We are ecstatic to be arriving to Mahé island, Seychelles! It is our second time in Seychelles, but last time we only stayed here the final night before our travel back home, so this time around we are excited to see more of and explore things to do on Mahé island.
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We arrive on a cloudy day, but we aren’t too worried about it, as we remember this kind of weather well, it changes frequently, so clouds clear up soon, and so does rain on the rainy days. The weather in Seychelles is the same every day, around 30 degrees Celsius during the day and 27, during the night. The best time to visit Seychelles is any time of the year! The weather is always the same.
Soon we reach the hotel (Savoy Seychelles Resort & Spa). After a small misunderstanding with our reservation (the clerk can’t seem to find it), we get to the room with has a beautiful sea view with a balcony and two rooms – bedroom and living room! We have breakfast and dinner included in our rate, half board. The food at the hotel is exceptional, there is a wide variety, and everything is not only tasty, but also beautifully presented. Breakfast buffet also has a large variety of complimentary drinks – smoothies, lemonades, juice and hot drinks. During dinner time, only water is complimentary and other drinks are for a fee.
Our first order of business is finding the ATM. There aren’t too many around! Thankfully, our Revolut card works. Then we proceed to a small shop that sells snacks. There is a massive line outside of it, as it is the weekend and other stores are closed. While the price is a bit higher than in other places, at least we have everything right away. Having left our purchases at the room, we head to the Beau Vallon beach, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful ones on Mahé. It is just full of people! There is music all around, people enjoying their food and weekend! We go for a quick swim and soon the sun sets. So close to the equator, it is pitch black shortly.
Sightseeing in Victoria
The next morning brings exceptional views outside our window. There is a bright rainbow, a few clouds around the mountains and the sun is shining. We have a quick breakfast and soon our driver Jack comes to pick us up! Our first day sightseeing plan is organized by the VisitSeychelles tourism deprtment, but Jack says he is going to supplement the list with a few more stops! As we spend a lot of time taking pictures, very soon we realize – we will be late for everything!
Jack truly knows what is beautiful. In other countries we have sometimes seen that the locals don’t necessarily appreciate the beauty of the sights they have seen so many times, but Jack is not one of them. He stops even just on the side of the road that has beautiful views, in some places we can snap pictures even without leaving the car. Beauty at our feet! The waves are crashing, beautiful granite stones are shining in the sun and it is a bliss.
On the way Jack makes a stop at the artificial island. There is very little land in Seychelles that is suitable for agriculture or building homes. To clear up lots for building houses, one would need to destroy natural beauty. Thus, the government of the Seychelles has built several artificial islands. Interestingly, one can get housing in the apartments here paying a fraction of their salary, irrespective of how much money one makes, so a fair chance for everyone to have a home, even if you are doing a simple job and making modest wages.
Next we head to Victoria, the capital city of the Seychelles, where 26 thousand people live. This makes up about a quarter of the total population. Jack says that workers from other countries aren’t included in this number, and there are quite many people working in the hospitality industry.
Victoria is a beautiful city with a lot to offer to visitors. From the iconic clock tower to the colorful Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market, there is something for everyone.
Last time the only thing we saw in Victoria was the clock tower, built in 1903 for the Queen Victoria. It is also called the little Big Ben due to the similarity with the one in London, and is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Victoria. We pass by it as we are heading to Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market, which was built in 1840. Even before entering the hangar, we can smell – there is fish being sold here! And before you see the fish, you see the birds that are really interested in snatching a piece of the fish when it is being cut. The sellers lazily shoo the birds away, but birds are back soon.
Most of the fish is sold in little bouquets, as no one is going to go through the hassle of cooking just one! Turns out, Seychelles has one of the largest consumptions of fish per capita per year, around 58 kg! Later, when I am chatting to a captain of a boat about this and say that there are only two locally sourced food groups, fish and fruit, he jokes back that not even so much fruit, as the most that people have, is a papaya tree in their back yard, as there simply isn’t enough suitable growing ground. That explains the comically small and high priced potato sacks at the stores!
