Despite its high population density and development level, the island of Mahé, the largest of the Seychelles archipelago, contains plenty of hidden treasures, not least of which is a legendary pirate's cache purportedly buried at Bel Ombre. The southern end of the island still sports deserted beaches, and even the busy northern urban enclave, which includes the international airport and capital city, Victoria, exudes laid-back charm.
Forming the backbone of the island is a spectacular mountain range that includes Morne Seychellois, the island's highest peak. Around the peak is one of the island's beautiful national parks, offering great hiking and stunning scenery. More than 60 idyllic beaches fringed with swaying palm trees can be found along the shoreline, offering a host of activities including diving and various other watersports. There are several interesting sights on the island, particularly in friendly Victoria.
Although not renowned for its nightlife, Mahé is the liveliest island after dark and resorts like the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Beach Resort and Casino, and several nightclubs and restaurants serve up traditional Creole delights and provide some evening entertainment.
Having the dubious honour of being the smallest capital city in the world, Victoria may also be considered one of the most charming, and this quaint capital is easily explored on foot. The best place to soak up the friendly atmosphere is at the busy daily market (closed on Sundays), where local crafts are sold alongside fish, fruit and vegetables. A hint of the French and British colonial history is still palpable, reflected in historical buildings like the courthouse and main post office. Among the colourful houses, visitors can also spot a cathedral and the Victoria clock tower, a replica of the clock first erected at Vauxhall Bridge in London in 1897. The city is also home to many artists, and works by talented locals are popular buys at local galleries.
The largest national park in the Seychelles, Morne Seychellois National Park takes up more than 20 percent of the area of Mahé. The park is made up of a number of habitats and ecosystems ranging from coastal mangrove forests to misty mountain peaks. Morne Seychellois contains no settlements, although you may stumble across the ruins of old cinnamon distilleries. Dominating the landscape is Morne Seychellois, the highest peak on the island, at 2,970 feet (905m). The national park has a network of 12 well-marked hiking trails covering just over nine miles (15km), traversing some truly beautiful landscapes. Visitors can find maps and other information in Victoria.
Step back into the days of the buccaneers at the Seychelles National Museum of History, which features excellent displays of historic artefacts relating to the cultural and natural history of the islands. Exhibits include a range of interesting objects salvaged from shipwrecks, coral, and voodoo dolls to items that belonged to well-known pirates in days of yore. The museum also holds the oldest known map of the Seychelles, which dates back to 1517. Though the museum is small, its single gallery offers a fascinating glimpse into the culture and history of the Seychelles, and visitors interested in local history will be rewarded by spending a quick hour or two perusing the exhibition.
The century-old Botanical Gardens at the south end of Victoria extend for six hectares (15 acres), and are planted with a wide variety of indigenous and exotic trees, including the Seychelles islands' unique 'coco de mer' palms. For those staying on the island of Mahe and not travelling much further afield, the botanical garden may present the only opportunity to see this highly unusual plant, which is found nowhere else in the world. The orchid garden is also particularly lovely. There is a restaurant and souvenir shop in the gardens. The National Botanical Gardens provide a cool, green oasis in the city, the perfect spot for a stroll or a picnic.
A treat for nature lovers, guided tours are offered from Victoria harbour to the St Anne National Marine Park, which covers six islands off the coast of Mahé, near the city. The islands included in the park are Ste Anne, Ile Moyenne, Ile Ronde, Ile Longue, Ile Cachee and Ile aux Cerfs. The park encompasses one of the most important nesting sites for Hawksbill turtles, and beneath its clear waters, ideal for snorkelling, the glory of the coral reefs can be enjoyed. Glass bottomed boat trips and sunset cruises are also available, and the national park is a beautiful and popular spot for wedding photos. All Marine National Parks in Seychelles are open daily, including public holidays.
