Nine hundred miles east of the African mainland, nature dropped a bunch of clichés into the Indian Ocean: palm-fringed beaches, crescents of powdery white sand, gin-clear waters. In short, the archetypal tourist paradise. Welcome to the 115 islands of the Seychelles.
This independent island nation lately earned a reputation as one of the world’s most Instagrammable destinations. A relentless tsunami of online images reinforces the clichés. The temptation is to pack your swimwear and plunge in … but there’s more to the Seychelles than photogenic beaches. You might also want to take your hiking boots.
Most tropical islands either have a volcanic origin (Hawai’i, for instance) or are formed from coral (the Bahamas). But then there’s the Seychelles, the stranded remnants of a granite microcontinent that broke away from India 145 million years ago. The land underfoot, ancient and rugged, rises high above the beaches. On the largest of the islands, satisfying hiking trails wend through tropical forest, occasionally breaking out into the open to provide breathtaking vistas.
One of my favorite trails lies immediately inland from Victoria, the capital city, on the largest island, Mahé (pronounced Ma-HEY). The hour-long Copolia Trail takes you to the summit of Mount Copolia, from where you can look down on the city (with a population of just 26,000, it’s scenically compact) and across to some of the other islands, including Praslin (Prahlin) and La Digue (La-deeg).
La Digue itself proves a hiking paradise, with wonderful full-day walks that crisscross through dense forest from one beautiful beach to the next (where you can take a cooling dip before heading on). A wealth of unique plants and animals inhabit the Seychelles, and in the interior of La Digue you have the chance to spot one of the rarest birds in the world, the Seychelles paradise flycatcher.
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