Dive Sites of St. François

Dive Sites of St. François

As our nature demands, humans have always been curious creatures which love to explore and discover the world around us. This sense of adventure stays with us even if we decide to escape to an island paradise. And what could be better than exploring an underwater world while in a remote corner of the Seychelles?

Located in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles remains one of the most exquisite destinations and arguably one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. Giving you access to this new and wondrous underwater world is Alphonse Island situated in the Outer Islands of the Seychelles.

A stay at Alphonse Island gives guests access to 30 sublime scuba diving sites scattered amongst the remote islands surrounding it. This includes the beautiful St. François and its glorious flats which are home to some of the most incredible pelagic species. These stunning creatures can be viewed by walking the sandy stretches or diving into the deep blue surrounds of the Atoll.

Reaching these remote sites means jumping onboard one of our dedicated diving vessels, the Amirante Cat or Zanbren. Purpose-built with 225hp, these vessels will get you to the dive sites in no time and they are equipped with all your diving gear as well as towels, snacks and drinks. So sit back and let our dedicated dive team take care of you as you explore the wonder-ful dive sites that surround St. François:

Trigger Hill
Location: 20 minutes by boat, North-East St. François
Depth: 8 – 18m
Trigger Hill consists of a sharply slanting hill with three main coral rivers that run from the seagrass beds at 7m to the sandy slopes located at 18m and beyond. The coral bommies here act as a cleaning station and many resident schools of fish can often be seen here, including large Napoleon Wrasse, Blue and Yellow Fusilier, Humpback, Bluelined and Bohar Snapper as well as the shimmering Bluefin Trevally. Species like Camouflage and White-blotched Grouper live deep within the crevices of the coral, while smaller specimens rest casually at the base of the coral allowing for a closer look. Divers will often see Garden Eels peering out from their burrows in the sand galleys along with Seychelles Anemonefish, Moray Eels and Yellowmargin and Titan Triggerfish. Golden Trevally, Green Jobfish, Whip Rays and Nurse Sharks venturing from the sandy slope is also a common sight.
Special Feature: This site is named after the Yellowmargin Triggerfish which build their nests and lay eggs here. They can often be seen undulating in the water column above as they fiercely protect their territory. Trigger Hill is a great site for general observation of fish behaviour.

Bluelined Snapper and Bluefin Trevally

Three Sisters
Location: 20 minutes by boat, North St. François
Depth: 15 – 25m
This site, as the name would suggest, holds 3 large coral patches which lie on the flat sandy bottom at 20 meters. A variety of Grouper and Snapper species densely populates these ‘sisters’ and as such the dive starts by discovering and appreciating the abundance and diversity of fish here. Divers will also get to see Garden Eels and Yellowmargin Triggerfish on the surrounding sand where they make their respective burrows and large nests. The dive here is ended at a raised reef in the East which sits at about 13 meters. Here there is a colourful aquarium-like cleaning station where Yellowfin Goatfish, Onespot Emperor, Bluelined Snapper and Napoleon Wrasse congregate. Alternatively, guests can choose to start the dive on the outer wall which is covered in purple Sea Fans and extends to a sandy shelf at 30 meters. When gazing off the wall, there is a big chance of seeing big fish out in the open blue.
Special Feature: Three Sisters holds something for every kind of diver with its combination of calm patch reef, aquarium-like cleaning station and deep drop-off.

Napoleon Wrasse

Rat Rays
Location: 25 minutes by boat, South-West St. François
Depth: 8 – 25m
Rat Rays is the name given to the channel entrance of St. François Atoll. This site is situated within the main tidal flow in and out of the large lagoon which makes it a highway for various fish moving between the lagoon and the open water. Outside of this channel, Spur and Groove Coral formations give way to ravines of white sand that cascade over the edge of the drop-off which surrounds the island. St. François and its curving beaches are home to a plethora of birds and the surrounding shimmering waters are a hotspot for Green Turtles, pink Whip Rays and Greater Barracuda. Large Napoleon Wrasse and Milkfish can often be spotted hovering in the blue edge of the drop-off.
Special Feature: A lot of action is created by an array of diverse species congregating around the mouth of the channel as the tides rise and fall.

