The Islands of the Seychelles are spread over an area of 1.4 million square kilometres. Mahé, the main island of the archipelago is located at a distance of 1590 kilometres from the nearest African coast (Kenya) and at a distance of 2800 kilometres from the western coast of India (Mumbai).
Between Mauritius and the Seychelles, there is a distance of 1490 kilometres.
The 115 island of the Seychelles archipelago are of a granitic or corallian origin. The granitic islands, of which there are 42, are located in the northern part of the archipelago. They are the biggest islands of the Seychelles.
Mahé accounts for 55% of the total surface area of the archipelago; its two nearest neignbors, Praslin and La Digue, account for 22%.
The granitic islands are also the most populated. 90% of the population of the Seychelles lives in Mahé. Mountains are the main features of the granitic islands. In Mahé, the Morne Seychellois culminates at a height of 905 metres. At Cousin Island, the height of the highest peak is of only 65 metres.
The 73 corallian islands which are located at the southern and south-eastern part of the archipelago all have a coral base and thus don’t have peaks. Some are really atolls and have interior lagoons. Fertilised by bird guano, the corallian islands can be, like the granitic islands, covered with tropical vegetation, albeit less densely. Because of their reduced size, distance from each other, low population and reduced soil fertility, they remain mostly unpolluted and unspoilt.
The Seychelles archipelago has a tropical climate, with the ocean breeze providing relief from excess heat. Its proximity to the equator is the reason why the humidity and the temperature do not vary much throughout the year.
Flora of the Seychelles
At least 400 species of tropical plants have been inventoried In the Seychelles Archipelago, 60 among those being endemic species. The pitcher plant and the coco-de-mer which only grow in Praslin and Curieuse, are the most well-known. Species which have disappeared from other continents like bois-citron or mapo, flourish on Aride and Silhouette islands. Palm trees, areca trees, lataniers, raffia, and coconut trees line roads and beaches. The takamaka, casuarinas, bois-de rose and the velvet soldierbrush provide shade to the shores. The Tropical Almond, Bois de Natte, the Paradise Plum, the white trumpet tree and the flamboyant tree cling to the slopes.
Fruit trees like mango trees, banana trees, orange and citrus trees, breadfruit trees, litchi trees, etc are abundant. In fact there are about fifteen varieties of banana and mango trees which grow in the Seychelles. Tropical flowers like bougainvillea, hibiscus, and orchids dot the landscape with their bright colours. Exotic orchids, originally meant to decorate private gardens, can nowadays be found in the wild. Flowering lianas wrap themselves around bushes until they form hedges along the roads.
Fauna of the Seychelles
There are no dangerous endemic animals in the Seychelles. The crocodiles which were mentioned by 18th century navigators disappeared long ago. The only surviving reptile is the giant land tortoise. It has been domesticated all across the archipelago but can only be found living in the wild on the atoll of Aldabra which has the most important colony of land tortoises on earth. Endemic mammals are rare. The roussette giant bat which was quite common long ago is nowadays an endangered species because it is considered to be a delicacy among the locals.
The Birds of the Seychelles
The Seychelles archipelago is a rallying point for thousands of migratory birds. Terns, seagulls, frigates, boobies, puffins, tropic-birds, converge on Bird Island, Cousin Island, Frégate Island or Arid Island during mating season. Herons and egrets can also be found in the archipelago.
Some birds which are known to most Europeans like swallows and sparrows as well as birds which are most commonly found in other warm countries like hummingbirds and mynahs can also be found in the Seychelles. But some species are totally endemic to the Seychelles and sometimes only on certain islands of the archipelago. For example the Seychelles black paradise Flycatcher can only be observed on La Digue where a reserve has been created to prevent it from going extinct. There are only about 200 individuals of that species and the males can be recognised by their black feathers which have a deep blue sheen. They also have two extremely long feathers on their tails. The females have reddish-brown and cream-white feathers.
Other endemic species have only been preserved from extinction thanks to environment protection programmes. Two of those birds are the Seychelles Magpie-Robin and the Seychelles Blue Warbler. The Seychelles fody can be found in Cousin, Cousine and Frégate Island.The Seychelles White-Eye can only be found in Mahé. The Lesser Vasa Parrot, which is the only parrot of the Seychelles, can be found in Praslin, in the Vallée de Mai.
The marine fauna of the Seychelles
Marine fauna is so plentiful in the Seychelles that one may think its waters are giant aquariums. Hundreds of fish species can be found swimming in the lagoons as well as in its deepest waters. The diversity is stunning. Some species are phosphorescent while others can perfectly blend in with their environment. Other species that can be found there are Threadfin Angelfish, the Lagoon triggerfish, parrotfish, or angelfish. Scuba divers and snorkelers will be delighted by the sight of several species of coral and sponges.
Big game fishing enthusiasts will be equally delighted by the amount of tuna, dolphinfish, marlins, barracudas, bonitos, sailfish and shark that they will be able to pull out from the ocean. Smaller fish like sardines, mackerel, the emperor red snapper, or the mullet are a staple of local dinners.
Dolphin pods can also be seen accompanying ships in the open ocean. Sperm whales can also be seen occasionally as well as whale sharks, which are not whales, but gentle, giant sharks. Lobsters, crayfish, shrimps, crabs and cuttlefish can be found in the south of the archipelago. Molluscs and crustaceans tend to become rarer because of the demand for seafood; however shrimps and prawns are now cultivated in aqua farms to keep up with demand and to ease the pressure on the environment.
Several species of sea shells can be found in the Seychelles, especially near the beaches. However it is forbidden to pick them up. It should be known that some species are venomous, especially cones.
Turtles in the Seychelles
Many Sea turtles come to lay their eggs on the beaches of the Seychelles. They bury their eggs in the sand and go back to the sea as soon as they are finished. Just like terrestrial tortoises, sea turtles are a protected species. Along the centuries, they have come close to extinction several times. In 1777, there were 4 species of sea turtles in the Seychelles: the green sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle, the leatherback turtle and the loggerhead sea turtle. Nowadays, only the leatherback turtle and the green sea turtle come to lay their eggs in the Seychelles. However, unlike in other countries, sea turtles can be seen laying their eggs in broad daylight in the Seychelles. Since 1994 it is illegal to disturb, capture, harm, fish, kill, sell, buy, receive or own a sea turtle or a turtle egg. Along with the coco-de-mer, the tropicbird, and the sailfish, the sea turtle is one of the four emblems of the Seychelles.
Protection of the fauna and flora of the Seychelles
The protection of the local fauna and flora of the Seychelles is one of the priorities of the Government of the Seychelles. About 43% of the territory is now classified as a protected area. Cousin and Bird Island have become ornithological sanctuaries. A national marine park has been created around Saint-Anne. The Seychelles are one of the rare countries in the world to have two natural sites, the Atoll of Aldabra and the Vallée de Mai that are UNESCO world heritage sites.