The gem of Indian ocean: Mahe island, Seychelles

I still remember Miss World contest in 1998, when everyone was staring at gorgeous women, striving for peace on Earth, while my eyes were glued on those magnificent rounded rocks, white sandy beaches and crystal clear ocean in behind. Since then Seychelles had been somewhere on my mind but yet far enough to be saved for this special occasion. Meanwhile I was lucky enough to visit Dominican Republic, Cuba, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, Maldives and some other beautiful beach destinations, but when looking back it seems to me those were only small steps to reach the “grand finale”. Don’t get me wrong – all previously mentioned destinations are fantastic and I know there are many more ocean pearls to be discovered, but one thing is for sure: Seychelles were more than worth waiting for.

Mahe beach Seychelles

When planning to visit Seychelles, keep 2 things in mind. One is that you have to go there with someone you love, otherwise you might regret it. The islands are relatively small and unless you are loaded with money to go island hopping or pamper yourself in resort spas, you could get bored. Or at least fight with your significant other. Which brings us to the second one: Seychelles are relatively expensive. If you aren’t concerned about the money, then you can pick just about any resort on the beach and I am sure you won’t be disappointed. However, I am not here to discourage you. I am here to tell you there is another, more affordable way to visit and discover these beautiful islands.

A short introduction

The Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands which lies in the Indian Ocean. Although it is located north from Mauritius, which means flights from Europe to Seychelles are about one hour shorter, Mauritius is far more popular tourist destination (probably because of its size and more affordable prices). The majority of the islands are uninhabited and the total population is just a bit over 90.000. Almost 90% of people live in Mahe, Seychelles’ largest island, with the capital Victoria. Mahe, Praslin and La Digue are 3 main islands for tourists, beach lovers and honeymooners.

The climate is tourist friendly year-round, although the islands are quite humid. Temperatures vary from 24°C (the “coolest” months are July and August) to 31°C in the hottest months (March and April). The most pleasant time to visit Seychelles is supposed to be from May to November, however this depends on how much you can stand the humidity and the heat. If you ask me now, I would go back there at any time of the year.

Mahe beach Seychelles yoga

Mahe Island

We visited Mahe in January 2015 for 8 days. It was a special occasion and my boyfriend’s turn to pick the destination. (muahahahaha) He wanted to go to Mauritius and to be honest, it was not easy to convince him. Small island with “nothing much to do” vs. large tourist friendly island with numerous options to discover its nature and culture. So there I was, wondering whether he will be bored in one of the most romantic destinations on my TO DO list. As usually I did my homework and I convinced him with a cunning plan: the island was just big enough to rent a car and move around the island, spending 4 nights on the West coast and 4 on the East. Like he could say no, right? 😉

I wanted to be flexible with travel dates, budget and discovering the island, so agency arrangement was not an option. I booked a flight from Ljubljana through Munich and Dubai and for the first 4 days I rented a nice cozy bungalow on the West coast, near Beau Vallon beach. If you are looking for a budget friendly option and you are not so picky in staying directly on the beach, then I can highly recommend Daniella’s Bungalows. The owner Daniela is a very warm and friendly person, she welcomes you every morning on the terrace where they serve breakfast but otherwise she minds her own business. There is actually a nice beach just across the street, while more famous Beau Vallon beach is about a mile away. If you have your own car, I suggest you drive there, because you might wanna get some groceries from the local supermarket there.

Bar Beau Vallon Seychelles

Beach wonderland

Beau Vallon beach is about 4 km long white sandy beach in north-west coast and it is the most populated beach on the island. Which also means it is the most “crowded” one (crowded in Seychelles means that perhaps you’ll have to wait for a while to make that perfect beach shot with no one on it) with quite a few bars and restaurants. The rule the further you go from the beach the less you pay applies here as well. Which doesn’t necessary mean that you’ll get lower quality. In fact, everywhere we ate in Mahe, the food was absolutely delicious.

