Dan and I travel every US Thanksgiving, mainly because its quiet and we get two days off of work without taking any vacation. This year we traveled to the Seychelles (after 3 nights in Abu Dhabi) to explore more of the Indian Ocean (after going to the Maldives two Thanksgivings ago). We loved our time in the Seychelles, but due to the time it takes to get to the Seychelles, would probably reserve another visit for when we have longer to explore the surrounding area. This is my review of what we did and where we stayed during our week on the Seychelles!
THE SEYCHELLES ISLANDS
The Seychelles (pronounced like the plural of a “seashell” found on the beach) are are group of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, directly east of Tanzania and north of Reunion and Mauritius (and along with Comoros, Madagascar, and Mayotte, referred to as the Vanilla Islands). The Seychelles is its own country that is a part of the continent of Africa. Prior to gaining its independence, the Seychelles were occupied by both the French and the British. As a result, most people speak English, French, and the local Seychellois language. Here is a map of the Seychelles’ location – kind of in the middle of nowhere in the best way possible.
Well known for tourism, the Seychelles are home to gorgeous beaches, coral reefs, nature reserves, and the huge and sweet Aldabra tortoises. Most tourists stick to Mahé island, the main island, or nearby Praslin or La Dingue, but there are many others to explore if you have the time. Due to our limited time, we stuck to Mahé and honestly could have easily spent two weeks on Mahé. Now I need to go back!
HOW TO GET TO THE SEYCHELLES
As you can guess, the Seychelles are not exactly easy to get to, especially if you live in North America. The main international airport is on Mahé island and offers a number of flights to Africa, Europe and the Middle East. For those coming from North America, it is common to transit through the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Qatar) or via Kenya or Tanzania. We also met several people flying via Cape Town, South Africa (one of our favorite cities!).
We flew from New York’s JFK direct to Abu Dhabi on Etihad, stayed in Abu Dhabi for a few days, and then flew from Abu Dhabi to Mahé on Etihad. The flight to the Seychelles took about 4.5 hours from Abu Dhabi, directly south. Returning, we arrived at 9:00 PM in Abu Dhabi, stayed the night inside the Abu Dhabi airport, and flew out the next morning around 10:00 AM. This was actually quite easy.
WHERE WE STAYED ON THE SEYCHELLES
We stayed at the Mango House, an LXR property by Hilton, for the entirety of our stay in the Seychelles. The Mango House is located in the west of Mahé island, a bit south of the middle of Mahé, about 25 minutes drive from the airport. I’ll be writing a whole post on the Mango House, but in sum, it was a lovely resort but very secluded from anything else on Mahé. If you like to walk and explore local culture, ensure that your lodging is within walking distance of a town or rent a car. Taxis are expensive.
Aside from the Mango House, there are many, many hotel properties in the Seychelles, ranging from super upscale to basic apartment rentals. All beaches in the Seychelles are free to everyone, so as long as you are near a beach, you are good. Hilton has at least two other properties in the Seychelles, and I would love to go back and explore both of those. The Mango House was brand new during our stay and the buzz surrounding it swayed us to the Mango House over other Hilton properties in the Seychelles. It was a grand choice but not as swanky as some of the Conrad properties at which we have stayed.
WHAT WE DID ON THE SEYCHELLES
Most of our time was honestly spent relaxing at the beach at the Mango House. The Indian Ocean in that area is stunning and the swimming and lounging was fantastic. We did manage to get out a bit, and here’s what we did on our outings!
Tour of Victoria, the tiny capital of the Seychelles. Victoria is the small capital of the Seychelles, and loving cities, I had to explore Victoria. However, spoiler alert, there is not that much to see in Victoria. In fact, the best thing to do in Victoria is to pick up alcohol and snacks to take back to your hotel. Aside from that, one main site is Victoria’s clocktower. This clocktower was installed in 1903 in memory of Queen Victoria and its an exact replica of the clock at the entrance of the Victoria Station on Vauxhall Bridge Road in London (erected in 1892 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee). While it has a good story, the clock tower is just meh and takes about 2 minutes to see. A second cool site is the Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple, which is the Seychelles’ only Hindu temple and some say one of the prettiest in the world (I haven’t seen that many so I cannot comment here). Built in 1992, tourists can enter the temple and peek around. I wouldn’t allow long for the temple – maybe 15 minutes if its open when you visit (odd hours, see below). Finally, Victoria’s most well-known site is the Sir Selwyn-Clarke Market (keep reading for more info on this). All of these sites are within a 5 – 10 minute flat walk of each other, passing by many food and drink stores to pick up those alcohol and snacks for your hotel. It’s easy to pick up groceries in Victoria and see all of its sights in an hour or two.
Sir Selwyn-Clarke Market. The Sir Selwyn-Clarke Market is probably Victoria’s most famous site. Built in 1840 in an early-Victorian style and renovated in 1999, the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market is the Seychelles’ main market selling all sorts of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish on the first floor. As with most real markets, arrive early for the most activity. The second floor of the market houses tourist-oriented businesses selling souvenirs and tourist trinkets. Most places took credit card, but I suggest brining cash. Be sure to go during the day – the market closes down around 3:00 PM or 4:00 PM.
Domaine de Val des Près (aka the Seychellois Cultural Village). Domaine de val des Près is a re-created/preserved “traditional Creole village” in style of the colonial era of 18th – 19th century. The main draw for me to the Domaine de Val des Près are the 12 small buildings surrounding the main house, each housing its own shop selling locally made goods! I got some good finds and could have spent much longer here shopping. Definitely go here for any and all souvenir shopping. Much better than Victoria’s market or anywhere else that I saw.
