Seychelles: Main Sights
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Main Sights on Mahé Island
is the largest (154 sq. km) and most densely populated island in Seychelles, and 90 per cent of Seychellois call it home. The capital of Seychelles, Victoria, is located on Mahé. The most developed island in some respects, Mahé is also, ironically, rather undiscovered. The interior forests are full of interesting treks of varying difficulty. While some Mahé beaches are crowded by Seychelles standards, others are delightfully secluded and entice visitors with excellent diving, snorkelling and sunbathing opportunities. Most spots along the coast are easy to reach by bus or car, and although some are somewhat marred by overdevelopment, there are many places where you'll feel like the only person in an earthly paradise. Mahé also offers a number of unique historic attractions, together with a representative sampling of Seychelles flora and fauna. Mahé is the starting-point for excursions to the Ste Anne Marine Park, where crystal-clear waters teem with colourful sea-life.
Mahé's centre and the capital of Seychelles, Victoria is a small, friendly town with its share of charms. The clock tower, an exact replica of Big Ben, is of mild interest, but try the Pirates Arms restaurant for its lively ambiance and tasty, cheap Creole dining. A visit to Victoria should also include a trip to the bustling market with its plentiful local produce and home-made treats, a tour of the Historical Museum, and a turn around the Botanical Gardens.
Beau Vallon Village and Beach
The gleaming sands of Beau Vallon attract the largest number of Seychelles tourists, although no beaches in Seychelles are crowded compared to other popular tropical destinations. You'll find petrol, an ATM, several restaurants, a casino, a few bars and other amenities in Beau Vallon village, making it a good pit-stop or overnight stay during a Mahé road-tour.
Mahé's East Coast Beaches
Situated along the most developed part of Mahé, some of these beaches are too shallow for swimming and can be somewhat clouded by algae. However, a few gorgeous spots like little-known Fairyland beach, Anse Royale, Anse Bougainville and Anse Forbans are perfect places to spend a few sun-soaked, blissful hours.
Le Jardin du Roi
Just a short distance into the lush hills above Anse Royale, take a self-guided tour of this intriguing and historically-significant spice garden. As you wander the 35-hectare property, at times orchard-like and forested, you can snack on star fruit and other tropical treats. The planter's house contains a small museum and the on-site café offers excellent views.
Some find this collection of craft shops clustered around an old plantation house contrived, but others may find a treasured memento of their Seychelles trip. At least there's free admission, so if you're driving by, stop in to see for yourself. A short distance away, the Creole Institute is situated in a handsome colonial building.
Mahé's West Coast Beaches
Wilder than the east, Mahé's west coast offers verdant jungles and sparkling, deserted beaches. The coastal drive from stunning Anse Takamaka up to Port Launay puts you within striking distance of too many idyllic spots to list. Bring a picnic and find your own sparkling slice of paradise.
As it's a working enterprise, it's best to visit the factory before noon so you can observe the entire tea-making process, from drying to packing. The factory produces about 45 tonnes of organic tea per year for export.
Morne Seychellois National Park
This hauntingly-beautiful park encompasses an impressive 20% of Mahé's land area and contains a wide variety of habitats, from coastal mangrove forests up to the nation’s highest peak, the Morne Seychellois (905m). Tangled with thick growth, the central part of the park is virtually deserted and can only be reached by walking trails of varying difficulty. Guided walks are recommended unless you're a seasoned and determined trekker.
Main Sights on La Digue Island
The most photographed island in Seychelles, La Digue is as laid-back as it is lovely. It's the fourth-largest granite island and just 30 minutes by ferry from Praslin. Turquoise water, drop-dead gorgeous beaches and palm-speckled tropical foliage combine with a pace of life in step with the island's ox-carts. Hire a bike and explore at your leisure, stopping for a fresh papaya juice, a dip, or just to gape at the scenery, which is often used in film and fashion shoots. Horse-riding, as well as plenty of water-sports and a smattering of historic attractions, add to La Digue's charms.
Anse Source d’Argent
Located on the west coast of La Digue, this popular beach features sea-buffed glacis rocks, shallow water and palm-shaded picnic spots. There are more secluded, equally picturesque beaches dotting the entire shoreline of La Digue, so don't make this your only stop, particularly if you want to swim or snorkel. The beach is quieter in the afternoons once the day-trip tour groups have left, and sunsets are spectacular.
La Digue's sole village offers some tasty takeaway spots together with pricier, but not necessarily better, sit-down restaurants. Hire your bike from one of the amiable touts and wind your lazy way up main street, stopping at Gregoire's supermarket if you need picnic supplies. There's a small casino in La Passe, but it's doubtful you'll want to spend any time indoors.
La Digue's Southeast Coast Beaches
Just because the road ends doesn't mean you should turn around and head back to La Passe. Prop your bike against a palm (tie a bandana or plastic bag around it to distinguish it from others) and make the short trek from Grand Anse to Petite Anse and Anse Cocos. You'll be rewarded by beautiful views from the soft, pristine sands. Have a shallow-water paddle but take care not to swim or snorkel in deep water – the currents around Grande and Petite Anse are dangerously strong.
The main industry on La Digue was once coconut cultivation, centred at this coconut plantation south of La Passe. L'Union Estate is now operated as a low-key tourist attraction. There's an ox working the grindstone mechanism used to extract oil from copra, or dried coconut flesh, as well as the Old Plantation House, a colonial-era graveyard, a boatyard and a pen of giant tortoises.
La Digue Veuve Reserve
La Digue is the last refuge of the black paradise flycatcher, which Seychellois call the veuve (widow). This small nature reserve has been set aside to protect the creature's natural habitat, but you're just as likely to see one flitting about elsewhere on the island. Entry to the reserve is free.
