By Deepika Shetty
Seychelles, an island nation, is located in the Indian Ocean north-east of Madagascar, which is off the east coast of Africa.
It consists of 115 islands and covers an area approximately the size of France. But most of the islands are uninhabited and the majority of the residents live on the island of Mahe.
Seychelles is one place that “lives up to its promise of paradise”, says Mr Reinhold Johann, general manager of the Banyan Tree resort in Intendance Bay. The beauty of the island and its people are what drew the 45-year-old German, who says life there is a lot more than sun, sea and sand.
Banyan Tree's general manager
“The rich landscape of the Seychelles archipelago tends to inspire Seychellois artists,” says Mr Johann.
He says this is evident not just in their images of the beautiful beaches but also the vivid colours of the ocean, lush fauna and flora and local scenes captured in sketches and water colours.
Artists are scattered around Mahe island and art is strongly promoted in schools. Studios and galleries abound and exhibitions are held frequently.
One of the artists to look out for is Michael Adams, whose paintings adorn calendars and book covers. His Creole-style studio, located at Anse Poules Bleues, is in his house.
Another artist to note is Tom Bowers who sculpts Seychellois figures in bronze.
Art is also displayed in the form of models of old sailing boats at La Marine, where they are made from French naval plans in fine detail.
Visitors should make a stop at the clock tower in Victoria, the capital city. This is a replica of the one at London’s Victoria Station. It was built in 1903 to commemorate Seychelles becoming a separate British colony from Mauritius. The country became an independent republic in 1976 after 200 years of colonial rule.
Other cultural stops include a visit to the museums. Most of them are in Victoria.
Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke market
Named after a former governor of Seychelles, this market is the best place to buy fresh produce. There is a wide variety of fish, spices, local fruit and vegetables. The best time to visit is Saturday morning when it gets really busy.
These are located in the southern part of Victoria and are filled with a large variety of indigenous plants, including the coco de mer or sea coconut. The gardens were laid out in 1901 and are home to some rare, giant Aldabra land tortoises which weigh up to 150kg each.
Once a school for liberated slaves, all that is left of this site are the ruins. In colonial times, it was known as Venns Town. It was set up in 1875 by the Anglican Church Missionary School. There is also a pathway lined by Sandragon trees that leads to a viewing point with a lodge. This was built for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Seychelles in 1974. It offers magnificent views of the surrounding hills and the ocean. You can catch a glimpse of the many endemic birds in this area from the lodge, says Mr Johann.
The vivid colours of the ocean and teeming marine life such are an inspiration for Seychellois artists
He also suggests a visit to Praslin, the second largest island in Seychelles. Here, a visit to the Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve is highly recommended. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Among other things, this is home to the coco de mer.
Seychelles cuisine is an amalgamation of the various cultures of the country’s population.
There is a rich combination of curry and chillies from India and stir-fries from China.
Rice is the staple and fresh fish is eaten daily. Curry is a firm favourite in most households.
There are several restaurants around Mahe island and Mr Johann recommends trying chutneys of various sorts made from papaya, pumpkin, green mango and golden apple. These are usually mixed with onion, chilli and lime.
Another must-try dish is the breadfruit, a large, heavy, round fruit which can be cooked in different ways – from crisp chips to a boiled, mashed dessert. Legend has it that once you have tried this, you will be back in Seychelles.
Also try to make a stop at Kraz Kreole in Anse Royal. This restaurant has tables laid out on the beach and serves great seafood pizza cooked in a wood-fire oven.
If you are looking for some fresh fish in coconut sauce, head to La Scala. This restaurant offers fine Italian cuisine with influences from the Creole kitchen.
There are no big shopping malls in Seychelles but small shops and boutiques offer everything from paintings, pottery and sculptures to jewellery and local music CDs.
The market is the place to shop for spices. Souvenir kiosks are also located in the centre of Victoria.
Mr Johann recommends taking home a bottle of the exotic liqueur, the Coco D’amour. The bottle is in the shape of the coco de mer nut. This is available in many shops.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on September 02, 2008.