Some people I know do not have an inclination for beach holidays for a number of reasons. Some do not swim, are afraid of the sea, do not like fish or seawater in their hair, do not like getting a tan. The reasons go on but most I know prefer a city break because apart from lounging and sipping coconuts, what else can they do?
LOADS (depending on where you go)!! I will list the numerous activities one can engage in if you choose to go to this amazing island. I am not even including a post on island hopping because there is much to do on Mahé itself!! Like Maldives you get amazing beaches, resorts, crystal clear waters, the warm tropical climate all year, well preserved aquatic ecosystem but unlike the very built up Male in Maldives, in Seychelles you will find nature in its lush tropical best all year round with limestone rocks, cliffs, hills, mountains for you to scale explore and climb as well (I say this without having been to Maldives so I may have to revise this post later on).
For those with an adventurous spirit, a love for nature, nice hikes and the great outdoors, Mahé will not disappoint. There are numerous hiking trails available for the earthy souls on the island and those willing to brave the humid and hot elements will be rewarded with amazing views and experiences etched in their memory.
Popular hikes on the island include the rather easy trail from Beau Vallon beach to Anse Major. This is a pretty spectacular trail that I had wanted to go on but was unable to due to the insufferable jetlag and the lack of time. The hike takes around 3 hours one way and it ends at the beautiful and secluded Anse Major. I was told that Anse Major is a good spot for swimming and snorkeling however one should refrain from going barefoot due to the sharp rocks and stones around the beach and on the seabed. I will have to come back to do this hike.
Another popular hike is the Copolia Trail that would lead you to the flat top of the San Souci Mountains where you’d find yourself with 360 degree views of the island. Again due to time restrictions, I only managed a small bit of this trail and the views were already so stunning. I would have completed the trail if not for the flight to catch that evening.
There is also the Cassedent trail that will take one up and down various treks on the island. There isn’t much to see on this trail vantage wise but being in the heart of the lush tropical rainforest, you do get close to all the fauna on the island which is a completely different experience (i suspect its due to the humidity as well). After 2 – 3 hours you should find yourself close to this waterfall where you rest and jump into the waterfall if you are brave enough. You may continue on the trail after the waterfall (which is the halfway mark) but most people head back after the waterfall.
With crystal clear waters beckoning you in, the rich marine life and coral reefs growing around the many islands, Seychelles is constantly ranked as one of the top snorkeling spots in the world. The waters are generally calm (save for the coast along the south) and the assortment of fish and other marine life that can be seen while snorkeling so close to shore is amazing.
If you do not dive, great snorkeling spots are never too far away from the shore and depending on which beach you’re at, there will always be fishes such as the parrotfish, damsel fish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, grouper and angelfish. Often I have read about how other snorkelers have managed to spot turtles, harmless reef sharks, octopus and eagle rays but I did not manage to see all these on my snorkeling trips around the island (only during dives).
Good snorkeling spots on Mahé include – Anse Royale, Port Launay, the Vista Bay on Beau Vallon, Baie Ternay Marine Park, Bel Ombre Anse Du Riz, Anse Major (requires a little hike to get there) St. Anne Marine Park (requires a little boat ride there).
It is possible to rent snorkels and fins from most hotels and if it makes you more comfortable, you may also rent a life vest or some sort of flotation device. Slap on loads of sunblock, check the weather and currents before heading off and be aware of your surroundings (watching that the currents or waves do not bring you crashing into one of the many granite outcrops). Also, respect the abundant marine life by not touching them and observing them from a distance.
With that many islands scattered in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Seychelles can be a dive heaven for divers experienced and new. It is possible to dive in Seychelles all year however certain dive spots are better than others at different times of the year as the activity is often subject to prevailing wind and weather conditions and also the currents.
Diving conditions around the Inner Islands are best around April to May and October to November (visibility is up to 30m). Around December to January, conditions are pretty much similar however there may be stronger surface movements. From May to September, not only should you expect stronger winds and stronger surface movements you will also need thicker wetsuits on your dive.
Diving in Seychelles can be quite varied with impressive granite reefs, rich marine life found in all the various dive sites. Numerous wrecks can also be found around the island for the adventurous and experienced divers. If you are a less experienced diver, note that the Twin Barges and the Dredger Wreck were deliberately sunk at higher depths and so it would be possible to explore these sites at around 12 – 24 meters. Typically, most of the famous dive sites are found north of the island. Along with these sites are numerous dive operators who can arrange your dive from shore or to one of the nearby dive sites.
If however you happen to be living it up down south, there is only one dive operator there for dives around the sites down south. The downside is that with less competition, it is slightly more pricey however, with less divers down south, the upside is that the marine live is pretty much unspoiled making the dive experience quite an exciting and enjoyable one. On a good day, divers at Sharks Point can easily spot up to 30 reef sharks hidden around the giant granite boulders at the site (I only managed 9 the day I was there). I managed a second dive to Napoleon’s Hut which had pretty nice corals and was great for macro divers. If you happen to be down south and would like to dive at the sites north of the island, dive operators up north will pick you up for a fee of around 30 – 50 (return). That is essentially the cost of a rented car for the day and I would recommend driving a rented car up north for your dive rather than to pay that much for a transfer with no flexibility whatsoever. Now, if only I had time for a few dives up north 🙁
Notable sites up north include the Brissare Rocks, Fisherman’s cove reef, Shark Bank, Therese Island, Trompeuse Rocks and Vista Bay Rocks.
