Overwater bungalows. Luxury resorts. All-inclusive vacations. Few places around the world are well-known as truly luxurious travel destinations. Two of them, however, are in the Indian Ocean: The Maldives and Seychelles.
Celebrities like Prince William and Kate Middleton honeymoon in Seychelles, along with Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, and David and Victoria Beckham. While Joe Jonas, Sophie Turner, and Gwyneth Paltrow are among the celebrities, who have enjoyed honeymoons in the Maldives.
That’s not to say that these islands are solely for the rich and famous. While these islands have a reputation for luxury, they are accessible to the average traveler too. But how do you choose which Indian Ocean island group to visit? The Maldives vs Seychelles. Let’s break down the differences between the islands so you can decide which destination is the best one for you.
Seychelles VS Maldives: Geography
So where are the Seychelles? The islands of Seychelles are located off the east coast of Africa, just south of the equator. The main island, Mahé, has the capital of Victoria and the international airport. There are 115 Seychellois islands made of granite or coral, and most are uninhabited.
The Maldives, by contrast, is around 1200 islands stretched south of India. They straddle the equator and are made of sand and coral. Most of the islands in the Maldives are uninhibited.
The capital is Malé, located close to the middle of the island chain. The international airport is next door to Hulhulé.
Transportation in Seychelles VS the Maldives
A few international airports connect directly to Seychelles, such as Istanbul, Gatwick, Doha, and Frankfurt. The airport is located in the center of Mahé, and the island has plenty to see and do. You could get to either end of Mahé island within an hour, and taxis are widely available.
Traveling within Seychelles is easy too. A ferry runs between Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue, the other two commonly visited islands. The ferry between Praslin and Mahé takes one hour, and from Praslin to La Digue is fifteen minutes. There is also a small airport on Praslin, and the flight time from Mahé to Praslin is fifteen minutes. Car rentals or hired drivers are available on both Mahé and Praslin.
There are more international flights to the Maldives. However, the airport is located in Hulhulé, where you will most certainly not want to stay for a holiday. Most visitors stay in resorts or guesthouses located along one of the atolls. Your accommodation will help arrange your transportation.
If your transportation is via speedboat, it will pick you up from the airport and whisk you away to the island. Boats are a pretty easy option, but the closer islands feel less remote due to their proximity to the ugly capital city, Male.
Going from island to island or getting to remote islands up north is very difficult unless you book a seaplane, which can get expensive quickly. The average return seaplane transfer is around $500 USD. The planes are very cramped, hot, and uncomfortable. So it is always something to consider when booking a trip to the Maldives. Flight times vary from 30 minutes to one hour plus.
Islands are very small in the Maldives, and almost all can be easily walked or biked around.
Hiking In Seychelles VS the Maldives
The islands of Seychelles are mostly granite and have some stunning views and hikes. Topography in Seychelles is far more interesting as the highest point in Seychelles is nearly 3,000 feet high on a very small island.
While many hikes are scattered throughout the Seychelles islands, there are two very popular and rewarding hikes on Mahé. One is called Morne Blanc, which gives you a stunning view west out over the ocean. Alternatively, there is Copolia, which provides a view over the eastern shore with the airport, Eden Island, Victoria, and on a clear day, off in the distance, Praslin, twenty miles away.
The highest elevation in the Maldives is about eight feet above sea level. The islands are usually narrow, and trails are limited or nonexistent. If you want to stretch your legs, consider going for a beach walk rather than a “hike.” Or you can visit the resort gym to run on a treadmill. When it comes to land activities, there isn’t much in the Maldives.
Wildlife in Seychelles vs. the Maldives
While visiting Seychelles, you will have the opportunity to learn about many endemic species in the area. While hiking, you may encounter a tiger chameleon, a Seychelles Bulbul flying in the underbrush, or the coco de mer, a large palm tree native to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse.
Another endemic species from Seychelles is the Aldabra giant tortoise. Most people are familiar with the Galapagos tortoise, but giant tortoises were much more common worldwide than they are today.
Most species were hunted to extinction by European sailors as the tortoises are an excellent food source. But the Aldabra giant tortoise is now a protected species and there is a conservation facility on Curieuse Island where you can visit and feed the tortoises.
You may encounter unusual wildlife on your trip to the Maldives, but it’s harder to know for sure. While there are endemic species, little effort has been put into land conservation or education for tourism. Visitors to the Maldives are much more focused elsewhere…
Marine Life In Seychelles Vs. The Maldives
The best time to visit Seychelles for water activities is in April, October, or November. These are the months between monsoon seasons when the conditions calm down. With flat seas, it’s easier to travel to some of the smaller islands and enjoy the waters.
In May through September, the water visibility is low because of the influx of plankton, but that brings in whale sharks and other large marine fauna to encounter. Unfortunately, Seychelles experienced massive coral bleaching in 2019. While there are conservation efforts in place, such as coral nurseries and protected marine parks, the underwater attractions in Seychelles are lackluster compared to other regions of the world.
January through April is the best time to visit the Maldives for underwater activities. The sea state is calm, and visibility is better. The Maldives also experienced massive coral bleaching in 2016. While the Maldives doesn’t have many protected land-based parks, it has many marine parks to protect the wildlife and encourage safe tourism.
The Baa Atoll is a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve for various marine life supported in calm, protected waters. For large marine fauna, Ari Atoll is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks. They are present all year round in this marine park, and there are restrictions for the tour operators to make it a safe experience for the animal and you.