I see people purchasing the fish, also a few foreigners are shopping here. During the pandemic, Seychelles opened a long term stay program for visitors, for only 45 euros, you could stay in the country for up to a year and not have to pay any income tax! The scenery is absolutely spectacular here, and while it has the fastest internet connection in all of Africa, it might not be the same as in some of the European countries, so depends what you do for a living, if this is going to be enough. Food and accommodation for a long term stay comes out cheaper than for tourists, but still is more pricey than in some other African countries. Pros and cons!
We spend half an hour taking pictures of the stalls, mostly, fruit and vegetables. I also see a flower shop and a souvenir kiosk with the usual trinkets – postcards, soap and clothing with local print.
We don’t have too much time remaining, so we rush to see the Hindu temple at least from the outside. As we run back to the parking lot, Jack is already waiting for us, he says we should stop by souvenir stalls down the street. We joke that the merchandise looks exactly the same as what we got 8 years ago, when we spent two days without our luggage as it was delayed! The same design clothing is actually worn by the locals, bright, popping with colors. The shorts are short, the tank tops are tiny, and all types of tourists are welcome. I also love the rubber sandals that everyone is wearing – in this humid climate you can’t do without those! When we discuss the topic of sandals with the ladies from Visit Seychelles, they say that one gets so accustomed to them, that wearing anything else outside of Seychelles is just not comfortable. As we see later on our hike with the guide Ryan, people even go hiking in flip flops! After two weeks here, I realize all to well what they mean, when I have to put on my sneakers for the flight home – flip flops are just so much comfier!
Visiting Mission Lodge
We are already well behind schedule, but Jack still stops from time to time at one of the more beautiful road bends to take pictures of the city views from the above. We are going to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mission Lodge, Venn’s Town. The site was built in the late 19th century as a school for freed slave children. The identity and Creole culture of the Seychelles have been shaped by a variety of peoples, and the African peoples who were brought to the Seychelles by force to work on plantations, are of great importance. This site, created by missionaries, was the only opportunity for the slave children in Seychelles to acquire skills after the abolition of slavery in 1875. Various crafts and carpentry were taught here.
Today, not much is left of the town – the approximate outlines of the buildings can be seen from the ruins. Now this place serves more as a park and a viewpoint. One of the pavilions of the viewpoint was opened here by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. We walk through the park, and Jack shows us various plants that can be seen in the wild here – for example, cinnamon, whose branch, when broken off, has a specific cinnamon smell. We also see pineapples and cloves.
Lunch at Marie Antoinette
It is time for lunch at the “Marie Antoinette” restaurant. On our way, we pick up Natasha and Gretel, the employees of the tourism department who will join us for lunch. This is a great opportunity for us to ask questions about life in the Seychelles and about the travelers who come here. For lunch, we choose a tasting plate. We are brought a whole lot of small bowls with various fish and meat delicacies from Creole cuisine. Most of the dishes are relatively mild, but there are also some spicier ones. Chili peppers are brought in a separate bowl. It is precisely the hot chili peppers that are said to be the thing that Seychellois miss the most when they are abroad! Natasha and Gretel say that their relatives and friends who live abroad, grow them themselves, because no meal is imaginable without chili peppers! We, on the other hand, are happy to do without them.
The meal is delicious, filling and the time flies by! We still quickly take a picture with the typical coco de mer coconuts, which are the symbol of the Seychelles and the largest seed in the world. We are told that the coconut is esspecially prepared for sale, by cleaning the middle portion of it. It is forbidden to pick them in the wild, and if you try to take them out without a permit, you can get a hefty fine. We also observe the giant tortoises in the restaurant and soon it is time to move on to the next place.
Visit to the Takamaka Rum Distillery
The trip to the Takamaka rum distillery takes a little longer and we are late for the start of the tour. The tour of the rum distillery is free, where a very animated guide tells us all about rum production here and the owner’s story, as well as adds various spicy tales from life on the islands. It is also possible to book a tour with lunch. Then, for a separate fee, rum tasting is possible, there are many different ones here, and they are also quite award-winning!
