One thousand miles from the African coast in the western Indian Ocean at the crossroad of Asia and Africa, Seychelles?115 islands, located between 4 and 10 degrees south of the equator, offer a diverse range of experiences – white sandy beaches, verdant mountains, and luxuriant forests. Within this seemingly enchanted, pristine world you can enjoy snorkelling on coral reefs, trekking, bird watching, diving and fishing amid unique, natural surrounds. Far away from the hustle and bustle of a busy world, Seychelles has retained a soulful way of life which is vibrant, captivating and still wonderfully authentic.
This archipelago of legendary natural beauty comprises 41 of the oldest mid-oceanic granitic islands on earth which, together, constitute the Inner Islands, of which Mah? the principal island and home to the capital, Victoria, together with its close neighbors, Praslin and La Digue, are the most prominent. A sparkling collection of low lying, coral isles, sand cays and atolls make up 5 separate groups of Outer Islands which include one of two of Seychelles UNESCO World Heritage Sites, amazing Aldabra? the largest raised coral atoll on earth.
The other, the fabulous Vallée de Mai where the extraordinary Coco-de-Mer nut grows on ancient palms, once earned Seychelles the reputation for being the original site of the biblical Garden of Eden. Culturally, Seychelles is a melting pot of the various ethic strains of the original European settlers of 1770 and their retainers, African slaves as well as numerous Indian and Chinese migrants who today form the well-integrated Seychellois society for whom harmony remains a way of life.
Seychelles is one of the smallest independent countries in the world. It is an archipelago of some 115 islands scattered over 1 million square kilometers of sea in the middle of the western Indian Ocean. The country’s total land area is only 455 square kilometers (177 square miles), and there is very limited cultivable land. There are no known mineral resources. The Seychelles is relatively isolated from its neighbors. The nearest continental coastline is 1,600 kilometers away. Its internal transport system is complicated by the fact that the country comprises an archipelago of three main and more than a hundred small islands.
Its population has not increased since 1999. It is currently estimated at 79,879 (estimate mid-year 2003: MISD Statistical Abstract). Earlier projections made on the basis of the 1994 census, indicate that population would reach around 94,000 in 2010, and just over 100,000 in 2016.
It is a “minuscule economy”, whose GDP of less than US $ 700 million is “insignificant compared with that of most countries”.
In spite of severe constraints imposed upon the Seychelles economy by its limited resources and geographical isolation, the economic situation of the Seychelles is one that many developing countries could envy. Even at US$8,523.46 (2003) its GDP per capita is the highest in Africa.
Similarly, the social indicators are good by international standards. Seychelles has made significant progress in the country’s social condition and the social indicators are generally good and compare favourably with those of the higher income countries. The country’s success in improving the social conditions of its population is partly rooted in the welfare-state role assumed by the government over the last two decades. There is a comprehensive social safety net, whereby the government has sought to minimize income disparities, subsidized housing to low-income and large families, provide equal and universal access to health care and education for all citizens without charge and guaranteed a minimum income to the elderly, the unemployed and the poor. Life expectancy has increased, and infant mortality rates have been reduced over the last fifteen years. The overall figures, cited in Table I, do not give the full picture of recent social advances. Infant mortality stands at 13 per 1000 births. Overall literacy rates are at 94%, and primary school enrolment rates are estimated to be close to 100%. Housing ownership reached an estimated 70% in 2003.
As a result, the Seychelles ranks first in Africa (47th in World) in the Human Development Index (HDI) of UNDP.
The climate is healthy and many tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever are unknown. Vaccinations are unnecessary.
The average daily period of sunshine is in excess of 7 hours.
March and April are the hottest months but shade temperatures seldom exceed 30°C and during the coolest months of July and August may drop to as low as 21°C.
The south-east trade winds blow regularly from May to October when the temperature is slightly lower and the atmosphere less humid due to the mild sea-breezes. The north-west monsoon prevails from December to March, which are the hottest and wettest months with humidity averaging 65%.
The average annual rainfall varies from year to year.
The sea is roughest from May to October, consequently this time of the year is less suitable for fishing.
There are two tides in 24 hours, with differences between a minimum and maximum of about 1.50m.
French and English are the 2 official languages.
Creole, the mother tongue of 94 percent of the nation in 1990, was adopted as the first official language of the nation in 1981. English is the second language and French the third, all of them officially recognized. The increased emphasis on Creole is designed to facilitate the teaching of reading to primary-level students and to help establish a distinct culture and heritage. Opponents of the Rene government thought it was a mistake to formalize Creole, which had no standardized spelling system. They regarded it as a great advantage for Seychellois to be bilingual in French and English; treating Creole as a language of learning would, they feared, be at the expense of French and English.
Creole in Seychelles developed from dialects of southwest France spoken by the original settlers. It consists basically of a French vocabulary with a few Malagasy, Bantu, English, and Hindi words, and has a mixture of Bantu and French syntax. Very little Seychelles Creole literature exists; development of an orthography of the language was completed only in 1981. The government-backed Kreol Institute promotes the use of Creole by developing a dictionary, sponsoring literary competitions, giving instruction in translation, and preparing course material to teach Creole to foreigners.
More than one-third of Seychellois can use English, and the great majority of younger Seychellois can read English, which is the language of government and commerce. It is the language of the People’s Assembly, although speakers may also use Creole or French. The principal journals carry articles in all three languages.
Although discouraged by the Rene regime as a colonialist language, French continues to carry prestige. It is the language of the Roman Catholic Church and is used by older people in correspondence and in formal situations. Some 40 percent of television transmissions are in French–beamed by satellite to an earth station provided by the French government–and most Seychellois can speak and understand the language.
Transport and Communications
14 small airports, the most important being Point Larue, 10 kms from Victoria, on Mahe island. Roads are surfaced in Mahe, plus a small section on Praslin.
The main port is in Victoria.
Mahe offers regular bus service, whereas Praslin has a limited service.
Taxis are to be found on both islands, rates are fixed by the government (about 135 taxis).
Inter-island ferries are regular between Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
Air Seychelles operates daily flights between the main islands.
For hiring a boat, contact The Marine Charter Association near the Yacht Club in Victoria.
Bicycles can be hired in Praslin and La Digue.
Drive on the left.
The International Dialing Code for Seychelles is 248.
Direct dialing is possible to most countries from most hotels. Public phone booths are also located on several islands. Telephone cards are available in all hotel shops. It is possible to rent GSM mobile or only the GSM card by Cable & Wireless in Victoria or by Air Tel, Providence. Internet and e-mail are also available.
Post Office: The Central Post Office in Victoria is open from 8am – 4pm Monday – Friday and Sam – 12pm Saturday. Stamps are also available also in all hotel shops.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles