Scattered in the Indian Ocean off east Africa, the Seychelles archipelago consists of 115 islands famous for their lush beauty. Known as a tropical nirvana, they are blessed with white-powder beaches; pristine coral reefs; rainforest-clad mountains; laid-back, Creole-influenced towns and villages; and an array of rare and fascinating wildlife.
More than 90% of the island nation’s population lives around Victoria, the pocket-sized capital located on the island of Mahé; it’s a lively town crammed with temples and mosques, markets, and museums. With sports available from rock climbing inland to scuba diving over wrecks in waters swarming with dolphins and sharks, the country is an exciting destination for volunteers.
Many volunteering opportunities in the Seychelles are conservation-based, from measuring hawksbill turtles to filming Aldabra giant tortoises in the wild. Other people-based options include helping locals to develop business skills and mentoring small business owners.
Most of the volunteering opportunities in the Seychelles center around conservation of its eco-system and rare wildlife, and you’ll probably find yourself living with other volunteers in camp-like facilities in remote corners of the islands. There are also social projects available in Victoria, the country’s vibrant but tiny capital city.
Marine Research & Conservation
Here’s your chance to monitor lemon sharks as well as measure hawksbill and green turtles, and assist in the annual census of the island's Aldabra giant tortoises. All this while living in a tropical paradise, swimming in pristine waters, traveling across the beautiful islands of the Seychelles, and watching spectacular sunsets over the Indian Ocean.
Combine working with endangered sea life and a 22-week scuba-diving internship, becoming a PADI dive-master as you learn to dive alongside whale sharks, dolphins, rays, and turtles. You’ll get to swim over spectacular coral reefs and dive over wrecks as you monitor the health of the coral and the teeming marine life that thrives on the reefs.
Work inland among the rainforests, collecting vital data from endemic fauna and flora in the national parks. This is the perfect opportunity to experience the wonders of tropical rainforests while helping endangered species. If you’re keen to travel outside the Seychelles, combine your time in the country with a stay in South Africa, learning how to track animals in the wild.
Community Development & Business
If you’re majoring in business management, you’ll find a stellar opportunity to develop your management skills in the Seychelles, volunteering to mentor local small-business owners. You might also choose to support the community by helping individuals to develop marketable skills and increase their job prospects.
Planning Your Trip
The islands of the Seychelles archipelago are blessed with pearly white, palm-fringed beaches sheltered by pristine coral reefs and dotted with rainforests. However, like any apparent 21st-century paradise, the country has its issues. Much of its economy is based on fishing and tourism, and its low-lying islands are under threat from severe monsoon storms brought on as part of climate change.
The survival of its teeming marine life is under threat and many volunteer programs involve conservation work in the newly formed national parks protecting its reefs and rainforests.
Where to Volunteer
Volunteering in the Seychelles usually means being immersed in nature on conservation projects, which are usually based in remote camps that can be Spartan in their facilities.
Housing and Accommodation
As a volunteer in the Seychelles, your accommodation will probably be part of the package on your program. There are several conservation-based programs that offer basic dormitory-style living in remote, rural corners of the islands.
The Seychelles have a high cost of living, so if you prefer your own space as a volunteer, you’re looking at around US$600 per month for renting semi-furnished, one-bed accommodations.
Language Requirements & Tips
There are three languages spoken in the Seychelles: Creole, English, and French. English is the language of Seychellois commerce and law but all three are widely used and understood. Most local people, however, speak Creole, a patois with a vocabulary that’s very close to French, with words and phrases adopted from Swahili and Arabic.
The climate of the Seychelles is reliably hot and sunny, with temperatures sticking close to 80°F all year around. Leave your winter clothes at home and pack loose-fitting cotton clothing to stay cool in, but don’t forget a raincoat or umbrella to counter the occasional tropical rainstorm. As pharmacies on the islands are expensive, bring plentiful supplies of sun cream and mosquito repellant.