While Beau Vallon beach reminds more or less of other “popular” beaches, the further you go the more astonishing it gets. If you take the North Coast Road you will reach the first hidden gem – the Sunset beach. Actually we discovered it by pure coincidence, while being stopped over by a police officer. It was just a routine check of the documents and while my boyfriend was entertaining the cops, my eyes noticed a nice place to park for our first photo session. It seemed like we hit the jackpot. The Sunset beach was completely empty and the morning sun shining on the crystal clear turquoise water made the scenery absolutely breathtaking. I never thought I would be so happy to be pulled over for police control 🙂

Sunset Beach Mahe Seychelles

Following the North Coast Road there are some small beaches, also worth stopping at. In fact, almost everywhere you stop your car on Mahe coast you can get a glimpse of either magnificent granite stones or a piece of sandy beach, guarded by palm trees and other tropical vegetation.

Seychelles capital: Victoria

The capital Victoria lies in the North-East coast of Mahe. You can hardly call it a city, especially when you discover that most of the places like tourist offices, banks, supermarkets and convenient stores close at 4 pm. Downtown of Victoria is very cute, with the Clock tower in the crossing of Independence Ave and Albert Street. I found it kind of funny to see a Hindu temple rising above the capital. Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple is within the walking distance from the center. We didn’t go there – in fact we didn’t spend much time in Victoria because we thought it was a waste of time. I mean who goes to Seychelles for shopping, right?

East Coast

The second part of our vacation we stayed in Dorado Villa, which is owned by a Russian lady. It is very stylish, I loved the accommodation and the architecture. The villa has its own garden where they serve breakfast and direct beach access. I have to admit the beach is nothing special, but the location is pretty convenient, so I definitely recommend staying there if you are on a “Mahe roadtrip”. If you are lucky you can save a baby turtle, like I did. <3

Saving baby turtle Mahe Seychelles

Just a mile south from the villa lies Anse Royale bay with gorgeous white sandy beach and the coast is amazing all the way to the south – as far as you can go with the car. Unfortunately there are no paved roads to reach the ultimate south point (or at least we didn’t find any) and it was too hot for us to explore it by foot. The South Coast Road actually takes you back to the West through some very narrow roads and blind turns so be slow and careful. In fact, this is what I should have mentioned in the beginning – when you rent a car be sure to rent the smallest one available. The roads are ridiculously narrow and meeting a larger vehicle can easily cause you a headache.

South West Coast

When you drive towards the West coast make sure you turn left (south) to Intendance road which will take you to Anse Intendance bay. No words can describe the beauty of the beach that is hidden between the banyan trees. It is a part of Banyan Tree resort, however it is relatively wide so you shouldn’t have any problem finding your own place in this small part of heaven. Just one click on Google map and no words are needed.

Anse Intendance beach Mahe Seychelles

West coast and Sauzier Waterfall

Heading along West Coast Road up North there is a lovely restaurant in Anse L’Islette bay. I usually don’t recommend restaurants and bars, but Delplace restaurant deserves a place in my blog because of 2 things: one is the ambient as the restaurant is located on the beach, overlooking small islands which seem reachable across the sea on foot because the crystal clear water looks so shallow. And secondly, the place is a good starting point towards Sauzier Waterfall. WHICH. IS. A. MUST.

As soon as we left the restaurant we were approached by a local boy trying to convince us that he knew the only road which will take us to a very nice waterfall. He claimed that the usual road is closed due to some construction, so he took us through some private property (where we had to pay about 10 dollars to the owner for “trespassing”) inside the forest where we did about 10 minutes’ hike to reach a small lagoon. The scenery, in the middle of nowhere, looked so pure and innocent… it was amazing. The waterfall itself was nothing special (we have many gorgeous waterfalls in Slovenia), however the dark color of the lagoon was so mysterious – on one hand scary because you never know what lies beneath and on the other hand so tempting to swim in, especially of the heat and humidity in the forest. Trust me and take the swim!

Sauzier Waterfall Seychelles Mahe

To sum up

Mahe island is just big enough for you not to get bored if you are a beach lover and want to do some sightseeing as well. If you are there on honeymoon and freshly in love, I guess you don’t need to wander around, however if you want to experience the island on your own I recommend renting a car, preferably online so you don’t risk staying carless when you get there. We had read there were a lot of thefts going on around the island so we always made sure we didn’t carry any valuable things with us. But all in all I believe Seychelles are a safe destination, even shark attacks happen very rarely (evil smiley).

