With most of the Seychelles population living in Mahé, this island is the place to go to get to a taste of local life. While the island’s capital, Victoria, has most of the hustle and bustle, the east and west coast also promise adventure. Check out our favourite spots on this stunning island, from shopping to sunbathing to nature walks.
Past Anse aux Pins, one of the largest villages of the Seychelles, the Craft Village is an excellent place to browse for souvenirs. Opening times of individual outlets vary (many are closed on Sundays and public holidays). The first shop near the entrance on the right is Maison Coco, which as the name suggests specialises in anything and everything made out of coconut products, from bags to ornaments to boxes and beads.
Carry on to the main village area. At the far end is a beautiful colonial house dating from 1870, now restored as a museum. Each side of the road is lined with kiosks selling arts and crafts. There’s an enticing Creole restaurant, Vye Marmit, serving local specialities such as fruit bat, fish and seafood.
Back on the main coast road, the route continues south, rising over the promontory of Fairyland before descending to Anse Royale. There’s an excellent spot for swimming and snorkelling where the road reaches the beach. A current runs parallel to the coast between the mainland and tiny Ile Souris. This makes drift snorkelling fun, but parents should keep an eye on small children.
At the opposite end of Anse Royale village, make your way to Jardin du Roi. This is a lovely peaceful corner and a fantastic immersion into the extraordinary spices of this corner of the Indian Ocean. All the well-known and some lesser-known spices are grown together with other tropical plants. Grab a map of the trail around the garden from the reception desk and find your favourites.
There’s a small museum on-site with a miscellany of historical artefacts, a shop and an excellent restaurant. The original site, dating from the 18th century, was deliberately destroyed by the French during the Napoleonic wars to prevent it falling into the hands of the British. This re-creation gives us some idea of what it was like.
Just past Banyan Tree hotel is Intendance beach. This is a wild and beautiful place. Swimming or body surfing is exciting in the big waves, but can also be pretty dangerous, especially from May to September. If you’re not a confident boarder, it’s just as exhilarating to simply watch the rollers sweep in with a tremendous roar, breaking on the sand with a strong burst of spray.
It’s possible to explore a little further south from Anse Intendance to the pretty little bays of Anse Cachée, Anse Corail and Anse Bazarca.
Anse Takamaka is another beautiful beach, but currents can be dangerous. Chez Batista, right on the beach, is a charming rustic thatched restaurant, a fine stop to enjoy a cold drink or a local curry or fish and pawpaw salad.
Past the tall cliffs of Pointe Maravi, which offer dramatic views of the sea pounding on the granite boulders below, the road descends once more to Baie Lazare. An anchor on a stone pedestal commemorates the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Lazare Picault. (Unfortunately, it’s in the wrong place. The bay was named after Lazare Picault in error: documents show that the landing was actually made 5km further up the coast at Anse Boileau).
Almost opposite the monument is Varieties Boutique which, during opening hours on sunny days, displays colourful pareos (sarongs) strung on lines between the palm trees.
At the northern end of Baie Lazare is Gerard Devoud’s Art Gallery. The artist uses mainly watercolours, with light and colour broken into pieces to create mosaics of landscapes and everyday village scenes.
Birdwatchers might like to call in to visit the wetland, where the rare yellow bittern can be seen – the Seychelles is the only place it’s found outside of Asia. Today, as the coastal marshland favoured by the birds disappears, there are perhaps fewer than 100 pairs left.
Perched on the hill above the village is Baie Lazare Church, one of the most attractive in the Seychelles. A short distance further along on the right is Donald Adelaide’s Art Studio, which sells bright watercolour prints and originals beautifully depicting the islands and the Seychellois way of life.
It makes an interesting detour to get off the beaten track along Chemin Dame Le Roi. The narrow road twists and turns into the heart of a different kind of Mahé, where former self-sufficient ways survive on smallholdings. Clothes are washed in stream water and laid out to dry on the boulders, in the traditional style. This is a reminder of how recently the modern world has arrived in the quieter corners of the Seychelles.
A little further along from Baie Lazare are three bays: Anse Soleil, Anse Gouvernement and Petite Anse.
