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  • Overview

    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.

    The spine 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 such as the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Beach Resort and Casino, and several nightclubs and restaurants serve up traditional Creole delights and provide some evening entertainment.

    Victoria

    Billed as the smallest capital city in the world, Victoria may also be considered one of the most charming and 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 fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.The city's French and British colonial history is still palpable, reflected in historical buildings such as 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 was first erected at Vauxhall Bridge in London in 1892). The quaint city is also home to many artists, and works by talented locals are popular buys at local galleries.

    Victoria's centrally located clock
tower Victoria's centrally located clock tower Thomas Gee
    Morne Seychellois National Park

    The largest national park in the Seychelles, Morne Seychellois National Park takes up almost 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 visitors 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.

    Morne Seychellois National Park Morne Seychellois National Park David Stanley
    Seychelles National Museum of History

    Travellers can 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 take visitors on a journey through three centuries of Seychelles history, and include a range of interesting displays that cover Creole culture, music, clothing, fishing and architecture. Though small, the museum holds fascinating items such as the Portuguese Nautical Atlas of the Indian Ocean in 1519 and the world's smallest statue of Queen Victoria.

    National Museum National Museum David Stanley
    National Botanical Gardens

    The century-old, six hectare Botanical Gardens at the south end of Victoria provide a cool, green oasis in the city, 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. Visitors can stop at the restaurant situated in the gardens for a bite to eat after a day of admiring the blooms.

    Website: www.bgci.org
    Giant tortoise in the Mont Fleuri Botanical
Gardens Giant tortoise in the Mont Fleuri Botanical Gardens David Stanley
    St Anne Marine National Park

    Nature lovers will relish a guided tour from Victoria harbour to the magnificent St Anne National Marine Park, which covers six islands off the coast of Mahé. 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 the glory of the coral reefs awaits snorkellers and divers. 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.

    Sea Turtle, Seychelles Sea Turtle, Seychelles Stephane Enten
    Dive Sites

    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 its underwater world. The islands have a selection of dive sites ranging from those suitable for snorkellers and novice divers, 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 divers 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) â€' idyllic diving conditions. 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.

    Diving in Seychelles Diving in Seychelles Paul Britton
    Beau Vallon Bay

    The mile-long beach that encircles 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, known for its clear waters and enviable visibility, also has a number of dive sites within the bay, including wrecks and several coral reefs.

    The Marine Park of Baie Ternay is easily accessible from Beau Vallon, and the bay is home to several major hotels, including some of the island's oldest and most famous: Le Meridien Fisherman's Cove, the Berjaya Beau Vallon and the Coral Strand.

    Beau Vallon Beach Beau Vallon Beach Welcomematt22

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    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 nighttime. 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.

    Seychelles International Airport
    Location: The airport is located seven miles (11km) from Victoria on the island of Mahe.
    Time: Local time is GMT +4.
    Transfer Between Terminals: The airport has one international and one domestic terminal. The terminals are a short walking distance from each other.
    Getting to the city: Taxis are available to carry passengers to any point on the island. A bus service to Victoria is also available and departs every 20 to 30 minutes.
    Car Rental: Car rental agencies represented at the airport include Sixt.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis leave from just outside the terminal. Taxi fares vary, so it's best to enquire before the journey starts.
    Facilities: Airport facilities include a tourism kiosk, duty-free shopping, banking and currency exchange facilities, ATMs, restaurants and bars, and an executive lounge.
    Parking Parking is available in front of the terminal buildings.

    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 unspoilt 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.

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