Other Inner Islands

“Easily accessible from Mahé are some of the most beautiful & less crowded islands with fantastic accommodation options”

The ‘Inner Islands’ which are mostly granitic, cluster mainly around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, forming the cultural and economic hub of Seychelles, as well as the centre of its tourism industry. Together they are home to the majority of Seychelles’ accommodation facilities as well almost the entire population of the archipelago. There are 43 Inner islands in total, 41 granitic and 2 coralline.

Cerf Island

Situated within the Ste Anne Marine National Park, Cerf is Mahé’s closest neighbour only 4 km away and offers excellent swimming and snorkelling, as well as memorable sunbathing on several great beaches. Cerf is a popular picnic venue with Mahé residents on account of its fine beaches and good swimming. Cerf earned its name from the navy frigate that visited Seychelles in 1756 to take formal possession of the island in the name of France. The island once had a thriving coconut industry, the remnants of which are still evident in the form of lush coconut groves. Many exotic shrubs adorn its 116 hectares that is also home to a population of giant land tortoises and flying foxes. Cerf is the only island in the marine park to have a small local population who commute to Mahé for their daily business, making the 4 km trip in a matter of minutes. A high standard of accommodation is available in three hotel establishments currently on the island as is the opportunity to savour mouth-watering Seychellois Creole cuisine.

Félicité Island

Félicité is located 4 km from its neighbour La Digue and in close proximity to other La Digue satellites such as the Sisters Islands, Marianne and Ile Cocos. This picturesque and steep granitic island was a coconut plantation up to the 1970s and supported a population of some 50 people. In the late 19th century, Félicité was home to the Sultan of Perak, one of Seychelles’ most colourful exiles, who spent five years on the island before moving to Mahé. Until recently, the island was home to an up-market lodge offering an exclusive island experience to the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Frégate Island

Frégate is situated approximately 55 km from Mahé and is the most distant of the granitic Inner Island group. Frégate was a popular pirate haunt during the latter part of the 17th century and stories persist of treasure hidden somewhere on its 280 hectares. The island has not always been so pristine. Humans eventually settled on Frégate and nearly ruined it, like we do everywhere else. In the 19th century, it became a plantation, growing copra, coffee, vanilla and cinnamon. There was a piggery and a chicken farm. Coconut palms were planted right across it and the virgin forest — of huge fig and takamaka trees — was all but destroyed. Fregate Island Private began to take shape a few years later when Otto Happel, a German billionaire, bought it in 1977 and construction began of the hotel in 1998. So now the island consists of these two things rubbing along together: a rebounding refuge for wildlife, and a retreat of astonishing privacy for those lucky enough to afford it. The five-star eco-lodge offers the optimum in comfort and amenities that has become a favourite hideaway for Hollywood stars, with deluxe villas right on the foreshore to ensure each has a million-dollar sea view. Meanwhile guests are encouraged to engage themselves in the island’s many conservation projects, run by ecologists charged with keeping the island naturally pristine. The island microcosm measuring some 2 square km is home to no less than fifty species of birds, among which is the rare Seychelles magpie robin, and also hosts the world’s only population of the giant tenebrionid beetle as well as numerous giant tortoises.

North Island

Located amongst the inner granitic islands of Seychelles, North Island is a fertile paradise, the natural beauty of North Island will touch and inspire you at the deepest level. Islands have been referred to as the “laboratories of evolution” and North Island biodiversity is living proof of this.

Ile du Nord was the first Seychelles island on which a recorded landing was made by seafarers. An expedition in 1609 by Captain Sharpeigh and the crew of the English East India Company vessel Ascension reported that the island had a large population of giant land tortoises. Along with all other Seychelles islands, North Island was still uninhabited at that time. From 1826 until the 1970s, North Island was owned by the Beaufond family from Réunion. During this time the island was a plantation for growing fruit and spices, as well as producing guano, fish oil and copra. After the copra market collapsed, the plantation was sold in the 1970s, and North Island fell into disuse. Feral animals and alien plant species out competed the indigenous fauna and flora with distressing consequences. A new chapter in the history of North Island began in 1997 when North Island was purchased with a view to creating not just the world’s leading private island hideaway, but also of turning back the clock: undoing the damage wrought by man and creating a sanctuary for indigenous Seychellois wildlife. A unique opportunity existed to rehabilitate, preserve and study the island’s ecosystems. Invasive plant species are being progressively cleared and replaced by thousands of indigenous plant and tree seedlings grown in an on-island nursery and then transplanted throughout the island. In this way, the native habitat has been restored to the extent that North Island is once again a place where endemic Seychellois fauna and flora flourish. Evidence of the success of this programme has been the fact that bird species such as Seychelles Blue Pigeons and breeding populations of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and White-tailed Tropicbirds have returned of their own accord. Hawksbill and Green Turtles nest on our beaches once more, in ever increasing numbers. The island boasts one of the best resort in the Seychelles,

Silhouette Island

Silhouette is Seychelles’ third largest island, lying 30 km off Mahé’s western coast and in close proximity to North Island. Silhouette’s verdant, mountainous profile dominates the view from Mahé’s Beau Vallon beach. The Arabs used Silhouette as a base for their dhows, probably as early as the 9th century, a fact attested to by the ruins of Arab tombs at Anse Lascars.

