When I was planning my trip to the Seychelles, I instinctively looked online for some tips and advice. Unfortunately, I was greeted with... well, not much at all. So, I booked Mahé knowing virtually nothing about the island. I found a little villa based solely on price. Did I know what the best area was to stay in? Nope! I just packed my bags and hoped for the best.
After staying in Mahé for 2 weeks, I got to know the island well and have left the Seychelles with some invaluable tips. So, get your notebooks out and maybe make yourself a cuppa as I delve into all the do's and don't's of Mahé.
Before we proceed, you may be wondering if it's possible to visit Seychelles on a budget. Well, the answer is yes! For more information on how to visit Seychelles on a budget, read my article here which delves into all those handy tips and tricks to saving money in Seychelles.
Where is Mahé & is it worth a visit?
So, let' start with the basics. The Seychelles is a group of 115 islands located in the Indian Ocean, to the east of Africa. Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles and home to the international airport. If you're planning on visiting any island within the Seychelles then you will have to pass through Mahé. I honestly chose to stay at Mahé for this reason but it was definitely worth the visit.
I can't compare Mahé to other islands in the Seychelles as I have never been to the other islands but I can say that Mahé was very different to any island I had been to before. It's very undeveloped which is something which I loved about the island. I didn't see that many tourists whilst I was there. The many scenic beaches were dotted with smiling locals and the houses were simple yet attractive.
The landscape was probably the thing I loved most about Mahé. The land was laden with mountains covered in thick, lush forests. At the coast were white-sand beaches, sheltered by dramatic granite boulders. The waters surrounding the island were turquoise and teeming with marine life. Standing proudly in the ocean were several small islets. Mahé is a truly beautiful island and definitely worth stopping at.
Where to Stay
I was staying in the South East of the island, in an area called Baie Lazare. I hired a car so was able to explore the entire island. After looking at all corners of the island I concluded that I was staying in the nicest area on the island. There are plenty of beautiful beaches nearby and some nice local shops. There are also several luxury resorts in the area which offer some wonderful restaurants. It just had good vibes!
I selected my accommodation based on price. Seychelles is an expensive holiday destination but it isn't impossible to find decent accommodation at a decent price. I found mine on Airbnb. I was staying in a 1 bedroomed cabin with a living-room/kitchen, bathroom and balcony. It cost £70 per night which is good for Seychelles. I noticed several other cabins that looked similar which were probably around the same price-mark.
How to Get Around
The island was a lot bigger than I was expecting so you will need some transport. I originally thought I'd be able to walk from one end of the island to the other. No chance! It's over an hour's drive from the bottom of the island to the top.
I hired a car. It was a wonderful Hyundai Creta 4x4. Most car rentals were smaller Hyundais but because I booked mine at the last minute, the 4x4 was the only car available to hire, so I paid more than you would if you were to book in advance. Hiring a car was so easy! I normally struggle to hire as I'm 22. In Europe you have to be 25 to drive but here the requirement was to be over 21 and to have at least 2 years driving experience. The roads are pretty narrow and have no barriers so you have to be a competent driver, especially when the local buses drive in the middle of the road when going round bends.
You don't need to hire a car. There are frequent buses that drive round the island. They drive pretty crazily though - you have been warned!
Where to get the best Food
Believe it or not, food shopping in Mahé can be pretty tricky. Most supermarkets are very small and have limited fridges, if any at all. All the fish and meat is frozen and the packs are often ripped open. The freezers are not clearly labelled and normally contain a jumble of food so you have to route around to find what you want. After lots of searching, I found some pretty good places to get food.
Fresh fruit: This is the easiest thing to find! Fresh fruit is often sold at little fruit stands at the side of the road. Not only is it fresh, everything is also sold for a reasonable price.
Fresh fish: Fish is best bought from fish markets. These are best visited in the mornings as the fish are caught that day so you will get more variety in the morning and it will also be fresher. The two fish markets I came across was one in the main Victoria Market in the capital city, Victoria, and one in Anse Royale, on the west coast of the island. I recommend going to one closest to your location as the fish can get warm in the car.
As well as markets, sometimes you will find people selling their fresh catches at the side of the road. Again, these are best visited in the morning as all the fish are normally gone by midday.
