SEYCHELLES

Seychelles    " not just another place, another world "                    
The Republic of Seychelles comprises 115 islands occupying a land area of 455 km² and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.4 million km² in the western Indian Ocean.  It represents an archipelago of legendary beauty that extends from between 4 and 10 degrees south of the equator and which lies between 480 km and 1,600 km from the east coast of Africa.

Of these 115 islands, 41 constitute the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands on earth while a further 74 form the low-lying coral atolls and reef islands of the Outer Islands.  The granitic islands of the Seychelles archipelago cluster around the main island of Mahé, home to the international airport and the capital, Victoria, and its satellites Praslin and La Digue.  Together, these Inner Islands form the cultural and economic hub of the nation and contain the majority of Seychelles’ tourism facilities as well as its most stunning beaches.



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General Information         
Climate
Seychelles’ enviable climate is always warm and without extremes.  In this tropical haven the temperature seldom drops below 24°C or rises above 32°C.  All but the remotest southern islands lie comfortably outside the cyclone belt making Seychelles’ a year round destination for sun worshippers and beach lovers. During the north-west trade winds that visit between the months of October and March, the sea is generally calm and the weather warm and humid, with average winds of 8-12 knots. In January and February the islands receive their life-giving rains, rejuvenating the rivers and streams and teasing the vibrant foliage into rainbows of colour. The months between May and September bring drier, cooler weather, and livelier seas - particularly on south-eastern coasts – and winds of 10-20 knots.

Geography
Seychelles’ 115 granite and coral islands extend from between 4 and 10 degrees south of the equator and lie between 480km and 1,600km from the east coast of Africa in the western Indian Ocean.
This Indian Ocean republic occupies a land area of 455 km² and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.4 million km².  It represents an archipelago of timeless beauty, tranquillity and harmony that is famous for its world-beating beaches and for its great diversity which rolls from lush forests down to the warm azure ocean. Of these 115 islands, 41 Inner Islands constitute the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands on earth while a further 74 form the 5 groups of low-lying coral atolls and reef islets that are the Outer Islands. Seychelles is home to no less than two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the legendary Vallée de Mai on Praslin where the wondrously shaped Coco-de-mer nut grows high on ancient palms and fabled Aldabra, the world’s largest raised coral atoll, first seen by early Arab seafarers of the 9th century A.D. Seychelles, one of the world’s very last frontiers, promises adventure and breathtaking natural beauty in pristine surrounds still untouched by man.

History
Seychelles is a comparatively young nation which can trace its first settlement back to 1770 when the islands were first settled by the French, leading a small party of whites, Indians and Africans. The islands remained in French hands until the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, evolving from humble beginnings to attain a population of 3,500 by the time Seychelles was ceded to Britain under the treaty of Paris in 1814. During this period Seychelles came to know the enlightened policies of administrators such as Pierre Poivre, the brilliant politicking of Governor Queau de Quinssy and, of course, the terrible repercussions of the French Revolution. Under the British, Seychelles achieved a population of some 7,000 by the year 1825. Important estates were established during this time producing coconut, food crops, cotton and sugar cane. During this period Seychelles also saw the establishment of Victoria as her capital, the exile of numerous and colourful troublemakers from the Empire, the devastation caused by the famous Avalanche of 1862 and the economic repercussions of the abolition of slavery.Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976 and became a republic within the commonwealth. Following a period of single party rule by the government of Mr. France Albert René, on December 4, 1991, President René announced a return to the multiparty system of government, 1993 saw the first multiparty presidential and legislative elections held under a new constitution in which President René was victorious. President René also won the 1998 and 2003 elections before transferring the Presidency to James Alix Michel in June 2004.


Society
In the evolution of its society, Seychelles has remained faithful to its multi-ethnic roots. For over two centuries, the islands have remained a melting pot of different races, traditions and religions from the four corners of the earth. Inspired by its grand diversity of cultural influences, ethnic diversity with racial harmony remain the mainstays of today's vibrant yet tranquil Creole nation for which harmony is a way of life.

