This small island archipelago in the Indian Ocean lies northeast of Madagascar about 1.600 km east of the Kenyan coast of Africa. The archipelago consists of approximately 155 tropical islands, however, the majority of these islands are uninhabited and today are preserved as nature reserves. The islands consist of granite and small coral atolls. The population of the Seychelles live mainly on Mahé with a small number living on Praslin and La Digue. The outer islands of the archipelago make up the administrative region of Île Eloignées which has only recently been created by the Seychelles tourist ministry.
History of the Seychelles
The early history of the Seychelles is a mystery, but it is thought that an Arab merchant in 851AD referring to the ‘Tall Islands’ lying beyond the Maldives in his writings, was, in fact, talking about the Seychelles.
However, it was the Portuguese explorer and admiral Vasco de Gama, who identified the islands on his voyage the second voyage from India to Africa, naming them the ‘Admiral Islands’ (Les Amirantes) and in 1517 the Portuguese, while mapping the area, called the nearby granite islands ‘The Seven Sisters’.
The first people known to have set foot on the islands were sailors of the East India Company whose ship had gone off course and lost its way. They landed on North Island in 1609 but the British did do anything more about the islands and did not establish any settlement at this time.
As the islands were uninhabited and were situated in a very strategic position from which pirates could capture and loot merchant ships sailing between the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, for a short time they provided a haven for these opportunistic adventurers.
Mahé was the site chosen for the first settlement in 1770. This settlement was an extension of the French territories in the area, which included the island of Mauritius. This small band of settlers established an agrarian society which later establish cotton and sugar-cane plantations. After the French revolution around 1790, these colonists broke away from France and the islands became self-governing with a lively economy derived not only from its agricultural products but also from provisioning French, British and Arab trading ships.
The British took over control of the islands in 1811 and after the abolition of slavery in 1835 outlawed the keeping of slaves on the islands and much of the population fled taking their slaves with them. The British also began attacking the slave ships still plying their awful trade. They would capture the human cargo, bring them to the islands and there set them free to work on the plantations. These freed slaves provided the cheap labour required by the planters, but as more and more labour was required for these crops plantations gave way to coconut farming. The descendants of these freed slaves make up the Creole population of the islands. Finally, in 1903 the Seychelles were declared a British Crown Colony, but the islands were allowed to retain their French language and traditional customs.
The first political party of the Seychelles was formed just prior to WW2 in 1939 however it was not until after the war, in 1948 that the first Legislative Council was elected and then only landowners had the right to vote. The island did not appear to be in any hurry to upset the status quo until the 1960s when the Seychelles People’s United Party (SPUP) came into being and the Democratic Party (SDP) was also set up. The leader of the SDP became the nation’s first elected chief minister in November 1970.
The call for independence from both parties finally led to Seychelles independence in June of 1976 and Seychelles became the Independent Republic. The current President of the Seychelles is James Michel.
The climate of the Seychelles is made it a popular all year round destination for holidaymakers. Although the islands have quite a high annual rainfall the rain comes in quick downpours or showers with the sunshine quickly to follow. The wettest time on the islands is between November and January and the driest from May to September. But the sunshine is guaranteed throughout the year.
The islands are always warm with the lowest temperatures around 24°C and the highest 30+°C which means that no matter what time of the year you visit the average temperature will be in the region of 27°C.
The islands are influenced by Trade Winds. The south-east trade winds. which blow from May through to November, make the seas in the south-west rather rough and not safe for bathing particularly around Intendance, Takamaka and Baie Lazare. These winds are also responsible for the large amounts of seaweed on in these areas most particularly on Praslin. However, the northeast coasts are not affected and are very pleasant throughout the year.
Best times to visit Seychelles Islands
The peak tourist period on the islands is during Europe’s school holidays in July/August, December and the Easter period. So if you wish to avoid sharing your holiday time with the children of strangers then it is best to pick a time outside of these peak periods.
May to September
Both surfers and windsurfers love these months, as with the south-east trade winds, the surf is excellent and windsurfing gives a real adrenaline rush. However, those who wish to swim and snorkel should stick to the north east coast.
Sailing is great during these months although it is true to say that conditions are good throughout the year. The months of May through to October offer an exciting challenge to the adventurous sailor
October to April
This is the time of the year for those who enjoy snorkelling, and generally spending time on the beach as the winds blow from the north-west are gentle and the seas remain calm. However, particularly during the months of November, December and January rainfall in sudden downpours and you may find yourself having to dive for cover, but not for long, as these downpours are quickly followed by sunny skies.
Sailing at this time of the year is a leisurely activity as the winds do not produce challenging conditions.
Scuba diving at this time of the year will be in warm seas around 29°C and diving is made all the more pleasurable with visibility at 30+ meters.
April to October
Is most definitely the time for birdwatchers as April is the breeding season and May to September the nesting season and October bring migrating birds from all over the globe.
All year round
There is never a dull moment on the islands whether you are an active sporting enthusiast, keen hiker, adrenaline junky, or just a relaxed holidaymaker, no matter what time of the year you come to the Seychelles you are guaranteed of the most enjoyable and rewarding get-away. With five star resorts on the islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.