Mostly granite, and concentrated around the islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the inland islands represent the cultural and economic hub of Seychelles, and also the center of tourism. Together they house most of the Seychelles’ accommodation and almost the entire population of the archipelago. There are a total of 43 inland islands, 41 made of granite and 2 of coral.
Mahe, which is 28 km long and 8 km wide, are the largest island as well as the cultural and economic hub of the inland archipelago which is the Seychelles’ international gateway. It is home to the international airport and the country’s capital, Victoria.
The island is home to almost 90 per cent of the total population (approximately 72,200 people), reflecting the ethnic diversity of Seychelles and the ancestry of the African, Indian, Chinese and European populations. It is the seat of government and the main centre of trade.
Nestled among 1,000-meter-high granite peaks, Mahé is a remarkable treasure trove of plants which have evolved over the centuries in isolation.
Rare endemic plants found nowhere else in the world adorn the cloud forests of Mahé in the mountain strongholds, such as the jellyfish, the Seychelles carnivorous pitcher plant and the Seychelles vanilla orchid.
First visited by the British in 1609, Mahé was not visited again until the expedition of Lazare Picault in 1742, when the gradual process of colonisation of the island began, first by the French, whose direct influence lasted until 1814, then as a British colony until the independence of the Seychelles in 1976.
Mahé is the transport hub for island shopping and day trips to the neighbouring islands and all the other islands of the Seychelles. All regular Air Seychelles domestic flights depart from Mahé to the islands served.
A leisurely tour of the island by car takes 2 to 2.5 hours and reveals most of Seychelles’ accommodation options, cultural sites and other attractions.
Praslin is the second largest island in the Seychelles with a population of 6,500. It is 45 km northeast of Mahé and measures 10 km by 3.7 km. A drive around the island takes about 2 hours.
Praslin is home to the fabulous Vallée de Mai, one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Seychelles. The island has truly exquisite beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette, both voted in the top 10 best beaches in the world in recent years.
Before the islands were colonised by the French in the mid-18th century, the Côte d’Or de Praslin was a popular haunt for pirates.
The island was named Praslin in honour of the Duke of Praslin, French Minister of the Navy, in 1768, when the first “stone of possession” was erected on the island in what is still known as Anse Possession.
Almost a century and a half later, General Gordon (from Khartoum), on a visit to Khartoum, is convinced that the Valley of May is the original site of the Garden of Eden. Here the legendary coco-de-mer, the heaviest nut in the world, grows high on ancient palms in a jungle. The valley is home to six species of palm trees found only in the Seychelles.
Praslin is at the forefront of the Seychelles tourism industry, with a strong tradition of hospitality and a wide range of accommodation options. It also serves as a base for excursions to neighbouring islands, some of which are important sanctuaries for rare species of endemic flora and fauna.
The island of La Digue is the immediate neighbor of Praslin Island as well as its satellite islands of Félicité, Marianne and its smaller sister islands. The island of La Digue is the 4th largest island of Seychelles.
La Digue takes its name from one of the ships in the fleet of the explorer Marion Dufresne, who was sent out by the French in 1768 to explore the granite islands of the Seychelles.
As well as being home to the Seychelles flycatcher, one of the rarest birds in the world, La Digue’s biodiversity includes stars such as the star bittern, cave swift, scissor-bill and two rare species of sea turtle.
The forests of La Digue are also home to a very rich flora in the form of delicate orchids, rampant vanilla vines, and trees such as the Indian almond tree and the takamaka. The gardens glow with hibiscus and nepenthe against a backdrop of swaying coconut palms.
La Digue is an island where time has stood still and where old traditions such as travelling by ox-cart and bicycles are still very much alive. The traditional methods of boat building and refining coconut products (copra) are still practised on La Digue.
With its friendly vibe, laid-back rhythm of life, its traditional architecture and charming beaches, such as the legendary Anse Source d’Argent, is an absolute must-see for visitors.
La Digue offers its visitors a variety of different accommodations, and the picturesque satellite islands are ideal for diving and snorkelling trips.
Bird, the northernmost island of the Seychelles, is 100 km or 30 minutes’ flight north of Mahé. The island was once known as Cow Island because of the dugongs (manatees) that lived there.
During the period of southeast trade winds (May-September), Bird is populated by more than a million Sooty Terns, each laying eggs in its own square metre of exclusive territory. Bird is also home to populations of Little and Fairy Terns, as well as tropical whitetail birds, ravens, plovers and cockatiels.
Located on the northern border of the archipelago, where the seabed drops to 2000 metres, Bird has an exceptionally rich marine life in the form of hawks and green turtles, dolphins and even, occasionally, whales.
Once famous for its large population of giant tortoises, Bird now boasts “Esmeralda”, the world’s heaviest giant tortoise living in the wild, weighing over 300 kg and said to be over 200 years old. By the way: “Esmeralda” is a male.
Bird turned to tourism in the early 1970s and with several conservation programmes, Bird Island Lodge is at the forefront of ecotourism in the Seychelles.
Twenty-four comfortable bungalows, excellent beaches, a reputation for good food and a friendly atmosphere complement the snorkelling, deep-sea fishing and nature-watching opportunities.
Le Cerf is located in the Ste Anne Marine National Park and is the closest neighbour to Mahé. It offers excellent opportunities for swimming and snorkelling, as well as unforgettable sunbathing on several large beaches.
Le Cerf is a popular picnic spot for Mahé residents because of its beautiful beaches and good swimming.
The Cerf owes its name to the naval frigate that visited the Seychelles in 1756 to officially take possession of the island on behalf of France.