Silhouette, together with North Island, was the very first Seychelles’ island to be seen by the ships of the Sharpeigh expedition of 1609. It would have to wait until the early 19th century for a permanent settlement. Protected by the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles, Silhouette remains an untouched, living museum of natural history featuring many unique species of plants and trees. Among these can be counted rare hardwoods, the amazing incense tree as well as the carnivorous pitcher plant. Silhouette is the only other island apart from Mahé to have a mist forest on its lofty 731m peak, Mont Dauban. Silhouette’s primitive beauty is the ideal backdrop for hikers and walkers wishing to penetrate the mysteries of an island once reputed to be the home of the notorious pirate, Hodoul, whose hidden treasure may well lie there still. A 117-room 5-star hotel the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa replaced the island’s original 12-room lodge with another option being La Belle Tortue.

Ste Anne

Ste Anne, the largest island in the Ste Anne Marine National Park, lies 4 km off the east coast of Mahé and in close proximity to its neighbours, Cerf Island, Round Island and Moyenne Island.

Discovered in 1742 by the famous explorer Lazare Picault, Ste Anne was the first island to be settled by the early French settlers before taking up residency on Mahé. The island was later home to a commercial whaling station and World War II gun battery. Apart from its countless coconut palms, among which may be counted three Coco-de-Mer, cinnamon plants grow wild on the lush hillsides as do casuarinas and many of the same species of plants, trees and shrubs found on neighbouring islands. Ste Anne is home to Beachcomber’s 5-star Sainte Anne Resort, an 87-villa property that opened in 2002.

Denis Island

Denis lies 95 km north of Victoria, Mahé and 45 km from Bird Island, making it one of the most northerly of all the Seychelles’ islands. Like many Seychelles islands, in the heyday of the coconut industry Denis was a coconut plantation, whose population of between 70 and 100 persons were engaged in collecting guano (decomposed bird droppings), producing coprah (refined coconut flesh) and fishing. In 1975 the island was purchased by Pierre Burkhardt, a French paper magnate who ran the island as a successful lodge with the marketing slogan “the island at the edge of the world.” The island was sold to Mason’s Travel, one of Seychelles’ first local ground handling operators, in the mid ‘90s. Denis’ 350 acres is home to a varied vegetation and populations of sea and land birds including frigates, white-tailed tropic birds, whimbrels, doves, wood pigeons, cardinals and mynahs. The island is the recent beneficiary of a successful project to introduce endangered species of birdlife. For fishermen it is ideally situated for deep-sea fishing expeditions on the nearby edge of the Seychelles’ bank where marlin, sailfish, barracuda, wahoo, dorado and tuna will thrill novice and seasoned fisherman alike. Denis offers excellent nature walks as well as the facilities of tennis, diving, windsurfing, canoeing and of course sunbathing on its gleaming white beaches and its 5-star 25-chalet lodge is the perfect honeymoon getaway offering seclusion in comfort and with excellent gourmet cuisine.

Bird Island

Bird, Seychelles’ most northerly island is 100 km or a 30-minute flight north of Mahé. The island was once known as Ile aux Vaches because of the dugongs (sea cows) that thrived there.

During the period of the southeast trade winds (May-September), Bird is colonised by more than a million sooty terns that each lay their eggs on their own exclusive square foot of territory. Bird also hosts populations of lesser noddies and fairy terns as well as white-tailed tropic birds, fodies, plovers and wimbrels. Situated at the northern edge of the archipelago where the ocean floor plummets to 2 000 metres, Bird has extraordinarily rich marine life in the form of hawksbill and green turtles, dolphins and even the occasional whale. Once famous for its sizeable population of giant land tortoises, Bird now boasts ‘Esmeralda,’ the world’s heaviest giant land tortoise living in the wild, weighing in at over 300 kg and reputed to be more than 200 years old. Incidentally, ‘Esmeralda’ is a male. In the early 1970’s, Bird turned to tourism, and with several conservation programmes in place, the Bird Island Lodge stands at the forefront of eco-tourism in Seychelles. Twenty-four comfortable bungalows, excellent beaches, a reputation for good cuisine and a convivial atmosphere complement great opportunities for snorkelling, deep-sea fishing, and nature watching.

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