As production volumes increased, the distillery faced a problem – it is not possible to grow enough sugar cane in the Seychelles! So the raw materials have to be bought elsewhere, but a small sugar cane field is planted in the yard, from which the special local rum is then obtained. Due to the high humidity and heat, the rum here matures with special flavor characteristics and is therefore award-winning. There is also a shop on site where you can buy drinks and souvenirs. We are told, however, that it is cheaper in the tax-free zone at the airport. After the end of the tasting, we quickly run to walk around the distillery garden, where the indispensable pets – tortoises Taka and Maka – also live, and then everyone is escorted outside – working hours are over, it’s time to go!
Swimming at the Beau Vallon beach
As we drive back to the hotel, we can’t help but be amazed by the beautiful views along the way. We don’t get used to them! The roadsides are like the most beautiful postcards – with pink and brown granite boulders. There are no such views anywhere else, because the Seychelles are the only granite islands in the world!
On our way to the hotel, we see a traffic jam, as far as an eye can see, there are cars! Most of the people work in Victoria, and then they go home, outside of the city, in the evening. Jack tells us, however, that it’s not just the large number of cars, but also the fact that there are street vendors on the side of the road and people often just stop to buy fish or whatever each seller is selling. You can’t go around because there is only one lane in each direction. Everyone must stand and wait!
When we arrive at the hotel, we feel like swimming after the hot day! We run to Beau Vallon Beach right before sunset, which is this time much quieter and quieter. The sun is already very low, and at first the water feels quite cold! After a while, we hear that there is some commotion nearby – it turns out that a school of small fish has swam right to the shore, they are being chased by a predatory fish somewhere from the other side. On the other side, there are several tourists who catch them in their hands, throw them on top of each other, and then the whole school of fish comes towards me and it’s like in a fish spa, so they swim past me, and some even manage to get caught in my swimsuit!
Copolia Hiking Trail
The next day, we wake up to a rainbow outside our window and a beautiful view of the ocean. If only we had the time to stay in the hotel and do nothing! But we have a hike planned. Jack picks us up and takes us to the start of the Copolia Trail. At the beginning of the trail, there is a poster that says that the hike will take one hour, and you need to cover 1.4km. This is only one way, and the hike is steep – it says that it is 488m high, but sometimes it is a straight climb up. And, since we also like to take some pictures, of course, we need more time.
The hike is accompanied by guide Ryan from White Sands Seychelles. He tells us that hiking is becoming increasingly popular among locals, especially during the pandemic. After lockdown, there were a lot of spiders in the jungle – after all, the constant human movement affects them and nature needed a rest. Spiders in Seychelles are not dangerous, despite their impressive size. If you are afraid of them, then it is better not to look up! Because there are plenty of them and not only in the jungle.
During the climb, we see various plants, and we also learn that, for example, the famous vanilla, which was grown in plantations in Seychelles, is a very invasive plant here, and in some places it has spread from one location in the forest so much that it has to be fought. Although we were told during the Takamaka tour that it is not a parasitic plant, Ryan disagrees.
Due to the changes made by humans, cinnamon trees have spread in some places too, and here on the trail there are trail barriers made of them. Two in one – they cut down the excessively dominant species and the climb also becomes safer.
We see local guides really climbing in flip-flops, but we have proper hiking boots. Later, we even hear a group of tourists climbing down the red, clay soil in red shoes that were once white, discussing how we have clearly prepared for this hike. Well, yes! It is better to leave white designer sneakers at home, as the climb is muddy.
Climbing to the top of the trail, I hear familiar words. Could it be? It turns out that a group of tourists from my country has also climbed up with us at the same time. Just then it starts to rain and we rush to the little hideout, greeting each other. It turns out to be a larger group that is visiting Seychelles for several days on an organized trip.