Pink Whip Rays

Mantam North
Location: 25 minutes by boat, West St. François
Depth: 7 – 20m
The coral assemblage at Mantam North with its flat gently sloping bottom resembles that of a patch reef. However, at 10 to 18 meters patches of sand are scarce due to incredibly high coral cover. Here the copious undulations of Hard Coral lead divers through a myriad of reef fish with occasional protrusions of large bommies which are thick with Bohar and Black Snapper as well as Fusilier. Divers will often spot Nurse Sharks here as they patrol the reef. Mantam North makes for a great training site with the depth limit at 18m where the coral finally meets the sand. The relaxed ambience at this site allows divers to get close to Giant Moray Eels and Lionfish that inhabit the deep crevices in the reef.
Currents at Mantam North: Currents are generally mild which makes it ideal for underwater photographers who like to document even the smallest of fish.
Special Feature: This is the best site for those who like to get up-close to the variety of reef fish for photography or behavioural observations due to lack of currents.

Giant Moray Eel

West End
Location: 30 minutes by boat, West St. François
Depth: 12 – 40m
West End holds a sloping reef which extends from 12 to 40 meters with most activity seen at 16 meters. Dense schools of Bluelined Snapper, Bluefin Trevally and Humpback Snapper are found around the reef and during low tide countless large Green Sea Turtles can be seen as they move from adjacent flats. The wall of the reef extends to a second plateau which is deeper than diving limits; it is here that a number of sharks reside and from where they follow the wall up to visit divers at the site. Large Grey Reef and Nurse Sharks are the most common at the site with the latter even more so in the shallows. Spur and Groove Coral formations stretch out towards the south with large aggregations of fish such as Bohar Snapper and Chub. Depending on the season, Manta Rays are most seen at this particular site, if not on the dive then feeding with Milkfish at the surface.
Special Feature: West End is close to the south of St. François where a number of Sharks and Rays are commonly seen. It also has the added benefit of beautiful coral and an abundance of fish to complement it.

Nurse Shark

Swiss Garden
Location: 35 minutes by boat, South St. François
Depth: 12 – 20m
Swiss Garden is the farthest dive site at the southern reaches of St. François Atoll. The site is a well-known historic fishing ground for local individuals with many reports of thriving populations of big pelagics, yet this is a site rarely dived. This remote site is one for the explorers out there as you never know what you might see. The bottom is a flat, steadily sloping reef comprised of mainly Hard Coral. A flurry of marine life covers the coral ridges and bommies that are interspersed with the flat seabed. Dives here have offered up incredible sightings of Giant Trevally (GT), Dogtooth Tuna, Nurse and Bull Sharks, Whip and Manta Rays, huge Green Turtles and schooling Milkfish.
Special Feature: The site is only visited per request by those who wish to explore waters which few others have dived before.

Bull Shark

Wouldn’t you like to dive into a world of wonder with the Alphonse Diving Team? Book your scuba diving experience today!

 

Dive Sites of Bijoutier Island

Dive Sites of Bijoutier Island

One of the most notable attractions of the Seychelles, besides its spectacular scenery and remote location, is undoubtedly its diversity. Made up of a collection of 115 islands and hosting an intricate ecosystem of abundant marine life, it really is like no place on Earth. And it is this beautiful mosaic of nature that has drawn nature-lovers and adventurers alike to explore the wonders that the Seychelles hold.

The soft sunsets and inviting islands scattered across the region are accompanied by hardy species which has stood the test of time. From fierce game fishing species to ancient Aldabra Tortoises to thriving coral reefs, the species here have adapted with the times and are an inspiration to view. Although experiencing all the sights from land or a boat might suffice, diving into this underwater realm and viewing these species in their natural habitat is something very special indeed.

When choosing to stay at Alphonse Island in the Outer Islands of the Seychelles, guests get to experience these aquatic treasure troves in a variety of remote destinations. One of these destinations is the little gem of Bijoutier Island.

 Located a short boat ride away from the main Island, Bijoutier Island is surrounded by a number of excellent scuba diving sites to be explored. Let’s dive right into the Dive Sites of Bijoutier Island:

Napoleon
Location: 15 minutes by boat, North-West Bijoutier
Depth: 16 – 30 meters
This site holds an open water raised reef with large formations and many deep crevices which often serve as hiding spots for Nurse Sharks and Octopuses. The reef is covered with beautiful sea fans and schools of Bluelined Snapper, Humpback Emperor and Yellowspot Emperor can often be found in the cuts created by the coral contours. Nudibranchs and Flatworms sit at the top of the coral heads where they feed in the prevailing currents. From here the reef slopes down to a field of Tubastrea Coral (also known as Sun Coral or Orange Cup Coral) and then drops suddenly to great depths. This drop-off is where you’ll be able to spot the likes of Hammerhead, Whitetip Reef and Silvertip Sharks as well as large Napoleon Wrasse, Giant Sweetlips, Batfish and even Bumphead Parrotfish.
Currents at Napoleon: Currents can be quite strong which makes it best suited for experienced divers. A blue water drift and slow ascent is best to reach this spot.
Special Feature: Schools of Fusilier often swarm overhead and you might even spot Dogtooth Tuna and Bluefin Trevally feeding. Also keep an eye out for the special kinds of Nudibranchs, Snails and a variety of Moray Eels.

