The Republic of Seychelles, which I had the good fortune to visit in February 2012, is a nation comprised of numerous islands far out in the middle of the Indian Ocean. This, by itself, is an intriguing enough fact. What is not mentioned in this description, however, is exactly what these islands are made of. This is NOT your typical island chain, made of up either flat atolls, volcanic rock, mangrove forests, or the like. Instead, what makes this country distinct is the unique geology of the islands themselves.
These islands are Granitic Islands, composed primarily of massive granite fragments of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. The granite is everywhere, jutting skywards from the beach, and even greeting as sheer cliff faces immediately as you exit the airport.
These islands are the only oceanic islands in the world formed of granite, and, if that wasn’t enough to pique a Geologist’s interest, they are also the world’s oldest islands. It’s the only place you can find these massive granite boulders in a tropical setting, and the rock is everywhere…in the form of massive boulders on the beach, as massive vertical cliffs, and even scattered throughout the cities themselves. The place can really only be described as a tropical Yosemite Valley.
The capital of the Seychelles, Victoria, can be found on the island of Mahé, the largest and main island in the Seychelles. It’s relatively small, as far as capital cities go, but it contains almost one third of the population of the country as a whole and is a pleasant place to take a stroll through.
A multi-ethic city, Victoria and the Seychelles as a whole are comprised of people from Africa, France, Arab countries, and Asian countries. Notably, there is a large South Asian presence as well, reflected in the large Hindu temple located in Victoria.
The picturesque Arulmigu Navasakti Vinayagar Temple in Victoria provides for a striking contrast to the tropical granite cliffs behind the city itself, and provides a place of worship for the Hindu contingent in the country.
The center of town is also the location for a large market, which was teeming with activity when I visited. In addition to a large supply of freshly caught fish, this place was packed with vegetables and other local produce, and the market stalls spilled out onto neighboring streets.
The language spoken here is a mixture of French and English known as Seychellois Creole, though both French and English are also widely understood and are official languages as well. This is a direct result of the history of the Seychelles first as a French colony, then later a British one.
Of course, one of the main reasons most tourists come to the Seychelles are for the beaches, and there are plenty of luxurious beaches lining the island of Mahé. One of the more famous of these beaches is called the Beau Vallon Beach, a very long white sand beach on the northwest side of the island.
I spent the better part of a morning and part of the afternoon walking up and down this beach, from the town of Bel Ombre, with its Anglican-looking church and palm trees, all the way down to the north end of the Bay.
The far end of the beach is littered with dark granite boulders, both big and small, providing for a fascinating contrast with the bleached white sand of the beach itself.
Indeed, the place this most reminded me of was actually the shores of Lake Tahoe back home…mainly because of the granite. The similarities end there, of course, as the pine trees and icy cold waters of Tahoe were instead replaced by palm trees and bathtub-warm waters here.
While there was some significant wave action on parts of the beach, other areas were great for swimming, and I spent a great deal of time bobbing in the waves just offshore. The waters were warm and clear, and I’m told this is also an excellent place for scuba diving.
I should also point out that the easiest way to get around the island is to drive yourself around in a rental car. In my case, I simply dropped by a rental kiosk after I arrived at the airport and rented a small beat-up stick-shift model for fifty dollars for the day. With advance notice and/or some negotiation, you can likely get yourself a better deal as well.
Word to the wise, however, roads in the Seychelles are very narrow and the buses on the island take up more than their share of the road. It can be quite intimidating to drive here, particularly if you are not used to driving on the left side of the road. But it is the fastest and easiest way to get around, and it gives you the most flexibility with your schedule.
The rest of the day I was on the island I simply drove around the coast, nearly the entire way around. Everywhere you look, there is some type of beautiful view that either involves granite mountains, beautiful buildings, or amazing beaches.
A beach of particular beauty was the Anse Royale Beach, particularly the northern part of the beach, which has large granite boulders, hidden beaches, and small island just off the coast. The reefs here keep the water in this area ideal for swimming and snorkeling, though I can tell you that it is definitely on the tourist maps as there were many more people here than I noticed on other beaches on the island.
One other amazing beach that I discovered on the island is ideal if you are looking for seclusion. It is a beach called ‘Petite Police,’ and is located near the southernmost tip of the island itself. It takes a drive to get down here, but once you do, you’ll have the place all to yourself. This is not a swimming beach, however, as there are signs warning of an undertow and strong currents.
Near the end of my day, I stopped by Anse Soleil Beach on the West side of the island to enjoy the amazing beach views here as well and to wind down from a long day of exploring.
What I didn’t realize is that on this beach I’d also get a glimpse of the large local Seychelles fruit bats, megabats that live on the island. They were all over the place near this beach, flying through the trees and munching down on the fruit. Indeed, the adventurous can even have them cooked in a curry at the nearby café here on the beach.
While I skipped the Bat Curry (to be honest, it was off the menu that day), I did have a curry dish at the Anse Soleil café that was amazing in its own right. Spicy and savory, and paired with a local ‘Seybrew’ lager, it provided the perfect end to a beautiful day in this amazing and unique place.
My top five list for visiting Mahé Island, Seychelles includes the following:
- Rent a car and drive yourself around the island if you are up for a challenge with the narrow mountain roads and stick shift driving. You get extra points if you aren’t used to driving on the left.
- Snorkel or swim in the clear calm waters of the Anse Royale Beach in the Southwest of the island.
- Walk the length of the Beau Ballon beach, scrambling over the boulders in the middle and taking in the contrast between the dark granite and white sand.
- Visit the capital city of Victoria, making sure to see the famous clock tower, the beautiful Arulmigu Navasakti Vinayagar Temple, and the bustling fish market.
- Enjoy a curry and watch the sunset from the Anse Soleil café, likely one of the world’s best beachfront cafés. Extra points if you are braze enough to sample the bat curry.