Seychelles on a shoestring: Making Memories in Mahé

by Jared
 * This arricle originally appeared here in Escapes Magazine

The Seychelles’ post-card beaches and azure oceans are just under a five-hour flight from South Africa and this island holiday may be a little more affordable than you originally thought. Stepping off the plane I’m instantly embraced by a warm tropical air. A smile quickly leaps across my face as the truth sinks in – I’ve arrived on a remote island.

Hundreds of millions of years ago when the supercontinent Pangea divided into Laurasia and Gondwana, a cluster of islands were strewn across the Indian Ocean and are now an idyllic vacation destination. The Seychelles archipelago is among these, and her 115 islands often grace glossy magazines and travel bucket-lists. Mahé is the biggest of the islands and most accessible for budget travelers.

A stay at some of the exclusive resorts may set you back a small fortune, but the good news is that it’s possible to visit the country and be budget-conscious. My two visits as a thrifty traveller have taught me a couple cost-saving tricks that help make visiting the Seychelles possible.

Beach Time at Beau Vallon

Let’s face it, you’ve come to a remote island with world renowned beaches, so you’re most likely wanting to get as much sand and sun time as possible. Beau Vallon is the longest beach on the island and hosts a string of hotels and tantalizing tanning spots. On both visits I’ve stayed at the delightful Bord Mer Villas, which are quite literally a stone’s throw from the beach. The rooms are spacious, have aircon, include a full breakfast served on your private veranda, and most importantly, have kitchenettes.

Eating out is an expensive exercise on the island, so by staying in a self-catering unit you save considerably. A short walk from Bord Mer and you’ll find two grocery stores – many items are comparable to South African prices. Alcohol is however, quite pricey, so I’d advise you bring a bottle or two of your favourite vino, gin or whisky.

While the restaurants may not suit the budget, there is a daily market on the walkway behind Beau Vallon beach and is great for fresh, affordable, and safe food options. There you’ll also find a free outdoor gym with surprisingly decent equipment for those not wanting to forfeit their usual fitness regime.

Bring your own snorkeling gear along (or borrow if you don’t have) as the island is a haven for underwater exploration. From the beach you’re also able to organize a host of other activities: rent a canoe for R140, jet ski for 20 minutes at R700, water ski for R600, dive from R800 or enjoy a day’s snorkeling excursion from R1200. Most vendors are open to some courteous bargaining.

If a scenic walk to a remote beach tickles your fancy, consider the hike to Anse Major. Take the bus #20 to Bel Ombre, get off at the last stop, and follow the trail from there. It’s a roughly 5km return walk which takes in tropical forest, intriguing granite formations, and of course splendid ocean views. Remember you’re hiking in tropical heat so take plenty water. I’d advise you start the trail early in the morning when it’s cooler and also quieter.

Exploring Mahé

When you decide to explore a little further there’s no need to break the bank with transport costs. The good news is that a single bus ticket anywhere on the island costs only R7, regardless of the distance. Just plan your trip in advance and be prepared to sometimes wait a little for the service. Route information is available online at www.sptc.sc.

Another great tip is that all beaches in the Seychelles are public, even those that are located in the grounds of the luxury hotels. It may mean a bus drive and then short walk to get to them, but you can enjoy the gorgeous settings of some of the more remote hotels for free. For an extra charge most will give you access to their pools, towels and transport services around the resort. A beer may cost you anything upwards of R120 but it’ll be one of the most rewarding you’ve had.

When you venture away from the beach here are four sights worth including:

  • A visit to the Takamaka Rum distillery (free entrance, R100 for tastings)
  • Take a walk-through the Capital Victoria and stop at the Fish Market
  • Stroll through the Botanical Garden (R100 entrance fee)
  • Visit the Tea Plantation (R35 rupees for a tour and a rewarding view)

Using the services of a local tour guide, even if just for one day, is a great way to be guided around these spots and have all your questions answered by a knowledgeable local. They will offer you a host of options for your day tour. The cost including driver, fuel and hotel collections, will range between R2400 and R3400 for the 8-hour tour. Divide this among your group and its actually an affordable way of seeing more for less.

Remember to approach a guide directly – using someone recommended by a hotel is always extra. I’ve used Gilly, who is a fount of knowledge and well respected on the island. Contact him directly through WhatsApp on +2482816760 or email at roymein53@gmail.com.

If you’re longing to lap up the island lifestyle the Seychelles is waiting to impress, and I suspect much like me, she’ll have hook line and sinker, already planning your return trip.

Seychelles Travel Tips

  • Stay: 5th June Ave, Bea Vallon, +(248) 424 72 47, www.bordmer.com
  • Getting there:Air Seychelles offers a daily service to Mahé from Johannesburg – just under five hours and you’re in paradise. They also offer a service to Praslin and chartered flights to some smaller islands. Watch out for their monthly specials.
  • Health: There are no tropical diseases or vaccinations required. I would recommend using a mosquito/insect repellent at all times.
  • Currency: Seychellois Rupee. R1 = SCR0.9. Money can be exchanged at banks and ATMs are available in Mahé and Praslin.
  • Weather: The equatorial climate is around 24C to 31C annually. The best time to visit is April, May, October and November – the transition months between the two seasons. The other months may have more rain, but is still perfect for travel.
  • Visas: South African passport holders do not require a visa the Seychelles.
  • Plan your trip: www.seychelles.travel

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