What makes the Seychelles the best islands in Africa and the Middle East?
Much more than just a honeymoon hotspot, the Seychelles offer everything from scuba diving and fly-fishing to just lazing on beaches. The largest island, Mahé, is home to the capital, Victoria, but Praslin, the second largest island, is the most popular with tourists. Eco-tourism is big - there are five marine national parks, and more than 45% of the land area is given over to conservation zones and nature reserves. The hotel industry has seen a transformation over the past decade, for those interested in a little more luxury.
The glamour of the islands does not come cheap, and tourists are mainly western European, but the Seychelles have yet to become a playground of the rich and famous.
The archipelago consists of 115 granite and coral islands, but Mahé is home to most of the 80,000 Seychellois. Praslin is 15 minutes away by air: attractions include the Valleé de Mai National Park, where the coco de mer palm - the nuts of which supposedly resemble a female pelvis - grows, and Anse Lazio, one of the Seychelles' most magnificent beaches. Of the other islands, La Digue, home to the beach where the Bacardi adverts were shot, is also popular.
In recent years, deluxe spas and exclusive resorts have been built among the standard beachfront hotels that long dominated. Lemuria resort, on Praslin, is now home to the islands' first championship golf course, while Banyan Tree, on Mahé, offers five-star accommodation and spa facilities. People in search of exclusivity should visit the privately owned Fregate Island, which supports just 16 villas.
If you only do three things …
English, French and Creole are the official languages. Most Seychellois speak all three.
Just four degrees south of the equator, the Seychelles enjoy a tropical climate throughout the year. The hot season is from October to April, and the cool season from May to September. The islands lie outside of the cyclone belt so are largely unaffected by the south-east monsoon from June to September. Tropical downpours are common in January and February, but these seldom last long.
The Seychelles are malaria-free. There are no compulsory vaccinations required, except for yellow fever if you are travelling from or via an infected area. Hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid immunisation are all recommended.
Creole cuisine is strongly influenced by southern India - curries, tamarind and coconut milk are the main ingredients - and it can be hot. The ocean is the main source of protein: fish and other seafood are either cooked in coconut milk or marinated with herbs and chillies and grilled. Fresh vegetables and fruits are abundant and can be bought in the main markets.
Drinks include Seybrew beer, locally produced soft drinks and some fruit juices imported from South Africa.
Source: The Guardian.