Anse Soleil is a delightful small sandy beach, superb for swimming with excellent views of the west coast. At Anse Soleil Beachcomber, you will see a sign for the Anse Soleil Café. Set off on foot and follow the track between the houses to the restaurant and beach. Petite Anse, another attractive little beach, is next to Anse Soleil, but the only land access is through private grounds.
En route to Anse Gouvernement, stop to admire the sculptures on display at Studio Antonio. The beach itself is a wild and windswept bay during the southeast monsoon, not good for swimming. However, the scenery is just enchanting: a beautiful sandy bay decorated with massive granite boulders, forming a classic Seychelles image. It’s worth coming here simply for the photo opportunities!
One of the best things to see along the main coast road is the art studio of the Seychelles' most famous artist, Michael Adams. His paintings are a jungle of criss-crossing leaves, stalks and stems of every hue, while some pictures take an almost satirical look at Seychellois life. Excellent prints of his work are on sale at the studio, but originals are very expensive.
Almost next door is the Pineapple Studio, selling a range of attractive and innovative souvenirs, including beautiful pareos, woven hessian bags and vibrantly painted coconuts, all great mementoes of your trip. The owners live next door to the shop and will usually open up at any time within reason.
After the small cove of Anse aux Poules Bleues, the view opens up on to the wide sweeping vista of Anse à la Mouche. The shallow, calm waters are ideal for swimming and you’ll definitely be tempted, though bear in mind you will need to wade out a long way at low tide.
The coast road connects with the east coast via Les Canelles Road. A short detour uphill along Les Canelles Road takes you to sculptor Tom Bowers’ studio. He uses resin for his sculptures of Seychellois, which are then cast in bronze in limited editions.
Back on the west coast, the road passes on through the old coconut plantation of Barbarons. At the north end of the beach (just after the Avani Barbarons Seychelles Resort) there’s a car park on the right for Sentier Vacoa Trail. The trail leads uphill alongside a stream. It’s well marked and is a pleasant and fairly easy introduction to the forest, compared to the steeper mountain walks.
The famous Grand Anse, designated a Site of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is well worth a visit. This is good for a walk to explore the splendid, sandy beach and an attractive lagoon area at the far end where the river flows into the sea. This is a beach for enjoying on land: the sea is dangerous here and it’s not safe for swimming. Huge rolling waves pound the beach and create a strong undertow, particularly between May and October.
While you’re here, ever fancied cantering along a paradise beach on the back of a majestic horse? Well, now’s your chance. Turquoise Horse Trails offers you the opportunity to take a guided ride along jungle trails and onto the white sand of Grand Anse, exploring the incredible landscape from this unique vantage point. It’s a highly personal experience, with trips limited to two or three riders per trip, making it ideal for a wow-worthy romantic experience. The company can even lay on a once-in-a-lifetime romantic picnic for couples with champagne on a private beach. Swoon!
From Grand Anse the road climbs uphill, emerging at the coast once more beside Mahé Beach Hotel and tiny picturesque Petite Ile. Three islands now come into view, rocky Ile aux Vaches Marines, Thérèse Island and, beyond it, the most westerly point of the Seychelles’ granitic islands, Conception Island.
The coast road continues, passing the turning for the Sans Souci road to Port Glaud, and over a causeway through mangrove swamp, climbing to offer spectacular perspectives over the Port Launay Marine National Park.
The trip is a there-and-back-again drive, getting you nowhere, but certainly offers some incredible views. It comes to an end at the gates of the Marine Park Authority headquarters at Baie Ternay. Turning around, the quickest way back to the east coast is via La Misere, rather than the Sans Souci road, though the latter route through the heart of Morne Seychellois National Park is more spectacular.
It’s time to discover the other major side of the Seychelles – what, you thought it was just beaches? Here in Morne Seychellois National Park, you can take a deep dive into mountains and forest. The park represents about 20% of the area of Mahé, stretching from sea level to the summit of Morne Seychellois.
The cool, green mountains of Mahé are a refreshing contrast to the beach. There’s some excellent way-marked walks here but the easiest way to get a taste of the atmosphere is by hire car or taxi, travelling across the island from one side to the other.