What to See in Seychelles
The Seychelles’ beaches compete with the best in the world. Amongst all the beaches, Anse Lazio on Praslin Island deserves a special mention. However, La Digue Island’s Anse Source D’Argent is also worth exploring.
A trip to the Seychelles is never complete without a visit to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve on Praslin Island. This park has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The unusually beautiful flora and fauna of this nature reserve draws thousands of visitors to this place as Vallée de Mai is the one and only place in the world where you will find the rare coco de mer palm. This palm produces the largest nut in the world. The place is also home to some rare birds such as the Seychelles bulbul, fruit pigeon, and the black parrot.
Aldabra Island in the outer circle of the archipelago has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a large population of giant tortoises has made the area a major tourist attraction. However, travellers who are more interested in indoor attractions, should try the Seychelles Natural History Museum and the National Museum of History.Read More
Sights of Victoria and Mahé
With very few exceptions, all visitors to the Seychelles will pass through Mahé, even if only to land and take off at the international airport. Victoria, the charmingly low-key capital, is the starting point for most excursions, and a destination in itself.
Apart from numerous idyllic beaches, Mahé's numerous attractions include many sites of historic interest, some stunning viewpoints, and studios belonging to sculptors and painters who have fallen for the Seychelles's charms, and settled down here to let their art imitate the life around them. Hikers and bikers can roam free on the island's trails, and the roads are easily navigable by car; it's very hard to get lost.
Most of Victoria's shops and main facilities are set around the distinctive clock tower (Lorloz, in Creole) which was built in 1903 to commemorate the Seychelles becoming a crown colony in its own right, separate from Mauritius. A replica of Little Ben, which marks the entrance to London's Victoria Station, it initially stood on the waterfront but, thanks to extensive land reclamation, is now some way inland.
Another colonial memento, the Sir Percy Selwyn Clarke Market, named for a popular post-war governor, is a daily hotchpotch of fresh food and flowers, and an excellent spot to pick up some souvenir spices.
Victoria's two imposing cathedrals act as a reminder of its Anglo-French heritage. Construction on the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, on Olivier Maradan Street, started in 1851, and it was renovated in 1995 when the Seychellois sculptor, Egbert Marday, fashioned the tabernacle and the carved doors. The Anglican cathedral, St Pauls, on Revolution Avenue, was originally consecrated in 1859, but completely rebuilt in 2004.
Both the Seychelles Natural History Museum (Independence Avenue) and the National Museum of History (Francis Rachel Street) make for a good half day's exploration. The splendid State House, which dates from 1913, is regrettably not open to the general public as it used as the offices of the President.
Apart from signing up for an organised tour, the best way to get about Mahé is by hired car, although the public bus service is both extensive and reliable. The past century has given nature plenty of time to improve on Frenchman Rivaltz Dupont's original design for the Botanical Gardens. They lie just to the south of Victoria, and include many plants from outside the Seychelles, as well as a pen housing giant tortoises.
In nearby Bel Air, the cemetery is the oldest historic site in Seychelles, and was opened soon after the establishment of the French settlement in the late 18th century. The cemetery's tombs, vaults and shrines contain the remains of some of the islands' most famous personalities, such as corsair Jean-Francois Hodoul, the nine-foot giant Charles Dorothée Savy - who was poisoned at the age of 14 by neighbours fearful of his height - and the mysterious Pierre-Louis Poiret, claimed by some to be the son of Louis XVI, who fled the French Revolution and took refuge in the Seychelles.
One of the island's most dramatic thoroughfares runs roughly south from Victoria, zig-zagging its way to Port Glaud. A little over half way along, Mission Lodge - once the site of a school for the children of liberated slaves - is in ruins now but affords the most magnificent views down to the coast and beyond.
There are similar panoramas to be enjoyed from the Tea Factory, a short way down the road, and visitors can also take a stroll around the tea plantation and sample its wares, which include beverages flavoured with vanilla or citronelle (lemon grass).
Mahé's second great drive runs between the two splendid beaches of Grande Anse and Anse Royale. This follows the coast for much of the way, but it's worth pausing at two adjacent nature walks, the Vacoa Trail and the Mangrove Board Walk. Neither takes much more than half an hour to explore and both are excellent opportunities to observe the island's wildlife in its natural habitat. Further on, nearing Anse à la Mouche, palm trees at the side of the road give way to granite boulders perched precariously atop each other, including one which is nicknamed Pig Rock for all too obvious reasons.
A minor detour to Santa Maria leads to the gallery and studio of former advertising executive Tom Bowers, who was seduced by the beauty of the Seychelles and settled down on Mahé to devote himself to sculpture. Most of his works are of naked Seychellois, and some are exhibited in the archipelago's public buildings.
Another celebrated artist, Michael Adams, lives and works nearby at Anse aux Poules Bleues, where - inspired by his surroundings - he paints mainly jungle scenes in vivid colours with a wealth of detail. Further on, at Baie Lazare, the Val de Mer Art Gallery showcases the work of other local artists, in particular the work of abstract painter Gerard Devoud.
Just before Anse Royale, the Jardin du Roi Spice Garden was first planted by French settlers in the 18th century, and the original cinnamon trees have since spread all over the island. The garden now encompasses long rows of vanilla vines, citronelle, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and other spices, as well as medicinal and endemic plants. One of the old homesteads has been turned into a "crêperie", and visitors can watch cinnamon quills being rolled or try their hands at pressing sugar cane, as well as stroll around the estate and feast on the view from its mountaintop.
The roads around northern Mahé are not quite as attractive as elsewhere, but still worth the trip. Slightly north of Victoria, La Bastille was originally a private home belonging to the Pillieron family, which has since passed into government hands and now houses the national heritage division of the Ministry of The Arts, Culture and Sports.
A short distance on, a sculpture set in the middle of a roundabout bears the the mildly ironic nickname of Twa Zwazo, or Three Birds; it represents the three cultures of the Seychelles - Africa, Europe and Asia. The other notable sculpture in the area is Zonm Lib, the Liberation Monument, a robust masculine figure with both arms raised high, its clenched fists freed from chains, which was unveiled in 1978.
It's not often realised that fully one fifth of Mahé is a national reserve. The Morne Seychellois Park is the largest in Seychelles and was created in 1979. It covers an area of 3,045 hectares, and is criss-crossed by a dozen different trails that can be explored on half- or full-day excursions.