My favorite thing to do in the Seychelles was doing nothing. Sitting in our villa, listening to the waves crash, or swimming in the Hilton’s infinity pool, or at a beach, or at afternoon tea, was exactly what I needed on a vacation – though something I hadn’t done on a vacation in quite a while. But we did do other things in the Seychelles which were notable, and have some observations that might be helpful for those going to the Seychelles (specifically, the island of Mahe). I’m breaking the post into two. Part 1 will cover Beau Vallon, eating in the Seychelles, and the capital of Victoria. Part 2 will discuss our excursion to the Sainte Anne Marine Park and our hike to Anse Major.
Beau Vallon and the Food
The Hilton Northolme is a five-minute drive from Beau Vallon beach, the most popular tourist beach of Mahe. Having heard this, I expected to see hundreds of people lining the beach, but that’s not so. We didn’t actually spend time on the beach, but drove past it a lot. There are a number of shops renting equipment on the beach, and a number of restaurants right on the beach. It’s pretty low-key, but definitely picturesque.
We checked out one of the restaurants on Beau Vallon, La Fontaine, our first night in town, when we wanted a low-key inexpensive dinner. As reported on Tripadvisor, the service was glacial and food unimpressive for its cost. It was mostly pizzas, and some fish and chicken. It came to about $25 a person with no drinks or appetizers. Next door was a more well-reviewed place, the Boathouse, a seafood buffet. While there certainly is fresh seafood in the Seychelles, a seafood buffet didn’t excite us, particularly at about $50 a person. (Note neither of these restaurants were air conditioned – both were open air.)
There are a number of other smaller fine restaurants near Beau Vallon though, in addition to many affiliated with the various large hotels in the area. We had the chance to dine at one, La Perle Noire, one night, and really enjoyed it. It was only a little more expensive than La Fontaine, and had fresh fish and vegetables, with a French flavor. We lucked out and didn’t have to wait long, even though we didn’t have reservations. Alas, we were seated outside, which didn’t have much of a view and had a ton of humidity. The food wasn’t spectacular, but solid — we didn’t find spectacular food anywhere in the Seychelles.
There are a number of small convenience store-type markets on the main road that runs around the island, and they have drinks and snacks, as well as meat, dairy, and fresh bread. There’s a huge supermarket in Victoria, the Seychelles Trading Company, as well as a smaller British supermarket.
On our last night, despite my trepidation about riding the roads of Mahe in the dark, we decided to head back to Victoria for dinner. We went to Marie Antoinette, a huge restaurant on the main road just outside of town. The menu is a set family style menu of a bunch of traditional Seychellois Creole dishes. The restaurant was empty, but the service was very friendly and promptly, as we sat in the open-air garden. The courses varied in tastiness, and included eggplant fritters, fried parrot fish, grilled fish, chicken curry, fish stew, and rice and vegetables. It was a ton of food for the price – under $30 a person – and was definitely the most interesting meal we had in the Seychelles. Also to note, there are chickens kept in coops in the parking lot, so if you don’t like seeing where your food comes from, be forewarned.
I had been hoping for cheap roadside fresh fish and curries, or markets a la Malaysia, but alas, the Seychelles is not that kind of place. Food wasn’t impressive, and prices were high (and confusing, as some places included VAT and service charges in their prices, and some didn’t). In all, the Seychelles isn’t on my list of foodie destinations, but I’m sure if you had an unlimited budget you could find some delicious places.
The capital of – and only real town in – the Seychelles is Victoria. I had expected downtown Victoria to be a bit more like George Town, the capital of Penang in Malaysia, which I visited last winter, but in retrospect, that was a silly expectation, as George Town has a population of 740,000 and Victoria has a population of about 25,000. Basically, the entire “downtown” of Victoria is about four blocks.
We had hoped to go to the market in Victoria and do some souvenir shopping, but we misjudged the time, and hadn’t realized that pretty much the entire city shuts down at 4pm. And we got there around 3:30. Whoops. We had a mediocre late lunch that allowed some decent people-watching, though, and wandered the few blocks, peeking into the closed shops, hitting a supermarket, and visiting one insanely overpriced souvenir shop, where my boyfriend learned that there is no bargaining.
One thing that was interesting and annoying about Victoria was the parking situation. There are a few lots and some street parking that requires buying a parking pass, at a rate of about fifty cents for 30 minutes. Not expensive, but you have to go to a store to buy the pass. Once you get the pass, you punch out holes to make it valid. Want to park for an hour? Buy two passes. Unfortunately, you need passes til 5pm, but, as we learned, it’s hard to find some place to buy them after 4! Thankfully, we did not get ticketed after our pass ran out.
There are some museums and a botanical garden in and around Victoria, but we didn’t check them out. It might be worth spending a morning there if you’re on Mahe, though – just make sure you see everything by 3:30.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll describe our interactions with nature in the Seychelles.