Seychelles – Sailing the Seychelles
You will find the Seychelles are pretty much a year-round destination, beautiful, exciting and tranquil. What more could you possibly ask for?
Captain’s log by Glynn Burridge
Generally speaking, the cusps of the trade winds produce fairly wind-free conditions throughout April and again in October. Tides are semi-diurnal and asymmetrical with a gap of nearly six hours between high and low tide. The tidal range is as high as two metres at spring tide and as low as 0.9 metres at neap tide. You will the Seychelles subject to only mild currents averaging 1.5 knots that develop in line with the trade winds and producing a swell that is generally moderate.
I would add that sailing within the inner islands is very picturesque, easy and safe with many secure moorings and sailing distances of under 30 nautical miles. The other principal islands, Praslin and La Digue, and their various satellite isles are just a few hours pleasant sailing from the principal island of Mahé. Together, Mahé, Praslin and La Digue form the Seychelles’ cultural and economic hub and, between them, host the vast majority of the nation’s accommodation and leisure facilities. These range from exclusive five-star resorts and exquisite island hideaways where the optimum in comfort, service and amenities conspire with magnificent natural surrounds to offer a supremely tranquil and memorable vacation.
The Banyan Tree, St. Anne, Le Méridièn Fisherman’s Cove, Lémuria, La Briz Silhouette and Maia resorts are already in place while new projects for Four Seasons, Shangri-la and Ephelia properties envisaged. Seychelles tourism industry is visibly taking off and the signs are everywhere. Fabulous island refuges such as those on North Island, Frégate, Denis, Round, Alphonse, Desroches and Bird provide everything from the five-star opulence to the homely comforts of picturesque beachside chalets. What is particularly refreshing is that the Seychelles tends to be very unprocessed as a tourism destination and an authentic island lifestyle is everywhere; in the architecture, customs, cuisine, music as well as in the genuinely laid-back pace of life.
The Coralline or Outer Islands lie in a spectacular, gleaming arc that stretches towards the east coast of Africa, ranging between 120 and 700 nautical miles from Mahé, the Seychelles’ principal island. You will discover this is where sailing still means seeing no other sail but your own and where opportunities for diving, fishing and island-hopping abound in places where few have gone before. Stunning atolls, sand cays and reef islands are the order of the day in these remoter southwestern waters of the archipelago, strung like pearls on invisible lines of surf amid an azure ocean.
1/10,000 scale charts of the ocean surrounding the islands have been published as mooring guides and are available on the mainland but captains are reminded that, due to remoteness of the islands and the infrequency of mapping surveys, the depth soundings are often missing or inaccurate. Special care should be taken to sail cautiously over the mooring zones and in waters surrounding the more remote islands and the printed figures should not be trusted blindly as coral bottoms can vary constantly. The skipper should remain alert to the sounder at all times.
The Seychelles’ amazing diversity is the result of its 115 islands (41 granitic and 74 coral) having existed in splendid isolation for much of the time since it broke away from its surrounding landmass some 65 million years ago, proving sanctuary for myriad life-forms that, today, include some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on Earth. The Seychelles are already home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the amazing Vallée de Mai, a primeval glade where the Coco-de-Mer grows, a seductively shaped double-lobed coconut in the exact form of the female pelvis that was once believed to be the fruit of an underwater tree. So convinced was the famous General Gordon of its provenance that he claimed that the Vallée de Mai was the original site of the biblical Garden of Eden. The second site is that of fabled Aldabra, the largest raised coral atoll on earth and given its name by the intrepid Arab seafarers of the ninth century who, undoubtedly, first made landfall on this atoll they named ‘the green one’.
However, these represent only some of the gems that the Seychelles have to offer. Gorgeous, pristine sanctuary islands such as Aride, known as’ the seabird citadel of the Indian Ocean’, the twin island reserves of Cousin and Cousine and the northern island outpost of Bird, together host some of the rarest wildlife on the planet.
Guided walks and trails through the many national parks will reveal not only stunning land and seascapes but also a host of species not found anywhere else in the world.
You will see that, for the diver, both amateur and expert, the Seychelles diving experience is an unforgettable one, allowing great opportunities for both granite and coral reef diving in virgin waters. Great swim-throughs, caves, wreck dives and spectacular drop-offs are complemented by the possibility of sighting a dizzying array of marine species including that gentle giant of the oceans, the harmless whale shark. And if you don’t want to take the plunge, don’t worry, snorkelling is amazing in what amounts to a giant aquarium – filled with welcoming warm and limpid water!
If it’s great fishing you’re after, the Seychelles offers amazing deep sea, bottom (palangrotte) and fly fishing, the latter now considered as being among the best in the world. A fleet of modern craft and experienced crew will bring you to waters where you’ll find tuna, jack, rainbow runner, barracuda, trevally, kingfish, dorado, jobfish, sailfish and even the mighty marlin. With such a mixed bag, you’re surely going to taste some of the finest fish of your life. Throughout the islands you will find numerous restaurants serving excellent creole cuisine with its fusion of French and Eastern influences and drawing from a wide palette of local produce to provide dishes rich in texture, aroma and taste.
Most restaurants also cater for an international clientele in settings that range from sophisticated hotel surrounds to the rustic charms of the beachside diner. Whether you prefer to sail, walk, bike, hike or enjoy the air-conditioned comfort of a self-drive or chauffeured car, the diversity of the Seychelles experience will amaze you, as its people for whom harmony and joie de vivre remain a comforting a way of life.