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Seychelles TravelSeychelles guide / Seychelles geography

Geography of the Seychelles

For such a small nation, the Seychelles Islands form an expansive archipelago that includes more than 100 islands
For such a small nation, the Seychelles Islands form an expansive archipelago that includes more than 100 islands in the beautiful Indian Ocean. There are two main types of islands in the Seychelles. There is a group of central islands that includes Mahe, the main island. They’re formed of granite and mountainous in the middle, with a skirt of flat coastal beaches surrounding. The outer islands are made from coral reefs and coral atolls. These islands are flat, and generally small, with elevations only slightly above sea level. Most of the small islands do not have water mains, and several of them are uninhabited.

The inner islands have high humidity, and plenty of rainfall, conditions made to nourish the lush and abundant tropical rain forest. Wildlife includes impressive sea creatures like the green sea turtle that live on the reefs, and enormous land turtles. All the islands are now carefully preserved from human encroachment. The Seychelles Island geography is unique in all the world, with species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else.

There have been periods in the past when islands in the Seychelles have suffered due to the encroachment of humans. But now the unique and beautiful natural features are actively preserved. Most of the smaller islands do not have water mains laid on, and only some of them are inhabited. Besides Mahe, the other two islands that are considered “main” islands are La Digue and Praslin. They lie only a few km apart, and around 40 km from Mahe. Silhouette is an island that is a little larger than La Digue, but which is very hilly and sparsely inhabited. Most of the people in the islands are of African and European heritage, and most live on Mahe. Mahe is also home to the largest city in the Seychelles, Victoria, which is also the capital. Most of the people in the Seychelles make their livings from construction, agriculture, and fishing, but tourism is significant too. The Seychelles Islands form a republic, governed by a president, and a legislative assembly of 34, all of whom serve five year terms. The president is in charge of appointing the presidential cabinet.

By the year 1500, the Portuguese had found the Seychelles. They settled there first, and then nearly 300 years later, French and African slaves landed there. During the Napoleonic era, Britain seized the Seychelles islands and were awarded them in a treaty in 1814. The Seychelles were made a colony in 1903, and were made independent in 1976. There are two UNESCO Heritage Sites. One is the Vallee de Mai at Praslin, where the unique coco de mer nut grows on ancient palm trees. The other site is Aldabra, the largest raised coral island in the world. But the island was first discovered by Arab sailors in the 9th century.

The Seychelles Islands are one of the last frontiers in the world. They embody adventure and natural beauty that are unmatched anywhere and that are relatively unspoiled by man. The World Bank’s Global Environment Fund is a US$1.8 million plan to preserve the unique ecology of the Seychelles through the program of Biodiversity Conservation and Marine Pollution Abatement. These programs began in 1993. According to World Bank statistics, the Seychelles have over 1,100 flowers, with over 75 genus of flowering plants, 15 bird genus, 30 reptile genus, and 3 mammal genus. There are also abundant amphibians, and hundreds of species of snails, insects, spiders, and other invertebrates that can be found nowhere else but the Seychelles. And that’s just on land. The waters are home to nearly 1,000 different species of fishes, one third of which are dependant on the coral reefs. Unique bird species include the black parrot, the flightless rail, the brush warbler, and the black paradise flycatcher.

Unfortunately, because of extensive shipping to the Seychelles Islands, including commercial tuna fishing, the waters are polluted. In addition, Aldabra has goats that have been imported, and who are destroying much of the vegetation where the giant turtles, including the green and the hawksbill turtles seek shade and food. It was in the late 1960s that the Seychelles began to address habitat maintenance. At this time the Seychelles founded the Nature Conservancy Commission, which was later changed to the Seychelles Environment National Commission. It is a system of animal preserves and national parks covering 42% of the land, as well as 26,000 hectares of water that have been set aside. There is also national legislation to protect wildlife and ban practices detrimental to the natural features of the Seychelles.

Another ecological project is a World Bank ecology project that is specifically about transport and the environment. In 1993, a US$4.5 million loan was made to improve the Seychelles Islands’ infrastructure including airports and roads, and to increase tourism as a source of income for the island. The project also supports plans of environmental conservation, management of resources and pollution abatement.

The Seychelles’ climate is tropical with small seasonal variations. On Mahe, the temperature rarely tops 29 degrees C (85 degrees F), and rarely drops below 24 C (70 F). Though the humidity is high, the winds keep it from being too uncomfortable. From May through September, the southeast monsoons affect the islands, making it slightly cooler. During the northwest monsoon season from March to May is when the weather is warmest. Rainfall on the coral islands to the south averages around 50 cm per year.

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