I sat on the balcony of my cabin, sipping on local Seychelles tea. The tea is certainly not as strong as the tea I drink back in England but it's a welcome change. Listening to the chorus of birdsong, I contemplated what to do that day. A couple of days ago, we went for a drive to try to find Baie Ternay Marine National Park. It was an interesting drive with an eerie atmosphere. I don't think I've ever returned back to base having felt like I'd had a fun day out just by being in the car. Anyway, we never succeeded in finding the park. In fact, when we returned to our cabin, I got my laptop out and researched to see where that narrow road we ended up on actually led and where the marine park was. What I found was disappointing.
The narrow unmaintained road which we ended up on was actually part of the main road, West Coast Road. It also did lead up towards Baie Ternay Marine National Park. However, at the end of the road was an area which was bought by Emirates to build a massive hotel with a waterpark and everything. Lovely, right? Emirates started building this resort then later decided that the narrow read leading to it was too narrow for guests. They couldn't just widen the road, however as locals own the vegetation surrounding it and the locals did not want to sell their land. The resort had to be abandoned and now is a half-built resort that is guarded 24/7. Basically, there is no land access to Baie Ternay Marine National Park since Emirates started developing the land in front of it. The only way you can access the marine park these days is by boat. It's such a shame really. Mahé is so undeveloped and that is just what's great about it. The resort may not have been completed but it will have still damaged the area and is now a permanent, unsightly road-block.
So, back to deciding what to do, I thought more about exploring the North of the island. It was a scary experience the previous day but I wanted to give the area the benefit of the doubt. I got a map out, deciding that we would head to Beau Vallon, at the very North of the island that is highly recommended. Apparently it's one of the main attractions in Mahé so I was curious to check it out. I marked out a route to Beau Vallon which went through Port Glaud and then through Morne Seychellois National Park, past Morne Blanc, the highest peak in Mahé.
Let the adventures continue!
Port Glaud with the National Park in the background
The weather was much better this time. We stopped at one of Port Glaud's beaches and took the drone up, managing to grab some great areal views of the area. Looking at the three little fishing boats bobbing gently by the beach, you get a different impression to the one I initially got. Maybe Port Glaud is okay after all! Maybe I was too quick to judge, the other day. I still didn't fancy keeping Droney up for too long so once he had a nice little pan of the area, we safely landed him and continued with our journey.
We were going to be treading new ground again and take a turn into Morne Seychellois National Park. If only, we could find the turn! I was sure we must have missed it as we seemed to be heading to Port Launay. I glanced at the google maps route I had screenshotted earlier.
"It was meant to be the second right." I sighed. I swore we had only gone past one right. Or had we? There were a few little rights that looked like pathways or driveways.
We decided to turn around. We pulled into a lay-by where it looked like another tourist was pulled up. They were sitting in their car studying a map. Perhaps they were lost too. A man on a bike started circling our car. He looked in at us, his eyes giving away that he was after something. I started to feel uneasy. It seems like if you pull up anywhere in Port Glaud for just a moment, someone approaches the car, likely trying to sell you goods or services. The same thing happened the last time we were here. I was beginning to feel frustrated. I couldn't even look at my map! There was no waiting here; we were off, just as he approached our car door.
The coastline of Port Glaud is certainly picturesque!
Port Glaud with its abandoned 7 storey hotel in the background
We started heading back down West Coast Road, scouring for this turn. To our dismay, we went too far and reached the end of Port Glaud. Where was this turn? It was a main road; it couldn't be that hard to find. We turned around again. I kept a keen eye looking for any potential right turns. I counted 1. Great - so it was the next one. Suddenly, we were back at the lay-by, where the man on the bike was talking to the tourists who we saw in the car. It looked like he was succeeding in selling them something. Again, we had gone too far. This was starting to get ridiculous. We turned around elsewhere, careful to avoid the man on the bike.
We took the turn that I kept noticing and counting as the first turn. It was a gamble but it was right! We were driving ever closer to the inviting mountains and leaving Port Glaud behind us. Thank goodness! I was starting to think we would be lost in Port Glaud forever. Unfortunately, I cannot say Port Glaud or Port Launay were that great to visit. I won't be going back as I simply didn't feel safe traveling through these places. The locals were too keen to pounce on unsuspecting tourists and there wasn't much to see. The beaches were nice but in my opinion, Anse Royale was far superior and isn't lacking in marine life either. It was nice to see this part of the island, and I've certainly enjoyed passing through, but I'm not sure I'd feel safe staying here.
The road through Morne Seychellois National Park was even more spectacular than the road to Victoria. The thick forest surrounding the road was more impressive and there were sections where you could see forest stretched out for as far as the eye could see. There was the odd house in the National Park but mostly it was untouched wilderness, with only one road carved through the landscape. I have never been to somewhere so untouched and underdeveloped.
We had barely started journeying through the park when we pulled-up at our first view-spot. We pulled into a small car pack which belonged to the Tea Factory - where the Seychelles tea is made! We took the drone up which captured some breathtaking images of the area.
