One of Mahé's most beautiful beaches, this small and secluded crescent of sand on the island's south coast is a favorite surfing spot thanks to its frequent big swells and wild waves. The lack of a protective reef makes swimming a little rough when tradewinds blow from the southeast, but sunbathers, beachcombers, and photographers will enjoy this picturesque, palm-framed strand at any time of year. Turtles nest along the powdery shores here.
The pretty village of Baie Lazare was named after 18th-century French explorer Lazare Picault, who landed here when the French government sent him to explore the islands. One of the area's main tourist attractions is the neo-Gothic Baie Lazare Church, dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, which provides a panoramic view of the area. Luxury resorts fringe the beaches here, and stunning Anse Soleil and Petite Anse are favorites with their striking azure water and dazzling white sand.
The alluring curve of glittering sand at Beau Vallon, on Mahé's northwest coast, is a magnet for both tourists and locals. Looking out to sea, mountainous Silhouette Island shimmers on the horizon, and hotels fringe the shore. Visitors will find a variety of watersports on offer, including jet skis and water skiing. The sea is usually calm here, especially during the southeast tradewinds, making this a good choice for families with small children. Lifeguards patrol the beach.
Morne Seychellois National Park
The largest national park in the Seychelles, Morne Seychellois National Park covers more than 20 percent of the area of Mahé. Within its lush borders lies the mountain chain named after its highest point, Morne Seychellois, which reaches a height of 905 m and overlooks Victoria. Hiking trails ascend into the park from the village of Danzil, passing tea plantations, and offering spectacular views of the southwest coast of Mahé from the mountain slopes. Walking west through the park, hikers will reach the Baie Ternay and Port Launay Marine Parks. To the northwest lies the hamlet of Bel Ombre and the isolated beach at Anse Major.
Ste Anne National Marine Park
Encompassing six islands off the coast of Mahé near Victoria, Ste Anne National Marine Park became the first national park in the Indian Ocean in 1973. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and glass-bottom boat excursions reveal the diversity of marine life in the park's coral reefs, and visitors can explore most of the islands within the reserve. Home to a five-star resort, Ste Anne Island, is an important nesting site for hawksbill turtles. In spite of its mangroves and crocodiles, the island was the site of a 1770 French settlement, the first in the Seychelles.
On Round Island, a former leper colony, visitors can explore the ruins of the hospital, enjoy a nature walk, or dine at the Creole restaurant. Île Cachée is an important breeding site for noddies and a designated protected nature reserve. At Cerf Island, visitors can swim, snorkel, or dive along the beautiful reefs or bask on the uncrowded beaches, while privately owned Moyenne Island features nature trails, reconstructed settlers' homes, pirate graves, and a small, thatched chapel.
Named Port Victoria in honor of the British queen after her coronation, the small capital of the Seychelles is the only seaport in the country. One of the main tourist attractions is the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens. Established almost a century ago, the gardens encompass 15 acres of native and exotic plants as well as flying foxes, giant tortoises, and an orchid garden. Modern buildings of concrete and glass have sprouted up in recent years and the few remaining colonial buildings lie around Freedom Square. The most prominent historical structure is the clock tower. Erected in 1903, it was modeled on Little Ben, a small version of Big Ben in London.
Overlooking the square, St Paul's Cathedral is built on the site of the first church of the Seychelles, which was destroyed by a freak cyclone in 1862. At Rond-Point de l'Indépendance, in the centre of the city, a statue of three pairs of bird's wings symbolizes the origins of the population in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Shoppers head to Sir Selwyn Clarke Market where locals sell fish, fresh fruits, and vegetables, and the many craft shops offer souvenirs ranging from ship models to pearl jewelry. For an overview of the flora and fauna of the Seychelles, visit the Natural History Museum, which also displays a few historical artifacts.
On the northeast coast of Praslin, Anse Volbert (also known as Côte d'Or) is one of the island's most popular beaches. Warm, shallow water laps the sun-bleached sands, and coral reefs beckon just offshore. The calm waters are also safe for swimming with small children. Anse Volbert is one of the island's main resort areas and visitors will find many hotels and restaurants lining the shores.
Vallée de Mai National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vallée de Mai National Park preserves a prehistoric forest that contains at least 4,000 examples of the giant coco de mer fruit palm (unique to the Seychelles), vanilla orchids, palmiste, latanier, splayed traveler's palm, and Chinese fans. Nature lovers, birders, and photographers will enjoy exploring this reserve where the trees form an overhead canopy, and large prehistoric boulders are strewn across the forest floor. The valley is home to many species of lizards and rare birds such as the Seychelles bulbul, fruit pigeon, and the national bird of the Seychelles, the black parrot. Visitors can hike the marked nature trail. Rated an "easy" hike, it takes from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the route.
Aride Island Nature Reserve
The northernmost of the Granitic Seychelles, Aride Island Nature Reserve is the breeding ground of 18 species of seabirds, including frigate birds, red-tailed tropicbirds, and the world's largest colonies of lesser noddy and roseate terns. Nature lovers will find the highest density of lizards anywhere on earth, as well as several endemic species of flowers. Wright's gardenia, or bois citron, is unique to this island. Most hotels on Praslin Island can organize day trips to Aride, but note that the island is often closed to visitors from May through September due to rough surf.
The following photos were taken in compounds around Lusaka and Solwezi, the capital of North-Western Province.
Established in 1968, Cousin Island is a nature reserve primarily for the Seychelles warbler and the hawksbill turtle. The island lies about 2 km from Praslin Island, and birders can hike the trails to spot some of the Seychelles rare species. Residents include the Seychelles magpie robin, the Seychelles brush warbler, the Seychelles turtledove, and the wedge-tailed shearwater. The reserve also encompasses breeding grounds for lesser noddies, fairy terns, and tropicbirds.