The Seychelles is located to the northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 km east of Kenya. The number of islands in the archipelago is often given as 115 but the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles lists 155. The islands per the Constitution are divided into various groups:42 granite based islands.2 coral sand cays north of the granitics: Denis and Bird.2 coral islands south of the granitics: Coëtivy and Platte.29 coral islands in the Amirantes group, west of the granitics.13 coral islands in the Farquhar group, south-southwest of the Amirantes.67 raised coral islands in the Aldabra Group, west of the Farquhar GroupThere are numerous beaches, coral reefs and nature reserves, as well as rare animals such as giant Aldabra tortoises. Mahé’s capital, Victoria, is the hub for visiting the other islands. It also has the mountain rainforests of Morne Seychellois National Park and beaches, including Beau Vallon and Anse Takamaka.
The Seychelles were uninhabited throughout most of recorded history. Some scholars assume that Austronesian seafarers and later Maldivian and Arab traders were the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles. This assumption is based on the discovery of tombs in 1910. As a transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, the islands were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control starting in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid on Mahé by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV's Minister of Finance.The British controlled the islands between 1794 and 1810 after Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy, losing a war, handed over the status of capitulation to Britain which gave the settlers a privileged position of neutrality. Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1810, formalised in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903. Elections were held in 1966 and 1970. Independence was granted in 1976 as a republic within the Commonwealth.In the 1970s Seychelles was "the place to be seen, a playground for film stars and the international jet set”. In 1977, a coup d'état by France Albert René ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham. René discouraged over-dependence on tourism and declared that he wanted "to keep the Seychelles for the Seychellois". The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1991.In the 1980s there were a series of coup attempts against President René, some of which were supported by South Africa. In 1981, Mike Hoare led a team of 43 South African mercenaries masquerading as holidaying Rugby players in a coup attempt in what is known as the Seychelles affair. There was a gun battle at the airport, and most of the mercenaries later escaped in a hijacked Air India plane. The leader of this hijacking was the infamous German mercenary D. Clodo, a former member of the Rhodesian SAS. Clodo later stood trial in South Africa (where he was acquitted) as well as in his home country Germany for air-piracy.In 1986, an attempted coup led by the Seychelles Minister of Defence, Ogilvy Berlouis, caused President René to request assistance from India. In Operation Flowers are Blooming, the Indian naval vessel INS Vindhyagiri arrived in Port Victoria to help avert the coup. The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the requisite 60% of voters in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.