The capital of the Seychelles is the bustling and vibrant town of Victoria, named after Queen Victoria in 1942. Victoria is the world's smallest capital and has a miniature replica of London's Big Ben which was built in 1903. It is well worth including some time on Mahe during your stay in the Seychelles to enable you to explore this fascinating town. The friendly craft markets, fresh fish and spice stalls are a good place to begin. If you enjoy oriental cooking then make sure you stock up on saffron from the market! In addition to the many excellent local paintings and prints on sale you can find the endemic Coco-de-Mer transformed into any and every type of souvenir you can think of.
La Digue has the smallest population of the main granitic islands with around 2,000 inhabitants. This statistic is reflected in the slow pace of life and immediate sense of winding down that visitors enjoy upon landing. Very few cars are allowed on the island and transport is mainly by ox cart or bicycle. Bicycles can be hired easily on arrival and allows visitors to discover the many beaches of the island at leisure. Among the attractions is the l'Union estate, a restored planter’s house that used to be at the centre of a vanilla plantation. The estate offers a rather rambling but interesting insight into settler life on the island.
Within the l'Union estate is Anse Source d'Argent, one of the most photographed beaches in the world. With towering granite boulders and the Eagle's Nest Mountain rising into the clouds behind you, the scenery is only surpassed by a dip in the warm, still waters. The waves break on the reef a short distance from the beach creating an area of calm, shallow lagoon. This is a perfect area for snorkelling and visitors can spend hours dreaming their way through an underwater world of blue coral, a rainbow variety of fish, anemones and urchins. Afterwards relax on the beach and take a walk across the perfect, powder white sands.
You may also have time to visit the flycatcher reserve where you may be lucky enough to see the Seychelles black paradise Flycatcher, one of the rarest birds in the world with less than 100 pairs left.
Located 30 minutes flight from Mahe at the most northern edge of the archipelago, Bird Island is the first landfall of the Seychelles for many species and visitors may often enjoy the sight of rare migrants and windblown vagrants during the northern hemisphere winter. Here the Indian Ocean floor drops 2000 metres and the east and south of the island are protected by a beautiful barrier reef. Year round the island is home to hundreds of thousands of sooty terns, noddies & fairy terns and during the sooty tern breeding season of April to September the area is covered with a million birds when visitors can enjoy some of the best close up bird sightings in the Seychelles! The island is also a nesting site of hawksbill turtles between October and February and green turtles for the rest of the year. Esmeralda, believed to be the World’s oldest free ranging Giant Tortoise at over 200 years, is also resident on the island. The one lodge on the island, Bird Lodge, offers a welcoming base and visitors can enjoy the good swimming & snorkelling opportunities as well as perhaps some deep sea fishing.
Approximately 50% of the Seychelles landmass has been committed to National Parks and nature protection areas including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of these is the beautiful Vallee de Mai, home of the endemic Coco-de-Mer palm. After an attempt in the 1930s & 1940s to introduce non-native flora into this valley, the area was taken over by the government and is slowly returning to its natural state.
A small kiosk at the entrance provides maps and information, the site is open from 08h30 until 16h30 daily. Entering the Vallee is like stepping into the land that time forgot, an eerie silence permeates through the dense foliage and the haunting call of the endangered black parrot sends shivers down your spine. It is easy to see why many people believe this to be the original Garden of Eden. The routes are well marked and there are trails that take just half an hour for those with little time to spare, we would definitely recommend spending half a day here though as the atmosphere is amazing.
The towering Coco-de-Mer palm trees are perfectly adapted to cope with the tropical climate with broad, string leaves perfectly shaped to funnel rainwater through the highly competitive forest under storey to their roots. Other species in the Vallee include bizarre Jack fruit sprouting out of tall tree trunks, ferns, lataniers, coco marron, screwpines and orchids, all growing around the granite mass. Huge, primeval fruit bats, blue pigeons, bulbuls, lizards, geckos, chameleons, snails and many insects can also be found here.
