Travel and Local Information Guide
Mahé Island is the most significant island among the 115 that make up the Republic of Seychelles. Not only is it home to a third of the total population of this island country, but it is also the economic, tourism and cultural hub. The capital of Seychelles, Victoria, is also situated on Mahé Island.
The highest point of Mahé Island is the Morne Seychellois and lower-lying dense rainforests can be seen from atop the hilly areas of the island.
Local artists often painting on silk fabric as well as in the traditional manner and these paintings are displayed in art galleries all over the country. Other than that, creative souvenirs made from coconut shells and sharks’ teeth are hugely popular as well as souvenir item made in the shape of the female pelvis from coconut shells is known as the coco de mer. They are a very popular collector’s item among tourists. Coconut shells are also carved into smiling faces.
Other than the local Creole and Cajun cuisines which are all about coconut and spicy concoctions, seafood dominates the palette of the natives. Octopus red curry in ginger and garlic is a crowd pleaser all over the country. Other than that barbecued red snapper or curry are other popular dishes here. The barbeque is a simple dish where the fish is stuffed with garlic and ginger and seared in low heat wrapped in banana leaves on the barbeque grill.
Tropical fruits are a favourite with visitors. Apples, papaya, jamalac and bananas are grown in abundance and consumed voraciously. Jamalac is similar to apple in texture and taste.
The coconut is a major component in Creole and Cajun cuisine. Coconut milk and oil are also used extensively in dishes here. The staple carbohydrate component in meals in the Seychelles is rice.
Since the Seychelles has a history of colonialism it is not surprising that the culture, art and architecture of the country bears signs of the past in terms of African, French, British and Indian influences.
The houses here have steep thatched roofs to let the rainwater pour off and dry quickly while balconies of most homes are designed to catch the sea breezes.
Creole music incorporates the beat of drums with stringed instruments like the violin and guitar. The native dance of the slaves called ‘moutya’, the vivid words of sega, the French kontredance and the kanmtole of the country reel are examples of the many multicultural aspects of the Seychelles.
Initially the economy of the country depended heavily on agriculture. Plantations such as cinnamon barks, copra, coconut, sugarcane and vanilla were the most common during the French colonial period. This was encouraged by the British as well, during which period unpaid labourers and slaves were forced to work in this industry.
Only after gaining independence did the tourism industry receive a considerable boom. Now 30% of the working population is engaged in this industry; earning about 70% of the total income in the economy. However, during the Gulf War this industry also faced severe setbacks which made the government realise that a small manufacturing industry and other sectors must also be given importance.
Fishing became a major source of income for a considerable portion of the population. Tuna became the staple fish to be packaged, industrialized and exported.
Only recently has the government taken the initiative to improve the infrastructure and housing sector to accelerate the development of the economy.
First discovered by the French and colonised during the late 1700s, the Seychelles’ population swelled to almost double (7,000) of what it was during the French colonial period in the mid 19th century when it was a colony of the British Empire.
During the British colonial period food crops such as tea, sugar cane and coconut plantations grew in abundance. Finally in 1976 the Seychelles gained independence as a Republican Island in the Commonwealth.
Tourism is one of the main industries of the Seychelles with almost a third of the economy depending upon it. Out of the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles, Mahé Island is the largest. Art galleries, shopping centres, restaurants and hotels are all concentrated in the capital town of Victoria.
Although tourism is encouraged by the government, such heavy dependence upon this industry is not the most stable economic course to take. However, almost three quarters of the islands’ income comes from tourism. As a nongovernmental sector tourism claims the majority of returns.