Mid December and then again March to the end of April. These coral atoll formations include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aldabra, the largest raised coral atoll in the world and home to over 120,000 giant land tortoises among other rare and endemic animals.
It doesn't matter which island within the Seychelles you chose one thing is assured, the warm and friendly welcome you will receive from the local people. 200 years ago the islands were still uninhabited and the staging ground for pirates, the inhabitants today are a mixture of African, Asian & European. The official language is Creole, English and French with Creole spoken among the locals.
Mahe, the largest of the Seychelles islands, is a granite island rising out of the sea with her mountain tops often obscured by view by a blanket of cloud. Morne Seychellois rises to a height of 905 meters above sea level. Rich vegetation covers the whole island, in the lower regions mainly coconut palms grow and in the mountainous regions tropical forests with their own unique species of plants. Coconuts, cinnamon and vanilla are cultivated on Mahe with tea being cultivated at altitudes above 600 meters.
Mahe is the political and commercial centre of the Seychelles and it is the first island that greets visitors since the only international airport exists here. The Government has its seat within the capital Victoria, where most of the business takes place. The first people arrived in 1778, during the French colonial period, they were police sent from Mauritius to bring law and order. They built their houses at Victoria, which was then named Le stablissement du Roi. The city received its current name in 1841, named after the Queen of England at the time, Victoria.
At the centre of Victoria is the famous clock tower, a present from England in 1903. It is a copy of the clock tower in the Vauxhall Bridge Road in London. The present was given to symbolise the separation away from Mauritius and the building of a new separate colony for the Seychelles.
A short 15 minute plane flight or three hour boat ride from Mahe lies the wonderful island of Praslin. This is the second largest island and is unique in the world some of the plants here grow no where else within the whole world, even within the Seychelles. It is less mountainous but you are assured of peace and quiet. To the south of the island is a small port, from which it is possible to take a ferry to Praslin's neighbour island of La Digue. The ferry takes only 30 minutes and it is also possible to book an excursion to one of the neighbouring islands of Aride, Curieuse and Cousine.
Excursions to Cousin are usually not permitted due to the nature reserve there. The beaches on Praslin are somewhat longer and wider than those on Mahe, and they offer wonderful swimming and snorkelling. Praslin gives rise to some of the most beautiful beaches within the whole of the Seychelles. Among the best beaches are those of Anse Lazio, Anse Georgette, Anse Kerlan and Anse Volbert. The majority of the inhabitants live in one of the two villages; Baie Ste. Anne in the east and Grand Anse village in the south. A trip to these villages should be included in everybody's stay.
Many centuries ago, on the beaches of Africa, India and other countries in the area, a strange coconut would occasionally be washed ashore. This coconut was unlike any that had been seen before, it's size alone was several times larger than the largest coconut. It looked as if it were two coconuts joined together, but it is in fact just one. It's shape resembled a certain part of the female anatomy, which immediately made it into an object of mystical sexual powers. This coconut, called Coco de-Mar only grows on Praslin, and nowhere else within the whole world, even within the Seychelles. A nature reserve has been created in the heart of the island where the Coco-de-Mer grows named Valley de Mai. This is open to tourists and must a see.
Legend has it, Valley de Mai is the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve lived at the beginning of time and where Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit of the tree. Whether this is true or not Valley de Mai is indeed a wonder of nature.
La Digue is situated a short distance from Praslin but is unreachable by plane, instead a short boat ride from Praslin is required lasting only 20 minutes or so. Immediately after stepping off the boat one notices the oxcarts, the taxis of La Digue. Cars are restricted on the island with only a few in existence. On the island is a small church called the Lady of our Assumption which is about to celebrate its first century. Located not far from the Port just a little further down is a working plantation where you can watch the gathering of and processing coconut or examine the vanilla plantation.
250km south of Mahe lies Desroches, a long coral island, surrounded by white sand beaches and a protecting reef, making for some of the best diving sites available within the Seychelles. In the lagoon, between the beach and the outer reef, are several diving sites suitable for first timers to try diving, and to be amazed at the underwater wonders, in a safe and enjoyable environment. An ideal place to undertake a complete diving course for an internationally recognised certificate.
Bird Island lies a 30-minute plane flight north of Mahe, on the outskirts of the Seychelles Platte. The island is unlike its larger cousins, in that it is a coral Island, lying like a pearl in the middle of a turquoise blue Ocean. Half of the island is a Nature Reserve, where between the months of May and October millions of birds come to nest, hence the Island's name. The sight of the birds nesting is spectacular, as is the resonating noise they make. Even in other months of the year, the sights of the rare birds which inhabit the island overwhelm the bird lovers. The island is surrounded by beautiful white sandy beaches, taking a total time of about 30 minutes to walk around the island. The coral reef offers good snorkelling possibilities.
Esmeralda, the largest tortoise in the world, has her very own entry in the Guinness Book of Records, proving that she is the largest known living tortoise. Nobody knows exactly how long Esmeralda has lived there; she already inhabited the island as the first people arrived. Her age is estimated at a staggering 200 years. The island is privately owned by an English couple, who run the 25 bungalow hotel. There are no television or radio facilities in the rooms and anybody staying there can be assured of peace and quiet.
Relicite is a small granite island with tropical vegetation, undisturbed beaches, beautiful coves and spectacular granite cliffs. The island has only 3 inhabitants, the people who look after the accommodation, the cook, the gardener, and the boat captain. The island lies just 3 km away from La Digue, but 50 km away from Mahe. The island is ideal for an exclusive holiday for a few individuals, a family or a group of friends, who love the peace and quiet, with untouched nature. This coral island lies not far from Bird Island, on the northern edge of the Seychelles bank. The island is reachable via a 30-minute plane flight from Mahe. The large tortoises inhabit this quiet, undisturbed island
Cousin and Aride are one of the most interesting islands of the the Seychelles, their Nature Reserves are strictly protected by the Royal Society of Nature Conservation. Cousin island is a bird reserve well maintained and visits are restricted to 20 people at any one time and these popular areas are shown around by a guide.
Aride the northern most granite island is inhabited by 10 people responsible for protecting and maintaining the reserve and in addition the huge bird colony and the island is famous for its vegetation, tropical fruits and species. Famous of all is the lemon tree of RIDE which is only found on this island.
Silhouette is especially recommended for nature lovers and hikers. This is the third largest island of the Seychelles and was once the supposed hideout of the famous pirate Houdoul. The island is only reachable via a helicopter flight from Mahe. Here absolutely no motorised vehicles exist, indeed no proper roads, just two dirt tracks from North to South. The landscape is very mountainous, and good footwear is recommended. The equatorial forest offers thousands of wonders. Due to its fascinating nature life, the island is strictly protected, with only one lodge offering accommodation, and day trips to the island are only permitted when special permission is given and a land a trip is recommended to the old Chapel at the island's heart, or to the 1910 erected Light House, which is still functioning to this day.
There are numerous small islands that can possibly be reached by a boat where for the day you can pretend to be Robinson Crusoe but first check that permission is not restricted to land on these islands. God scattered diamonds over the ocean giving you the chance to purchase a gem.