The Seychelles are located to the northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 kilometres from mainland Africa. The number of islands in the archipelago is officiall over 150, but some of them are not more than some sand and a lonely tree. There are 42 granitic islands, including the main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, 44 coral islands, 67 raised coral islands and 2 coral sand cays.

The Seychelles are a series of islands far off the African coast in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Predictably, the Seychelles’ main attractions are its beaches and shimmering, turqoise waters. Snorkelling and diving are of the highest order – you can’t really get much better than Seychellois waters in terms of natural beauty and abundance of fish and other sea creatures. The granite islands have the added bonus of featuring distinctive inland beauty.

The second major tourist function of the Seychelles is its bird population. Besides being impressively large, it is also strikingly unique, with some species of bird found here that are found nowhere else. Accordingly, four islands have been set apart as bird sanctuaries. Bird watchers should find enough to tantalize their senses for days.

Due to its remoteness, the Seychelles are an expensive destination. But if you’ve got the money, it’s well worth the trip. Probably the best ‘budget’ island will be the main island of Mahé, where some guesthouses and B&B’s are available.

While Austronesian seafarers or Arab traders may have been the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles, the first known European recorded sighting of them took place in 1502, by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral). The first recorded landing and first written account was by the crew of the English East Indiaman Ascension in 1609.

As a transit point for trading between Africa and Asia, they were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control of the islands starting in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance.

The British contested control over the islands with the French between 1794 and 1810. Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy, French administrator of Seychelles during the years of war with the United Kingdom, declined to resist when armed enemy warships arrived. Instead, he successfully negotiated the status of capitulation to Britain, which gave the settlers a privileged position of neutrality.

Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1810, and this was formalised in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. The Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903 and independence was granted in 1976, as a republic within the Commonwealth. In 1977, a coup d’état ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham, replacing him with France Albert René. The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1991. The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the requisite 60 percent of voters in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.