It is pretty easy to drive around this island. The cars are made on a right handed driving system with the steering on the right side. The roads are not confusing and there are manual and automatic cars available for rent making it possible for all to drive on this island.
The thing to note would be how certain roads are not very wide and the roads heading up into the mountains can be bendy and narrow (this poses a problem when cars are coming at you in the opposite direction). If you are not a confident driver, the sheer drops on the mountain roads may scare you as these bends are not often covered by rails or poles. The tip would be to keep more to the right if there are no cars and to never speed. This way, you control your vehicle better and can marvel at the scenery around you.
Renting a car was my best decision on the island. As I only had a day to explore, I managed to travel from Beau Vallon to Victoria, drive up the mountain road (to cover a few panorama points and the tea factory) and cover most of the beaches along the south west coast to the south. The views were stunning, the waters as always were clear. I leave you with a map and also more visual to convince you to go on a car ride as I did.
5. See the Aldabra Giant Tortoises
Apart from the beaches, Seychelles is also famous for the giant Aldabra Tortoises from the island of Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles. These tortoises are some of the largest in the world and apart from the fact that they can grow up to 120cm, these creatures can live up to more than a hundred and fifty years. These giant tortoises can be found at the Botanical Gardens of Mahé located in Victoria.
I was pretty impressed when I saw these big guys. All I ever encountered as a child were terrapins the size of coins. If you would like to get up close and personal with these them but do not wish to pay 30 rupees for entry into the Botanical Gardens, many hotels in Mahé keep these guys as pets and regularly organise daily feeding sessions with these gentle giants for their guests. Constance Ephelia, Kempinski Seychelles Resort, Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort and Coral Strand Hotel are some of the many hotels there with these friendly and hungry guys.
6. Tea Plantation
For those of you who love tea, would like some nice scenery or would like to learn something new, the Sey-Tea Factory would be a good short stop for anyone interested in the tea making process (also if you happen to be driving along the mountain road).
I must admit I was rather underwhelmed by this “attraction” on Mahé and could not help comparing this to the tea plantations in Sri Lanka and China. Still it was an attraction and I included it for those who may like to stop and to experience the tour.
7. Rum Distillery
I had initially planned to go to the distillery but did not manage to due to the disastrous flight delays and the 2 lost days on the island but when I do return to Seychelles, a visit to Tamaka Rum Distillery is mandatory. Located at Pointe Aux Sel, the distillery conducts 2 one-hour tours from Mondays to Fridays (11:30pm & 1:30pm) where you will be given an insight to the rum-making procedure. It costs 250 SCR for the tour without lunch in the restaurant and 150 SCR if you have lunch in the restaurant. The tour is interesting and concludes with tasting (whoop whoop!) and a chance for you to buy a few bottles of rum at factory prices.
People tell me that the food and live music (only at night) here is excellent. So is the service and the value for money. As I write this, I wish I had snorkeled less and gone for this instead.
8. Exploring Victoria
Victoria is the capital of Seychelles and is situated on the north eastern side of Mahé. It is possible to spend at least half a day here as there are various attractions to be found in Victoria itself.
Although here is much history behind the Vauxhall Clock Tower, I found myself pretty disappointed. Perhaps I had expected a clock tower on the same scale as the big ben in London but all I saw was an old looking clock slightly larger than normal grandfather’s clock standing in the middle of a junction.
There is also the Victoria Botanical Gardens, the Victoria National Museum of History, the Victoria Natural History Museum, the Hindu Temple and the Sir Selwyn-Clarke Market in the capital. I would give special mention to the Market (good for spices, vanilla and coconut oil, fruits, vegetables and fish) which is quite a colourful and lively place.
Creole Barbecue is almost synonymous with this country as it is with its beaches. Unlike typical barbecues, food is grilled on top of hot coals and coconut husks for extra flavour. It is simple yet so full of flavour and you can taste the sweetness of the fresh seafood with simple seasoning such as chilli and garlic. After having my first grilled fish on the second day, I could not help but order yet more grilled fish again consecutively for the next few meals!
The curries on this island deserve special mention. They are so amazing, so full of flavour and of spice. Sometimes all you need for a meal is an amazing pineapple curry with chicken and rice. A local recommended me to try their local cuisine the local way – not at a restaurant but from a little take out kiosk by the side of the road. I was so blown away, I went back for a second box – this time with a beef curry. Just Wow. On my last night, I ordered a grilled fish AND a creole barramundi curry and was so stuffed and happy.
10. Sit back relax and enjoy your holiday – sipping coconuts by the sea
I could sit by the beach and watch the waves go back and forth endlessly. It is such a therapeutic sight and is worlds away from my typically hectic and stressful work life. The sea calms my soul and rejuvenates me. I’m sure it would for many others too. Just enjoy the brilliant shades of blue and the bobbing waves. You are after all on a holiday!