One of the main reasons we picked the Seychelles over other islands destinations, like the Maldives (my original dream location) for our most recent holiday was that it is not just one big resort. We were apprehensive about shelling out an exorbitant amount of money only to be stuck on an isolated, island compound with nothing else to explore. As Julie has already discussed, we are not real beach people, so the idea of passing the time just sitting in the sand was not promising. After snorkelling as much as we could handle, we decided it was time get out of the water and dive into the rest of Mahe.Our first day out, we took a private tour by taxi around Victoria and the mountainous interior of the island. The island of Mahe is the largest island in the Seychelles, though at about half the size of Nantucket, getting around to see the island is easy in a few days. Our driver Marlan brought us into Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles and let us explore the main market.
There were endless stalls of fresh fruit, providing a stunning array of tropical colors and aromas. Bananas, papayas, passionfruit, starfruit, coconuts. There was also an abundance of spices, as the Seychelles are known for, like cinnamon and vanilla. And, of course, the market was encircled by a marvelous display of fresh fish, from massive Amberjacks to tiny little sardines. We snatched up some vanilla pods (much cheaper than in the UK!) and a few spice mixes to make Creole curries back at home in London.
After the market visit, we meandered through the heart of Victoria, a small “city” of about 25,000. While there was not a lot to see in the city, it was nice to walk around and enjoy the sun. We even found a boutique with Julie written all over it!
We also stumbled upon a local supermarket and had to take a look. We both love investigating supermarkets, as it gives a sneak peak into the local food culture. Judging by this supermarket, the locals enjoy chocolate flavored cereals (almost the only available flavor – I counted almost twenty different brands) and large cans of instant coffee. Seriously, the coffee can was comically large.
We met back up with Marlon and headed up the massive hills in the center of the island. The roads in the Seychelles are insane. The sheer incline of the roads is staggering. No long, gradual swooping roads up into the higher elevations. No, in the Seychelles, they just built roads to get up and down as quickly as possible. After thirty minutes or so of steep climbs and hairpin turns up the hills (and a few stops for some photos along the way), we got to Mission Lodge, the most famous vantage point in the Seychelles and the site of a former school to help educate locals. Needless to say, the view was fantastic.
The next day, we were encouraged by the owners of our villa, Petit Amour, to rent a car to get around the rest of the island. Given that we had been hanging around the nearby Sunset Beach exclusively, we decided to drive to some of the other beach destinations around the island. Luckily, my UK drivers license came in quite handy, as I was already comfortable navigating narrow roads, which at times at no guard rails and severe drop offs, while driving on the left side of the road. Certainly not recommended for the timid driver.
Our first stop was Anse Intendance, a spectacular beach at the exclusive Banyan Tree Resort. Since all Seychelles beaches are public, there is no issue sharing the kilometer of perfect, white sand beach with a few other resort guests. Anse Intendance is the type of beach you see on postcards. The water is crystal clear, refreshingly cool and surrounded by palm trees. One interesting note about this beach: it is known for strong undertows during half of the year, and swimming is discouraged. That means the Banyan Tree guests, if they don’t research ahead of time, may find themselves at one of the world’s most gorgeous beaches without being able to swim. This contributes to the resort’s less than perfect reviews online…
After relaxing for a few hours, it was time to hit the road and grab some lunch. We headed up the west coast of Mahe, stopping by Baie Lazare for a walk on the beach and some quick photos. The Seychelles scenery just begs you to take photos.
We cut across the center of the island of the way home after lunch, climbing yet another crazy series of hills, making our way to the local tea factory near the peak. I wanted to check out the tea factory and was under the impression that they grew tea on the hillside. Unfortunately, the factory just processes the tea grown on various sites around the Seychelles and the accompanying “tea museum” was a bit of a bust, with one small room with a view pictures and artifacts from tea production and this sad teapot and teacup installation. At least we did get some nice views of Mahe.
Our final stop was the village near our villa, called Beau Vallon. We enjoyed a few beers and a pizza at a local beachfront restaurant, then headed off to the beach for quick swim to cool off. This beach is generally a little more crowded and offers more water sport activities, like banana boat rides and jet skiing. We stayed a little further down where it was quieter, though I must say I enjoyed watching people get flung off the banana boat time after time. Mean, but true.
To conclude our day in Mahe, we visited the local street market lining Beau Vallon beach, checking out the fruit stands and the stalls hawking grilled fish and curries. There was a mix of locals and tourists from nearby resorts, all enjoying the warm late afternoon sun. After a few days seeing the whole island, meeting some friendly locals and relaxing on some nearly empty beaches, there was nothing more refreshing than sipping some fresh coconut water and enjoying our final hours on that beautiful island.
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