Moyenne Island and Snorkeling. We took a day trip to Moyenne Island from the Mango House. Moyenne Island is a small island that is part of the Sainte Anne Marine National Park. It’s also a flora and fauna reserve and home to the Seychelles’ Aldabra giant tortoises. We spent a couple hours on the island exploring, swimming and having lunch. To and from, we stopped for snorkeling three times in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park. If you are interested in something similar, I recommend a tour, as this would be difficult to recreate on your own. I linked our tour company below, but we saw several out doing the same tour.
Takamaka Rum Distillery. One of our favorite activities that we did in the Seychelles was visiting the Takamaka Rum Distillery! Takamaka is a local rum distillery that offers an excellent tour and tasting, as well as a cocktail bar on premises. We had such a great time that we went back a second day. I’ll be writing a separate post on Takamaka because we loved it that much! Definitely put this on your list. The tour is free and the tasting is extra (but still reasonable for a very generous tasting).
Hiking Copolia. Another day we hiked Copolia, which is a peak 488 meters above sea level. Rather than “medium” difficulty as described, this is a difficult trail with lots of straight up hiking. The views at the top were certainly worth it, but Copolia was a bit more difficult than we were lead to believe, LOL. En route, our guide showed us lots of local flora and fauna and some cool birds and insects. A guide is not necessary for the hike, but having one was definitely helpful for us. The hike takes about 3 hours to complete roundtrip, including photographs at the top.
WHAT WE MISSED ON THE SEYCHELLES
Ah, I didn’t realize how much there is to do in the Seychelles! We missed the entire north of Mahé, which has another Hilton property and, according to guide books, some of the best beaches. We also missed visiting Mahé’s neighboring islands Praslin and La Dingue. I’m sure there is more that we missed, but these were the big things I want to go back and explore.
HOW LONG TO STAY ON THE SEYCHELLES
Honestly, I would stay as long as you can. There is a lot to explore and we only saw a small bit over the course of a week. That being said, the Seychelles are expensive if staying in a Western resort, so long visits should be planned accordingly. Also, many people only visit for a few days en route elsewhere. If this is all you have, I say go for it, but stay on the main island and don’t plan too much.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR VISITING THE SEYCHELLES
Here are some of my suggestions for those planning a vacation to the Seychelles:
- Taxis are expensive. If you don’t rent a car, try to speak to a local and arrange a private transfer. Yes, there is some risk here, but we had no issue. In fact, this method of getting around seemed quite amongst other guests. We spoke to some employees of our hotel and worked out some deals.
- The Seychellois Rupee is the local currency. And let me tell you, it’s a gorgeous currency. Take some out at the airport as ATMs are not that easy to find, but most places we visited accepted credit card.
- If you are a drinker, buy booze at the airport or in Victoria at a normal liquor store. This is much, much cheaper than drinking on a resort. We brought some over from the Abu Dhabi duty free. That being said, it’s nowhere near as expensive as the Maldives or Bora Bora.
- We felt very safe on the Seychelles.
- Local souvenirs are oddly difficult to find, especially quality ones. If you want souvenirs, buy when you see it. The Cultural Village is a great option for souvenirs (credit card accepted)!
- Bring sunscreen with you. You can find it easily in Victoria and other towns, but many hotels are a very pricey drive from the nearest town.
- The Seychelles have only two seasons – wet (November – March) and dry (April – October). We went in late November and the weather was fine, although it did rain for about an hour every day.
- If you venture out to the public beaches, follow locals lead. Weather can make the beaches dangerous – red flags went up several times during our stay (meaning no swimming allowed).
- Nearly everyone in the tourism industry speaks English, and usually a few other languages. At our hotel, staff spoke English, French, German, and Russian fluently (and possibly others).
- Book spa treatments and day tours as soon as you arrive, as they do book up. I tried to book in advance and it was really difficult to find information to book tours online. We obtained information when we arrived at the Mango House and asked, but by that point some days we wanted were already booked. It worked out, but book in advance to avoid disappointment.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Mango House: Anse Aux Poules Bleues Baie Lazare Victoria Mahé, Seychelles. We stayed here for six nights. The Mango House is an LXR Hilton property.
Takamaka Rum Distillery: Pointe Au Sel, Seychelles. Open 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM, later on Fridays. Closed Saturday and Sunday, but sometimes events are hosted on the weekend (like a market). Free tours at 11:00, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM. Tasting after tour extra.
Domaine de Val des Près: Seychellois cultural heritage village with excellent local shopping. Parking on site. Credit card accepted.
Victoria Clocktower: Always open.
Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple: Open 6 AM – 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM. Closed Sunday.
Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market: Market St, Victoria, Seychelles. Open Monday – Friday 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM, only until 1:00 PM on Saturday. Closed Sunday. Go early for the most lively market.
Snorkeling and Moyenne Island: We did the Starfish tour with Creole Travel Services, which included a catamaran ride, snorkeling, and a tour and lunch on Moyenne Island.
Copolia hike: We also did this tour with Creole Travel Services. To be clear, it was difficult.
ON A BUDGET
The best way to do the Seychelles on a budget is to stay away from Western hotels and stay and eat local. Local restaurants are not expensive and serve good food, mostly fresh seafood. A bus systems runs throughout Mahé and all the locals take it. Had we had more time, we definitely would have tried the bus rather than taking pricey taxis.