Seychelles is an archipelago of about 115 islands, spread across a maritime zone of more than 1.3 million sq km; 41 are mountainous granite islands, the highest point being Morne Seychellois (905m) on the largest island, Mahé; the other islands are built of coral, and are scattered, lowlying and sparsely populated. Some 89% of Seychelles is covered by forest, more than any other country in the Commonwealth, and this figure has remained constant over 1990–2010. Seychelles has one of the highest incomes per capita in Africa – US$11,130 in 2011.
The Republic of Seychelles lies in the western part of the Indian Ocean, north of Madagascar and 1,593km east of Mombasa, Kenya. It is an isolated archipelago of outstanding natural beauty comprising about 115 islands, the largest and most economically important of which is Mahé.
Victoria (capital, pop. 21,700 in 2010) and Anse Royale (4,168), both on Mahé.
There are 510 km of roads, 97 per cent paved; only Mahé, Praslin and La Digue have surfaced roads. Cruiseships and cargo ships call at Mahé.
Seychelles International Airport is at Point Larue, 10 km from Victoria. There are airstrips on several outlying islands.
Seychelles is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Southern African Development Community and United Nations. Seychelles became a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation on 15 November 2011.
There is a compact group of 41 mountainous granite islands, including Mahé (the largest), Praslin and La Digue. All three have high central granite ridges, the highest point being Morne Seychellois (905m) on Mahé. The other islands are built of coral, and are scattered, low-lying and sparsely populated.
Tropical. The south-east trade winds blow from May to October. The north-west monsoon winds bring heavy squalls of rain. January is the wettest month, July and August the driest. Temperature remains constant throughout the year, at 24-31°C, and humidity at around 80%. The country is outside the cyclone belt
The most significant environmental issue is dependence on rainwater for supply of water.
The granite islands support luxuriant tropical forest on the mountain slopes. The coral islands are also densely covered with vegetation more characteristic of sandy coral soils. Generally, the most common trees are the coconut palm and casuarina. Others include banyans, screw pines and tortoise trees and the giant coco de mer palm, which is unique to the Seychelles and lives for up to 1,000 years. Of about 200 plant species, 80 are indigenous, including the bois rouge, the giant bois de fer and the capucin. Forest covers 88 per cent of the land area and there was no significant loss of forest cover during 1990–2012.
Fruit bats, flying foxes, geckos and skinks are common, and there are more than 3,000 species of insects. The giant tortoise (which appears on the Seychelles coat of arms) survived near-extinction; there are now several thousand on Aldabra. There are many species of rare birds such as the bare-legged scops owl, Seychelles kestrel, black parrot, magpie robin and paradise flycatcher. Four islands are bird sanctuaries, including Bird Island, which is inhabited by millions of fairy terns. Six mammal species and nine bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).