History of the Seychelles Islands
Early History Discovered for the first time on 1502 by a navigator who didn’t give them a name. The Portuguese later called them the “Seven Sisters”. In 1756, Seychelles became a French colony under the name of Séchelles, named for Moreau of Séchelles, Minister of Finance under the kingdom of Louis XV. During the XIX century, the English gave them the name of Seychelles. Seychelles remained an English colony from 1903 until 1976, when the archipelago gained independence, becoming the Republic of Seychelles.
The Arabs, Phoenicians, Indonesians, Portuguese, English and French all played a part in creating this unique island nation which today is enjoyed by fortunate travelers from all over the world. Very likely these islands were first spotted by Arab traders as much as 1000 years ago. Their location would make them an ideal provisioning stop for early seafaring peoples like the Arabs, Phoenicians and Indonesians. Almost 500 years ago Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese explorer/navigator, is credited with the official discovery. Part of the island, group, the Amirantes (islands of the Admiral) is named in his honor. A Portuguese map of 1544 shows the islands as the Seven Sisters; Petite Soeur and Grande Soeur retain these names today.
The British landed there in 1609 on an expedition for the East India Company. For the next 133 years they became a provisioning base for the merchant navy as well as for plundering Indian Ocean pirates and buccaneers. To this day there are still stories of fabulous treasures hidden on Mahe.
The French expedition led by Lazare Picault to Mahe in 1742 gave Baie Lazare its name and in 1756 the islands were formally claimed on behalf of Louis XV of France. The Stone of Possession, now in the national museum, was laid and the islands were officially named in honor of Jean Moreau de Sechelles, French Minister of Finance. French colonization and agricultural settlement of the fertile soil and favorable climate continued uninterrupted until the end of the century.
During the Napoleonic War period Seychelles were regarded as a strategic acquisition as the British fought to contain French expansion. The French were forced to give up the islands, yet without a permanently stationed British force, control changed seven times in 13 years. The 1814 Treaty of Paris confirmed British rule.
Throughout the 19th century the population increased as Seychelles first produced high quality cotton, then harvested whales from local waters and finally began the large coconut plantations which became the economy’s mainstay. Plantation labor was drawn from former slaves freed in 1835 when the institution was abolished. By the end of the century export of guano improved the island economy and in 1903 Seychelles became a separate Crown Colony.
After the two World Wars Seychelles saw rapid change as modern conveniences and communications were introduced. At the 1971 opening of its airport, the landing of the BOAC VC-10 was witnessed by virtually the entire population. Improved accessibility brought tourism. On June 29, 1976 Seychelles became an independent republic and gradually evolved a multi-party democracy. Under government stability, tourism flourished and the economy boomed.
Today Seychelles is sound, safe and very scenic… 46% of its total area has been designated as Nature Reserve or Parks to preserve the reason tourists visit – its incredible natural beauty.
Officially called Republic of Seychelles. The original name of Seychelles is “Seven Sisters”, given by the Portuguese.
The are 40 granitic and about 50 coralline islands. The Mahe Group is granitic, narrow coastal strip, rocky, hilly; others are coral, flat, elevated reefs. The islands lie outside the cyclone belt, so severe storms are rare; short droughts possible.
The Seychelles’ location, 6 degrees below the equator, results in a warm, tropical climate throughout the year. Seychelles lies outside the cyclone belt, making for an equitable year-round climate with the highest average monthly temperature seldom going above 32 degrees Celsius and the lowest seldom below 24 degrees Celsius. The trade winds that early Arab traders used to travel the length of the east African coast are still a dominant climatic feature with the cool, dry south east trade winds blowing from May to September and the wetter, north west trades from October to March. December and January are usually the wettest months with around 300mm of rain being recorded on average.
Seychelles has three official national languages; Creole, English and French, with German and Italian also widely spoken. Creole, derived from old French with some additional loan words from Africa and Madagascar, is now a written as well as a spoken language, a fact that has contributed much to the development of the Creole culture.
North Island Resort – Seychelles Islands
Seychelles’ destiny – and extraordinary good fortune – was to be discovered, in historical terms, comparatively recently. It was just over 200 years ago that settlers first set foot on these verdant isles to find them teeming with a kaleidoscope of life forms – vast colonies of land and sea birds, giant tortoises and flying foxes (giant fruit bats) – that had existed, unmolested and in splendid isolation, for millions of years.
A name synonymous with the world’s most beautiful islands, each one a gemstone set in the perfect azure of the Indian Ocean, today the Seychelles archipelago is home to no less than two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is also a sanctuary for a myriad natural treasures that together have earned it the reputation as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’.
Located between 6 and 10 degrees south of the equator amid 1,300,00 square kilometres of sparkling ocean, these 115 secluded islands have a total population of merely 81,000. The islands of the Seychelles have to be counted among the best kept secrets on earth and, without doubt, rank among the safest and purest destinations anywhere.
Seychelles: the world’s smallest micro-continent?
The 43 Inner Islands that cluster around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue are the world’s only oceanic islands of granitic composition. They represent the mountain peaks of the ancient super-continent of Pangea that once encompassed the total landmass of a young, evolving planet and are thought to have erupted from the earth’s core some 750 million years ago. Around 200 million years ago, the forces determining the continental drift split Pangea into Laurasia (modern Europe, Asia and North America) and Gondwanaland (South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australasia and India). 75 million years later Madagascar, Seychelles and India separated as one landmass, carrying with them certain species of fauna, such as the flying fox, that remain common to both locations, before Seychelles finally split from India about 65 million years ago.
North Island, and its close neighbour Silhouette Island, contain the only evidence of volcanic ash found above sea level in Seychelles. They 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.
Seychelles’ Outer Islands are coralline and made up of coral or volcanic rocks from deep within the earth’s crust. Produced by seismic events, these islands are mere juveniles in comparison to their aged granitic peers and date back only a few million, or perhaps even a thousand years.
Reefs and Coral
Seychelles is a prime diving location located at the northern bank of the submerged Mascarene Plateau, a submerged volcanic ridge stretching from Seychelles to Mauritius.
Covering an area of 115,000 square kilometres with depths ranging from eight to 150 metres, it is more extensive than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is at present the focus of a study by the Shoals of Capricorn, a research programme sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers. Corals tend to be extremely slow-growing organisms, some as old as 10,000 years, which support large numbers of fish and other marine flora and fauna within a balanced and harmonious environment. The phenomenon of coral bleaching that has taken place periodically since the 1980’s has thus been a cause of much global concern.
In 1998 high sea temperatures affected corals in the shallow waters close to the equator by starving them of their ability to photosynthesise. This impacted on corals in the Seychelles and other areas of the Mascarene Plateau but these are now regenerating.
Seychelles is easily accessible by air with Air Seychelles, the national carrier, flying from Johannesburg, Nairobi, London and other European, Middle and Far Eastern capitals. Seychelles maintains tourist offices in France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Sweden, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom. British Airways, Air France and other good airlines also fly to the Seychelles.