This beautiful island has been a nature reserve since its acquisition by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation in 1968; it was declared a Special Reserve by the Seychelles government in 1975 and is managed by BirdLife Seychelles. The island is open to visitors only on certain days and the area is strictly managed. Visitors may hope to see some of the 250,000 birds that come to nest every year, the island is a haven for several rare species including the Seychelles warbler, Seychelles magpie-robin and Seychelles fody. Seabirds include the brown noddie, lesser noddie, wedge-tailed shearwater, audubon's shearwater, bridled tern and fairy tern. A visit to Cousin from Praslin can be combined with the nearby island of Curieuses for a BBQ lunch followed by snorkelling at St. Pierre.
Aride is home to more breeding species of sea bird than any other island in the region and was bought by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation in 1973. The most northerly of the granitic Seychelles islands, Aride offers the only breeding site in the granitic islands for red-tailed tropicbirds, roseate terns and the world's only sooty tern colony in tall woodland. The island's warden will escort visitors to the breath-taking cliftops from where you may glimpse hawksbill turtles and dolphins in the waters below. Aride is also full of botanical treasures and is the only place in the world that you will see the beautiful Wright's Gardenia and a species of 'peponium' that may also be endemic.
In addition to the above bird species, Aride is also home to the world's largest colony of lesser noddies as well as white-tailed tropic birds, Seychelles magpie-robin, Seychelles fody and Seychelles warbler.
The waters surrounding Aride Island Nature Reserve are protected to 200 metres. While the corals are not particularly spectacular, an incredible 449 species of fish have been recorded. These include pelagic species rarely encountered elsewhere, due to the location of Aride which is closer to the edge of the Seychelles Bank than other granitic islands. Visits can be arranged from Praslin but landings can sometimes be difficult during the south-east monsoon months.
North Island is one of the forty inner granitic islands of the Seychelles that are often considered to be the most beautiful on Earth. North Island, and its close neighbour Silhouette Island are both granitic islands but are thought to be considerably younger than Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Their syenite formation probably dates back to about 90 million years ago when Seychelles and India separated. As such, North Island Lodge is a rare sanctuary for guests seeking a gorgeous, unspoiled tropical haven on a large and private island. With four white sandy beaches located at each end of the compass, North Island is able to offer a year-round tropical beach and island experience.
There are just eleven handcrafted guest villas on the entire island, each constructed to combine to create a sensorial experience in surroundings of understated elegance. The new Spa, perched high above the beach with stunning views of the ocean, specialises in personalised holistic treatments to rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. Activities include mountain biking, gym, guided walks, snorkelling, fishing, boating, sea kayaking, and scuba diving. Great care has been taken to rid the island of non-indigenous species and to return the environment to as natural state as possible, hence North Island is the perfect hideaway for guests wanting space to appreciate the simple natural beauty of the Seychelles whilst reclining in luxurious and restful surroundings.
This island is around two miles long and lies approximately one mile to the north-east of Praslin. The island used to be a leper colony and the ruins of the old houses can still be seen, as can the old Doctor's House, a restored colonial villa that was home to the island doctor in the 1870's. A few families still live here but it is now strictly protected as part of the Marine Park. Nature trails wind their way through the extensive mangrove swamps and further inland. Curieuse is home to around 250 Giant Tortoises that were brought over from Aldebra in the 1980's and the Coco-de-Mer palm can also be found here. A visit to Curieuse from Praslin can be combined with the nearby island of Cousin followed by snorkelling at St. Pierre.
Aldabra is a large raised atoll located 1150 km southwest of Mahe and 420 km north of Madagascar. The atoll makes up about one third of Seychelles' land mass. Aldabra has been described as "one of the wonders of the world" by Sir David Attenborough as its isolation in a remote area of the Indian Ocean, combined with an inhospitable terrestrial environment, has helped to preserve it in a relatively natural state. Increasing levels of stress from human activities are contributing to the decline of the World’s coral reefs, but Aldabra has so far escaped the worst of these stresses and provides an ideal natural laboratory for studying tropical marine ecosystems and related environments (such as seagrass and mangroves). It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982.