We stay at the top of the trail for a while. The view of Eden Island below, which is also artificially created, opens up, and we see airplanes flying in the distance that are going to land at the airport. Up in the mountains, Ryan also shows us the Arabian sheikh’s villa, in which no light has been turned on since his death. There are many rumors in the country about the villa’s construction, location, and building size, including that not everything is exactly as it should be, according to the documentation.
Sauzier Waterfall and Port Launay Beach
After taking as many pictures as we wanted and finding large fields of pitcher plants growing at the Copolia Trail, we are finally ready to go down. It is clear that the way down is easier and soon we are back at the main entrance of the trail, where Jack is patiently waiting for us. On the way back, he shows us a small lookout point outside the tourist trail and we can go to the next stop, Sauzier Waterfall. The entrance fee is 50 rupees, while there is nothing to indicate that anyone is inside, but there are plenty of people at the waterfall. Most people enjoy the waterfall from the shore, observing its beauty, but a couple has decided to bathe right under it. At first we wait patiently, hoping that they will go away so we can take a couple of pictures. Others are also annoyed, but no one says anything. However, after fifteen minutes we are tired of waiting, and we ask if they could move away for a moment so that we can take a picture? They move away from the waterfall, but still within the shot that we would like to take. After we have taken just two pictures and are still trying to adjust the shot, the couple rushes back to their original spot. Okay. Looks like it won’t be the day for pretty pictures!
We return to the parking lot. Jack hasn’t arrived yet, as he went to look for something to eat, so we wait patiently for him to be back. Fortunately, he arrives soon, and we drive to the last sightseeing place together – Port Launay Beach. There is an expensive hotel nearby, but all the beaches in the Seychelles are public up to the sand line. The beach is very beautiful though! At the beach there is also an underwater trail where you can go snorkeling and see the marine beauty. First Jack takes us up to see the beach from above, then we drive at the tea factory café a bit higher up in the mountains where we have a severely overpriced cup of tea and it’s time to drive back to the hotel. There, of course, we immediately take the opportunity to go to the beach to swim!
Preparing to stay at an apartment in Seychelles
This is our last evening in a beautiful hotel, the next day we have a dive planned and we will live in an apartment(E&E), closer to the dive center (Big Blue Divers), where we have already booked a dive in advance. To get everything ready for the next day, we walk to the dive center, meet the instructors, show our dive certificates, and also arrange that they will take us from the hotel to the dive center with all our luggage and then to the neighboring hotel for free. While the dive center is not far, the streets here have no pedestrian paths, and it would not be wise to walk with a suitcase along the edge of the road.
At the end of the evening, we also go to the store as we will cook ourselves there. We stock up on snacks as well, as there aren’t any large supermarkets nearby the apartment. Later it turns out that there is a small shop, but of course the selection is not as big as in the regular grocery store.
Scuba Diving in the Seychelles
We eat a hearty breakfast at the hotel, pack our last things, and then wait at the reception for our ride. A pickup soon arrives, and we load our suitcases and head to the dive center. We have planned two dives, one at the lighthouse and one at the coral reef beach. Since our last dive was six years ago, we have arranged for a refresher course. The course turns out to be more “on paper”, the day before we were given test assignments and it is planned that we will perform some practical ones during the dive. Either the instructor was lazy or he thought we didn’t need it, but we only had to complete one task, remove the regulator and put it back.
We board the dive boat from the Bel Ombre pier, the same one that we will be using in just a couple of days to travel to the Silhouette island. We are taken there by the same pickup truck that just drove us to the dive center from the hotel. This time around, we are a larger group, 12 people, and we barely squeeze in. Because of our refresher course, we are assigned to the same divemaster that accompanies a recently PADI certified woman with her 11 year old daughter. They have only ever done six dives. While the mom can still manage on her own, the daughter not that much, and the divemaster spends the entire dive time with her, holding her by the hand. He pays no attention to others, and the group moves at a snails pace. The water also turns out to be extremely murky. Later we are told that the rainy season is delayed this year and with the winds, there is no good visibility.
Our group drags on quite behind the other group, after a while we hear an intense banging on the balloon, so the other group’s dive master signals that there is something interesting. We are already hoping for a whale shark, but we see nothing. We only see common sharks and an octopus.