Secret Reef
Location: 15 minutes by boat, North-East Bijoutier
Depth 15 – 25m+
Secret Reef is a long stretch of open water raised reef that runs along the North-East of Bijoutier. Towards the South the coral ridge breaks up into separate mountainous structures with sandy valleys in-between. The edges of these structures are covered in Tabulate Corals and this is also where you’ll find schools of Bohar Snapper and Napoleon Wrasse. Towards the North the ridge continues as a gentle slope covered with pink Sea Fans where you’ll often see schooling fish such as Snapper, Emperor, Jack and Barracuda. There is also a mini-wall with beautiful coral formations which develops towards the North and provides shelter to Giant and Blackcheek Moray Eels and Nudibranch. 
Currents at Secret Reef: As the site begins at 16 meters, it is strongly affected by currents. This site is also best for experienced divers.
Special Feature: Some of the rarer Grouper species such as Smooth and Blacksaddle Coral Grouper can be sighted on the wall. Large schools of Batfish and a variety of Fusilier species tend to patrol the drop-off and will often encircle divers.

Theatre
Location: 15 minutes by boat, South of Bijoutier
Depth: 9 – 40m+
Theatre site holds a crescent-shaped raised reef with a prominent Anthia-covered ridge (at 9m) along the southern facing wall which drops vertically to depths deeper than 40m. The ridge acts as a guide to Amphitheatre and into the lagoon for passing species such as Manta Ray, Bumphead Parrotfish, Hammerhead Sharks and Milkfish. The wall itself is covered in purple Sea Fans with overhangs and undercuts that are waiting to be explored. It is also a popular spot for Golden, Bluefin and Giant Trevally as well as Black Jack that cruise along the wall. At the bottom of the wall in the deeper water, Bohar and Black Snapper, and Smooth Grouper coalesce into larger groups. Another great feature of the site is a deep water promontory covered in encrusting coral which extends and alluringly drops again to depth beyond the realms of recreational diving – a great spot to stop and wonder.
Special Feature: The magical and mysterious scenery of the Theatre’s wall makes it a favourite amongst divers. The site also lies over a lagoon entry point allowing for unexpected sightings of large fish.

Arina
Location: 20 minutes by boat, South Bijoutier
Depth: 7 – 16m
Arina is a flat sandy arena covered sporadically in coral bommies teeming with fish. The massive structures are some of the most singular outcrops of coral in the region and allow divers to fully appreciate how these creatures grow up and outward into mind-boggling creations. Schools of Fusilier and Bigeye Trevally swarm the water column and blankets of Bohar and Humpback Snapper engulf the tops of the coral bommies. A congregation of coral pinnacles, mini-caves and crevices house Giant Moray Eels and Octopuses. Bommie hopping is the game of this dive and the surrounding sand patches is home to many Whip Rays, large Camouflage Grouper as well as Gobies and Shrimp. On the right tide, the water can be incredibly clear and brightly reflects the white sand below.
Special Feature: The lack of currents and flat-bottom at this sheltered lagoon site makes it perfect for independent discovery and exploration for buddy groups.

Drop-off 109
Location: 10 minutes by boat, West Bijoutier
Depth: 12 – 40m
The reef at Drop-off 109 reaches up to 12m above the surrounding sandy areas and extends out over the slope to create a remarkable drop-off. The area holds a wide variety of beautiful Sea Fans and Hard Coral accompanied by schooling Snapper which makes it an especially scenic dive. This site is also frequented by Giant Sweetlips, Indian Lionfish, juvenile Emperor Angelfish and various Pufferfish.
Special Feature: If you can tear yourself away from the vibrant scenery of the beautiful reef, you may spot Dogtooth Tuna and Silvertip or Whitetip Reef Sharks cruising up the drop-off from the depths.

Who would’ve thought that this tiny gem of the Indian Ocean could hold such wonders? Book your scuba diving experiences at Alphonse Island today and get to explore these wonders for yourself.

Alphonse Island

Alphonse Island

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Alphonse Group The Alphonse Group of islands are situated 7 degrees South of the Equator and 400 kilometers South-West of Mahe. This magnificent island threesome comprising of Alphonse, Bijoutier and St Francois, lie in the very heart of the Indian Ocean and form part of the Seychelles’ outer island group.