The atoll consist of four main islands; South Island (Grand Terre, 116.1 km²), Malabar or Middle Island (26.8 km²), Polymnieli or Polymnie (4.75 km²) and Picard or West Island (9.4 km²) additionally; there are some forty smaller islands or rocky islets inside the lagoon.
Aldabra is formed from late Quaternary raised reef limestone, averaging 2km in width and up to 8m above sea level, and rimming a shallow central lagoon. The atoll is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises, numbering some 152,000 individuals (that's five times as many as the Galapagos!). The islands are also well known for their green turtles, hawksbill turtles, and birds, including the last remaining flightless bird of the Indian Ocean, the white-throated rail. In addition there is the Aldabra drongo and unique varieties of sunbird, foddy, white-eyed bulbul, nightjar, coucal, pigeon and turtle dove. Huge colonies of spectacular lesser and great frigate-birds breed alongside red-footed boobies in the mangroves which border the northern rim of the huge lagoon.
The shallow waters are patrolled by dimorphic egrets, found only on Madagascar and the Aldabra group of islands. Along the shoreline, the Aldabra sacred Ibis together with a whole host of black-napped and crested terns including caspians may be seen. Other birds include the greater flamingo and the malagasy kestrel, which are probably recent colonists. The steep walls around the raised limestone islands of Aldabra atoll have rarely been dived. Fish life is prolific while over 2000 green turtles breed on the beaches each year. Dolphins and occasionally whales can be seen offshore. Until recently, it has only been possible to visit Aldabra by cruise ship or chartered yacht from Mahé. However, an airstrip has been constructed on Assumption Island, which lies to the south of Aldabra. Accommodation will soon be available for limited numbers on both Assumption and Aldabra. Guides, trained by the Seychelles Islands Foundation, which administers the atoll, will soon be able to reveal the treasures of this unique world to those who seek one of the last unexplored corners of the world.
Grand Baie in Mauritus is situated in its North Eastern coastline and was once a poor village with fishermen and families being the dominant residents in the area. A few years ago Grand Baie had a massive tourism boom and it has now emerged as the hub of yachting, water skiing, wind surfing and other aquatic sports. A shopping and leisure paradise, Grand Bay also happens to be the area where Mauritians head for when they want a fun-filled night out (restaurants, bars and discos). Recently renovated, La Cuvette beach is well worth a visit.
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden (sometimes shortened to the SSR Botanical Garden), commonly known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, is a popular tourist attraction near Port Louis, Mauritius, and the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. The garden was first constructed by Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786) in 1770, and covers an area of around 37 hectares.
These gardens, for a long time ‘ranked third among all the gardens that could be admired over the surface of the globe’
While the garden is most famous for its giant water lilies, the garden features spices, ebonies, sugar canes as well as 85 varieties of palms from around the World. Many trees have been planted by world leaders and royalty.
This is the Northern neighbour of Grand Baie enjoys a very relaxed pace and an old-world simplicity that you don’t find often. This is set to change as development increases in the area. There is a great beach here, which makes it a great base to plan a trip from.
A few metres away from Baie aux Tortues, which 17th century sailors named after the many tortoises in the area, can be found the ruins of the old Balaclava estate. Visitors can see the sea walls, whose initial foundations were laid down by Mahé de Labourdonnais. The location of the ruins now forms part of Maritim Hotel, and public access may not be possible.
The Mauritian village of Triolet is touted to be one of the longest and largest town in Mauritius. This town has gained popularity owing to the biggest Hindu temple, the Maheswarnath temple. This temple was raised in the honor of Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Muruga, Brahma and Ganesha. Apart from this, it is also known for the Solitude Lake and the chimney tower of an ancient sugar factory. While in Mauritius, do visit this sacred and religious destination.