While I was writing this review I used Google maps to remember places I loved the most. The feelings when looking at those lovely beaches and special spots can hardly be described. The only thing I regret when looking back is that I didn’t take more time to enjoy those special moments. When you sit alone in the white sandy beach and watch the amazing colors of the ocean. I will do it next time. This is a promise to myself.

Hand stand, Mahe beach, Seychellesp.s. You can check some other photos on my Facebook page in the album Mahe, Seychelles. Enjoy! 😉

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Booking a flight

A lot of people are still convinced that booking a flight is something you should entrust to an agent because it is supposed to be too complicated to manage by yourself, especially if you are not a frequent traveler. I am not writing this post to convince you of the opposite. I just want to help those of you who have never done it before and want a few more answers before making the final click. And hopefully to save you some money, of course.

Choosing your final destination and airport

Obviously you know where you are going, however you might want to check if there are more airports in your final destination. For example New York has several airports in vicinity of Manhattan, and JFK isn’t necessary your cheapest choice. Usually all airports provide some kind of public transport to “major” cities so you might want to consider this combination if the price difference in flight tickets is substantial. After all, you will pay over 50 $ plus tolls and tip for a taxi from JFK to Manhattan (one way). So do the math, especially if you are not traveling alone.

Furthermore, if you are planning to rent a car and go for a road trip, it is sometimes useless to take the same road back, if you can drop off your car in another city and depart home from there. In this case you can chose “multi-city” option in flight search engines and there is a pretty big chance you will pay the same or similar price as if you took a roundtrip. This advice isn’t so much for saving the money, as it is to save you some time. If you are driving miles and miles through some deserted areas or endless highways, you will appreciate not having to go back the same way just to return the car. Plus, you can return your car earlier and save the day’s rent and the gas 😉

On the other hand you should consider departing from the airport closest to your home**, because you might be dead tired after on overnight and/or long distance return flight. Driving back home from the airport can be exhausting and very dangerous. (Trust me, this is not my mom speaking). Also, you need to pay a parking fee, tolls, gas… so again, do the math.

Booking a flight

Checking different search engines

I usually find the best deals on Expedia and since they offer “Best price Guarantee” you have pretty much nothing to lose if you find a cheaper ticket within the next 24 hours. However, to match the offer you have to be careful and compare the exact airline, flight, timings and fees. To be sure, check their Best Price Guarantee policy. You also have an option of cancelling your flight within 24 hours with a refund, in case you change your mind or find a cheaper flight which doesn’t match the “best price” criteria. This cancellation option can come very handy if you want to double check later whether you made any mistakes (dates, number of persons…) after hours of research. Been there done that 🙂

However, Expedia works in USD currency so with Euro getting weaker you might get better offers on “European” search engines. Furthermore, they sometimes don’t get the same flight options in their search range. So my second choice to compare flight prices is Skyscanner. This search engine “scans” ticket agents’ web sites and offers you the best options. The difference here is that you don’t pay to Skyscanner as you do with Expedia, but to the ticket agent (Travelgenio, BugetAir, Airticket24, etc.). Theoretically Skyscanner can also lead you to Expedia, however that rarely happens because of different airlines and flight range.

After checking Expedia and Skyscanner I am usually convinced I got the best deal but just to make sure, I check Edreams (similar to Expedia, but European) and Vayama as well. However, in the end it usually turns out that you have to pay Mastercard or some other fee. That’s why I love Expedia: no hidden surprises.

Checking different flight days

If you are flexible for a couple of days, I highly recommend you to browse different departure and arrival dates. Usually flights which don’t last over weekends are considered as “business trips” and are much more expensive – so make sure your search includes at least one Saturday or even Sunday. Also, there are some low budget airlines which offer flights only 2 or 3 times per week. For example Aegean Airlines fly from Ljubljana* to Athens on certain days and on those days prices can be 50€ cheaper (sometimes even more), not to mention you get a direct flight instead of connecting via Belgrade (which is usually the case). Similar case is Flydubai which flies from Zagreb to Dubai directly 3 times per week.

