Diving in Seychelles
Diving is astounding in the Seychelles. The reefs that encircle many of the islands contain upwards of 300 species of fish and more than 100 varieties of coral: suffice to say that this is a diving Valhalla, with visibility generally exceeding 30 metres and water temperatures reaching 28ºC. Schools on Mahé, Praslin, La Digue and Desroches cater to both first-timers and advanced divers, and charter operators sail out to the best dive sites, although there are dozens just off the coast of Mahé. Experienced divers will probably not need to be told about the Desroches Drop – a limestone coralline plateau adorned with mysterious caves and canyons. The underwater scenery is similarly superb off Alphonse. The El Niño effect has been felt in the Seychelles, bleaching some hard corals, but the soft corals are already growing back, especially around the Inner Islands reefs.
For those not quite ready to don tanks and weight belts, snorkelling provides a very acceptable alternative. A mask and flippers, and a T-shirt to guard against sunburn, are all the equipment needed. Just about anywhere in the Seychelles provides plenty of underwater entertainment, but some sites come especially recommended. Anse Royale on Mahé is enclosed behind a reef, which keeps out the larger fish but there are plenty of smaller ones in the shallow waters; the corals in the Sainte Anne National Marine Park are truly amazing, from white to purple and an array of different sizes; manta rays and hammerhead sharks have been spotted off Sunset Beach on Mahé; strong currents run off Anse Kerlan on Praslin, which are perhaps what attract the veritable academies of fish; and the solitary hawksbill turtle that hangs out by the islet of St Pierre in Curieuse National Marine Park has become something of a tourist attraction. Should the idea of getting wet at all simply not appeal, there’s always the option of taking a glass-bottomed boat out over the reef, and admiring the underwater marine vistas from on board.
Trekers will be in their element on Mahé, La Digue and Praslin, where a number of well-marked trails lead into the interior. The three-hour trek between Anse Royale and Anse à la Mouche, running across the southern hills of Mahé, with an optional detour to a small palm-lined valley, is one of the most popular. A number of guided walking tours are also available, with profesional guides discoursing on the islands’ flora, fauna and local lore, granting a marvellous insight into the archipelago’s hidden delights.
The topography of the islands lends itself to rock climbing though the sport has yet to catch on in a big way, so climbers will need to bring their own gear. On Praslin the most interesting ascents are behind Anse Lanzio and at Pointe Ste Marie. On La Digue, there are some challenging rocks on Anse Source d’Argent, and the cliffs at Pointe Jacques are awesome. For anyone dismayed at the thought of so much strenuous activity, many hotels in the Seychelles have spas with extensive menus offering a variety of massages, scrubs and similar treatments that reportedly exercise the mind and soul as well as the body.
Fishing in Seychelles
Fishing – big game and fly – is big business in the Seychelles. Top spot for big game is the edge of the Seychelles Bank, where the ocean floor plunges to 1,800 meters. The nearest islands are Bird and Denis, but charters also sail out from Mahé. Many record-breaking dog-tooth tuna have been snagged here, as well as huge marlin, sail fish and sharks without number. The best catches are usually between November and April. The outer island of Alphonse is universally acknowledged as the best place to indulge in fly fishing for bonefish, which generally weigh around six kilos and are doughty fighters once hooked. They swarm in such vast numbers that even beginners have been known to catch 20 in a single day. A strict catch-and-release policy is in force, and fly fishers may use only barbless hooks. The season runs from September to June.
Windsurfing, Water Skiing and Paragliding
Other water-based sports, such as windsurfing, dinghy sailing, water skiing and paragliding, are popular at major resorts and beaches, where equipment can be hired by the hour. Some hotels levy no charge for use by guests. The combination of calm waters and steady winds makes for an idyllic time out on, or above, the ocean wave.
Golfers can take their choice of a brace of courses. Formerly a coconut plantation until it was converted to its present role some 30 years ago, the Seychelles Golf Club on Mahé features nine picturesque holes. Be careful – the local crabs have been known to make away with stray balls. On Praslin, the spectacular par-70, 18-hole championship Lémuria course has been attracting players in droves since in opened in October 2000. Designed by Rodney Wright and Marc Farry, it borders Kerlan Cove Beach. The first 12 holes are fringed by palm trees, after which the course extends into the thickly forested slopes of a steep hill. At the signature hole – the 15th – players have to tee off from a rocky ridge that overlooks Anse Gorgette, driving at least 150 metres to hit the green below. Both accomplished and novice equestrians will enjoy horse riding in the Seychelles. On La Digue, there’s the opportunity to explore the grounds of the Union Estate, or to experience the sheer exhilaration of galloping along the sand at Anse Source d’Argent. At the Utegangar Riding Centre on Mahé the pure-bred Arabian steeds head out to the Barbarons and Grand Anse area on the west coast. For beginners, they stick to the beach and bush but advanced riders can get taken up into the mountains, where bathing beneath thunderous waterfalls is the highlight of the expedition.
There are a few surfaced roads on the island. Given that it is less than 5km from north to south, by far the best – and most enjoyable – way to get around is on foot or bicycle. There are loads of bikes to rent. Operators have outlets near the pier, or you can book through your hotel or guesthouse. Most places charge between Rs 100 and Rs 150 per day. With the sun setting around 6pm, it’s best to bring a head torch to navigate the darkness (and to be seen by others) when on two wheels.
Others Seaside Activities
Sailing, kite boarding, kite surfing, windsurfing, jet-skiing and paragliding are only some of the other water-based sports that visitors can indulge in. Sailing is also very popular. If you know how to handle a boat on your own, you may hire one for the day and sail around the coastline. The wind here is not too strong, making it conducive for amateur sailors. If you don’t know how to sail, you can pay a boat charter service that will provide you with a sailor and complementary lunch. Wind Seychelles offers boat chartering services and if you want a slightly different sailing experience go for Teddy’s Glass Bottom Boat. The glass bottom allows you to take a look at the breathtaking underwater view of the reefs, marine life and the vibrant blue of the ocean.