There are many large liveaboard dive boats in the Maldives, which move every day between dive sites. This is a great opportunity to see a variety of islands and underwater life. Diving and snorkeling are phenomenal in the Maldives.
Seychelles VS Maldives: The Weather
Seychelles has two monsoon seasons: the northwest monsoon season from November through March and the southeast monsoon season from April to November. The northwest monsoon season brings warm, dry air from Africa, while the southeast monsoon season brings cooler winds from the arctic. Both seasons are windy and can bring scattered showers.
The months in transition – April, May, October and November – are the best to visit. The winds calm down and travel between the islands, especially if you are traveling via boat, is a lot nicer. Underwater activities are better because the water visibility is better too.
The Maldives has two seasons: the dry and rainy seasons. The dry season is from December to April. May to November is the rainy season, so if you visit during that time, you’ll have to be sure to take advantage of any sun you get. Regardless of which season it is, the Maldives’ temperature will be hot! Around 30 degrees celsius.
Culture And History In The Maldives vs. Seychelles
The islands of Seychelles were uninhabited until the 16th century, when European explorers discovered the islands. Since then, the population has primarily been a mix of French, British and African heritage – including slaves.
It was a British colony for nearly two centuries, but it declared its independence in the 1970s. There are three official languages: English, French, and Seychellois. The nation is one of the richest in Africa, and the primary religion is Christianity.
It is estimated that the first settlers in the Maldives were south Asians from as early as 500 BC. The Maldives were also part of the British Empire for about a century, gaining independence in the 1960s.
Dhivehi and English are the official languages. Islam came to the islands in the 12th century and is still the primary religion today. In the Maldives, there is no freedom of religion, and there are controversial stances on punishment, freedom of speech, and women’s rights, among other things.
The most impact on tourists is the conservative dress policy. Private island resorts are exempt from dress policies, but when visiting populated islands with villages, there are designated “bikini beaches” where foreigners can dress as they wish.
Otherwise, clothing is expected to be covered from knees to shoulders. If you are traveling around the Maldives, this is one of my top Maldives travel tips. Additionally, alcohol is not served outside of the resorts. You come for the beaches and water, not for history or culture.
Accommodation In The Maldives vs Seychelles
There are a wide variety of accommodations available in Seychelles. For budget travelers, there are self-catering apartments available on the main islands. These are usually small places that include a kitchen. There are many hotels and resorts, including private island resorts and over-water bungalows.
There is a unique history of tourism in the Maldives. For a very long time, the only tourists allowed to visit stayed on private islands. Each island held a resort and living quarters for staff. There was not a lot of interaction between locals and tourists.
Recently, these rules have been changed to allow villages and non-private islands to open guesthouses. These guesthouses offer a place to stay in the Maldives that is less expensive and more involved in the community.
That being said, the Maldives still excel at the luxury overwater bungalows and resorts. There are many islands where you can stay in a luxurious cabin with all the amenities you could possibly desire. It’s not surprising that some of the best resorts in the world are in the Maldives, but they come with an extraordinary price tag. A few of our favorite overwater resorts in the Maldives are Velassaru and Kuramathi.
Sailing In The Maldives vs Seychelles
If you intend to take a sailing vacation, Seychelles has several charter bases, such as Dream Yacht Charters and Sunsail. They are based in Eden Island, between the airport and the capital of Victoria. It is easy to get from the main island of Mahe to the other popular islands of Praslin and La Digue in a few hours of sailing.
You can read my experience – over 100 days sailing the islands of Seychelles – and the suggested itinerary.
By boat would be a great way to see the islands since it would be much easier to truly island hop. However, there are very few charter boats in the Maldives, and the ones that are there are all near the capital, Male. That limits the destinations you can visit only a small area around Male.
I spent 56 days in the Maldives on my sailboat, and here are my recommendations and experiences.
Seychelles Vs. The Maldives
Hopefully, this helped you choose between Seychelles vs the Maldives for your trip. It’s a tough choice as both island nations have a lot of differences and excel at different things.
If you are interested in nature and the outdoors, Seychelles is the obvious choice with stunning hiking, a more interesting coastline, and endemic wildlife. It’s easy to travel to and from Seychelles and within the islands. It also feels much more like traveling through Africa than the Maldives, where most things seem to cater to high-end tourism.
However, if you are more interested in a luxury vacation and staying in a dreamy overwater bungalow with crystal clear blue water beneath you, the Maldives is the pinnacle of the industry.
A private island resort may be your perfect vacation. If you enjoy the underwater experience, a liveaboard dive boat in the Maldives would be an amazing experience. You don’t even have to be a diver to see amazing things in the Maldives. Multiple times we saw whale sharks and manta rays just snorkeling!
Both islands have stunning natural beauty – it is honestly hard to go wrong with either.
READ MORE SEYCHELLES AND MALDIVES TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on visiting Seychelles or the Maldives. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around the island nations.
- What to Wear in the Maldives
- Kurumba Maldives Review
- Maafushivaru Maldives Review
- 21 Best Honeymoon Destinations in the World
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get ultra low.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.
About the Author
Amy Alton has spent most of the past seven years living aboard her sailboat. In 2020, she finished her world circumnavigation with her husband. Now, they are spending the season cruising the Bahamas and living a bit more of the slow life. You can follow her adventures at Out Chasing Stars or on Instagram.