A paradisiacal archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are one of the most alluring destinations worldwide. Spreading across 115 tropical islands off the coast of Kenya, the Seychelles boast a tropical mix of turquoise waters, granite rock formations, and lush jungle. In case you ever doubted the existence of postcard-perfect tropical scenes, the Seychelles will change (read: blow) your mind.
Hidden from civilization until early explorations in the 16th century, the island nation today invites travelers to explore its natural beauties both on land and off shore, many of which are UNESCO-listed and designated as protected reserves. Hiking through the jungle, enjoying pristine beaches, or coming face to face with giant tortoises are just some of the ways you can spend your days here.
For most international visitors, Mahé will serves as gateway to the island nation. From here, it is just a quick flight or ferry ride to neighboring islands Praslin or La Digue. But Mahé itself, the Seychelles largest and likely most diverse island, should not be overlooked. In fact, roughly 90% of the Seychellois people call this island their home. Let’s take a look at some of the things to do in Mahé – maximum relaxation guaranteed.
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Where to Stay in Mahé
Similar to Mauritius, the sister island nation two hours south by plane, most visitors tend to think of the Seychelles as an upscale destination. For the most part, I’d agree. While there is a growing number of guest houses and smaller hotels available for visitors (i.e. Creole Breeze Apartments | Jamela Beach Guest House), most accommodations invite visitors to splurge on their tropical island getaway. Likewise, I couldn’t resist.
After a lot of research, I ultimately opted for the excellent AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort. Sitting right at Mahé’s western coast, the hotel combines a modern-feel with an open layout, lush surroundings, and an exceptional location at a secluded bay. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Things to Do in Mahé, Seychelles
1. Roam the Capital: Victoria
From a Western viewpoint, public life in the Seychelles is less hectic. The same holds true for Victoria, the urban center of the island nation and, with only 25,000 inhabitants, one of the smallest capitals in the world. No matter where you’re based during your stay on the island, Victoria is never far away.
Back in the 19th century, British explorer didn’t only bring the English language to the tropical isle, but also the name of the capital, in honor of Queen Victoria.
Today’s quirky center can be easily explored by foot. On several days a week, you get a chance to browse the local market. Most guides will also be quick to draw your attention to Eden Island, an artificial island just off the coast, housing a shopping mall, several restaurants, and high-end apartment complexes. As much as I like a good infrastructure for visitors, I decided against the trip to the newest addition of the Seychelles.
There’s one particular sight in Victoria the Seychellois take much pride in. And it sits right in the center of a roundabout in the heart of the city: Little Big Ben. I had only seen pictures before and had to smile a little upon seeing the real dimensions with my own eyes.
The tower is a replica of a clock tower sitting on Victoria Steet in London (and not of Big Ben!). It was commissioned by a former Governor of the Seychelles and is, therefore, an important piece of cultural heritage.
On your stroll across Victoria, there’s one more building that will definitely catch your attention. Right on main road sits Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar, an impressive Hindu temple. You can’t miss it.
From its very beginnings, the Seychelles have been a melting pot for people from various cultures and corners of the world. Today, Hindus form the second largest religious group in the nation – and this temple is their most important place of worship.
2. Explore the Beaches of Mahé Island
One of the main reason for a trip to the Seychelles and one of the best things to do in Mahé is to explore its world-famous beaches. Luckily, the main island offers an great choice of fine stretches of white sand. Here’s a list of my favorites.
2.1 Anse Takamaka
Anse Takamaka is a particularly scenic beach in the southwest of Mahé. While waves can be slightly higher here at times, the bay is a great place for swimming and snorkeling. Once you have explored the underwater world, find yourself a shady place below one of the many indigenous Takamaka trees and enjoy the lush surroundings. If you want to wake up to this view every morning, book yourself a room at Villa Chez Batista, sitting right at the beach.
2.2 Anse Royale
Anse Royale is one of the most famous beaches of the Seychelles. The beach runs for about 1.5 km / 1 mi along the southeastern coast of the island, with several smaller hotels and restaurants dotted along the waterfront. For the money shot, head towards its northern end. The granite rocks in combination with the powdery sand and the turquoise water are pure perfection.
2.3 Anse Barbarons
As a guest of the AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort I might be biased saying this, but hands down the wide bay just in front of the hotel was my favorite place in Mahé. The palm-lined beach is perfect for long beach walks, swimming, and snorkeling – with a reef sitting just off the coast. Much to my surprise, Anse Barbarons was rather empty most of the times, with only a few fellow hotel guests taking advantage of this pristine beach. This will feel like your personal tropical paradise!
3. Go for a Hike in Morne Seychellois National Park
Spanning large parts of northern Mahé, the Morne Seychellois National Park is the nation’s biggest natural reserve. In fact, it comprises 20% of Mahé island. The heart of the park forms the island’s tallest mountain Morne Seychellois, rising 900 m / 3,000 ft above sea level. Visiting the National Park should be on your list of things to do in Mahè for several reasons.
First and foremost, the park offers an extensive network of trails, which cater to different levels of hikers. Hiking all the way to the tallest point should only be done by experienced hikers. We opted for a less strenuous hike to the Mission Lodge Lookout, a former school-turned-viewing-lode, inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth herself.
No matter for which route you ultimately decide, be prepared for lush mangroves, tropical jungle and dazzling views across the island. In order to make the most of your time in Morne Seychellois National Park, hiring a driver for the day might be a smart choice. Not all trails are accessible by public transportation and the trip to the park can be easily combined with a guided tour across the island. Rates for a private car range from 75-130 € / 90-150 $ for a full day.
4. Take a Day-Trip to Praslin Island
Yes – one of the things you should do when in Mahé is to venture off its shores. After browsing a few boat tour offers we opted for a cruise to and around Praslin, the second largest island of the Seychelles. These tours usually start with an early morning pick up from your hotel and a quick 1-hour transfer by speed ferry to Praslin. Upon arrival, you change the big ferry for a small catamaran, which will be your ride for the day.
From the harbor, the tour will take took you around the island of Praslin. After a tasty BBQ lunch on board, you will land on Curieuse Island, a small isle in sight of larger Praslin. Once used as a quarantine site for people suffering of infectious diseases, Curieuse Island today is primarily inhabited by several giant tortoises. The impressive animals roam the area freely – and don’t seem to be bothered by the occasional visitors.
Before heading back to the ferry port for the transfer back to Mahè, there is one final stop on the tour. And what a stop it is! Tucked away in the northern tip of Praslin island, Anse Lazio is advertised as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. While I’m usually skeptical when it comes to the inflationary use of “best/greatest/prettiest in the world“, Anse Lazio was likely the most stunning, rich, and lush tropical settings I have ever seen.
You can’t help but marvel at the fine powdery sand and the unspoiled wilderness surrounding it. Even if you’re tempted to photograph the beach from various angles, put that camera aside and simply enjoy the moment.