Visit Mahé Island, Seychelles
Mahé is home to 80 percent of the Seychelles’ population, although with the island’s leisurely pace, that can be difficult to believe. While it draws visitors with crescents of sugary-soft sand, this is the island for those seeking a bit of exploration. There’s the tiny capital of Victoria, botanical gardens and a hotchpotch that includes a Hindu temple, a Roman Catholic cathedral and Victorian architecture. With the country’s only international airport, this is likely to be your first port of call.
Victoria is the sort of place where many signs are still hand painted and there’s not a chain restaurant in sight. This petite capital is built around a clock tower, which was erected in memory of Queen Victoria, and looks just like a miniature Big Ben. You’ll only need a couple of hours to wander the streets, where you’ll find the old Victoria Courthouse and the 19th-century Immaculate Conception Cathedral, built in a French-colonial style.
The only Hindu temple in the Seychelles, Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar, is easy to spot, with a brightly painted tower of deities poking above its low-rise surroundings. Tucked away near the ferry terminal, you’ll also find a simple, modern mosque that serves a small community of Muslims. There’s the small but well-cared for National Museum and opposite, the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market where seafood, spices and fresh produce are sold (or stolen by opportunist egrets).
Located on the outskirts of Victoria, the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens were originally created in 1901 to test profitable crops to help boost the Seychellois’ economy. Now they focus on protecting Mahé’s ecology and you can stroll under lofty coco de mer palms as you look out for the rare Seychelles blue pigeon. There’s little signage so we recommend visiting with a guide as part of a private island tour.
Victoria is also the starting point for boat trips to Sainte Anne Marine Park, a collection of islets, atolls and jungle-capped islands off the east coast. This protected area is best visited as part of a guided catamaran cruise, hopping between Robinson-Crusoe-style islands and some of the best snorkeling spots.
One road loops around the perimeter of Mahé, although it doesn’t link up to allow you to drive a complete circle, a design that’s common in the Seychelles. This means that the further you drive from Victoria, the quieter things get. Hire a car and you can follow the beach-grazing coastal road, passing through little villages of gingerbread-style cottages decorated with flashes of bright bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers. Little roadside tables display freshly picked starfruits, mangoes or pineapples and around 4pm, you’ll begin to see fishermen selling their fresh catch.
To the south of the island you’ll find Takamaka Rum Distillery, an operation started in 2002 by two brothers using their grandfather’s spiced rum recipe. They offer a short tour and rum tasting, as well as an opportunity to buy a bottle, which is made using sugar cane grown only on Mahé.
Up in the hills nearby is the Jardin du Roi, a lavish garden created by the French spice entrepreneur Pierre Poivre. His plantation house is now a small museum and on arrival you’re given a map with instructions for a self-guided walk (although the enthusiastic gardeners are often on hand to answer questions).
Morne Seychellois National Park
The largest island in the Seychelles, Mahé’s dark, granite interior rises abruptly from the almost neon-green forest. Morne Seychellois National Park takes up around a fifth of the island, encompassing a variety of endemic ecosystems from coastal mangrove forests to the steep-sided peak of Morne Seychellois, the island’s tallest peak at 905 m (2,969 ft). A refuge for endemic species, you might spot wild vanilla orchids, the Seychelles blue pigeon or a Seychelles white eye (a bird once so rare it’s been wrongly declared extinct a few times).
Mission Lodge Lookout, originally a school for freed slaves, is now a national monument with views across the jungle-covered dips and folds that lead down to the ocean below. It’s possible to drive here, but to access the rest of the park you’re best taking a guided hike along one of the many trails.
Best time to visit
The Seychelles enjoy a year-round warm climate with temperate averaging around 28°C (82°F) in the daytime. Rainfall is relatively consistent all year, with the occasional tropical shower mid-afternoon. If you plan to snorkel, the best time to visit Mahé is October and May, when the trade winds die down as they change direction, creating particularly calm waters.
Suggested itineraries featuring Mahé Island
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Mahé Island, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Mahé Island
Places & hotels on the map
Accommodation choices for Mahé Island
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Mahé Island. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Ideas for experiencing Mahé Island
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Mahé Island, and which use the best local guides.