Even though the COVID pandemic was a disaster in many ways, I think we managed to make the most of it. We traveled to Portugal in 2020, under rather uncertain circumstances, tried out a rooftop tent during our fall break in Normandy and Brittany, and went road tripping with a hired camper van in the north of Spain. There was one added bonus, though, which paved the way to an unexpected and unforgettable getaway to one of our dream destinations. We had originally planned (and already booked) a three week trip to Sri Lanka in 2020, when the pandemic struck. We tried to reschedule for 2021 and 2022, but since the situation was still quite volatile, we decided to postpone again (but we did manage to go in 2023!!). Things finally opened up over the year 2022, but our flight budget, which was parked on our Etihad travel bank, had to be used up before the end of April 2023. Since we both work in education, we were therefore limited to the 2-weeks Easter holiday in April to invest the money. Due to this time limitation, Sri Lanka was out of the question for that period. However, a quick glance at Etihad’s destinations was enough to convince us this was a unique opportunity to get to a bunch of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean we had always dreamed of: the Seychelles.
We stayed two full weeks on the archipelago, hopping from one island to the other. Even though this island nation is known as an expensive luxury destination (which it essentially is), we managed to enjoy our stay on a reasonable budget. The fact that most activities (snorkeling, hiking and stand-up paddle boarding) were free of charge (we brought our own sups), really helped in limiting our expenses. We started and ended our trip on the largest island of the Seychelles: Mahé. Our hotel, the excellent and relaxed Marie-Laure Suites, was located in Bel Ombre, only a 15-minute walk away from Beau Vallon Beach (which basically is the place to be for food and fun). Due to practical, financial and time-related issues, we decided to remain in the northern part of Mahé. In this blog post, we will try to convince you that only a few days in the area of Beau Vallon is enough to experience most of what Mahé has to offer.
I think it is fair to say that the Anse Major Nature Trail was the most spectacular (and also most challenging) hike we did during our stay in the Seychelles. In April, temperatures quickly climb towards 30+ °C, which turned this relatively easy, hilly walk into a hard and sweaty challenge.
After an early breakfast in our hotel, we took the bus around 8 am to get to the Danzil Bus Station (only a few minutes from Bel Ombre), which is close to the starting point of the trail. It was not difficult to find that starting point, since there is an information sign near the bus stop that shows you the way. The trail itself is also well-marked with arrows. Even before the actual trail begins, the road already starts to climb, first passing a few houses, but gradually becoming more surrounded by colourful vegetation. It doesn’t take long before you feel the relaxing effect of nature, even though there are still signs of civilization here and there. The free shower in the middle of the road was already a welcome stop around 8.30h.
This trail through the Morne Seychellois National Park is just a gem. There are black granitic rocks (called “glacis”) to your left and astonishing views over the Indian Ocean to your right, both views being beautifully framed by different shades of green, originating from luscious vegetation. The contrast between the black of the rocks, the green of the herbs, shrubs and trees and the deep blue of the ocean is just indescribable. The path is generally wide and smooth, although the last part is a bit more challenging, with rocks, boulders and tree roots complicating your hike, especially if it has rained. Along the way, a few information signs highlight certain interesting plants of animals.
It didn’t rain before we finally reached the secluded beach of Anse Major, but when it started, rain just poured down in a crazy deluge. We were completely soaked in seconds, but it was a welcome refreshment after a long walk in the heat. We enjoyed some time in the crystal clear water, surrounded by lush forest, before heading back. The way back was a bit more slippery, but the upside was that many large land snails came out of their hiding places to great us.