Getting There – Guests are required to fly into Mahe Island, Seychelles at least 4 hours before the weekly charter flight is scheduled to depart. A standard package includes the hour-long return charter flights between Mahe and Alphonse.

Flight Times – The flights leave Mahe at 11:00 from domestic departures on a Saturday and arrives on Alphonse at 12:00. It then departs Alphonse at 12:30 arriving back at the Mahe domestic terminal at 13:30.

Accommodation & Amenities – The rustic and comfortable accommodation is situated on the shoreline of the Eastern side of Alphonse Island. The main hotel complex consists of a reception area, beach bar, dining area, swimming pool, tennis court and main office. Guests stay in one of 15 privately spaced air conditioned bungalows or 4 one bedroom villas, offering every kind of comfort. The bar area, pool and lounge area provides the ideal venue to relax in the evening breeze after a day out in the sun and houses the restaurant serving freshly caught sea food of the highest quality.

Arrival Day On arrival you will be met by the Alphonse Island management team and transported to the hotel by golf cart. Indemnities will be signed followed by a comprehensive briefing on what to expect during your stay. Everyone will then be shown to his or her accommodation to settle in and unpack. Dinner is served at 19h30.

Normal Day – Breakfast is served from 6:00 – 9:00 am or on request. Lunch is served at 1pm.

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Diving – Alphonse Island Dive Centre and its team of professional international diving staff will make your experience at Alphonse resort a personal, safe and unforgettable one. The sheer drop offs, rich currents and abundant sea life that surrounds the Alphonse Group makes it one of the most exciting and diverse dive destinations in Seychelles. The pristine sites around both Alphonse and St Francois are famous for warm crystal clear waters, high coral cover, great visibility and a diverse range of fish species comprising of reef, pelagic and shark species. Daily encounters with Stingrays, Turtles, Moray Eels, Barracuda, Wahoo, Sharks, Tuna, Grouper, Snapper, Trevally make the dives extremely memorable. Alphonse’s range of dive sites are suitable for all categories of divers, which makes the area an exciting experience for both beginners and advanced who will enjoy our drift dives. Dive sites are easily accessible with typical boat travel taking ten to thirty minutes. The dive center also offers PADI Bubble Maker, Discover scuba, Open Water, Advanced and Specialty scuba courses.  Read more abut the dive sites here.

Diving Rates

  • Per Dive USD 120
  • Double Tank USD 220 5
  • Dive Package USD 550 10
  • Dive Package USD 1000
  • Includes all diving equipment

Diving Course Rates

  • Bubble Maker USD 110
  • Discover Scuba Diving USD 210
  • Scuba Diver / Open Water Diver USD 900
  • Advanced Open Water Diver USD 750
  • Speciality Courses USD 290 (2 dives) or 490 (4 dives)
  • Alphonse Island Eco Diver Package USD 1400 (10 dives + certification in 5 Specialties)
  • Includes all diving equipment

Additional Activities – The snorkeling around the coral heads within the safety of the lagoon is simply out of this world. Snorkeling equipment is available for hire at the dive centre. The kayaking along the edge of the island on a high tide gives guests the opportunity to see the magnificent bounty of turtles, rays, fish, and various other sea creatures, which call Alphonse their home. The cycling tracks around the island pass through coconut groves and lead to the various private and secluded beaches. You may wish to join our local experts on a nature tour or for watching the multitude of seabirds that can be seen about the atolls. You may spot dolphins when out on the water but specific trips can be also arranged and, if you are lucky, you may see several of the different whale species that frequent these waters.

Snorkeling Equipment Rental Rates

  • USD 10 per day
  • USD 50 per week
  • Loss of gear will be charged per item

Alphonse Guided Snorkeling Trip Rates

  • USD 45 per person, children under 11 free (min 2 paying guests)
  • 1 hour 30 min, includes snorkeling equipment (Children under 11 years must be accompanied by 1 adult per child)

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St Francois Guided Snorkeling Trip Rates

  • USD 85 per person, children under 11 free (min 4 paying guests)
  • 1 hour 30 min, includes snorkeling equipment (Children under 11 years must be accompanied by 1 adult per child)
  • Loss/damages of gear will be charged per item

Park Fee – There is a compulsory St Francois fly fishing park fee of USD 175 per week (USD25 per day) for anglers and USD 70 per week (USD 10per day) for non-anglers and divers, which is payable in cash when on the island. All packages exclude this park fee and these funds are given to the Island Conservation Society for the preservation of nature in the Seychelles.

Spa – There is a small spa situated in close proximity to the main swimming pool that offers massages and various other treatments. All massages can be booked in the bar area the night before.

Head Lamp – Although the roads between the accommodation and hotel are lit, it’s wise to have a headlamp for when you are riding your bike at night.

