Both of these Indian Ocean archipelagos are well-worth traveling quite literally halfway around the world. Each one conjures up romantic images of white sandy beaches, palm trees, and turquoise seas. Each one is on many honeymooners’ wish lists, and both are so beautiful, it hurts.
But, there are plenty of differences you should be aware of, ranging from natural settings, choices of things to do, and probably most importantly, if the islands are purely for honeymooners or whether Maldives and Seychelles are also good choices for solo travelers, long-since-coupled partners, or even families.
Having visited both a few times and loving each for different reasons, I have listed the all-important differences between these two dreamy locations.
The Maldives Are Part Of Asia
The Republic of Maldives lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka, which in turn lies south of India, some 466 miles south of the mainland. The Maldives is made up of two lines of 26 atolls stretching across the equator. The capital of Malé lies in the south of the North Malé Atoll.
The Seychelles Are Part Of Africa
The Republic of Seychelles also lies in the Indian Ocean, but closer to the African continent, some 1,000 miles off the coast of Kenya. Made up of 115 islands, the main island, with the international airport and the capital of Victoria, is called Mahé, confusingly similar to the Maldivian capital.
2. Size And Getting Around
Maldives Has 1,190+ Islands
Flying into the Maldives international airport, you will already appreciate quite how many islands the country is made up of, with countless — over 1,190 — tiny, tiny islands dotted around the ocean. The islands are usually easily circumnavigated on foot within 20 minutes or so, with only the main island of Malé requiring any transportation. Most hotels and resorts in the Maldives are located on their own island, with no towns or other facilities available on the islands. Some have extended their islands, with extra sandbanks or outlying overwater villas, but the islands are small, and the only way to get around is by boat, seaplane, or helicopter. Most resorts offer regular shuttles to the main island.
Seychelles Has 115 Islands
With much fewer islands, but still an impressive amount, island hopping is just as important in Seychelles as in Maldives. Each of the islands is much larger, and they differ from each other in that there are some 40 granite islands lying around the Mahé, while the outer, 90-odd islands are made of coral. This is an important factor to consider because the granite islands are those with the famous, smooth boulders on the beaches. They feature waves that allow surfing, for example, while the coral islands have a house reef, no granite boulders, but are fabulous for scuba diving. Many private resorts offer transfers by small plane, seaplane, or helicopter, while other transit between islands is by private boats or ferries.
3. The Weather
Maldives Lies Across The Equator
Lying within the Tropics, there is little variation in temperatures between seasons, but there are two distinct seasons in the Maldives. The northeast monsoon blows between January and March, making up the dry season, while from mid-May through November, the southwest monsoon marks the wet season. That said, when it rains, it rarely stays rainy for long, but either way, the best time to visit is generally between the monsoons from March–November.
Seychelles Lies South Of The Equator
Like with the Maldives, there is little difference in temperature throughout the year, but here, again, you have two seasons, which differ significantly from those of the Maldives. The northwest monsoon, blowing between November and April, brings rain and humidity, making it feel a lot hotter. The southwest monsoon arrives between May and October and brings cool and dry weather. But “cool” is still a balmy 80-something-degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Things To Do
The Maldives’s Islands Are Very Similar
This is where the archipelagos differ the most: The Maldive Islands are all very similar, small, and utterly flat. Yes, there are gorgeous resorts and turquoise water that only screams out to be explored with a snorkel or breathing gear, but as such, the islands do not have very much to offer. All attractions are man-made, as are admittedly all water sports, but there is not much else. You can take day trips to other islands, such as the capital with its fish market (if you are not on one of the outer islands, in which case, that is quite a distance), or neighboring islands where villagers will set up a few stalls with souvenirs, but not much more.
Seychelles Has More Diverse Attractions
The Seychelles Islands are a diverse lot, with islands such as Mahé, having countless resorts, several communities apart from the capital, many different beaches, nature walks, botanical gardens and nature reserves, and a bird watcher’s paradise. There are all the water sports you can find, scuba diving is superb on the coralline as well as on the granite islands, and the capital of Victoria has a colorful market and lovely shops. If you are staying on Mahé, renting a car for a few days is a must-do.
5. The Romance Factor
Maldives Is Pure Couples Romance
This one is difficult because both island nations are breathtakingly beautiful. As I mentioned, just flying over the Maldives makes your heart soar; the tiny yellow islands surrounded by turquoise water are picture-postcard romantic. Every resort island has perfect palm trees, sand spits where private dinners can be set up, and little chapels for the perfect beach wedding. But it is the resorts that make this place so special. From private over-water villas to underwater restaurants, from world-class spas to luxury you can barely comprehend, all in front of a natural setting, it is hard to beat the Maldives when it comes to romance. But, bring the family, or restless souls that can only sit still on the beach or be entertained by sports for so long, and you’ll be pushed away. I know because I drove my mother completely crazy when I first visited in my late teens, despite daily scuba dives.
Seychelles Is For Young, Old(er), Family, And Couples
Backdrops of smooth granite boulders, cheeky coconuts shaped like a well-rounded backside, fraying palm trees, and private island resorts with beaches that have a ‘closed’ sign yet butler service — these are all on offer in Seychelles. The (granite) islands’ background is hilly, gardens are lush, and vistas are amazing. You can book yourself into some private island resorts that are the most luxurious in the world, and nearly every beach location has a wedding venue. Seychelles is luxury and romance pure. But this tiny nation also caters to everybody else. Come solo, stay within a limited budget, be adventurous, or bring the (grand) kids, and you will all be happy and occupied throughout your stay.
6. Eat, Drink, And Be Merry
Maldives Is Dominated By Resort Restaurants
There are some superb restaurants and bars in the Maldives, but you are pretty much limited to the island you’re staying on. If you splash out, you can have a choice of restaurants, from fine dining to bar cuisine, and eat seafood, burgers, and everything in between. Seafood, for obvious reasons, is the cuisine of choice here. If you are taking a trip to the main island, you have a choice of local, Indian, and other cheap and authentic restaurants, but you only get this variety on Malé.
Seychelles Has Many Local Eateries
Depending on where you are staying in Seychelles, you can have a similar problem. Choices are limited if you are staying on a private island, however great those choices may be. But stay on one of the larger islands, such as Mahé or Praslin, and you’ll have options. What I loved most about staying on Mahé was renting a car and stopping off at small traditional places and sampling the local cuisine while looking out over the beach. You’ll find pizza shacks, food stalls, fine dining in the hotels, beer gardens, and everything in between. On the larger islands, you can eat cheaply and try something different every day.
7. Sustainability Issues
Maldives Is Under Threat
The Maldives is the lowest-lying country in the world, with the highest spot being around 6 feet above sea level. With global warming and sea levels rising, NASA has anticipated that some 80 percent of the nation’s islands could be uninhabitable and underwater by 2050. The climate change also brings with it coral bleaching that threatens the reefs, while tourism has brought so much waste with it that the islanders are resorting to unsustainable methods to dispose of it. Many resorts are looking carefully at not only reducing the hotels’ and their guests’ footprints but actively playing a role in sustainable tourism. Please think carefully before you book.
Seychelles Is Hugely Biodiverse
While Seychelles’s coral islands face a similar threat of rising water and coral bleaching, the more mountainous granite islands are safer. The republic has long been aware of its incredible natural beauty and importance to the wildlife endemic that most parts of all islands are dedicated nature reserves and tourism is monitored closely. When on Mahé, visit the Biodiversity Centre to learn more.