Magical Mahe will take your breath away
If you thought Seychelles was all about lazy days on gorgeous sun-soaked beaches you were right. But there's so much more to this group of islands. Hop on a five-hour flight from Johannesburg to Mahe, the largest of the 155 named islands that make up the Indian Ocean island and prepare to be dazzled.
Traditional Creole cooking is slightly spicy and takes full advantage of the fantastic variety of seafood on offer. Picture: Lou-Anne Daniels
Travel light as the weather is always good and you really only need a couple bathing suits, a cover up, some comfy sandals and loads of sunscreen.
From the moment you land at the airport you are transported to a different way of life. One where time means very little except for the switch from hot days on the beach to warm nights at beachfront bars and restaurants. Each island has its own unique heartbeat with the musical sound of the Creole language and the friendly smiles of the locals being the unifier.
An added bonus is that a short ferry ride from Victoria Harbour will take you to Praslin or La Digue. Both islands are hugely popular with tourists and have a number of attractions that guarantee you'll never get bored.
I'm a lazy traveller and usually take every opportunity to veg out on a lounger at the pool or spend long hours over lunches and dinners, but this trip was very, very different. Every day was spent exploring the many historic and cultural sights on offer.
One of the highlights was definitely the Domaine De Val Des Près craft village, a collection of perfectly preserved buildings showcasing early Seychellois architecture.
The plantation house, Gran Kaz, dates back to roughly the 1870s and there's even an example of a fully functional servants' home within calling distance. Painted a stately blue with white trim on the wrap-around porches and bannisters, Gran Kaz has a rich history which is artfully shared through the well laid out exhibits throughout the mansion. Photographs, period furniture and knick knacks take visitors back to the early settler days. There is also a gift shop made completely from coconut products nestled among adult coconut palms.
A quick stop at Victoria Market to stock up on souvenirs and crafts left me dizzy with the mix of smells, sounds and colour. Fresh fish, vegetables, fruit and spices vie for space alongside beautifully crafted pearl jewellery and bowls fashioned from coconut shells and inlaid with mother of pearl.
Then off to Beau Vallon Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The sand is dazzling white and powder soft and the clear blue water is refreshingly cool. The huge granite rocks form a spectacular backdrop if you're thinking about sharing your holiday pictures on Instagram. Best of all, if you've worked up an appetite after a busy morning of sight-seeing there are scores of really good restaurants serving seafood and traditional Creole cuisine a stone's throw from the beach.
Of course, there's tons of water sports on offer and Seychelles has some of the world's most breathtaking coral reefs, so do make time to go snorkelling or take a ride on a glass-bottomed boat.
At night there's a number of restaurants and bars that offer live Creole music and some of the bigger hotels have discos where you can dance off the kilos you've gained overindulging in the fabulous food. There's definitely no shortage of entertainment but you'll probably be too tired from a full day's sightseeing.
I didn't make it to the magnificent churches and temples on the island this time, but hopefully I'll be going back for the Creole festival in October and will have a chance to take in some of the places I missed.
Worried about your budget?
The good news is that the exchange rate is roughly R1,04 to 1 SCR (Seychellois Rupee) and an average main course will cost you around R120. Portions are usually huge so make sure you're hungry. Wash it down with a local beer. Seychellois beer is somewhat lighter than the South African brands so you can have more than one if you like.
If you're looking to stay a bit longer and want to make your money go further why not book into one of the hundreds of self-catering holiday apartments on offer? Most are really comfortable and spacious and usually within walking distance of one of the beaches. They are considerably cheaper than hotels and offer guests a more intimate, homely stay without compromising on service.
Whether you choose a luxury hotel stay or a self-catering apartment, you're going to love Mahe.
* Pictures courtesy of Kojo Bentum-Williams of Voyages Afriq