Government
The Republic of Seychelles has a multi-party political system with an executive President as head of state and government.  The President heads a Cabinet of 10 ministers which includes the Vice-President. In April 2004 Mr. James Alix Michel replaced Mr. France Albert René as President after Mr. Rene had been in office since 1977.  The Vice President is currently Mr. Joseph Belmont.  The First Designated Minister is Mr. Danny Faure, who is also the Minister for Finance. Legislative power is vested in a National Assembly of 34 members of whom 25 are elected directly in constituencies with the balance on proportional basis based on the results of the National Assembly elections.Parti Lepep, The People’s Party, previously known as the Seychelles People’s Progressive Front (SPPF), currently led by President Michel, holds 23 seats in the Assembly. The main opposition party, the Seychelles National Party (SNP, previously known as the United Opposition) holds the other 11seats.  SNP is headed by Rev. Wavel Ramkalawan. The other main political party (not currently represented in the National Assembly) is the Democratic Party (DP), headed by Mr. Ralph Volcere. The Republic of Seychelles is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Commonwealth and La Francophonie.  It has embassies in Paris, New York, Brussels, New Delhi and Beijing as well as numerous honorary consulates worldwide.

People
Today, the 81,000 strong Seychellois population continues to reflect its multi-ethnic roots. Traditionally, the islands have attracted a broad diversity of peoples from the four corners of the earth that has included freed slaves, European settlers, political exiles, adventurers, traders of Arab and Persian origin as well as Chinese and Indians. Practically every nation on earth has been represented in this melting pot of cultures, each one contributing its special influence to today's vibrant yet tranquil society.

Language
There are three official languages in Seychelles: Creole (a lilting, French-based patois), English and French.  Many Seychellois also speak fluent Italian or German. Below are some useful Creole phrases:
English / Creole
Hello / Bonzour
Goodbye / Orevwar
How are you / Ki dir
Thank you / Mersi
Where / Kote
Please / Silvouple
No / Non
Yes / Wi
I don’t understand / Mon pa konpran
I like it / Mon kontan
How are you / Konman sava
What is this / 
Kisisa

Religion
Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion of Seychelles but there are also Anglican and Protestant churches and the places of worship of other denominations.  These live in harmony alongside, Muslim, Hindu and Bahá’i communities based on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.

Culture
The cosmopolitan Seychellois are a colourful blend of peoples of different races, cultures and religions.  At different times in its history, people of African, European and Asian origin have come to Seychelles, bringing with them their distinct traditions and customs and contributing to the way of life and to the vibrant Seychellois culture. One can see these influences at work throughout the domains of local art, cuisine, music, dance and architecture. The architectural design of some of the grand old houses with their steep roofs are representative of a style adapted for comfortable living in the tropics that displays influences from Seychelles’ French and British colonial heritage. Modern architecture attempts to assimilate traditional styles with practical features designed to capture the island breezes. Local artists continue to exhibit diverse styles that echo the multi-ethnic backdrop of the islands and bear testament to the various influences which have come to bear.  Creole music and dance have their roots in African, Malagasy and European cultures with rhythms traditionally accompanied by simple drums and string instruments which, today, include such recent imports as the violin and guitar. The traditional moutya is an erotic dance derived from the days of slavery and still features today, together with the sega with its colourful lyrics; the kanmtole, reminiscent of a country reel, and the Kontredanse, an import from the French court.

Architecture
Seychelles’ architecture is at once distinctive in its style and practical in its design. It clearly illustrates the influences of its colonial past and combines these with practical considerations such as steep roofs to shoot the rain, wide verandas to make the most of a climate that encourages outdoor living as well as features to make the most of the island breezes.Traditionally, Seychellois houses featured an outside kitchen so that the racy aromas of the cuisine did not invade the living space. Seychelles’ colonial past is seen in the competition between wealthy land and plantation owners to create the most opulent approach to their dwelling, often culminating in stately stairs on four sides. Originally, many houses would have been roofed with thatch from the coconut plantations but, for practical and novelty reasons, these gave way to corrugated iron sheeting when that became available. Many of the nation’s smaller houses imitate to a greater or lesser extent these design features with early wooden panelling increasingly giving way to concrete.

