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With its gentle breezes, remote atolls, pristine sandy beaches, and sparkling blue waters, it's easy to see why Seychelles is named one of the top 20 wedding destinations in the world. It's also a prime spot for sport fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling with manta rays, turtles, tropical fish, and tuna the size of an average human.
Water bungalows, private islands, and posh resorts are part of Seychelles' urban landscape, while its spectacular natural landscape includes limestone towers, coral reefs, lagoons, and groves of coconut trees. There are 115 islands in Seychelles that are divided into 26 administrative districts. About 94,200 people live in Seychelles. Of that total, 26,000 live in the capital city of Victoria.
Victoria is on Mahe island, which is Seychelles' largest island and its main center of commerce. Of the Seychelles islands, about 12 are open for tourism and development. Some, like Aldabra Atoll, remain undeveloped and largely unexplored. Aldabra Atoll is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site to protect its biodiversity, which is some of the most diverse on Earth. In the past 100 years, fewer than 1,000 humans have set foot on Providence Atoll, which is an equally stunning and mysterious island.
In the past, treacherous waters around Seychelles made it difficult to reach and deterred permanent settlements. However, the islands served as resting points for seafaring expeditions traveling across the Indian Ocean to and from the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Historians believe, based on burial grounds, tombs, and artifacts, that Middle Eastern and Arab traders may have been the first to set foot on Seychelles. French and Portuguese sailors, however, claim to have discovered Seychelles between the 1500s and the 1700s. Seychelles later attracted attention from the British government, who brought the islands under British rule between 1794 and 1976. After gaining independence, Seychelles became a sovereign state with a presidential republic system of government.
In the past, Seychelles' economy was based largely on agricultural activities, including the harvesting of coconut products and spices. Seychelles also supplied cowrie shells and coconut fibers once used in Asia as currency. Fishing has also been a major source of economic revenue for Seychelles throughout history. The introduction of airports, roads, and other permanent infrastructure in the 1900s made Seychelles more accessible to the world, which in turn gave rise to tourism. Seychelles' current economy is still based largely on fishing, while tourism is close behind. With over 60 species of fish in the islands' waters, Seychelles is a popular destination for anglers and fly fishermen. The world's largest tuna canning factory is located in Seychelles, and it provides about 2,500 islanders with jobs. Small farms and plantations on the islands account for the country's spice exports, which are primarily vanilla and cinnamon.
Like many tropical locales, Seychelles has a hot and humid climate. It has two distinct seasons during the year, which are the rainy season and the dry season. The mildest days fall between May and November, when skies are clear and gentle winds blow in from the west. Rainy weather, sometimes accompanied by strong winds, arrives in late November. Seychelles' tropical environment and unique geography supports an array of bird, fish, plant, and marine animal life. The last wild populations of giant tortoises, which are endangered, thrive on Seychelles. The jellyfish tree, found nowhere else on the planet, lives on Mahe. Wright's gardenia, a rare plant species, exists only on a reserve in Aride Island. The black parrot, Greater Flamingo, and black-naped tern are some of the rare birds found on Seychelles. They survive in nature preserves and on Seychelles' protected islands.
Traveling to and from tropical islands can be notoriously difficult. Fortunately, this is not the case in Seychelles, where travelers have a number of transportation options to choose from. For international visitors, plane is the most reliable and practical way of reaching the islands. Flights to Seychelles arrive at the Seychelles International Airport, which has been open for international air travel since 1971. American travelers do not need to have passports if they are planning to stay for less than 30 days, but they must provide proof of a return flight, lodging, and sufficient funding to cover their travel expenses while visiting the islands.
Upon arrival, visitors have several options of getting around the country. The ideal method of transportation upon arrival depends on where you're staying. Bus travel is recommended for getting around Mahe and Praslin. Along with the main international airport, there are several smaller airports, served by local airlines, that are based around the country. Smaller airports are located on Praslin and a few of the outlying islands. Inter-island air transportation is provided mostly by Air Seychelles. Air travel is generally the fastest way to get from one island to the next, but water ferry is another popular, reliable, and affordable option. Ferries are regularly scheduled to and from the most popular islands. Ferries are often more reliable than planes, which are subject to cancellation in bad weather.
Seychelles also has modern road systems, and public buses are a commonly used form of transportation. Bus service is regularly scheduled on the three largest islands. Bus service is provided by the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation. Buses start operating at 5:30 AM on most days, and they continue running until around 8:30 PM. Visitors are advised to purchase a pre-loaded bus card called a SMART card, which costs about $4 in US currency, if they plan to use the bus for frequent journeys. It's also possible to rent a car in Seychelles, and there are multiple car rental agencies to choose from. There are no public taxis, but there are numerous privately owned cabs that offer rides around the islands.
In some of the smallest islands, such as La Digue, roads are virtually non-existent. On many of the smaller islands, the only way to get around is by foot traffic or by bicycle. Some hotels on Seychelles have bike rentals for guests, and there are several bike rental agencies and bicycle shops on the islands as well.