Casual Wear – Everything is informal on the island and guests should dress casually at all times and feel free to attend dinner in casual clothing.

Weather – The Seychelles is typically hot and somewhat humid with the midday temperature hovering at 35 degrees Celsius. Evenings are also invariably warm with the exception of the first and last few weeks of the season, when there may be a strong, cooling breeze. Water temperature ranges from 27 – 29 degrees Celsius.

The Fishing and Diving Season at Alphonse – The main diving season runs from early October to the end of May.

Hours of Daylight – Due to its proximity to the equator, there is no real twilight in the Seychelles. The sun rises quickly at around 6:15 a.m. and sets with equal swiftness at about 6:30 p.m. This varies by only minutes throughout the year, giving nearly a full 12 hours of daylight for 365 days a year.

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From Scene of Accident Medevac Insurance – All guests are required to obtain “From Scene of Accident Medevac Insurance”. Details will be requested prior to arrival on the Island. Alphonse Island and agents cannot assume any financial responsibility for consequences incurred if this has not been obtained.

Travel Insurance – All guests are required to obtain travel insurance that will cover any costs incurred due to flight delays for any reason. Any guests planning to dive will be asked to provide their travel insurance details as proof of cover for diving activities. This is often included in general travel insurance policies but should you wish to dive deep, please check any depth restrictions.

Indemnity Form – All guests are required to sign an indemnity form once on location. Divers booked on courses must complete the Medical Statement prior to diving, this is provided prior to arrival in case you need to arrange medical clearance for diving from your physician.

Inoculations & Health – No inoculations are legally required for entry. However, you may want to check with your local immunization and inoculation clinic for their recommendations on health precautions for travel to the Seychelles. Some travelers elect to protect themselves against hepatitis A with an immunoglobulin injection (short- term protection) or the longer lasting vaccine. Other inoculations may be required if you are planning a trip extension to parts of Africa.

Water Consumption – There is a desalination plant on Alphonse, and water from the faucets is safe to drink. We do not stock mineral water to reduce plastic waste and will only supply it when specifically requested prior to arrival.

Luggage Restrictions – Check in luggage is strictly limited to 15 kg or 33 pounds per person, and 5kg or 12 pounds carry-on luggage. Remember, that all diving equipment is provided so you will only need to pack cameras for diving. It is not possible to load extra luggage, it will have to be repacked and left on Mahe until your return. Please adhere to the limits. It is suggested that lighter soft-shell luggage is used. Pack a separate bag with excess equipment to avoid having to repack at the airport. There is left luggage storage at the airport and you can arrange for your tour operator in Mahe to store excess luggage while you are on Alphonse Island.

Communication on Alphonse – Each chalet has a phone service, operated via satellite.

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Internet Connection – There is a wireless connection in the bar area and a network cable connection in the Internet room. There is no charge for their use.

Electricity Supply – The Island has 24-hour electrical current (240 volt, 50 cycles AC) with British plug points. A European electrical current adapter (3-point, square-pin) is necessary.

Contact telephone Number – Alphonse Island: 00248 422 9700 (GMT+04:00). When dialing internationally, precede with appropriate access code.

Gratuities – Tipping is never mandatory and if you wish to show appreciation to the staff and require a suggested amount based on an average which guests normally tip then please use the below amounts as an indication.
General hotel staff approximately USD 250 per person per week or USD 35 per day as a guideline. This is to be left at reception upon departure for equal distribution. The diving staff has a slightly varied amount, which can be suggested by the manager of that activity when on location. We suggest a USD 20 per dive guideline for the diving team, which is given to the respective manager at the end of the week and will be divided up by the dive team and skippers. Any gratuities will be much appreciated by the staff and we thank you for your generosity.

Currency – You do not need to change your € (Euros) or US$ (US Dollars) into the local currency. The hotel accepts US Dollars and all major credit cards except American Express. Credit cards carry an additional 5% bank fee, which will be added to the total bill.

Duty Free Allowance – 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, 1 liter of spirits and 2 liters wine.

Cancellation Policy

  • A 10% fee shall be levied if cancellation is made more than 180 days prior to arrival.
  • A 10% fee shall be levied if the reservation is moved to an alternative date within the same season.
  • A fee of 50% shall be levied if cancellation is between 180 and 90 days prior to arrival. A fee of 100% shall be levied if cancellation is 90 days or less prior to arrival.
  • All cancellations & provisional bookings must be confirmed in writing.

We hope the above information helps to enhance your trip to Alphonse Island. Should there be any further assistance you require, please do not hesitate to contact us at reservations2@alphonse-island.com.  You can also visit the Alphonse Island Website to obtain more information.