With crystal clear waters and wonderful underwater reefs, wrecks, boulders and sea life, it is no surprise that one of the main activities in the Seychelles is exploring this underwater world. The islands have a selection of dive sites ranging from those suitable for snorkellers and novice divers through to those preferred by experienced scuba enthusiasts. Highlights include the wreck of the Royal Navy tanker Ennerdale, the grey reef sharks off Marianne Island, and the spectacular coral life around The Sisters, Trompeuse and the Outer Islands.
There are dive operators on most of the islands, although many scuba enthusiasts believe that the best way to explore the islands is aboard a charter boat. Diving is possible throughout the year, but the best times are March to May and September to November, when the prevailing winds are at their mildest and visibility is at its best. Visibility is generally more than 100 feet (30m), and water temperatures are often as high as 80°F (29°C). Divers can expect to see whale sharks, granite formations, soft and hard corals, turtles and giant stingrays, to name just a few highlights. Diving or learning to dive is the perfect holiday activity in the gorgeous Seychelles.
The mile-long beach encircling beautiful Beau Vallon Bay on the northern coast of Mahé Island is the most popular beach resort area in the Seychelles, boasting several hotels, a casino, and a selection of scuba diving and water sport centres. Beau Vallon also has a number of dive sites within the bay, including two wrecks and several coral reefs; the bay is known for its clear waters and enviable visibility. The Marine Park of Bay Ternay is also easily accessible from Beau Vallon. The bay is home to three major hotels, some of the island's oldest and most famous: Le Meridien, Fisherman's Cove; the Berjaya Beau Vallon; and the Coral Strand. There are, however, many other hotels in the area, and numerous restaurants.
Mahé lies close to the equator, and the annual temperatures remain fairly constant, with average daytime temperatures at about 80°F (27°C). At higher altitudes, temperatures are lower, especially at night-time. Mahé's dry season technically runs from May to October but travellers should note that during this period the southeast monsoon winds can bring brief showers every few days; these rain showers provide some relief from the heat and generally don't dampen the holiday spirit in any way. From December to March, the monsoon arrives bringing heavy rainfall and high humidity, especially in the coastal regions.
Mahé can be enjoyed at any time of year, but visitors do tend to avoid the monsoon rains between December and March. The best time to visit depends on desired activities.
The Seychelles Independence Day celebrations, which take place at the end of June each year, are not to be missed. Visitors will be treated to impressive displays of national pride and patriotism, as public spaces and parks fill with families and fireworks light up the evening skies. The Independence Day celebrations are a key event in the Seychelles, and visitors are encouraged to wave the colourful blue, yellow, red, white and green Seychelles flag and join in the festivities. Although few travellers plan their trips to coincide with the event, those who happen to be in the Seychelles on 29 June are in for a real treat.
The Seychelles Eco-Friendly Marathon is held on the last Sunday of February every year. Runners from across the globe descend on the Seychelles to take part in this scenic event. Participants can enjoy the natural beauty of Mahe Island as they run, walk or jog along the beaches, and onlookers cheer from the side-lines or from their sunbathing spots. The race starts at Beau Vallon Beach and follows the peninsula round to Victoria before turning to follow the same route back to the finish. In addition to the full marathon, there is a half marathon and both a 5km and 10km race.
Mahé is the largest and most developed island in the Seychelles, and home to the capital city, Victoria, and about 90 percent of the country's population. There is still plenty of unspoiled island paradise to go around though, and Mahé provides a good balance between luxury amenities and natural beauty. The interior is mountainous and densely jungled, much of it protected within the boundaries of the Morne Seychellois National Park. The gorgeous coastline is ringed by many pristine dive sites, with the celebrated St Anne Marine National Park within easy reach. Beau Vallon, on the northwest coast, is a tourist magnet, and the beaches of Anse Intendance and Baie Lazare are some of Mahé's most lovely.
Victoria is the only seaport in the Seychelles, and this tropical city retains some colonial flavour and boasts a few tourist attractions, including the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens, some historical buildings around Freedom Square, the Seychelles National Museum of History, and St Paul's Cathedral. The Sir Selwyn Clarke Market is a good stop for local produce and crafty souvenirs, and the George Camille Gallery is a treasure trove for admirers of the local artist.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination