For most of us, the Seychelles always has this special exotic feel to it. I went to Mauritius many years ago and always wanted to see the Seychelles as well – the same great ingredients are there: a warm tropical climate, a small volcanic island and French-inspired culture known to infuse 'savoir-vivre'.
So I was excited for my trip!
I had used 18,336 Etihad Guest miles (partially transferred from Starwood) to pay for the one-way ticket. That's a lot of miles for a short Economy class flight, but at least there were no fuel surcharges. Regular tickets were in the $400 range, so it was still 'good value'.
The Seychelles are a group of 155 islands, but only a few are inhabited. The main island is Mahe with its international airport and a road that circles the coast. However, it is small; the road is in a bad shape, but you can still drive around most of the island in under two hours!
There are just 90,000 people on the island (excluding tourists) and the islands' main source of revenue is tourism. However, somehow the locals seem at odds with all the tourists.
Immigration at Mahe Airport had lots of questions for me and would not let me pass without proof of a confirmed return ticket (showing a major credit card would be no help) and confirmation of my hotel booking. The customs agent was also deeply suspicious of my stay on the island. Many travelers have this experience in the Seychelles, but it seem 'insane' for a nation so dependent on tourism. I just can't imagine that a lot of American passport-holders overstay their free 30-day visa.
I found an indifferent and somewhat suspicious attitude to persist in my (limited) interactions with the locals. I was hoping for a vibrant, African-inspired island of happy people. Well, that is not what the Seychelles seemed to me on this short trip.
The island of Mahe is mountainous with just a small strip of flat land along the shore, so real estate comes at a premium.
There are many picture-perfect beaches with very few locals or tourists all along the island. During my stay, the low tide coincided with daytime, so most beaches were not swimmable since the water was too shallow and the coral too high up to enjoy the waters. In fact, I never made it into the ocean in two days!
The best beach is at Beau Vallon – a very scenic, wide and sandy beach – and it seemed swimmable even at low tide.
The western coast is more deserted and has the best views, but with a car you can see the whole island in a day (or two).
The main city on the island is called Victoria and it has a couple of city blocks that qualify as a city center with a busy market. There's also a lovely church and a number of historic buildings.
I wrote a separate post about renting and driving a car in the Seychelles. It's a great way to explore the island, but it is a hassle and a safety hazard.
In summary, the Seychelles are as pretty as I imagined and the scenic views are spectacular!
I was also hoping for a relaxed and vibrant island culture – that proved a disappointment for the short term visitor to experience (I'm sure if you stay longer you can find it).