Cap Malheureux or “Cape of Misfortune” so named for all the ships that floundered on the rocks here, is at the Northern tip of the Island of Mauritius. It is also home to the dramatic cliffs of the Coin de Mire and affords the observer fantastic views. This spot is of great historical importance for Mauritius: it was here that the British invasion force finally defeated the French in 1810 and took over the island. A little further on lies the minuscule fishing village also known as Cap Malheureux, with its much-photographed church, the red-roofed Notre Dame Auxiliatrice. It’s worth a quick peek inside for its intricate woodwork and a holy-water basin fashioned out of a giant clamshell. A sign strictly prohibits newly-weds ‘faking’ a church wedding for the photographers!
Flacq is one of the most important villages in Mauritius and is found in the Eastern part of the island. This meeting point for inhabitants of the East boasts the country’s largest open air market. This extremely colourful market attracts a large number of people; an extremely colourful place where you will almost certainly find what you are looking for.
In English this translates to Deer Island, and is a tiny island off the east coast of the main island of Mauritius. This beautiful island is perhaps as close to paradise as any destination on earth. Enjoy a day of pure relaxation as you soak up the sun on the dazzling white sand and swim in the warm turquoise waters that fringe the beaches.
As you approach the small harbour by boat, you are greeted by views of swaying palm trees which give way to pure white beaches framed by the vivid turquoise waters. Enjoy a day of hedonism as you relax on one of the picture-postcard beaches or swim and snorkel in the azure sea.
At Vieux Grand Port, the oldest settlement in Mauritius, you can see the ruins of the first Dutch fortifications. Excavation work is underway in a bid to uncover an important part of Mauritian history.
Ile aux Aigrettes is one of the 49 islets that surround and belong to the island of Mauritius. Located in the historical bay of Mahébourg, at about 800 meters off the south east coast of the mainland, these 26 hectares of coralline limestone partially overlain with sand and soil deposits is what remains of an eroded dune exposed after a drop in the sea level some 30, 000 years ago.
Declared a Nature Reserve in 1965 and under the management of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation since 1987, this offshore islet now serves as an outdoor laboratory for the regeneration and preservation of the endemic species of the fauna and flora of Mauritius and its territories.
Free from human presence for a long period, Ile aux Aigrettes independently developed itself into a natural museum where a remarkable collection of endemic species of the Mauritian fauna and flora evolved and found a home.
In 1987, when the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation obtained the lease for Ile aux Aigrettes, a warden was posted on the island to interrupt the massive poaching of the island’s forest by the locals and soon after, conservation work began on the island.
Close to the southern-most town of Souillac, is the sea cliff of Gris-Gris. This is one of the few places that the island of Mauritius is not surrounded by coral reefs and thick waves crash directly onto the cliffs The most spectacular part of Gris-gris is the "Roche Qui Pleure" where the constant squashing of waves against the flanks of the cliff gives the impression that the cliff is crying.
Previously known as Crocodile Park
La Vanille is a picturesque and idyllic nature reserve, extending over 3.5 hectares of luxuriant greenery. Follow the nature walk, surrounded by beautiful palms, banana plants and giant bamboo, and you will imagine that you are in a tropical rainforest. In this breath-taking setting you will discover numerous animal species from the Mascarene islands (Mauritius, Rodrigues and Réunion) and other islands of the southern Indian Ocean.
As you explore the reserve you will encounter other animals, in addition to the crocodiles and tortoises. These include monkeys, wild boar, deer, frogs, turtles, iguanas and colourful geckos and chameleons. Don’t miss the walk-in bat enclosure, where you can come face to face with the beautiful Rodrigues fruit bat.
On the coast of Mauritius there remain three of the finest examples of Martello Towers in the world. These towers escaped the notice of fortifications experts until 1993 when one tower was restored at La Preneuse in Rivière Noire. The five towers built in Mauritius were among the last to be constructed of the 218-odd examples which defended the coasts of the British Empire, from Canada to Ceylon and South Africa to Ireland and those constructed by the Americans against the British.
