Cenote Ik Kil © Vicente Villamon
The beautiful Seychelles archipelago in the heart of the Indian Ocean is often touted as one of the most romantic destinations in the world. The Seychelles casts a spell over travellers, with crystalline turquoise waters, pristine coral reefs and powdery beaches that encircle vast granite pinnacles and verdant rainforest.
The islands are stretched across nearly one million square kilometres of ocean off the coast of East Africa. Only a few of the 115 islands are inhabited, with most of the local population (known as Seychellois) gathered on the main island, Mahé, around the capital city of Victoria.
The Seychellois population comprises an eclectic mix of the descendants of freed African slaves, Arab, Indian and Chinese traders, British and French settlers and Creole seafarers. The multi-party democratic republic was once a thriving pirate's haven, but today it serves as a refuge for sun seekers, honeymooners and nature lovers who congregate in the top quality hotels and resorts on the shores of the main islands.
Whether travellers come to soak up the equatorial sun on silver sands, dive among more than 800 species of fish in the island waters, marvel at flocks of colourful birds flitting between rare jungle trees, or to cement their marriage vows, they will find the Seychelles archipelago undeniably paradisiacal.
Although primarily enjoyed as an uber lavish destination, there is an increasing drive to develop the budget tourism options on the islands, opening the doors of paradise to travellers who may previously only have dreamt of a holiday on these exotic shores.