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The "True" "Paradise on Earth"
by Phil Carta

I've always thought that calling a place "Paradise on Earth" was just a little too hypey for me . . . at least until I visited the Seychelles. Seemingly forgotten out in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a thousand miles from Africa, this archipelago of more than a hundred islands stretches for hundreds of miles. The warm waters, high standards and friendly people draw many year after year to these Jewels in the Ocean that are the Seychelles. Whichever way you turn, there is a lovely beach and upscale dining. And for honeymoons, the romance of the Seychelles has everything else in the world beat, bar none.

Seychelles is a nature lover's dream, made up of both granitic and coral islands. The granite islands are the visible tips of mountain peaks that were originally located on the giant continent of Gondwanaland which contained Africa, India, Australia and Madagascar. As these parts drifted apart over the eons the islands of Seychelles remained in isolation, enabling their plant and wildlife to develop unaffected by outside influences. This protective isolation - in effect until only just a few hundred years ago - combined with the ecological stance of the Seychelles government, has enabled this unique environment to survive and flourish.

The finest natural wonderland lies not on the islands but in the surrounding clear, warm waters. Water temperatures average over 78F year round and visibility often extends to 100 feet. More than 200 species of fish and 250 types of coral are found on the reefs of Seychelles. Invertebrate life exhibits an amazing range of form, size and color with an incredible variety of shells. Giant sting and manta rays, whale sharks, tuna and other pelagic visitors are common.

Seychelles is much more than beautiful beaches and great diving. Hiking the many trails through the jungles, to the hilltops and to isolated beaches where it will seem like you are the first ever to visit, is one of the great pleasures of the islands. For many of the hikes you can obtain excellent booklets that describe the flora, fauna and other sights along the trails. There even are helicopter tours of the islands.

The islands are densely populated by land and sea birds, some of them so rare that they are found only on specific islands. So day and overnight trips to other islands such as Cerf, Silhouette, North, Bird, Denis, Cousin, Cousine, FÈlicitÈ and FrÈgate are quite popular.

The Main Tourist Islands.

MahÈ
(MAH-hay) The main island of the country is one of the granite islands resulting in a backbone of mountainous hills surrounded by innumerable coves and bays with white sand beaches and upscale facilities. The most popular bay, Beau Vallon, has several hotels along it's six or seven mile length with every type of activity imaginable, including just relaxing in solitude. Two National Parks, Morne Seychelles in the hills and Sainte Anne Marine NP help the Seychelois to keep much of their environs as pure as they ever were. MahÈ boasts Creole restaurants, craft shops, art galleries, and colorful fruit and vegetable markets.

The city of Victoria, on MahÈ, is the capital of the country. Outside Victoria, MahÈ is simply loaded with coconut palms and towering peaks which offer unparalleled views of neighboring islands.

Praslin
(PRAZ-lin) The largest nut in the world, from the Coco-de-Mer Palm (photo) is found only here. The central portions of the exotic island are almost primeval and a nice little National Park has excellent annotated walking trails. There is a lot of rare animal and plant life, almost as if nobody has ever visited.

La Digue
(La-DEEG) With something like only two dozen motor vehicles, but innumerable bicycles and ox carts, La Digue is even more remote than Praslin. It is a spectacular place, with lowering boulders strewn around the white sand beaches and gorgeous waters. Much world class fashion photography takes place here as wherever you turn there's another spectacular setting. This is a place to get away from it all.

With its combination English, French, African and Indian heritage, the Seychelles is a fantastic oasis of upscale civility. The hotels are uniformly clean and well kept (well, most of them at least!) and the food everywhere is awesome. I've probably had a greater percentage of terrific meals there than most anywhere else. When people ask about a memorable destination for their honeymoon, the Seychelles is always my first thought.

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Phil Carta is the owner of Phil Carta's New Adventures, a travel firm specializing in tropical islands and destinations around the world. Originally a specialist in scuba diving travel (Phil is a NAUI, TDI and PADI scuba diving instructor) New Adventures provides both tours and vacation packages primarily to places Phil has personally visited. In the Indian Ocean and South Pacific that includes the Seychelles, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Micronesia, the Maldives and Egypt and the Red Sea. In the Caribbean you may see Phil almost anywhere, although his favorites are Aruba, Bonaire, CuraÁao, Dominica, Jamaica, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and the islands of Belize and Honduras. New Adventures has an excellent and informative web site at http://www.newadventures.com and Phil can be reached at phil@newadventures.com




 

 

 

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