Choosing the right time to book

It is hard to be smart in this chapter but so far booking a flight as early as possible has always turned out to be the best decision for me. Especially with low budget airlines like EasyJet or Ryanair. Unlike the hotels, flight companies hardly ever release those “last minute” deals to fill in the seats. They prefer to fly the plane half empty. As an economist, I will never understand why, but I am sure there is some “powerful” explanation behind this. If anyone who reads this knows what the catch is, please enlighten us and I will add your comment here 🙂

What is more important: don’t be scared when you refresh your search the next day and see the prices have gone up. This is usually the trick search engines use to scare you – so you would panic to lose those “last seats” and pay right away. They can do this thanks to the cookies, which remember your last search and offer you higher prices when you return back the next day. I suggest you search the flights on another computer or come back in a day or two. Somehow deleting the cookies or browsing in private with incognito mode never works with me.

At last but not the least: do pay attention to those “only 4 seats at this price” remark – it is usually true. Search engines either have limited number of favorable seats, or the flight might actually fill the seats due to popular flight route on busy dates. The problem is that you can’t always access the seat schedule to estimate how many are still available.  In this case I usually risk and wait for a day or two, to see if they would really sell out. If they don’t, I just might get lucky and find a better offer. If they do, well… at least I only have myself to blame, right? 😉

Joining the loyalty program

If you are planning to travel a lot, then you might consider joining the loyalty program, where you collect flight miles. Almost all airlines (except for low budget ones) are a part of some kind of alliance where you can earn benefits with traveling. The catch is that you have to collect miles with the same airline to earn bonus flights. For example, if the airline is a member of Star Alliance, you better consider taking just one membership (for example Lufthansa) and upload every mile, flown with partner airlines, to this account. If you don’t do that, it will take very long to collect enough for those free flights. Also some credit cards enable collecting miles with every € or $ you spend – so check it out. In worst case, you will be able to choose between variety of meals (especially on long distance flights this is very convenient, because you get your lunch before other passengers and you can usually pick from kosher, seafood, vegan, diabetic meals etc.) Just make sure you update your preferences in your online profile, including preferred seats (aisle or window).

Frequent Flyer

Booking safety

Still not sure if booking a flight via internet is a safe decision? Most of the online flight agents offer some kind of insurance fee (you can choose it in the final step of the booking and they will add it to your final price) which enables you a partial or full refund of the ticket under certain conditions. In this case I suggest you to read their insurance/refund policy very carefully… you know, it is like with all other insurances… they claim to offer you everything, but in the end you are usually left with peanuts. However, if your travel date is close or you are 100% sure you will take the flight, even with a broken leg, then you really don’t need the insurance. Also, make sure you know your passenger rights  for example, if the airline loses your luggage you are entitled to a compensation by law, so don’t get mislead by those “protect your luggage” appeals. Furthermore, some airlines also enable a partial refund, if you are able to justify the reason of “no show”. I once had a very misfortunate case of sudden illness in the family and I wrote to Ryanair – they were very kind and understanding, and refunded my purchase in 100%. Respect and thank you again for that, guys!

And regarding payment safety… well, you know… can iPhones be hacked? Just kidding. Most of them offer payment via PayPal, so you are as safe as when you withdraw your cash from a cash machine… I guess 😉

One final advice after booking a flight

Once you have booked your flight, DON’T look back. Don’t check Expedia every day to see if prices might change. You did your best and next time you might do even better. What you CAN do is take a look at my Up in the Air photos on my Facebook page. Have a safe flight and enjoy your trip!

Booking a flight

* I come from Slovenia (Europe), which is a small handicap because we don’t have a lot of direct flight connections with the world. So if we want to fly outside Europe we usually have to either drive to Italy, Austria or Germany and take it straight from there, or take connecting flight through larger airports like Zurich, London, Paris or similar.

**I am not sure how flight search engines work, but it usually costs the same price or even less if you book a flight from Slovenia (Ljubljana airport) with more stopovers, compared to what you would pay if you took a flight from let’s say Vienna, which is a much bigger airport and might take you directly to your final destination.

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