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The Seychelles

Updated on May 8, 2010

The Seychelles is an island group in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east of Zanzibar. With several nearby islands, it is administered as a British crown colony. The archipelago consists of about 85 islands and islets. Its capital, chief port, and largest city is Victoria, on Mahe Island.

The Land

The Seychelles have an area of 145 square miles ( 375 sq km), comprising 40 granitic and 45 coralline islands. Mahe, the largest and most important island, is 55 square miles (142 sq km) in area. The other principal islands are Praslin, La Digue, and Silhouette.

The granitic islands are of volcanic origin and are generally mountainous. The highest point is Morne Seychellois on Mahe, rising to almost 3,000 feet (900 meters). The coral islands, which are uninhabited, are reefs in different stages of formation, rising only a few feet above sea level.

The archipelago lies near the equator, but its climate is tempered by the southeast trade winds from June to November. Temperatures on Mahe vary between 75° F and 85° F (24° C-29° C). Rainfall ranges from about 90 inches (2,300 mm) annually in Victoria to 140 inches (3,550 mm) a year on the slopes. The islands lie outside the cyclone belt, and high winds are rare.

The People

The population of the Seychelles was estimated to be 52,000 in 1970. Most of the Seychellois are descended from early French settlers and African slaves. Their principal language is Creole, but English is the colony's official language. Over 90% of the people are Catholics.


The economy of the Seychelles is almost entirely dependent on agriculture, primarily on export commodities. The major exports are copra, cinnamon, vanilla, patchouli (an oil used in manufacturing soap and perfume), and dried fish. Subsistence crops include bananas, sweet potatoes, and cassava, but foodstuffs are the principal imports.


The islands were uninhabited until they were explored and settled by the French in the mid-18th century. They were formally ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The archipelago was a dependency of the British colony of Mauritius until 1903, when it became a separate colony. Under the 1970 constitution the Seychelles colony is administered by a governor, with a council of ministers and an elected assembly.


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