The Seychelles are an odd phenomenon. Located off the coast of Kenya, they are the only granite islands in the world; a far off extension of the mainland with mountains that seem to jut straight out of the ground to support 75 species of plants (with an additional 25 species calling the Aldabra atoll home), including the Wrights Gardenia and Coco De Mer, a peculiar member of the palm family found only in the Seychelles. Although early intervention by man has brought extinction to some species such as the Seychelles Parakeet and the salt water crocodile, the islands today are known for their conservation efforts.
The unchecked wildlife and glorious greenery make the Seychelles a perfect getaway any time of year. Although the islands have an unparalleled reputation for fantastic snorkeling and diving, they also boast some of the most stunning tropical hiking trails on earth, with many of them leading to hidden beaches so far off the beaten path you'll think you have the island all to yourself. Sailors and bird-watchers will find plenty to keep them busy, too, with many species of animals on land and sea that you won't see anywhere else, such as the Seychelles warbler, the Seychelles scops owl, and the caecilians, a frog native to the area.
The Aldabra atoll, four islands surrounded by a coral reef, were recently registered as a UNESCO World heritage site, and are home and refuge to an abundance of wildlife, including over 100,000 Aldabra tortoises. The coconut crab, the world's largest land crab, also makes its home here. The difficulty of accessing the Aldabra atoll has been the major contributing factor that has kept this pristine area free of human interference.
Several airlines operate flights to Seychelles, including the national carrier, Air Seychelles. Flights are also operated by Qatar Airways, Emerates, Kenya Airways and Air Austral. Flights range from two and a half hours (out of Reunion) to ten hours from England.
There are large hotels available, but you won't find the real Seychelles in a huge, full service hotel. Other accommodations range from small boutique hotels to ultra eco luxury accommodation, many near the beach or shaded by the emerald green of island trees and vibrant colored flowers. For those who prefer volunteer-style holidays, the local Marine Conservation Program also accepts volunteers who are interested in helping with their migration and behavior research. The climate is hot and tropical, with the coolest months being May through September. Visitors should bring plenty of any medications they may need, as well as their preferred brands of sunscreen and insect repellant, as selection is limited.
The local currency is the Seychelle Rupee, though other currencies are accepted. Currency may be exchanged at the Central Bank of Seychelles.
The local food, inspired by traditional French and Indian cooking styles, is extremely rich and tends towards the spicy. Breadfruit is a common ingredient, as are the local papayas, mangos and melons. Many dishes are seafood based and lean heavily on shellfish and crab. One local specialty that gets mixed reviews from visitors is bat meat. The roussettes, as they are called, can be seen flying between trees in the evenings. Some restaurants have roussettes on the menu permanently, but a few require you to order it in advance so that they can hunt them that day to bring you the freshest meat available.
The unique experience of the Seychelles cannot be duplicated anywhere else on the planet, and as this hidden gem of the Indian Ocean becomes more popular with tourists, it is hoped that the strict conservation efforts help the area to remain as pristine in the future as they are today. The islands are a tropical wonder that should be preserved and experienced for generations to come.