Although it's known mainly for its breathtaking beaches - the Anse Source d'Argent has consistently featured in the lists of top beaches in travel magazines - the resort destination of Seychelles has a lot to do off-shore. The country has a rich culture, and the locals are happy to include you in the 'island life'. From gorging on fresh seafood to enjoying Creole music, we tell you how to spend that holiday in Seychelles.
When you're in Seychelles, it's hard to ignore the sea - even the landing strip at the airport is flanked by the calm, blue waters. The first thing you'll notice though is the sheer variety of shades that the water takes. From gin-clear in the shallows and turquoise tides to aqua-marine waves and deep cobalt on the horizon, the coasts make for stunning pictures indeed. There's not much of surf in these waters, but leisurely activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and swimming are best enjoyed here. Seasonal squalls of light rain mean that the skies are cloudy, but on clear days the equatorial sun is perfect for those interested in getting a tan.
Since a majority of the people living in Seychelles are Creole, the food is influenced by a lot of cultures. There are shades of Indian, French and Chinese flavours in the cuisine. Agriculture is limited on the islands and local foods include vegetables (yam, tomatoes, breadfruit), spices (vanilla, cinnamon), fruits (pineapple, papaya, love apple) and of course, lots of seafood. Cooking methods range from Indian-inspired curries to spice-rubbed grills and these are accompanied by rice or bread. Along with the usual suspects - Indian Ocean fish such as red snapper, tuna, marlin and dorado - you must make it a point to try the local catch (jackfish, rainbow runner and job fish). The islands also have a German-style brewery that makes a local beer called Seybrew. This is a good partner to the fresh vegetables and seafood. The perfect island drink - rum and coke - can be enjoyed with a local twist with the Takamaka Bay dark rum.
In the tiny archipelago of Seychelles the question 'Where are you from?' can take you a long way. Most inhabitants of the islands have exotic ancestry - a mix of French, Indian, African, Chinese and British. And these Seychellois are a friendly lot. The pace of life on the islands is laidback and languid, which sets the mood for relaxation. The culture varies from island to island - busy and commercial on Mahe; quaint and sleepy on La Digue; quiet and meditative on Silhouette; verdant and untouched on Praslin. Most locals speak French and Creole fluently, but you'll find those who're comfortable with English in abundance too. During the evenings, there is local Creole music and dancing at restaurants and clubs. Baila and sega dance and music are popular with the locals and tourists alike. Look out for Georges Payet's band - the musician is a local celeb who'll happily share his music if you give him your pen drive.
Since there are no direct flights from India to Mahe, your best option is fly Emirates (via Dubai). Warning: tickets cost upwards of Rs 1,00,000.
Seychelles has potable tap water so it's a smart idea to carry your own water bottle.
The local currency is the Seychelles rupee, which is roughly Rs 5.
Get a local Airtel connection at Mahe airport for your cell phone. Pre-paid plans will help you budget your calls. Most hotels and restaurants will have Wi-Fi.
Budget hotels in Seychelles start at 40 euros a night. Luxury resorts can set you back by thousands of euros per night.
Ferries run regularly from the major islands to the others. The smaller, outer islands are harder to get to. Be prepared for rough rides in choppy waters if you're visiting during the monsoon.
The islands are outside the cyclone zone and don't have many insects. The best time to visit is from December to March. Temperatures range between 24 and 32 degrees C.
Praslin: Go to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Valée de Mai. This park is home to the indigenous coco de mer trees (dried nuts retail for thousands of euros), endemic palms and the rare Black Parrot. Make sure you carry walking shoes for a hike through the lush forest.
La Digue: Rent a bike and pedal through the town. Narrow streets, quaint houses, lush greenery and friendly locals make this place seem like it's stuck in time. The world famous Anse Source d'Argent beach is also on this island.
(The writer visited Seychelles as a guest of the Seychelles Tourism Board)