 

A new diving experience in Seychelles

A new diving experience in Seychelles

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A new ‘unique’ diving experience is now available in Seychelles as Alphonse Island makes its debut into the luxury travel sector, offering guests experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in Seychelles.

The island, known as one of the best fly fishing destinations in the world, has made significant modifications to appeal to the lucrative luxury diving travel market. One of these modifications is the opening of a brand new dive centre.

The islands feature exceptional turtle sightings with very healthy breeding populations covering both atolls. Divers can expect huge schools of Bluelined Snapper, Humpback Snapper, Bigeye Trevally and even Batfish to join them on their diving experience.

The reefs are still untouched, pristine and teeming with activity with many species of Moray, as well as small macro such as nudibranchs and shrimp species. Divers will be able to marvel at dramatic drop off walls covered in forests of gorgonian sea fans, while the plateaus feature a high percentage of hard coral cover. Drift dives are common with reef hooks used for divers to stay in the right spot.

Have you always dreamed of swimming with dolphins? These beautiful creatures often grace divers with their presence on the excursions. But, the activity doesn’t stop there: the islands’ Giant and Bluefin Trevally populations are very healthy with a ‘wolf pack’ often attacking reef fish with nurse sharks. Also Hammerhead, Silvertip, Bull Shark and Grey Reef sharks can often be seen during the dives.

Courses offered at the new dive centre include the full PADI suite from Open Water to Divemaster as well as the ‘Discover Scuba’ Diving course. All the courses are focussed around underwater appreciation and conservation. Later this year, the dive centre will also start featuring Nitrox dives as well as the opportunity to go on an overnight trip to the far South of the Seychelles.

Besides the diving centre, the island also has a great number of other ‘unique’ experiences on offer.  The Alphonse Group of Islands comprising St Francois, Bijoutier and Alphonse islands, are considered the most remote, pristine and unspoilt group of islands in the Seychelles. Travellers will be able to embark on nature conservation walks to the uninhabited islands of Bijoutier and St Francois. They’ll be able to have a unique experience by overnighting on A’Manni – a Catamaran yacht in the St Francoise lagoon, or discover the expansive flats surrounding the Alphonse atolls as well as participate in conservation-related activities.

 “We are offering something exceptional. In today’s travel industry, people want more than a private plunge pool and butler. They want to explore, discover and create memories that will last a lifetime and that’s exactly what Alphonse Island offers,” says Keith Rose Innes, Managing Director of Alphonse Island.

Alphonse Island taps into the ‘Real Seychelles’ where everything is still raw, flawless and untouched, says also Amanda Lang, Marketing Manager Alphonse Island.  “Alphonse Island is not just another Island resort; it is a destination where the real luxury lies in the experience.”

Even though the real luxury of the island is expressed in the uniqueness of the experiences on offer, the island has also heavily invested in the upgrading of its facilities. All twenty-one Beach Bungalows and five spacious Beach Suites on the island have been extensively refurbished to create a more ‘barefoot luxury’ feel with new colours and new furnishings. Also the beach bar and the restaurant have been entirely revamped.

Rates for the forthcoming 2016/2017 season can be obtained by contacting marketing@alphonse-island.com

For more information about The Seychelles, visit http://www.seychelles.travel/

Christophe Mason-Parker

Christophe Mason-Parker

As with SCUBA diving, underwater photography came to Chris late in life. In fact it was not until 2008 that he bought his first camera and underwater housing. The 8MP Canon Powershot A720 was a revelation. The Powershot had a full manual mode, and Chris spent hours playing around with the settings, learning how minor adjustments to the ISO or the shutter speed would affect each shot. At the time he was working on a coral reef monitoring programme in Philippines, and underwater photography became a means to photograph and catalogue the amazing diversity of marine life he encountered on the reefs.

When his contract finished in the Philippines Chris moved to Bali and then Mexico, before eventually ending up in Seychelles in 2010. The Powershot accompanied him every step of the way until Canon stopped making the housing and he was forced to switch to a newer model.

In 2013 Chris bought a Canon 7D and soon after purchased an Ikelite housing, hoping to take his photography to the next level. Still living in Seychelles, Chris currently works for Global Vision International (GVI), where he oversees the organisation’s marine and terrestrial conservation expeditions. The projects include coral reef monitoring, turtle nesting surveys and shark-tagging research amongst other programmes. He is also co-founder of the Seychelles Sea Turtle Festival, an annual event aimed at promoting marine turtle conservation within the archipelago.