The island once had a thriving coconut industry, the remains of which are still visible in the form of lush coconut groves. The 116 hectares are adorned with many exotic shrubs, and it is also home to giant tortoises and flying foxes.
Le Cerf is the only island in the marine park with a small local population that travels to Mahé for their daily business, covering the 4 km distance in a few minutes.
Quality accommodation is currently available at three hotels on the island, as is the opportunity to enjoy the tantalising Seychelles Creole cuisine.
Chauve Souris are private Island just a couple of hundred yards away from the legendary beach of Côte d’Or in Anse Volbert.
Leased to the government in the 1960s by a Spanish count, this granite outcrop is named after the fruit bat, but was also formerly known as Jeanette Island.
As one would expect for such a small island dominated by granite boulders, the flora of the bat consists mainly of exotic ornamental shrubs and bushes. The fauna is limited to skinks, geckos and a limited number of birds that mainly use the island as a perch.
The Chauve Souris Club is the ideal place for an intimate and secluded holiday, with five luxurious rooms set between sea and sky amidst granite rocks and lush tropical vegetation.
Located approximately 6 km off the west coast of Praslin, the immediately adjacent Cousine offers a unique island experience of absolute privacy found in few other places on earth.
Cousin is a private nature reserve that is home to five of the Seychelles’ endemic birds, such as the Seychelles robin and the Seychelles bush warbler, as well as a variety of endemic wildlife and spectacular marine life.
The island, which is also a nesting site for the hawksbill turtle, is home to several large specimens of the giant land turtle.
Once a coconut plantation, Cousin now has an exceptional resort complex which offers a special experience in a Private Nature Reserve.
Designed in an old French colonial style, 4 separate villas, where exclusivity is the order of the day, since only a maximum of 10 guests are allowed at any moment.
St Denis is 95 km north of Victoria, Mahé and 45 km from Bird Island, making it one of the northernmost islands in the Seychelles.
Like many islands in the Seychelles, at the height of the coconut industry Denis was a coconut plantation with a population of 70-100 people engaged in guano (decomposed bird droppings) collection, copra (refined coconut meat) production and fishing.
The island was purchased by French paper tycoon Pierre Burghardt in 1975, and he successfully operated the island under his marketing slogan “The Island at the End of the World”. In the mid-1990s, the island was sold to Mason’s Travel, one of the first local ground handling companies in the Seychelles.
Denis’ 350 hectares are home to diverse vegetation and populations of seabirds and landbirds, including frigatebirds, tropical whitetails, curlews, doves, wood pigeons, cardinals and mynas. The island has recently benefited from a successful project to introduce endangered bird species.
For anglers, it is ideally situated for deep-sea fishing expeditions on the edge of the Seychelles Bank, where marlin, sailfish, barracuda, wahoo, sea bream and tuna delight novice and experienced anglers alike.
St Denis offers excellent nature walks as well as opportunities for tennis, diving, windsurfing, canoeing and of course sunbathing on its brilliant white beaches. The 5-star lodge with 25 cottages is the perfect honeymoon getaway, offering seclusion in comfort and excellent gourmet cuisine.
Frégate is about 55 km from Mahé and is the furthest inland island from the Granite Archipelago.
Frégate was a popular pirate hideout at the end of the 17th century and stories persist about the treasures hidden somewhere on its 280 hectares.
Seychellois tycoon Harry Savy bought the island after the Second World War and turned it into a highly profitable business growing vegetables, fruit, coffee, vanilla, cinnamon and poultry for the Mahé markets. The island had a population of about 100 people who were actively involved in Savy’s various lucrative businesses.
This island microcosm of about 2 km2 is home to no less than fifty species of birds, including the rare Seychelles robin, and is also home to the world’s only population of giant Tenebrionidae, as well as many giant tortoises.
There is a luxurious five-star eco-lodge in Frégate that offers optimal comfort and amenities and has become a popular place for Hollywood stars to stay. The luxury villas are located right on the shore, so each of them has a million-dollar sea view. Meanwhile, guests are encouraged to participate in the island’s many conservation projects, led by ecologists who ensure that the island remains naturally pristine.
Located 4 km off the east coast of Mahé, Ste-Anne is the biggest island in the Ste-Anne Marine National Park, and is close to the neighbouring islands of Ile du Cerf, Ile Ronde and Ile Moyenne.
Ste Anne was discovered in 1742 by the famous explorer Lazare Picault and was the first island to be settled by the first French settlers before they settled on Mahé. The island later housed a commercial whaling station and a gun battery from the Second World War.
Besides the countless coconut palms, including three coco-de-mer, cinnamon grows wild on the lush hills, as do casuarinas and many species of plants, trees and shrubs found on the neighbouring islands.
Silhouette Island is the 3rd biggest island of Seychelles, and is situated 30 km from the west coast of Mahé, close to the North Island. Silhouette’s green and mountainous profile dominates the view from Beau Vallon beach in Mahé.
It is thought that the Arabs used Silhouette Island as a base for boat trips in the 9th century, as evidenced by the remains of Arab tombs at Anse Lascars.
Silhouette Island, along with North Island, was the first island seen in the Seychelles by the ships of the Charpy expedition in 1609. It was not until the early 19th century that it was finally colonised.
Protected by the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles, Silhouette remains a living and intact natural history museum, home to many unique plant and tree species.
These include rare hardwoods, the amazing incense tree and the carnivorous pitcher plant. Silhouette is the only other island outside Mahé to have a cloud forest on its 731m peak, Mount Dauban.
The unspoilt beauty of Silhouette is the ideal setting for walkers and hikers who want to delve into the secrets of an island that is said to have once been the home of the famous pirate Hodoul, whose hidden treasure may still be there.