Our first snorkeling experiences in The Seychelles were made off the beach of Beau Vallon. It was certainly not the best snorkeling spot in the Seychelles (and we did snorkel a lot during our stay, so we really can compare), but it was good enough to get to know the island’s underwater world during our first days of acclimatization on Mahé. It is also easily accessible, since the coast off Beau Vallon has a gentle slope and no boulders. There are patches of sea grasses and other patches with corals, although mostly limited in size. Maybe not the most spectacular underwater scenery, but we did enjoy it either way. We spotted black sea urchins, sea cucumbers, Threadfin Butterflyfish, Melon butterflyfish, Oval Butterflyfish, Dwarf Spotted Grouper, Bluespotted Grouper, Goldbar Wrasse, Bluespotted Cornetfish, Semicircle Angelfish, Emperor Angelfish, Threespot Angelfish, Regal Angelfish, Orbicular Batfish, Sergeant Major, Scissortail Sergeant, Powder Blue Tang, Lined Surgeonfish, Moorish Idol, Saddled Pufferfish, Blue-Spotted Spinefoot and many, many more species…
At the end of our stay in The Seychelles, we returned to Mahé. Since we already had an unforgettable wildlife/snorkeling experience during an excursion with Sagittarius to Cousin and Curieuze (from Praslin), we decided to book another one to St. Anne Marine Park and Moyenne Island, from Mahé. St. Anne Marine Park, the oldest marine park in the Western Indian Ocean region (dating back to 1973), is definitely very biodiverse and densely covered in corals (including Fungia corals). There is also a coral regeneration project going on. We saw many fish species, including most of the above-mentioned ones. We were able to add the following species to our list, though: Black and White Snapper, Blue-Green Chromis Damsel Fish, Seychelles Soldier, Green Birdmouth Wrasse and Giant Moray.
Enjoying some beach time
Whether you want to get a tan, play some beach soccer/volley, go for a swim (and/or snorkel), do some birdwatching (or Seychelles Fruit Bat watching, since that is also an option here) or just want to have a nice dinner: Beau Vallon beach is the place to be. We nevertheless recommend finding some more secluded beaches (such as Anse Major) for a more relaxed experience.
A visit to Moyenne Island, a tiny island just east of Seychelles’ capital Victoria, was part of our one-day excursion to St. Anne Marine Park. The island is a national park and contains a wide variety of plant life and a colony of Aldabra giant tortoises, bred by the island’s owner between 1962 and 2012, mr. Grimshaw. It was also this mr. Grimshaw, a newspaper editor, who transformed the neglected property back to its original, natural beauty and also created a number of nature trails to make the island more accessible.
Since this is a protected area, the number of visitors per day is limited, which makes a visit much more pleasant. After an hour of snorkeling in the marine park, we had lunch on the island and went on a guided tour to see the tortoises, the man-made forest, the magnificent views and the graves of mr. Grimshaw and two pirates. We ended our day in a nearby lagoon, where we encountered Striated Heron and Lesser Crested Tern, as well as my first severe sunburn of the trip.
Since Annick and Febe are active SUP enthousiasts, we had decided to bring both our SUPs to the Seychelles, which also meant that we had to fit all our other luggage (for 3 persons) in only one bag (but we managed somehow!). There was a tiny beach only a 5 minutes walk away from our hotel in Bel Ombre, which was therefore the ideal starting point for some standup paddleboarding. We experienced a few issues with heavy rain and relatively strong winds, but eventually we managed to get to the sea and we really enjoyed the relaxing experience of silence, the ocean and some magnificent views.
City tripping to one of the smallest capitals in the world…
Victoria, on Mahé, is one of the smallest capitals. Nevertheless, you simply cannot leave the Seychelles without at least having a stroll around in Victoria. Even though there isn’t much to see or do (since it is so small), we’ll provide you here with a short list of sights you should defintely try to tick off:
a. The Hindu Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple, for its colourful tower en evenly colourful interior.
b. Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market, for its buzzing atmosphere and fresh produce.
c. The Victoria Clocktower (Lorloz), simply because it is a landmark that defines this city.
d. The National Museum of History, for everything you want to know about the pirates of the Seychelles, and much more.
e. The Immaculate Conception Cathedral, in French colonial style, and the colourful gardens surrounding it.
We hope that we’ve been able to convince you about the beauty of Mahé. In our next blog post, we will take you to tiny but beautiful La Digue, undoubtedly the highlight of our trip!