A passionate advocate of marine conservation with a keen interest in environmental issues, it is no surprise that conservation is a theme that appears regularly in his photography.  Chris firmly believes that photographers have an important role to play in making conservation issues more accessible to the public, and that photographs have the ability to cross language, cultural and social boundaries.

Seychelles provides the perfect environment for underwater photography, with its dramatic granite formations and abundant marine life. Still getting to know his DSLR setup, Chris tries to get out diving or snorkelling as often as possible. “Finding time to get out there and shoot is not always easy but it is important to force yourself to take a break every now and again”.

These days, aside from his role with GVI, Chris regularly writes articles for dive magazines and is currently working on an Underwater Guide to Seychelles, due to be published next year.

To see more of Chris’ work visit www.archipelagoimages.net

Diving into conservation in the Seychelles

Diving into conservation in the Seychelles
Coco de Mer trees on Curieuse Island
Coco de Mer trees on Curieuse Island

When you arrive at the Seychelles International airport on Mahe you can spot a GVI volunteer from a mile off. In amongst the Louis Vuitton matching suitcases, and the Ralph Lauren polo shirts, a backpack stuffed to bursting point, often with a pair of diving fins strapped to the outside, causes them to stand out from the usual Seychelles crowd. Best known as a destination for honeymooning couples including members of the British Royal Family, the Seychelles is not your typical volunteer destination.

Text and images by Christophe Mason-Parker

The Seychelles is an archipelago made up of 115 islands scattered like jewels across the western Indian Ocean. The inner granitic islands are covered in lush vegetation and sit on top of the Mahe Plateau; home to the majority of the population of 90,000 people. The warm, shallow waters of the plateau are perfect for coral growth and numerous coral reefs, home to an impressive diversity of marine life, surround the tiny islands that rise up from the seabed.

A future marine conservationist trying out the Scuba equipment
A future marine conservationist trying out the Scuba equipment

The main industries in the Seychelles are fishing and tourism, with both relying heavily on the support of a healthy marine environment. In 1998, unusually high sea temperatures caused by an El Niño Southern Oscillation event led to widespread coral bleaching. Reefs were decimated throughout the tropics and the Seychelles was no exception. Within the inner islands, coral mortality in certain areas reached as high as 90%.

Following the bleaching event the Shoals of Capricorn Marine Programme, with funding by the Royal Geographic Society, began monitoring reef regeneration as part of a three-year programme. This was then taken over by Reefcare International as part of the Seychelles Marine Ecosystem Management Program (SEYMEMP).

In 2004 Global Vision International (GVI), under the invitation of the Seychelles National Parks Authority, began monitoring the coral reefs of northwest Mahe and almost ten years later they continue to collect critical data on reef health.

GVI dive instructor Joe explains how to set up your dive equipment with SNPA staff
GVI dive instructor Joe explains how to set up your dive equipment with SNPA staff

Volunteers unload the dive boat after a successful day of surveys
Volunteers unload the dive boat after a successful day of surveys

GVI is a social enterprise that runs conservation and community development programmes in numerous locations around the world. Whether it is Healthcare Projects in Nepal, Wildlife Research in South Africa or Community Development in Costa Rica, GVI has been making a real difference by sending volunteers into the field since 1998.

Aside from the backpacks and an obvious interest in conservation, stereotyping a GVI volunteer is not so easy. From gap year students and university graduates, to professionals and pensioners, volunteers come from all walks of life and from every conceivable part of the globe. Each has a different reason for joining, but all leave having given a little of their time and having made a significant contribution towards protecting the organisms that inhabit these fragile shores.

The expeditions are broken down into four-week blocks, with volunteers arriving for either four, eight or twelve weeks at a time. The main focus of the programme is coral reef monitoring and volunteers are allocated either fish or coral to study prior to arrival in the field. The species lists are extensive and have been developed in conjunction with the Seychelles National Parks Authority to cover those organisms that are frequently observed on the reefs, are commercially valuable or act as indicators of reef health.

Located on the northwest coast of Mahe Island and sandwiched between Cap Matoopa and the Morne Seychellois National Park is the Cap Ternay marine expedition base.  Situated adjacent to the Baie Ternay Marine Park it is the ideal location for training in survey techniques and provides quick and easy access to the coral reefs of northwest Mahe.

Quadrats are used to measure the rate of coral recovery
Quadrats are used to measure the rate of coral recovery

Upon arriving in the field, GVI volunteers immediately undergo an intensive science training programme, specifically designed to teach species identification and monitoring methodologies.  On completion of computer and in-water tests and after a suitable amount of practice they are then able to commence monitoring the coral reefs. Accuracy is paramount and only volunteers who have successfully passed these tests are allowed to collect data.

