Give us a brief overview of the Seychelles Tourism Board – what are your main activities and goals?
Our mandate is to promote Seychelles as the most desirable island destination and to coordinate activities, both locally and internationally, to achieve that end. We also work closely with trade partners at home and abroad and encourage maximum collaboration with all partners, agencies, and other stakeholders.
Can you share a bit on the history of Seychelles?
The Seychelles are a group of 115 islands, only a few inhabited, in the Indian Ocean that lie 1000 miles off the coast of East Africa, northeast of Madagascar. Following a succession of French expeditions, a settlement was finally established in 1770 and the islands remained in French hands until the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, evolving from these humble beginnings to attain a population of 3500 by the time Seychelles was ceded to Britain under the treaty of Paris in 1814.
Under the British, Seychelles slumbered for the next 161 years as a backwater colony achieving a population of some 7000 by the year 1825. Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976 to become a republic within the Commonwealth.
How would you describe the culture of Seychelles?
The culture of Seychelles is a melting pot of many different peoples who have commingled and coexisted here since the first settlement of the islands in 1770. Seychelles has elements of French, British and African culture that are evident in architecture, cuisine, music and dance, and also literature. To these, other cultures and influences from across the globe have been added, such as Indian and Chinese.
Tell us more about Seychelles through your eyes – it is already a popular tourist destination, but what are the truly special (possibly undiscovered) aspects of the archipelago that make it a must-visit destination?
The grand diversity of Seychelles is a huge attraction as is the wonderful and varied flora and fauna and, of course, the surreal beauty of the islands, whether granitic or coralline. To top it all comes the wonderfully infectious slow pace of life and the island-style way of living.
What about the food scene – what can travelers expect and look forward to?
The original French settlers brought with them their legendary skills in the kitchen and their aromatic blend of spices and herbs which they adapted to an island life where seafood was abundant, meat was less common and vegetables were somewhat scarce.
Necessity being the mother of invention, one way they adapted was by using fruits as vegetables. This is why one finds particularly coconut, mango, papaya, pumpkin and golden apple prepared as chutneys to accompany tangy salads as well as dishes of pork, chicken and beef and, of course, fish, shellfish and crustaceans in all their Seychelles splendour available across a wide spectrum of restaurants, cafes and takeaways throughout the islands.
Are there any must-visit events or celebrations during the year?
December of each year sees the ending of the golf tournament season in the Seychelles directly after the MCB Tour Championship.
Every October, Seychelles hosts the Festival Kreol which is a celebration of the nation’s Creole identity and the main event that celebrates the Seychelles’ Creole origin and culture through dances, other cultural manifestations, literature and cuisine among others.
Seychelles hosted its first-ever World Marathon Series on 20 May 2018 and the islands look forward to the return of this 10km marathon swimming competition held at Beau Vallon. In a signed contract with the Fédération Internationale de Natation (Fina), Seychelles will host a series of the competition every year for the four coming years with Seychellois swimmers being urged to take part.
The Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon is held annually on the last Sunday of February. The philosophy behind the marathon is to promote healthy living, for which running through Seychelles pristine, beautiful countryside and enjoying its stunning scenery and unique flora and fauna is a powerful icon attracting runners from Seychelles, USA, France, South Africa, South Korea, Italy, Germany, Spain, Nigeria, Netherlands, Mauritius and Cameroon, among others.
Which are the best islands to visit and why?
There are no best islands in the Seychelles as each island has its own character and story to tell.
The main island of Mahe is the largest and busiest of all the islands and it has the lion’s share of hotels, resorts and tourism facilities. The second-largest island, Praslin, has a far smaller population and is great for feeling the old island vibe. La Digue is quaint, rustic and full of tradition and there are many other smaller islands well worth a visit. One must not forget the smaller and more remote coral islands, some of which have hotels.
What are some of the main activities and experiences you would recommend to guests?
Walking and hiking on our fine network of walks and trails is a great way to be introduced to the flora and fauna. If you like the water, then there are many great diving, snorkelling and other opportunities that await you. If you like to catch your own fish, then the thrill of several different forms of fishing are available for you. Beyond this, there are possibilities for sailing and cruising, golf, horse riding, ziplining, and many forms of water sports.
What is the best time of year to travel to Seychelles and what can be expected weather-wise?