Fresh meat: Most meat is imported into the Seychelles as they do little animal farming so this is very tricky to find. I did find a butchers on the east coast of the island in an area called Grand Anse Mahe. It's at the side of the main West Coast Road and is clearly signposted. That's how I found it! The fresh meat is available at the weekends. On other days the meat is frozen but you still have a lot more variety than the supermarkets.
Cupboard food: The local supermarkets are absolutely fine for this. I would buy bread, long-life milk, spices and sauce bases from here.
Cold meats & cheeses: This was very tricky to find but one day I saw a supermarket in Anse Royale called a 'fresh' supermarket. It was a glorious day! The supermarket was very similar to the supermarkets we have in the UK. It sold all varieties of fresh meats and hams, pâtés, lots of cheeses, smoked salmon, chicken nuggets and much more. The only catch was that it was very expensive. I saw a fresh supermarket in Anse Royale, by the sea and another one in Beau Vallon, again, near the beach.
Like everything else in the Seychelles, restaurants are very expensive. There was almost no difference in price between the restaurants in the luxurious resorts and the local restaurants. I didn't eat out too much because it was much cheaper to cook but from what I did see and eat, the local restaurants weren't too impressive. I ate more at the resorts because the food felt like it was worth the hefty price tag more.
My favourite restaurant was the ZEZ lounge at the Four Seasons. It was a sushi restaurant. The tuna sashimi was to die for! Tuna is fished in Mahé so this tuna was very fresh and you could tell. I don't normally like tuna sashimi but this was wonderful and local to!
The Four Seasons also had a lovely restaurant that you could eat at in the day. The burger there was honestly the best burger I have ever eaten! It also sold fresh coconut and let's face it, you can't visit the Seychelles without trying a fresh coconut, right?
The Best & Worst Beaches
Seychelles is renowned for its beaches. When you think of Seychelles, you probably automatically think of its beaches, right? They are truly amazing! But as you expect, some are better than others. So here are my personal recommendations of which beaches to visit and which to avoid.
The Best Beach in Mahé
I have absolutely no doubts about this. Anse Royale was the most beautiful and relaxing beach. If you had to visit just one beach in Mahé, this would be the recommendation. I could stay here forever. It's fairly quiet but not too quiet. There were a couple of locals on this beach and the odd tourist. I also noticed a guard on this beach, making sure everything was okay.
The best thing however was the beauty of the beach. The sand itself was fairly normal although it was teeming with friendly white crabs. There were also many lazy palm trees draping over the beach and lots of granite boulders dotted along the shore and into the sea. The ocean was a beautiful shade of turquoise and also surprisingly shallow. There were many boulders jutting out to sea and then in the near distance was a beautiful islet compiled of granite boulders with a few tall palm trees situated gracefully atop.
The snorkelling was great too. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of exciting corrals but there were plenty of fish. I saw angel fish, lion fish, an eel, a seahorse, parrotfish and many more. The star of the show however was the stingray that was always there. In fact, there were multiple stingrays.
I think the pictures speak for themselves.
I could post many more pictures of Anse Royale but I don't want to bore you. If you'd like to read more about the amazing beach then read my two blog posts on it here and here. Before you even wonder, no, I was not paid to promote this beach, I just love it!
Special Mentions - Other Beaches Worth a Visit
Special mentions for other great beaches go to Petit Anse and Anse Takamaka.
Petit Anse is the beach that belongs to the Four Seasons Resort. It is free to visit through the resort. I just walked up to the gates and said I'd like to visit the beach bar and they let me in no problem. They even gave me a lift down to the beach - how lovely! The water at this beach is even more blue than Anse Royale. It's also a lot deeper. People have reported seeing turtles in the waters of this beach. Again, it is great for snorkelling. The Four Seasons even offer kayaks that are free to use for however long you want.
Anse Takamaka is a very quiet beach that locals seem to use. It's large white beach that stretches far along the coast. It's also pretty wide compared to Anse Royale and Petit Anse. The water here is rough so it's recommended that you don't go swimming, although you can splash through the shallows, given you don't venture far into the water. It's a nice beach if you want some time to yourself and a moment to feel like you've completely escaped the world.