The village of Chamarel in southwest Mauritius is home to two natural wonders - the magnificent Chamarel Falls and the colored earths of Chamarel. The earths are particularly unusual; created by volcanic rocks that cooled at different temperatures, the earths form beautiful patterns of colour in the exposed hillsides. And if you mix the coloured earth together, they'll eventually settle into separate layers. Sometimes the colours play tricks on you and appear to be shadows.
Over the millennia, the rocks were pulverized into sands which have the amazing property of settling into distinct layers: if you take a handful of each of the seven different colours of dirt and mix them together, they'd eventually separate into a colourful spectrum, each dot of sand re-joining its colour caste.
Since the earth was first exposed, rains had carved beautiful patterns into the hillside, creating an effect of earthen meringue.
Casela is a park of an area of 14 hectares with several century-old trees on a gentle slope facing the West coast of Mauritius.
Originally created as a bird park, (90 aviaries hosting 1500 birds of 150 species,) it now hosts other animals such as Mauritian Macaques, tigers, lemurs, ostriches, giant tortoises etc. Since its renovation, the concept has moved away from a zoo and emphasizes on open spaces and interaction between humans, animals and nature; namely at the petting farm.
Yemen is a domain found between the mountain of Tamarin and the Trois Mamelles. It is home to two of the longest rivers of the island: rivers "Rempart" and "Tamarin".
The sugar activity of the domain Yemen stopped in 1880. The actual dimension of the domain is of 4500 hectares including the Casela Park. The visitor may appreciate, during his visit, the stunning Java deer roam freely in the grassy savannah alongside wild boars, hares, monkeys, and mongoose. The famous Mauritian fruit bat can also be seen during the outings.
Indigenous and exotic plants beautify the domain such as Eucalyptus, Bois Noir, Baobabs, Tamarinds and Pink pepper trees.
The sugar adventure recalls the history of sugar in Mauritius. Sugar has been a major money earner for the island for two centuries and is thus considered as a vital part of the Mauritian cultural heritage. With the diversification of the economy, sugar has lost its place as basic pillar of the economy (sugar is mostly produced for self-sufficiency now) but to capture its importance on the island throughout all these serving years, the Beau Plan Sugar Estate, which was a former sugar factory, has been turned into a sugar museum.
Ganga Talao or Grand Bassin is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne, deep in the heart of Mauritius. It is about 1800 feet above sea level. It is considered the most sacred Hindu place in Mauritius.
There is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and other Gods including Hanuman, Lakshmi, and others along the Grand Bassin. During Shivaratri, many pilgrims in Mauritius walk bare feet from their homes to the lake.
Discover traditional Mauritius by following the Tea Route that starts from the colonial house, Les Aubineaux in Curepipe. You will enjoy visiting the Bois Cheri tea factory and museum, as well as the anthodium greenhouses and the vanilla plantations. See the Mauritian art of living in a splendid colonial house at St Aubin built in 1819.
Black River Gorges National Park is a national park in the hilly south-western part of Mauritius. It was proclaimed on June 15, 1994 and is managed by the National Parks and Conservation Service. It covers an area of 67.54 km² including humid upland forest, drier lowland forest and marshy heathland. Facilities for visitors include two information centres, picnic areas and 60 kilometres of trails. There are four field stations in the park which are used for research.
The park protects most of the island's remaining rainforest. Several areas have been fenced off and invasive species have been eradicated from them to preserve native wildlife. Many endemic plants and animals still occur in the park including the Mauritian flying fox and all of the island's endemic birds: Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, Mauritius parakeet, Mauritius cuckoo-shrike, Mauritius bulbul, Mauritius olive white-eye, Mauritius grey white-eye and Mauritius fody.
Found in the very heart of Mauritius, in Moka, Eureka is an elegant Créole residence originally owned by British and French aristocrats in the 19th century, the Eureka Mansion and its grounds provide an intriguing glimpse into colonial life. The house is filled with antiques and photos of the period.
The house is constructed largely of wood and surrounded by a long, shady veranda. The extensive grounds consist of a curious mix of natural Mauritian plant life, including mango trees and palms, a waterfall and an English-style garden.
Destination:Indian Ocean Islands
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