You’ll need swimming gear plus beach shoes to protect your feet against sharp coral, and snorkeling gear to explore the paradise below the waves. Although bikinis are tolerated on tourist islands such as La Digue and Praslin, please be respectful and cover up away from the beach.
Take US plug adaptors as all electrical sockets in the Seychelles are three pointed. The voltage is 220-240 volts, which is higher than in the USA.
The Seychelles has a high cost of living. Almost everything is imported, making the cost of food, transport, and accommodation expensive.
There’s decent Wi-Fi coverage across all the islands.
As a US citizen, your passport (it must be valid for longer than your proposed stay) is all that’s required for entry into the Seychelles. A visitor’s permit is issued on arrival in the country to everyone on vacation, traveling on business, or volunteering.
To be eligible for the permit, you’ll need to show your return or onward ticket, proof of accommodation (usually organized by the volunteering program you’re traveling with), and proof that you’ll be self-supporting financially for the duration of your stay, with at least US$150 per day at your disposal.
Initially valid for one month, the visitor’s permit can be extended in three-monthly blocks for up to 12 months. There’s a charge of US$370 for each three-monthly extension.
For stays of longer than 12 months, you’ll require a Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP). Granting of this permit depends on several factors:
- your ability to support yourself;
- your qualifications;
- the ability of a member of the local workforce to take up your position.
Health & Safety
Generally there are few health issues to worry travelers to the Seychelles, as the islands have a high standard of living, healthcare, and sanitation. Be aware of the strength of the sun and heed local advice about where to swim and you should have a trouble-free stay.
All travelers to the Seychelles should be up to date with their tetanus, diphtheria, and polio immunizations as well as hepatitis A. If you’re volunteering in local hospitals or alongside children, the hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended.
If you're arriving in the Seychelles from a country where yellow fever is endemic, you must be vaccinated against the disease and must be able to produce a certificate of proof.
There are a number of bug-born diseases such as chikungunya fever, which can cause long-term flu-like symptoms, so always carry insect repellent -- buy it at home before you fly as it’s expensive on the islands -- and reapply it frequently. Occasional outbreaks of Dengue fever have also been recorded.
The islands lie close to the Equator and the strength of the sun itself can be an issue. Year-around temperatures hover at 80°F, so use sun cream (factor 30 at least) and take sun hats, loose cotton clothing as cover-ups, and sunglasses. Snorkel and swim wearing a T-shirt to prevent sun burn while in the water.
It’s best to drink bottled water (make sure the screw tops have not been tampered with) as there have been a few incidents of leptospirosis, an infection caused by contaminated drinking water. It’s also best to avoid swimming in lakes, ponds, and rivers where currents are sluggish.
Hospitals in the Seychelles are few and far between, with the only government-run facility being in Victoria, the country's capital city on Mahe. Medication is also expensive on the islands, so if you’re on a permanent prescription, bring supplies with you from home, with relevant support letters from your doctor.
Always take out travel insurance before leaving home and check that it covers any sporting activities you intend to pursue. You’ll be expected to pay in cash for medical treatment whether insured or not, but can claim that money back.
The Seychelles archipelago is in the Indian Ocean and is affected by strong sea currents, which change seasonally and dramatically according to monsoon patterns. Always heed local advice and information boards at individual beaches; Lazio Beach on Praslin in particular can catch swimmers and surfers out with huge and unpredictable waves. Most beaches are also unsupervised.
While there’s generally a very low crime rate across the islands, petty theft is on the rise, especially in tourist areas. Don’t leave bags and valuables visible in hire cars or unattended on the beach while you swim. When volunteering, always use the safes or deposit boxes provided at your accommodation.
When visiting non-tourist areas, dress discreetly so you don’t offend local sensibilities. If you have an accident or are the unlikely victim of a crime, call the 24-hour emergency services number (999), which is free of charge.
An increasingly popular scam in the Seychelles is for locals to act as impromptu tour guides and then to charge you in euros (rather than Seychelles rupees) for their services. When someone offers to help you out if you are lost, always confirm whether or not they expect payment.