Seychelles: Mahé

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Seychelles is an independent African nation consisting of 115 islands nearly 1000 miles off the coast of Kenya and Tanzania. 41 of the islands are made of granite, the other 74 are made up of coral. About 167 million years ago Seychelles was part of Gondwana until they, along with Antarctica, India, Madagascar, and Australia began to break away from Africa and become East Gondwana. 115-120 million years ago India and Seychelles broke apart from East Gondwana and began to drift north, until about 66 million years ago when Seychelles decided they’d had enough and a new rift separated them from India entirely, making them the old granite islands on Earth.

Seychelles was first settled by the French in the 1770s, who brought with them Indians and Africans, and before that it was mostly uninhabited. Isn’t that weird? By 1814 the French had forked it over to the British, and Seychelles declared their independence from them in 1976. The people are known as Seychellois, there are 90,000 of them, they use the Seychellois rupee, and they speak French, Creole, and English.

I’d been dreaming about Seychelles for years, from the first time I saw a photo of a granite boulder-lined beach, but I thought it’d be decades before we ever got there. Thank you, Gregory! You can fly to Seychelles from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, or Johannesburg. We flew Air Seychelles from Johannesburg in less than five hours, but because we fly standby we didn’t make any plans for once we got there. One doesn’t need a visa to get into Seychelles, but one does need proof of an ongoing flight out of there. Luckily Greg had booked us a fake flight out so we had some proof to show customs. Thank you, Gregory!

After flying in after dark we set up shop at some tables and proceeded to sweat profusely and try to find a place to stay. We had a few guesthouses in mind from the internet and a cheap guide I found on Amazon. Note to self, it’s terribly inconvenient to show up in a country after dark without a place to stay. The Victoria airport is open-air and tiny, so no places to set up our air mattresses except outside in the grass. The Warckens are cheap but we’re not that cheap. Wifi in the airport was over $7/hr so I tried sweet-talking a local girl into letting me use her phone but she would have none of it and directed me to a payphone. I called our first choice guesthouse- Georgina’s Cottage on Beau Vallon beach. A woman answered the phone, I asked for a room, she said they didn’t have any and hung up. I called back and asked again (still no), then asked if she had any other recommendations. She did, but I couldn’t understand her. We were tired and sweaty and frustrated. We broke down and bought an hour of internet. I searched Georgina’s on booking.com, our favorite hotel website. It showed one room available. I checked Georgina’s own website and it showed three rooms available. Well what the hell, I took a stab and booked the cheapest room they had (garden view, a/c, free breakfast) for three nights. Confirmed! I called Georgina back to ask for an airport pickup but she said it was too late. Meanwhile Greg went to buy us bottled water for $3 apiece and check on cab prices to Beau Vallon- $50. Greg’s head was about to explode before we ever left the airport.

We negotiated down to $40 (a ride that would later cost us less than $1 each on the bus, those cabbie crooks!) and headed out. I booked the garden view room because it was $6/night cheaper than the ocean view room, and $18 could be a nice meal out. Or three meals out at McDonald’s. Wouldn’t you know it, when we checked in we got the ocean view anyway. Spend less, sit out on your balcony listening to the waves more. Georgina’s is in Mahe’s most popular beach area, Beau Vallon, and is just across the road from the water and right next to a bus stop. Every morning we got eggs to order, toast, fresh fruit, and juice and coffee, and our room had a/c and a fan and a refrigerator and a clothes rack out on the balcony. What more could you possibly need? Turns out the water is safe to drink on Mahé and Praslin so we filled up our bladder every day and kept our water bottles circulating through the freezer so we always had frozen bottles when we left for the day. We were going to get our laundry done but they wanted over $10! I got it all washed in the sink with soap we took from the Park Inn in Johannesburg. We won’t be nickeled and dimed. We won’t.

Beau Vallon is a perfect mile-long stretch of sand facing west so it’s shaded and cool in the morning with spectacular sunsets in the evening. After the airport we were sure we were going to be blowing hundreds of dollars every day, but we packed snacks for lunch every day and every night the locals set up food stalls right off the beach where we got fresh fish, grilled chicken, rice, fries, and/or popcorn for about $8 a meal, or $4/person.

A lot of travel sites suggested we rent a car on Mahé, but bus rides are less than $0.40/person so we took the bus everywhere we needed to go. Internet is not widely available in Seychelles and even at Georgina’s it was over $5/hr, so instead of buying internet we just took the bus into Victoria to book a ferry to another island. Mahé is Seychelles main island and the most populated and we were trying to get away from all those people, so we booked a trip to Praslin, the second most populated island but a much quieter one.

Before we left Mahé we went scuba diving in Baie Ternay Marine Park which was a gorgeous setting and the water like a swimming pool. We watched dolphins from the boat and saw plenty of eels, a few rays, but only two clownfish- what the heck?

 

Mahé is beautiful but busy. We were looking forward to Praslin.

See our other days in Seychelles:

Praslin

La Digue

Anse Georgette

 

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