The oldest ocean islands on earth, the Seychelles is a micro-continent that was isolated millions of years ago, evolving completely undisrupted by man or land mammal. As the tropical haven become popular as a holiday destination, the Seychellois government established a nation that was committed to preserving and protecting its natural environment. With more than half of the country’s total terrestrial land area protected by law, the Seychelles is a national park paradise, home to an abundance of very unique species of flora and fauna, many of which exist only in the islands of the archipelago. With almost an entire island dedicated to a rare animal or plant, island hoping is a must, to check off all the fascinating creatures. With birds high up in the trees, exotic fish hidden under colourful coral reefs in the ocean and giant seeds located only in one area, combine an adventure holiday with wildlife spotting, and pick from the multitude of activities on offer in this equatorial wonderland.
In the 19th, British General, Charles George Gordon, tried to prove that the Valle de Mai on Praslin Island, was in fact the fabled, Garden of Eden. The second largest island in the Seychelles, lying just northeast of Mahe, Praslin is home to the famous coconut Coco de Mer (the world’s largest seed, recorded to weight up to 42kgs). Top on the list of islands to explore, Praslin has now been declared a World Heritage Site due to its natural riches. The island is also home to the rare national bird, the Seychelles black parrot. To see the two treasured emblems, sail to Praslin, landing on the beautiful cove, Baie Ste Anne, and follow the well-signposted trails to the Vallee de Mai. If you didn't see the black parrot on your first day, relax in the gardens at the Ruffles Praslin as you might just catch one flying by.
For the birdwatchers and twitchers, the Seychelles is an ornithological splendour. Just a short ferry ride from Praslin, laid-bac, La Digue, is a favourite location for fashion shoots with its spectacular coastline- particularly the iconic Anse Source d’Argent beach, complete with white sand and dark grey granite boulders. For those who don’t cycle, hop onto an ox-cart, readily waiting for visitors to arrive on the island, and enjoy a gentle trip around La Digue’s coastal plateau. But for those who want to take control and cycle the many inland trails, hire a bike and cycle the whole island before ending up on the west side to spot the rare Seychelles paradise flycatcher in the Veuve Nature Reserve, as you stay at the glorious Le Domanie de L'Orangeraie.
Again birdwatchers take note, the elusive Seychelles fody, brush warbler and magpie robin can all be see amongst the thick branches of Cousin Island. Giant tortoises also roam free around the island, which can be seen along the white sand beaches; however, what really draws people to the small island are the hawksbill turtles. The entire island is a nature reserve hosting a series of conservation projects, the most important being the preservation of the sea turtles’ important nesting site. To really enjoy the island’s diversity, scuba dive under the blue surface and enter the aquatic world to swim along the reefs with these graceful turtles- if you can, go between November and January (nesting at its peak). Stay at Constance Lemuria on Praslin island and catch a boat to Cousin island, only two kilometres away.
If you don’t have the time to visit all of the islands mentioned, you can have an introductory highlights tour around Fregate Island to see the hawksbill and green turtles, the Seychelles magpie robin and warbler and the giant Aldabra tortoise. Congregated on an island only two square kilometres, there are as many as 2,200 giant tortoises crawling through the forests, and between October and January, you can watch young sea turtles escape their nests and flounder their way to the water. Fregate Island can be accessed by air and sea, but why not arrive in style, and take a 15-minute helicopter ride to the wildlife-rich island.