Art
For such a small country, Seychelles has a vibrant art scene that encompasses painters, sculptors, writers and poets, artisans of many types, musicians and dancers. Painters have traditionally taken inspiration from the richness of Seychelles’ natural beauty to produce a wide range of works using mediums ranging from water-colours to oils, acrylics, collages, metals, aluminium, wood, fabrics, gouache, varnishes, recycled materials, pastels, charcoal, embossing, etching, and giclee prints.  Local sculptors produce fine works in wood, stone, bronze and cartonnage. Local writers and poets have also used the magnificent backdrop of Seychelles as the inspiration for historical accounts, fascinating works documenting the social history of the islands and its people and collections of short stories and poems that evoke the passions of island living. Throughout Seychelles, there are many artisans producing works of art that are as varied and diverse as their surrounds and which include stained glass, products made from coconut shell, husk, seashells and corals, clothing, gold, silver and other forms of jewellery, recycled materials, fibres, bamboo, metal and pottery. Music and dance have always played a prominent role in Seychelles culture and in all types of local festivities.  Rooted in African, Malagasy and European cultures, music is played to the accompaniment of drums such as the Tambour and Tam-Tam and simple string instruments.  The violin and guitar are relatively recent foreign imports which play a prominent role in today’s music. The lively Sega dance with its elegant hip-swaying and shuffling of the feet is still popular as is the traditional Moutya, a mysterious, erotic dance dating back to the days of slavery when it was often used as an outlet for strong emotions and as a way of expressing discontent. Kanmtole is a foreign dance import, accompanied by banjos, accordion, violin and triangle and reminiscent of a Scottish reel while the Contredance with its intricate movements has its origins in the French court and is danced to the strains of banjo, triangle and to the instructions of the ‘Komandan’ or Commander who calls the sets. Several groups of traditional dancers perform at local functions as do modern groups playing jazz, reggae, country & western, hip-hop, ballads and classic rock.  Several choirs exist singing traditional hymns and promoting choral music with a repertoire that includes sacred, secular, gospel and folk pieces.

Folklore
Before finding a mouthpiece in television, radio broadcasts and through the written word, folklore in Seychelles relied much on oral tradition for its dissemination. Over the years it has traditionally, revolved around certain familiar characters such as 'Soungula', renowned for his cleverness and resourcefulness in solving life's problems as well as other colourful personalities such as Bro Zako, Kader, Tizan and Kousoupa. Certain popular fables and stories still do the rounds, dating back to those days before television when there was little in the way of popular entertainment and these remain mediums for providing an audience with insights as to the correct way to live, island-style.

The Islands
Seychelles' 115 islands fall under two distinct groups. The tall granite, Inner Islands cluster mainly within the relatively shallow Seychelles' plateau, 4° south of the equator and roughly 1800 km. distant from the east coast of Africa while the low-lying coralline cays, atolls and reef islands of the Outer Islands lie mainly beyond the plateau up to 10° south of the equator. These Outer Islands are divided into five groups: the Amirantes group lying 230km distant from Mahé, the Southern Coral Group, Alphonse Group, Farquhar Group and finally the Aldabra Group, some 1150km from Mahé.There are 43 Inner Islands in all -- 41 granitic and 2 coralline and a total of 72 coralline Outer Islands.

Inner Islands
The Inner Islands which are mostly granitic, cluster mainly around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, forming the cultural and economic hub of Seychelles, as well as the centre of its tourism industry.Together they are home to the majority of Seychelles’ accommodation facilities as well almost the entire population of the archipelago.  There are 43 Inner islands in total – 41 granitic and 2 coralline.

Outer Islands
The Outer Islands are those situated beyond the Seychelles plateau. They comprise 72 low-lying sand cays and atolls lying anywhere between 230km and 1150km from Mahé. Less visited than their granitic cousins due to their relative remoteness, these pristine miniature worlds, some little more than sand spits or lonely rocky outcrops, offer untouched habitats for many species of wildlife.Only two islands among the Outer Island groups, namely Alphonse and Desroches, currently offer accommodation facilities. They boast luxuriously appointed lodges as well as unparalleled opportunities for sailing, fishing and diving in places where few have gone before.

More Country Information from Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

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