Like jade-coloured jewels in the Indian Ocean, the more than 100 Seychelles Islands are often regarded as the Garden of Eden. Lying just four degrees south of the equator, the Seychelles are some 1,000 miles (1,610 km) from the nearest mainland Africa. Little more than 200 years ago, all 115 islands were uninhabited. Then in 1742 a French ship dispatched from Mauritius sailed into one of the small bays. Captain Lazare Picault was the first to explore these unnamed islands. He encountered breathtaking vistas of rugged mountains, lagoons, coral atolls, splendid beaches and secluded coves. After Picault sailed away, the islands remained untouched for the next 14 years. Then France took possession of the seven islands in the Mahé group. During an expedition Captain Morphey named them the Sechelles, in honour of Vicomte Moreau de Sechelles. This name was later anglicised to Seychelles. The first settlers arrived at St. Anne’s Island in 1770; 15 years later the population of Mahé consisted of seven Europeans and 123 slaves. Today there are about 80,000 Seychellois, the majority of whom live on Mahé; the rest are scattered in small communities throughout the archipelago. The people are a fusion of three continents - Africa, Asia and Europe. This has created a unique culture and the use of three languages - Creole, French and English. Mahé is the largest island in the archipelago and the location of the capital, Victoria. Ringed by steep, magnificent mountains, few capitals can claim a more beautiful backdrop. The town features a mixture of modern and indigenous architecture; it is the centre of business and commerce thanks to the extensive port facilities. Noteworthy sites in Victoria are the museum, cathedral, government house, clock tower, botanical gardens and an open-air market. The major attractions are found outside of town where the island’s quiet, lazy atmosphere delights visitors. With 68 pristine, white sand beaches, Mahé boasts more beaches and tourist facilities than any of the other Seychelles Islands. Beautiful and remote Mahé with its green-clad mountains and palm-fringed beaches is indeed an island of abundance; pleasant surprises are around every bend in the trail. Come ashore and discover for yourself this marvellous island paradise.