In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The Statesman brings to you a Weekly Focus on countries with which India shares diplomatic ties and friendship. This week’s focus is on Seychelles. Know all about the country.

Capital: Victoria, Currency: Seychellois rupee, Language: Seychellois Creole (official) 89.1 per cent, English (official) 5.1, French (official) 0.7, other 3.8, unspecified 1.4 (2010 est.) Religion: Christian, indigenous, Muslim Ethnic groups: French, African, Indian, Chinese, and Arab

CLIMATE

Lying just below the equator, the Seychelles enjoys a tropical warm climate all year round. Whilst the temperature reaches maximum 32°C and rarely drops below 23°C, the islands do receive monsoon rains from November to April with the northwest trade winds, despite being outside the cyclone belt. There is no distinct dry season, but this time of year does tend to be more hot and humid season in general and those visiting from December to March are most likely to experience rain. From April onwards, the heat gives way to a period of cooler weather, and rougher seas when the trade winds blow from the south-east (May to October).

150 WEEKLY FLIGHTS

Air Seychelles, Jet Airways, Etihad Airways, Emirates, and Ethiopian Airlines operate more than 150 flights to Seychelles from New Delhi every week. The airports at Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai also operate regular flights to this island nation. Air Seychelles fly directly from India to Seychelles. Indians can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 30 days. To obtain the visa they must hold an onward or return ticket, valid passport and funds of minimum $150 per person per day, along with proof of accommodation.

EARLY INDIAN SETTLERS

Indian nationals were the earliest inhabitants of this island, mostly from Tamil Nadu and later from Gujarat. They came as traders, labourers, construction workers and more recently as professionals. The number of Indian nationals including PIOs is 10,000 which is significant in a country having total population of 91,000. Virtually all the shops in this country are owned by the Tamil community. A large portion of the real estate business and the construction industry is controlled by Gujaratis.

Eclectic cuisine

Seychellois Creole cuisine is influenced by African, Chinese, French and Indian traditions. The careful blending of spices is a major feature of cuisine in the country and much use is made of chillies, coconut milk and breadfruit, the latter often used as a carbohydrate staple in place of rice. There are 10 varieties of chilli and fish is served many ways ~ roasted, grilled, curried and raw – alongside chutney and cooked vegetables such as green mango or aubergine. Raw vegetables are usually served with a vinaigrette dressing. Lobster, octopus, pork and chicken are used more frequently than beef or lamb, which must be imported. Some of the specialities are Chatinirequin, Soupe de tectec, Bouillon bréde, Caribernique, Chatini Seychellois, Palm hearts, Rousettes, Ladob and Carotte banana.

Brisk business

India and Seychelles have an elaborate architecture of defence and security cooperation that has deepened over the years with the growing piracy menace and other economic offences in the strategic Indian Ocean region. Seychelles’ long list of imports from India includes rice, food products, cement, linen, cotton, vehicles and associated transport equipments, medicines, instruments and appliances for medical, surgical and dental use. The total imports from India in 2015 amounted to $40.38 m, while total exports to India in 2015 were minimal.

Among the Indian companies present in Seychelles, Bank of Baroda has been present in Victoria since 1978. Bharti Airtel has so far invested over $25 million, having set up the Airtel Seychelles mobile telephone and internet services since 1998. Telco has supplied most of the buses for public transport in Seychelles.

IDYLLIC ISLANDS

Victoria: In the centre of the city, a statue of three pairs of birds’ wings symbolise the origins of the population in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The most prominent historical structure is the clock tower. Overlooking the square, St Paul’s Cathedral is built on the site of the first church of the Seychelles. Natural History Museum& Lord Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple(only Hindu Temple) are must-visit sites.

La Digue Island: Haven for nature lovers and those seeking a glimpse of traditional island life. Stunning white sand beaches and granite rock outcrops rim the coast. Diving and rock climbing popular activities.

Ste Anne National Marine Park: Snorkeling, scuba diving, and glass-bottom boat excursions reveal the diversity of marine life in the park’s coral reefs.

Island fantasies come true in Mahe (Beau Vallon beach, Anse Intendance), Praslin (Anse Georgette, Anse Lazio, AnseVolbert), Cousin Island, Curieuse Island, Silhouette Island (the third largest of the granitic islands) and Bird Island. Other attractions are Morne Seychellois National Park, Vallée de Mai National Park, Aride Island Nature Reserve and Aldabra Atoll (all Unesco World Heritage Sites).

Compiled by Kunal Jain ([email protected])