A Guide to Mahe | Seychelles
MAHE | the main island
The Main Island. Come here for culture, hiking, and beaches. Three days is just right to explore what this island has to offer. A car rental is required to get around, and you'll be driving on narrow, winding roads that go up and over the jungle covered mountains to get to various beaches. To add to the challenge, they drive on the left side of the road. In January, the winds blow north east, so beaches on the west side of the island are round and wavy while the east side of the island is smooth and still.
Where to Stay
Copolia Lodge | Val Riche - Bel Air, Sans Souci Road, Victoriathe
A six room boutique hotel tucked in the lush mountains of Mahe along Sans Souci road and run by calm and sweet Coralie, Copolia Lodge makes for a zen home base after a day exploring the island by car on the left side of narrow, cliff bordered roads. Mornings are sweetened with fresh, homemade breakfast served in an open air dining room with views of tropical birds soaring from treetop to treetop. The Fregate Suite offers a personal balcony with jungle and ocean views and comfortable, astute decor.
What to Do
Insider Tip: The locals suggest the "best snorkeling beaches", but they are either protecting the best beaches for themselves, or the best snorkeling beaches are actually the worst snorkeling beaches in January due to winter winds. While the beaches were still stunning, they were not calm like the internet photos would have made us think. If you want the calm waters, go during high season (March - June or September - October).
EXPLORE THE BEACHES | Mahe is large enough to keep you busy for days, and small enough that with a car, you can explore most of the island in less than a week. Our favorite for snorkeling was Port Luanay. Beau Vallon is the busiest and a favorite with the locals on the weekend. L'islette can be accessed on foot only during low tide (a very territorial parrot fish lives in the rocks along the way) and usually has a a bar open to reward your trek with a drink, but there's currently a Russian reality TV show filming there which is entertaining in its own right! Guests of Maia resort frequent Anse Boileau because it is the beach right outside their resort, but there is public parking just off the main road, making it a generally unfrequented cove and the perfect place to relax for a day. Really though, the best advice we have about the beaches is pull over when you see a sign and explore for yourself. They're all gorgeous in their own right.
EAT LUNCH AT le Jardin du Roi Spice Garden| We were skeptical at first due to the t-shirt hanging in the souvenir shop, but the scents wafting through the dining patio and out to our car converted our skeptisim into excitement. You can tour the garden for the equivalent of $10 USD, but the real reason to visit is the Sunday brunch (reservations required). All but the grilled fish is grown organically right there at the garden. Served family style, we ate white fish with lime, chicken curry, saffron rice, star fruit, green papaya salad, sliced and seasoned mango, green apple salad, water apple, pomelo, veggie curry, and breadfruit, followed by a dessert of fruit salad with a scoop of homemade ice cream.
HIKE Copolia Trail | The Copalia Trail will please even the faintest of plant lovers due to the presence of the extremely rare, carnivorous pitcher plant that only grows in the Seychelles, on the islands of Mahe and Silouhette, at certain elevations. The steady uphill hike rewards sweaty explorers with 360 degree views of Mahe as well as bushes full of this unique flora. ~2 hours. This hike is super easy to access if you're staying at Copolia Lodge, as the trailhead is just across the street from the Lodge.
HIKE Anse Major Trail | Great for an introduction to the Seychelles, this easy hike wraps around a small peninsula of the island, and rewards you with wonderful views of turquoise blue water and a mostly private beach at the end. When we visited, there was only one other couple and a local man selling coconuts. As wonderful as the idea of coconuts sounds, beware, the straws he used tasted like moth balls so we ended up trying to pour the coconut water straight into our mouths. ~1 hour.
VISIT Mission Lodge | A quick pitstop on your way to exploring beaches or the tea factory, Mission Lodge offers more wonderful views, but for only a short walk through some ruins. Originally created by missionaries as a school for freed slaves, Mission Lodge is now a heritage site - only the foundations of most of its former buildings remain, except for a covered pavilion overlooking the jungle.
VISIT Takamaka Rum Distillery | We'll admit, we were drawn here by a fantastically designed label (look at the graphic design on the pinapple rum bottle below!), but ended up staying for the food. Instead of booking a tour, we recommend a rum tasting at La Plaine St. Andre, the restaurant located on the estate, followed by a delicious seafood lunch afterwards. You'll love the tuna appetizer, a rare treat on the island despite tuna being the Seychelles largest export.
SPEND PART OF SATURDAY at Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarket Market in Victoria | While the market occurs everyday, the best day to visit is Saturday when vendors from all over the islands come to sell their goods. The place starts to crowd with tourists around 11am, so head there early to scope out the chilis, fish, citrus, spices, and eggs.
How to Get Around
You'll enjoy Mahe most if you rent a car. Sure you'll be driving on the left side of the road, winding up and down narrow streets with barely a shoulder if you're lucky, but there are too many beaches and hikes to explore on Mahe to stay in one place. We enjoyed the adventure of having a vehicle.