Then, divemaster shows us to get on our knees and hold on to rocks, to observe the stingrays. The other group also appears and are told to do the same, but one of the divers from the other group really cannot control her swimming and literally lands on me, causing me to cut my finger on one of the rocks. I look at my finger and notice how it really is true that under water all the red color is absorbed. A completely blue blood trickling from my finger. I squeeze my finger and turn my attention back to what is happening around me.
When we are already preparing for the ascent, I hear the balloon banging again – this time we are closer, and through the murky water I see a whale shark. Finally! The moment only lasts ten seconds, I clearly see its colorful side, but we don’t manage to take a picture. Seeing a whale shark was an old dream that has finally come true. Even if only for a few seconds, I still see it! Later it turns out that the first group also saw the whale shark at the very beginning, but since we were far away, we did not see it. But at least there was one!
The second dive is already shallower, almost right on the beach. Here we dive at a depth of barely 10 meters to see the coral reefs. Right at the beginning of the dive, a fish decides to hang around. For the entire dive time, it swims next to me, looking at me intently. I wonder, is it attracted by the blue stripe around my mask? The red dive computer?
In this shallower dive, we see more of the smaller fish, also all kinds of sea cucumbers and a lot of sea urchins. Under water the urchins look very beautiful, their inside part between the needles seem to shimmer!
Living at an apartment on Mahe
After diving, we are taken to the corner to the street where the apartment is and can start the steep climb up. It seems like it’s just around the corner, but the 23kg heavy bags don’t move very quickly up the mountain. It’s hot. We are tired after diving. We want to eat. Fortunately, the house is right around the corner, a small room with a kitchen. We get to the rooms and fall into bed without strength. We need to rest!
The room has everything you need – a stove, cutlery, dining table, kettle, toaster. Where there is food, there are also small ants, so nothing can be left open here, as the ants find every small hole to get to the food. However, when we see cockroaches in the bathroom, we realize that ants are the least of our worries.
After some relaxing in the room, we go for an evening walk. At first it seems that we might be able to eat somewhere outside, but seeing the rather high prices, we decide that pasta with sausages in the apartment will be best! For the price of one dinner at a restaurant, we get five meals at home.
On our last day on the island of Mahe, we first decide to just relax. Us being us, we do find some activities to do after all, as we decide to go for a walk along the coast. From Beau Vallon we walk to Sunset Beach. We stop every now and then at a more beautiful granite formations to capture them, enjoying the sound of waves crashing and the flowers growing on the fences. There are no sidewalks here either, so you have to get used to it when cars drive on both sides of the road really close.
When we get to the beach, we see everything the same as in Beau Vallon – tens of thousands of small fish in the water, people swimming. Only, the beach is a little dirtier than ours.
The distance is not too long, but it takes you up and down, so for the way back we opt for the bus. It arrives very soon and a whole bunch of people get on with us, one of the groups, also tourists by the look of it, have caught impressive-sized fish.
We pay the driver and take our seats. The ride feels like what others pay for 4×4 jeep tours! The bus rushes down the winding, narrow road, the stops are frequent, the brakes are sharp, and there is no boredom for a moment. We are at our hotel in less than ten minutes!
Our visit to Mahe Island comes to an end, but this is just a warm-up for our next trip – Silhouette Island and La Digue!
On the last night before our flight, we return to Mahé to stay closer to the airport before our flight. We live very close to the Copolia Trail we saw earlier, just a few “floors” down! We spend the last night in the Seychelles enjoying the beautifully manicured garden, the many red-breasted fody birds and the fruit bats that are particularly active at sunset and giggle in the coconut trees. It might be cold and dreary at home, but in Seychelles it is always summer!
Mahé Island remains in our memory as an extremely green and also exciting island – the bright stories in the rum distillery, the smell of cinnamon on a hike and postcard-worthy views on any beach!
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This article was possible due to the support received by the VisitSeychelles tourism department. All opinions are our own.