The Seychelles isn’t the most obvious destination for a road trip. It’s more of a ‘find a gorgeous beach, lay on a lounger and read a book while someone brings you an endless supply of fruity cocktails’ type of place. But there’s more to the islands than just their sand and sunshine. Mahé is the biggest and most varied of the islands, and it’s where most visitors arrive. Whether you’re on a quick Seychelles stopover or flying into Mahé before heading off to Praslin or La Digue, it’s worth getting out and exploring the island. So here’s my ‘best of Mahé’ one-day driving itinerary. Car hire costs around €40 a day and the whole route is about 57 miles. It would take around three hours if you drove it straight through. But with around 20 beaches, plus viewpoints, local restaurants and a rum distillery along the way, you’ll want to take your time.
Start off in Victoria, the Seychelles’ capital – it’s home to a third of the country’s population but is still Africa’s smallest capital city. Take a walk around some of Victoria’s sights before setting off. The market is extra busy early in the morning, with fishermen selling their catch as well as fruit and vegetable stalls, local spices, crafts and souvenirs. Then there’s the Victoria Clocktower, which looks like a mini Big Ben. It’s actually a replica of the clock on Vauxhall Bridge in London which was brought over in 1903 when the Seychelles became a British colony. There’s also a cathedral, Natural History museum, colourful Hindu temple and Botanical Gardens with spice grove and mini rainforest. But this is the Seychelles, so you don’t want to spend all day in a city, so head out of Victoria and off down Mahé’s east coast.
The east coast
The east coast of Mahé is the most built-up part of the island, but once you pass the airport and Eden Island development things start to get more relaxed. Which might have something to do with the fact that this is where you’ll find the Takamaka rum distillery. It’s part of a 200-year-old estate which originally made coconut oil and distilled cinnamon and patchouli. The plantation house has been restored to its former glory and is now a restaurant and base for the distillery. If you visit at 11am or 1pm you can do a tour and tasting, otherwise take a walk around the old medicinal gardens and stock up on rum at their shop.
Further on down the coast a line of beaches run from Anse Royale through Anse Bougainville and Anse Parnel to Anse Forbans. The beaches here aren’t the best on the island – they’re a bit narrow and sometimes get seaweed washed up – but this is judging them by Seychelles standards, where even the less-good beaches come with golden sand, palm trees and clear turquoise waters. So you still find some beautiful spots, like the little bay at the far north of Anse Royale, which is separated from the main beach by a pile of perfectly positioned granite boulders that could’ve come straight from a postcard.
The west coast
The island gets narrow here so if you head inland from Anse Forbans you’ll reach the west coast in about 10 minutes. This side of the island is quieter and wilder, with beaches backed with green jungle-covered hills. You can take your pick from a whole string of amazing beaches. They’re mostly set away from the main road so you’ll need to detour and take one of the narrow winding roads down to reach them.
At the south is Anse Intendance, which has the Banyan Tree resort at one end but the other is usually deserted and good for swimming or snorkelling. Next is Anse Takamaka with the Chez Batista bar and restaurant (complete with a pen of giant tortoises) and Petite Anse which you have to go through the Four Seasons Hotel to get to. Anse Soleil is a tiny cove down a steep road with a beach café that’s a good spot for lunch. They serve a mix of Asian dishes and local seafood (or fruit bat if you’re feeling adventurous). Further north is Anse Louis, another wide, empty stretch of sand with the swanky MAIA resort at one end.
Once you get up to the edge of Port Glaud, turn inland and follow the Sans Souci road up into the mountains. The Morne Seychellois National Park covers a fifth of Mahé, with a mix of landscapes from coastal mangrove forests to thick mountainous jungle. The road zigzags its way uphill with some steep hairpin bends, so it’s not long until you start getting panoramic views back down to the west coast.
There are a few places to stop through the mountains. There’s a ruined missionary school which was built in the 1870s, and a working tea plantation where you can take a free 20-minute tour of the factory and pick up some of their teas. You also pass the starting point for a couple of Mahé’s best hikes – the trail from the tea factory up to the peak of Morne Blanc, and the route up to the Trois Frères cliffs. Both have fantastic views and take about two hours return (plus an extra hour to reach the summit of the Trois Frères). If that’s too energetic there’s a great view down onto Victoria and the east coast on the road back down.
The far north
Once you get back to the outskirts of Victoria, follow the signposts towards North Point. This takes you up the peninsula to the most northerly part of the island past the beaches at Anse Étoile and Anse Nord d’Est, a deserted stretch of sand with an abandoned hotel development at one end. The road hugs the cliff edge around Northeast and North Points, with glimpses down to little hidden coves at the foot of the cliffs.
Finish up in Beau Vallon before heading back to Victoria. Beau Vallon is Mahé’s most popular beach, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll find it packed with sunloungers. It’s a big long curve of sandy with plenty of space and a row of shady palm and takamaka trees behind. At the end of the beach there are usually vendors selling fresh coconuts and local fruit, or if you’re there on a Wednesday you can pick up takeaway curries or grilled fish at the evening market. Otherwise the Boathouse is a good option for dinner, with an open-sided restaurant which let the breeze in and a nightly Creole buffet featuring 20 different local dishes (430 rupees). Then all you need is a sunset cocktail by the beach to finish off a perfect day in Mahé.