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Seychelles Tourism Corporate History

The Seychelles lie like a string of pearls amid the cerulean waters of the western Indian Ocean, roughly one thousand miles from the African coast.  They appear as a line of stepping stones that promise to join the African continent with India, only to fade out halfway and form a dazzling archipelago instead.

The French were the first to settle the islands in the mid-eighteenth century but Seychelles was well known to seafarers many centuries before that.  Arabic travelogues bear witness to their knowledge of the islands while Arab graves point to their visits to – and perhaps even their settlement of – a place they named jaza’ir az zarrin – the golden isles.

The Phoenicians of old, as well as the Polynesians en route to Madagascar may well have called on the islands but it was Portugese navigator Juan de Nova who made the first recorded landfall in the Seychelles in 1501 followed by a sighting of her Amirantes group by the celebrated Vasco de Gama in the following year.

On early Portuguese maps,  Seychelles appeared as the Sete Irmas or Seven Sisters but would have to wait until 1609 for the first landing of a squadron from the English East India Company under the command of Captain Alexander Sharpeigh.

Despite the fact that the English were mightily impressed by all they saw – including the ‘allagartes’ or indigenous crocodiles – no attempt was made to settle the islands for another 160 years although the islands were surely a haven for pirates from as early as the 16th century.

Following a succession of French expeditions, a settlement was finally established in 1770 by ‘15 whites, five Malabar Indians, seven Africans and a negress ‘and so the islands remained in French hands until the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, evolving from these humble beginnings to attain a population of 3500 by the time Seychelles was ceded to Britain under the treaty of Paris in 1814.

During this period Seychelles came to know the enlightened policies of administrators such as Pierre Poivre, the dastardly schemes of rogues such as Brayer du Barre, the brilliant politicking of Governor Queau de Quinssy and, of course, the terrible repercussions of the French Revolution.

Under the British, Seychelles slumbered for the next 161 years as a backwater colony achieving a population of some 7000 by the year 1825. Important estates were established during this time featuring coconut, foodcrops, cotton and sugar cane.  During this period Seychelles saw the establishment of Victoria as her capital, the exile of numerous and colourful troublemakers from the Empire, the devastation caused by the famous Avalanche of 1862 and the economic repercussions of the abolition of slavery. Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976 and became a republic within the Commonwealth.

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