Over 1,000 miles from the east coast of Africa the island of Mahe's jungle clad mountains rise from the Indian Ocean. With over 60 beautiful beaches and coves fringing the island, ranging from sweeping bays of white sand to hidden corners you can make your own, a densely forested interior and small towns with a unique Creole culture, there is much to explore.
Mahe may be the biggest and most populated island in the Seychelles, housing roughly 90% of the nation's 89,000 citizens, but with the majority of people living in and around the capital of Victoria in the north east of the island it is easy to escape and find your own Robinson Crusoe experience.
The joy of Mahe is the variety the island offers: yes, more beach hopping than you could possibly squeeze into a two week holiday, but also waterfalls, jungle, mountain walks and stunning viewpoints, with a whole host of activities from rock climbing to sea kayaking and scuba diving. The beaches are wonderful and many are on a par with those found on Praslin and La Digue, but if you like to mix your beach break with exploration and adventure Mahe is a delight to drive around and find your own corner.
The island is divided into east and west by the Morne Seychellois National Park, a mountain range with peaks as high as 905 metres clad in thick tropical forest. The majority of people live on the east coast, particularly between the airport and the capital city of Victoria. Along this coast the government has embarked on a program of land reclamation, with a number of projects including Eden Island, a luxury housing development and marina, and Ile Perseverence where social housing projects and the new courts of law have been built. The city of Victoria makes for a great day trip, with a botanical garden, market and various sights, but the majority of visitors will avoid this area, opting for a more remote beachfront location.
From Victoria a road rises over the hills to the west, taking travellers to the beach resort of Beau Vallon, a huge sweeping bay with calm shallow waters ideal for families, and a range of resorts and self catering accommodation at reasonable prices. From Beau Vallon the road heading north to Glacis (a small village near the north point of the island) passes a number of small but beautiful beaches with great views to Silhouette island that are often deserted. To the west of Beau Vallon it is possible to hike to the gorgeous Anse Major.
Immediately south of the airport the waters are shallow, and there are few beaches worth stopping off at until you reach Anse Royal - and this is where it starts to get really good. From Anse Royal in the south east around to Anse Louis in the south west is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with great coastal roads, hidden coves and delightful beaches to discover. While Anse Royal is a mid sized town with a school, shops, market and the odd restaurant, the rest of the south coast is made up of small settlements interspersed with forest and twisting coastal roads, as well as some of the most spectacular beaches on the island - Anse Soleil, Intendance and Takamaka - allowing you to have castaway fantasies while still being able to find an occasional corner shop to stock up on supplies.
As you head north from Anse Louis the next two bays are less interesting - Anse Bouileau is a wide, expansive bay with a number of places to eat but without the wow factor, while Grande Anse is far too rough to swim - though a pretty good surfing spot. North of Grand Anse there is a beautiful viewpoint before you reach the town of Port Glaud, a sleepy village with a nice waterfront that feels like the end of the road. Finally to the north of here lies the Constance Ephelia and Port Launay Marine Reserve, a protected area with abundant sealife offering some of the best snorkelling and diving on the island.
Mahe's beaches don't get as much press as those on Praslin or La Digue, but the island is not short of beautiful views, sweeping bays or great places to swim. In many ways the choice available and the relative anonymity are a big plus - there are so many beaches to discover that often you will find the best ones completely empty. True, the beaches immediately around the airport aren't the most inspiring, but a tour of the south or north west will quickly convince you that Mahe's beaches can be just as beautiful as its neighbours.
A few of the widest bays on the south west coast - Intendance, Takamaka and Baie Lazare - can be dangerous for swimming between June and October but are still well worth a visit, and there are plenty of smaller beaches in the area that can still be safely enjoyed during the season.
Mahe is a large island with a mountainous, forested interior and countless beaches, bays and coves to explore. It’s perfectly possible to get an airport transfer to your hotel or resort, not leave for a week and have an amazing time – but to do so would be to miss much of the charm of the island.
The feeling of discovery as you round the headland on a coastal road and get the first glimpse of another beautiful bay, or spy a viewpoint from a mountain pass down to the sea below is unbeatable, and we’d recommend to devote at least a day of your stay in Mahe to exploring and beach hopping – but there’s enough variety to keep you going for weeks.
Mahe has a great bus service that literally goes everywhere – we haven’t found a tarmacked road without a bus stop yet. It’s extremely affordable but service can be intermittent and at peak times it can be crowded.
As with everywhere in Seychelles, taxis can be fairly expensive, and not competitive when compared with the cost of a hire car for a day. Hiring your own car is our recommended way to enjoy Mahe, whether for the whole or part of your trip, and will make life much easier if self catering.
With more beaches, towns and hotels than anywhere else in the Seychelles Mahe offers plenty of choice for holidaymakers, but unless you have a specific reason to stay on the east-north east coast (from the airport to Victoria and upwards) we’d suggest finding somewhere with a more attractive coastline.
For beach hopping and seclusion we love the south of the island, with a slight preference for the coast of the south west. Here you are remote enough to get away from it all and find your own perfect corner of the island, but the bays are small and close enough to offer plenty to explore.
The north-west is stunningly beautiful and more remote than the south, but with fewer swimming beaches. This is more than made up for by the access to the mountainous interior, with stunning viewpoints and challenging hiking trails. It’s also one of the best places for snorkelling or scuba diving.
Beau Vallon may not be the most secluded area on the island, but it is still a lovely bay that is spread out enough that you’re not too aware of it being a major tourist area. The calm, safe waters make it great for children and the range of restaurants make it easier to eat outside of your hotel and stick to a budget. It’s also a good base for exploring Victoria, taking boat trips or for access to the jetty for boats to Praslin and La Digue.
If you like the idea of being near restaurants but not in town, the Glacis area offers the best of both worlds, with great views out to Silhouette, and a number of gorgeous little beaches. There’s a range of accommodation from self catering and boutique hotels to the luxury, adults only, Hilton Northolme, and Beau Vallon is less than ten minutes away by car.