It’s always a good time to come to Seychelles as the islands are blessed with a warm tropical climate all year long. However, depending on your particular interests, certain times may be better suited for your visit.
Two opposing trade winds generally govern the weather pattern: the north-westerly trades blow from October to March and average from 8 to 12 knots; and the brisker south-easterly trades blow from May to September with winds between 10 to 20 knots, bringing cooler and windier conditions that are ideal for sailing.
The periods of calm between the trades produce fairly warm and wind-free conditions throughout April and also in October. Superb conditions for swimming, snorkelling and especially diving occur during April/May and October/November when the water temperature sometimes reaches 29ºC and visibility is often over 30 metres.
What kinds of accommodation would you recommend and why?
The Seychelles Islands offer a varied choice of accommodation options for every budget. From signature properties of major 5-star international hotel chains and exclusive island retreats offering the very best in island-style luxury to the rustic charms of smaller hotels, guesthouses, self-catering abodes and island lodges with that authentic Creole touch and ambiance – Seychelles has something for everyone.
If you had to pick just a handful of the country’s most picturesque spots, where would these be?
Truly memorable is a hike to any one of our major viewpoints; a visit to Praslin’s Vallée de Mai; a picnic at Port Launay; a few hours spent on the beach at either Anse Lazio or Anse Source D’argent. The awesome view from Nid D’aigle viewpoint on La Digue.
Are there any sustainability projects that the islands are involved in? Tell us more about these…
At the forefront of keeping Seychelles sustainable is our very own Ministry of the Environment and its future plans for waste management with the specific aim of reducing the amount of waste going into the landfill which produces unwanted greenhouse gases, consumes scarce land and releases dangerous leachate into the environment.
The initiative towards developing a recycling system for PET and aluminium cans which started in 2008 is still ongoing and being sustained by importation and environmental levies. A glass bottle recycling system is also being implemented.
Additional restrictions are also being applied to the manufacture, trade and distribution of domestically produced and imported plastic bags less than 30 micrometers thick. In 2017, the Ministry of Environment banned the use, manufacturing and sale of plastic, Styrofoam boxes and plastic utensils, rather promoting the use of paper boxes, reusable bags and other biodegradable substitutes. The government is working on setting up a waste-sorting centre to sort different types of waste for exportation.
In order to benefit from the latest research, the Seychelles Ministry of Environment has been collaborating with different universities and also the World Bank and European Union to gather information about waste management in Seychelles and the development of a sustainable, 10-year waste management plan which includes a waste-characterisation study and students’ exchange programme.
The ministry is also behind a composting programme where green waste will go to the landfill and also an education and awareness programme about effective waste management and waste sorting. In addition, there are also several NGOs and other conservation bodies registered as associations that are working hard in Seychelles’ sustainability/conservation sector, notably in advancing the Seychelles Blue Economy, sustainable energy, mare culture etc.
COVID-19 has had a big impact on everyone’s lives and is sure to affect the way travelers select their destination(s). What steps has the country taken to ensure the utmost safety for guests?
Seychelles has put in place rigorous protocols for testing, contact tracing, quarantine of suspected cases, and healthcare for confirmed cases, for both locals and foreigners. The covid-19 situation inside the country is closely monitored and adjusted to on a day to day basis and Seychelles remains second in the world for the speed of its vaccination programme.
Above health and safety measures, what else do you think is most important to guests when they select travel destinations and how does the Seychelles fit in with this?
Above and beyond everything, Seychelles is a sanctuary for visitors, we enjoy a great safety factor and the country features high on every travel index for the immense levels of diversity and authenticity in the experiences it offers. The wide choice of different types of accommodation ensures that there is something for everyone and the Creole welcome is unrivaled.
What memories and emotions do you hope travelers will leave the country with and how are these fostered during their stay?
We would like our guests to remember the heartfelt welcome they received, the service they enjoyed and the wide choice of activities they participated in, and of course the amazing cuisine and other aspects of our vibrant culture. The importance of each of these points is stressed in various outreach and other education programmes and through the efforts of the accommodation establishments themselves and other government agencies.
Being a leader in conservation, we also hope for our guests to become our ambassadors, be touched and transformed by our efforts, and share them with their friends and families when they return back home.
To find out more about the Seychelles, visit the Seychelles Tourism Board’s website.