The notion of a country built on a string of islands is romantic. In its essence, romance is drama and staking 115 islands and calling it one country is dramatic. One must only imagine the drama involved in administrating such a disparate realm. Add outstanding natural beauty to the equation and the development of The Seychelles as a honeymoon destination whose marketeers sell wonderful white sand beaches fringed with palms and surrounded by turquoise seas, and the romantic story is complete. Over-excited writers often use the P word to describe this stunning island country, but not me. Gorgeous, yes; stunning; absolutely. Awesome; resolutely but paradise? No.
Cue a scene of verdant tropical vegetation, emerald lushness, juicy with its succulent ability to attract and retain moisture. There’s powdery white sands so soft and talcy that a beach walk won’t exfoliate your feet - plus large curvaceous boulders and an ocean in shades of turquoise and indigo. This is home to a diverse population of melodious birds and fragrant frangipanis in burgundy and pink. All this is topped by a consistent equatorial climate which is the basis of some of the finest bare-footed luxury in the world.
Ecotourism in the Seychelles is a boundless proposition. In many ways, this small African Republic, located in the mid Indian Ocean, has set the standard for ecotourism among other island nations. Today, almost 50 percent of this country has been set aside as protected land, the highest percentage of any country in the world.
The green traveler of these richly bio-diverse islands will find ample opportunity to experience nature in its most varied and exotic forms, while leaving a minimal footprint upon the land. There is a high awareness in the Seychelles of this issue. For instance, the popular eco-tourist destination of Cousin Island is currently campaigning to become the first carbon neutral reserve in the world.
Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity
Ninety percent of the population of this island country resides on the Island of Mahé, most living within in the capital city of Port Victoria. This city of 80,000 is a mélange of ethnicities and cultures.
In 1756 the French laid claim to the previously uninhabited Seychelles as a port of trade. Since that time, the British, Chinese, Indian, Arab, African and Creole have all pooled their influences into the melting pot that today, comprises this exotic capital city.
Walk Softly in Silence
Responsible travel is easy on the island of Mahé. The Morne Sechellois National Park is near Port Victoria is easily accessible by buses, which run frequently (less so on weekends). You can also arrange for a cycling tour, but make certain you are in good physical shape.
Mahé’s terrain is about as diverse as it gets. The park ascends from mangroves and palm fringed beaches to an interior rainforest and mountain that spans 905 metres in height. It’s well worth the sweat. Once in the interior, you will find no roads and few people. The modern world will melt away, and you’ll be rewarded by a rare and utter sense of isolation.
Dance with Sharks
It can be quite steamy in the Seychelles, with a temperature that hovers seasonally between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius. The point here is that you’re probably going to want to get wet. Not to worry, the beaches that lace the 115 islands of this archipelago are ideal for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling.
Snorkel in Port Launay and Baie Ternay Marine Reserve National Parks for a chance to observe the harmless giant Djibouti Whale Sharks that feed on the local plankton. After an afternoon of following these gentle creatures, a nap under an indigenous Takamaka tree is in order.
Become a Castaway
After a boat trip to Bird Island sanctuary you may feel like a castaway. If you’re looking for Internet access, television sets, and phones—go elsewhere. White sand beaches, seasonal appearances by Hawksbill sea turtles, dolphins and whales, and a dizzying array of birds are all you’ll find in this pristine sanctuary.
Tourism here is designed to have a minimum impact on the environment. Bird Island Lodge—the only hotel here—has limited occupancy, so the island never holds more than 80 people at a time. The rooms are large and airy, yet deliberately lacking in the excesses of many resorts.
You may also choose to stay closer to home-base and take a lazy 20 minute boat ride from Mahé to the Ste. Anne Marine National Park. Once there, spend the day biking or hiking around the small island. There are six islands within this wildlife preserve, which together, provide over 14 square kilometers of beauty and biodiversity.
Sea Turtles, Giant Tortoises: Volunteer Seychelles
For those who wish to immerse themselves in eco-volunteerism there are almost as many options as there are islands. Many eco-volunteers have claimed once-in-a-lifetime experiences volunteering at Cousin Island.
Global Vision International (GVI) utilizes volunteers seasonally to assist with data collection on the Giant Tortoise, nesting sea turtles, and other marine species in Cap Terney Marine Park. For those who would swim their way to volunteerism, The GVI Marine Research team also enlists eco-volunteers to collect reef data while scuba diving.
Sustainable Ecotourism in the Seychelles
The Seychellois take pride in their model of sustainable ecotourism. However, there are still serious concerns. Many species within this archipelago are still threatened or endangered, and of course, there is always concern about the impacts of well meaning eco-tourists on protected lands.
Fortunately, the challenges are being met head-on by local NGOs and the Seychelles community, and measures are being taken to keep this place a sanctuary that exceeds world environmental standards.
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