Main Sights on Praslin Island
Lying about 45km from Mahé, the second-largest island in Seychelles is a perfect middle ground between the relative development of Mahé and the ultra-mellow vibe of La Digue. Praslin offers a wide range of accommodation options, brilliant beaches often included in World's Top 10 lists, breathtaking mountain views, and unique flora and fauna. It's a great home-base for excursions to other islands, and it holds its own in the attraction department with a World Heritage site, the primeval Vallée de Mai forest where legendary coco de mer palms grow.
Anse Volbert (also known as Côte d’Or)
Anse Volbert is Praslin's main beach; many hotels and guest-houses border its sandy crescent, but it is rarely crowded. The clear seas here are perfect for swimming and water sports. Hire a boat and sailor to take you out into the bay, around Chauve Souris and St. Pierre islands, for excellent snorkelling.
Lémuria Golf Course
This 18-hole championship course is surrounded by palms and will entice golfers away from the beach.
Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette
Among the world's most beautiful beaches according to recent Top 10 lists, these two jewels lie at the end of a twisting coastal road. Set against granite rock formations, warm white sands yield to softly lapping waves and a gradient gentle enough to ease the most tentative swimmer or snorkeler into the water. Although no Seychelles beaches are private, Lémuria Resort asks that guests call ahead before accessing Anse Georgette from its grounds.
Vallée de Mai
Once described as the original Garden of Eden, this primeval forest is a nature preserve and World Heritage-listed site. Here, fragrant vanilla plants meander up the trunks of the famous coco de mer palms with their suggestively-shaped fruits, and rare birds flit among the vines. The sale and export of coco de mer seeds (nuts) is strictly controlled by the government, so if you hanker after this unique souvenir be prepared for dear prices. The Vallée is host to six species of palm found only in Seychelles and a guided tour will help you appreciate what this forest has to offer.
Main Sights: Other Seychelles Islands
Aldabra is the largest coral atoll in the world and enjoys World Heritage site status. It is home to a research station and can be reached by boat or airplane charter. Aldabra has four main islands that circle protectively around a large lagoon that empties and refills almost completely with the tide. A multitude of creatures populate the lagoon, including barracudas and sharks. Aldabra is also home to over 150,000 giant land tortoises. Visiting Aldabra requires pre-planning: it's over 1,000 km from Mahé and only 12 visitors are allowed at a given time. Contact the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) for permission and assistance if you want to visit Aldabra: www.sif.sc
Located 400 km south-west of Mahé, Alphonse offers sensational beaches and diving. Fly-fishers the world over visit Alphonse to try their luck in its plentiful waters.
Located about 10 km north of Praslin, Aride is a pristine granite island that is owned and managed by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation (RSNC). The entire 68-hectare island forms an incomparable nature reserve and is a conservationist's dream. It has more breeding species of seabirds than the other 38 granite islands combined, plants found nowhere else on the planet and rare land birds.
This flat, coral island lives up to its name: from April to October, visitors are serenaded by a magnificent colony of over a million nesting terns. The island is also a migration stop for a multitude of chirping, cooing and twittering species, some very rare. Bring your binoculars and long-range lens for incredible images of the winged variety. Bird Island has one luxury hotel, accessible by plane from Mahé, and offers superb snorkelling and swimming.
Cousin, an easy day-trip from Praslin, is set aside as a nature reserve for the nearly-extinct Seychelles bush warbler. In addition to this rare species, Cousin is also home to other avian notables like Malagasy turtle doves and fairy terns. From October to March, visitors on Cousin may see rare hawksbill turtles returning to the island's breeding ground.
Curieuse Island is a small granitic island just north of Praslin. Curieuse is home to coco de mer palms, mangrove habitats, and a placid population of giant tortoises. In 1833 Curieuse became a leper colony that didn't close until 1965. Visitors can view the ruins of former dwellings as well as the “Doctor's House,” now a small museum, at Anse St. Joseph.
This small coral island about 100 km from Mahé offers excellent deep sea fishing, snorkelling and diving. Denis has a resort offering bungalows, sports facilities and excursions.
This Seychelles jewel is the quintessential tropical island with fine sand beaches and graceful palms. It has a population of about 40 people living in one small village, and is a beacon for divers seeking one of the most striking coral gardens of the Indian Ocean. It also offers great fishing and snorkelling. There is one luxury hotel on Desroches, through which you can arrange wind-surfing and other water sports. Desroches is the only island of the Amirantes Group – lying 230km south-west of the granitic islands – with air links to Mahé.
This island was once a pirate way-point and now shelters thousands of birds. Wander Frégate's meandering paths and spot coco turtle-doves, terns and other species flourishing in the dense jungle foliage. Frégate offers water-sport rentals as well as a luxury resort.
Silhouette, the third-largest island of the granite group, is world-renowned for its biodiversity. Scientists have identified 6 species of plant and 274 animals on Silhouette that are not found anywhere else on the planet. Peaceful treks will tempt visitors into Silhouette's lush, virgin forests and along its mountain paths to spot rare flora and fauna. The island's east-coast beaches are great for swimming and snorkelling. There are no roads as such, and only 130 inhabitants, making this island an oasis of tranquility. There are two resorts on Silhouette, one based around a five-star hotel.
Ste Anne Marine National Park
The islands included in Ste Anne Marine Park (Ste Anne, Round, Moyenne and Cerf) make a good day trip from Mahé. The corals are not what they once were, but the fish are still plentiful and the short jaunt to the marine park, combined with lunch at one of several charming restaurants, is still a great Seychelles outing.