The Worst Beaches in Mahé
I'd just like to say that all beaches in Mahé are very picturesque so these beaches are not in this section because they look terrible. Also, I'm sure other people have been here and enjoyed them; this is just my personal opinion.
Beau Vallon, to me, is the worst beach in Mahé. This beach was highly recommended as it's 'tourist-friendly'. It's a very large beach with crystal clear sea lapping at its shores. However, the beach is heaving with people. The views into the ocean are nice but if you look behind you, the coastline is filled with giant concrete hotels, unattractive and obtrusive. Something else that bothered me was the lack of restaurants. As it was a busier area, I was expecting a few nice restaurants or beach bars but the eating options are really minimal and overpriced.
The area itself has a bad feel to it. The car park at the beach is littered with shards of glass and there were several people just sitting in the car park looking shifty when I visited. Finally, (this is something I hate), there are people who go around pestering you, trying to sell you things. I'm fine with people selling but when I say they seek you out, I mean it. You can't walk towards the beach without being pursued. It's just an unpleasant experience.
I'm glad I saw Beau Vallon as there was a lot of hype for it. However, it really let me down. You can read more about my experience at Beau Vallon beach here.
Special Mentions - Other Beaches Not Worth a Visit
Unfortunately, I didn't have good experiences at Port Glaud or Port Launay either. Some of the beaches here actually looked really beautiful but there were too many people approaching you to try to sell you things that it completely ruined the experience. This is how bad it was. Once, in Port Glaud, we pulled up beside a beach and before we'd even got out of the car, a man started to come over to our car, trying to get our attention. We left immediately. The second time we pulled up, this time in the Port Launay area, a man on a bike appeared and started circling our car intently. As he came to my window, we drove off again. It just created a really bad feel to the area and I would not feel comfortable going to the beach. Well, you can't even get to the beach without people coming over!
So, although the beaches look nice, there are plenty of similar beaches across the island that come without the hassle of constantly being approached and made to feel uneasy and on edge. You can read more about my experiences in Port Glaud and Port Launay here.
Other Things To Do
I would also recommend a visit to Morne Seychellois National Park. The landscape is so beautiful and awe-inspiring. There are several hikes you can take through the park, though I didn't actually take any. I just passed through by car and stopped off at various points to take in my surroundings and take photos. A hike which sounds good is climbing Morne Blanc, the highest peak in Mahé. The views from the top are meant to be pretty spectacular. Just be careful in the National Park as apparently many muggings take place here.
If you are travelling to the National Park from the South East of the island, you have to go through Port Glaud which although I didn't feel comfortable in, was a great experience. The coastline is pretty spectacular so I definitely recommend seeing it.
Insects & Protection from Bites
I know, boring topic but I couldn't find anything on this when I was researching it. I went to Mahé with very high deet which works well for Africa, but not here. Mosquitos are not the only problem in the Seychelles. Sandflies are also prominent. Deet only works against mosquitos, so you will need to buy a formula that protects against both mosquitos and san flies. Not gonna lie, I got bitten to death by sandflies!
The last thing I learnt was that you should never sit below a tree. Caterpillars live in many trees and they have toxic threads which drop out of trees onto seats and sun-beds below. I had a massive rash allover my legs and arms and I couldn't figure out why until I visited a local pharmacist. I had 'caterpillar rash' and trust me it was horrible. The threads are completely invisible to the human eye so you can't watch out for them. You've just got to know not to sit under trees.
Here I am, sitting under a tree and blissfully unaware of the rash I was getting
So, there you have it - a wonderful, in-depth guide to Mahé. As a final point, I'd recommend not staying in the same accommodation for more than a few days. If' I'd visit the Seychelles again, I would move from one place to another more and probably view some more islands. I was originally planning on taking trips to Praslin and La Digue but coming from a hectic lifestyle back home, I decided to take it easy, rather than hopping around.
As well as Seychelles, there are several other islands in the Indian Ocean worth taking a peak at. High on my bucket-list is the island of Madagascar, home to a vast array of animals including lemurs. I've already started researching for a possible trip and stumbled upon this article which contains lost of information on everything you need to know before visiting Madagascar. Being so close to Seychelles, it's possible to mix the 2 trips into 1 and have a week in Seychelles and a week in Madagascar.
I hope this helps. Have you ever been to Mahé?