Whilst driving through the National Park, we stopped off twice more to take the drone up. We would have stopped more but the day was slipping through our hands and how many photos can you get of similar surroundings? It was all so beautiful you just wanted to photograph everything!
Morne Blanc mountain watching proudly over the National Park
You can climb to the top of Morne Blanc to get this view... or just take a drone up!
Eventually, we left the thick forest behind us, the smooth road curving down towards the East coast of the island. I could just make out the capital of Victoria to the right of us. We were heading further north than Victoria, to an area called 'Beau Vallon'. All the guides to Mahé were recommending this beach, stating that it's one of the best beaches on the island, in fact some were going so far as to saying it's one of the best beaches in the whole of the Seychelles. So, I had high hopes for this place.
I didn't take any pictures of Beau Vallon so apologies in advance for the lengthy block of text!
I'd given up on my google maps and followed signs to 'Beau Vallon' hoping for the best. We entered an area which was more built up than any other places we had visited in Mahé, other than the capital, Victoria. Large concrete buildings lined the coast and I could just make out the sea behind them, as well as a little harbour. When we drove past the Hilton, I knew we had reached Beau Vallon. The Hilton is situated on Beau Vallon beach, however I didn't look like quite what I was expecting. After visiting the Four Seasons Resort, I was expecting the Hilton to be similar but it was a large concrete eyesore, like all of the giant buildings surrounding it. The area was not pretty. I was disappointed. From the pictures I'd seen of the Hilton, I expected it to be quaint and luxurious but instead it was placed in between two large hotels with a small driveway.
The next task was finding somewhere to park. In between large buildings, there was no where! The hotels were all crammed onto the coastline, blocking out most views of the beach. I could hardly believe how built-up it was. I expected it to be like Barbados in the Caribbean, with hotels dotted here and there but still room for small villas and vegetation along the coast but no!
After driving up and down a few times, looking for parking, we decided to take a turn which looked like it headed down to the beach. The turn was right at the very end of the beach and it took us past a few touristy shops. We stopped off at a supermarket to get some water and chocolate to curb my hunger and dehydration. The supermarket was nice, at least!
Finally, we found somewhere to park! It was a large dirt cat-pack, right by the beach. The location was convenient for getting to the beach. There were a couple of people mooching round the carpark, looking slightly suspicious. I started to feel a little uneasy. As I got out of the car, I noticed that there was smashed glass littered across the car pack. I wasn't getting a good impression of the place.
There were tonnes of tourists! But where there are tourists, it seems there are people hassling, trying to sell things to tourists. I noticed a man with a leaflet, trying to make eye contact with us. I quickly shuffled past, heading for the beach.
Between the car and the beach was a stretch of pavement where there were little stalls selling food. It seemed quite nice at first. There was a stand selling fresh coconuts and three food stands. Two were quiet but the third stand had a queue of tourists beside it. I had a look at the other stands out of interest but I was drawn to the one with the queue outside it as it had a queue so it must have been good, right?
Perhaps skip this paragraph if you are squeamish! The busy stand was selling seafood, mainly lobster. The lobsters were all cooked and cut open, although they still had their heads and tails on, which is fine. However, I was not prepared for what I saw and it still sickens me when I think about it now. One of the lobsters, which like I said, was cut open and ready to be eaten, started to move! It's legs were moving up and down, as if it was still alive. My stomach churned. How was that even possible? Do they have muscle memory or was it still alive? It was horrible. I left the stand at once and suddenly I didn't fancy anything from any of the other stands either. None of the other tourists seemed bothered, even though some were giving it a good look.
There was only one restaurant on the whole beach front. We had a quick look at the menu but the prices were incredibly high and the food looked average. We decided to give it a miss. It was also heaving with tourists. I'm not sure I was even that hungry after what I had just seen at the food stand.
The beach itself was covered in nice white sand and the water was a beautiful vibrant blue colour. In the distance you could see Praslin and La Digue (the two other main islands in the Seychelles) which made a lovely view. However, the beach was so busy! There were tourists everywhere. I had come here wanting to do some of the water-sports, maybe jet-skiing but I just didn't feel like it anymore.
We walked to the other end of the pavement, along the beach. We passed massive hotel after massive hotel. All the hotels looked really quiet which just made them even more creepy. Eventually, we did come to another restaurant but it again looked very average with limited seating and a bad view of a concrete hotel.
We'd decided that we had seen enough of Beau Vallon. It just didn't float our boat at all. We made our way back to the car, careful to sneak out of view from the numerous people approaching tourists and trying to sell them trips and water-sports. Avoiding the smashed glass, we finally got back to the car and left Beau Vallon behind us.
If I had to sum Beau Vallon up in a nutshell, this is what I'd say. It's completely overrated! The beach itself is nice but nothing special. It is also completely spoilt by the shear number of ugly resorts on the coast. There is limited vegetation and even more limited restaurants. There are only 2 restaurants which are expensive and unexciting and the food stands are also very expensive with the food looking slightly dubious. The amount of smashed glass in the car pack was also concerning. There are far more attractive places to visit in Mahé which also have a wonderful atmosphere.