In 2004 Global Vision International, under the invitation of the Seychelles National Parks Authority, began monitoring the coral reefs of northwest Mahe and almost ten years later they continue to collect critical data on reef health.

In 2010 GVI opened its second expedition base in the Seychelles. Curieuse is the fifth largest of the inner islands and along with its surrounding waters was designated as a national park back in 1979. Initially the GVI expedition was to replicate the marine monitoring being undertaken on Mahe. However, since 2011 attention has shifted towards monitoring the terrestrial flora and fauna that inhabits the island.

The GVI Curieuse Island Research Base is located at Anse Jose overlooking Praslin Island. The ruins of a former leper colony have been developed over the years by GVI staff and volunteers and today provide an excellent example of a working research base. Photovoltaic panels provide the expedition’s energy needs, while a comprehensive rainwater harvesting system assists with the collection of water.

The Coco de Mer is highly sought after
The Coco de Mer is highly sought after

Curieuse along with neighbouring Praslin Island is home to the endemic Coco de Mer palm (Lodoicea maldivica). Its Latin name derives from when Maldivians used to find the nuts washed up on their shores and believed they came from submarine trees. A slow growing palm, the Coco de Mer has the largest seed in the plant kingdom.

The nuts are an iconic symbol within the Seychelles appearing on everything from postcards and t-shirts to company logos. Their resemblance to the female private part has in the past led to its use as an aphrodisiac and today they are highly sought after.

The nuts are traded under license and are valued between $200-$300 each. Their high value means poaching is a real issue and due to their slow growth rate and limited distribution could have severe implications for the future of the species. GVI volunteers alongside the SNPA are in the process of conducting the first complete census of the Coco de Mer trees on Curieuse Island.

GVI staff & SNPA rangers insert a tag into a giant tortoise
GVI staff & SNPA rangers insert a tag into a giant tortoise

The Giant Aldabra Tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) was once found throughout the Seychelles islands. Today the last remaining wild population exists on Aldabra, where 100,000 of these giants roam upon the coral atoll.  Between 1978 and 1982 almost 300 Giant Tortoises were translocated from Aldabra to Curieuse Island as part of a conservation programme designed to safeguard the future of the species. Thirty years later and GVI is assisting the Seychelles National Parks Authority to conduct a census of the Curieuse Island population. Passive Integrated Transmitters are injected into the tortoises near the base of the tail. These tags act as barcodes and when scanned provide unique information about the tortoise.

GVI staff & SNPA rangers check a giant tortoise for a p.i.t. tag
GVI staff & SNPA rangers check a giant tortoise for a p.i.t. tag
A GVI staff member administers a P.I.T. Tag
A GVI staff member administers a P.I.T. Tag

From September through to April much of the research on Curieuse Island focuses on nesting turtles. Hawksbill and Green turtles nest within the Seychelles, though Hawksbill turtles tend to favour the inner islands. They are currently listed on the IUCN Red List as ‘Crtitically Endangered’ with global populations having crashed by over 80% in recent years.

Hawksbill Turtles nest during daylight hours
Hawksbill Turtles nest during daylight hours

In the Seychelles prior to 1994 huge numbers of nesting females were taken from most islands each season. Though the trade in tortoise shell is now illegal, and on the decrease, the species continues to face many threats to its existence. Entanglements in fishing nets, destruction of nesting grounds, and predation of eggs by feral animals, have all contributed toward a continuing decline in population numbers. Today the Seychelles is home to the largest remaining Hawksbill nesting population in the Western Indian Ocean.

During nesting season GVI staff and volunteers, alongside national park rangers walk up and down the beaches of Curieuse Island, searching for turtle tracks. Assisted by the Hawksbill’s tendency to nest during daylight hours in this part of the world, when the teams encounter a turtle they wait for her to start laying before approaching to record vital information.

A green turtle swims slowly thought the shallows
A green turtle swims slowly thought the shallows

Aside from the scientific monitoring programmes, a large part of the work GVI Seychelles undertakes focuses on community involvement and capacity building. The National Scholarship Programme is free to all Seychellois over the age of 18 with an interest in conservation. Applicants can take part in either the marine or terrestrial expeditions and gain valuable practical field experience. To date GVI has trained several park rangers and university students in species identification and scientific monitoring techniques.

The idea of spending two months living in remote conditions with a group of people you barely know is not to everyone’s liking. The days are long and hard, the accommodation is often basic and access to the trappings of modern day life is extremely limited. Yet volunteering offers something that you won’t get from your traditional vacation. There is the opportunity to make lifelong friendships with like-minded people, to get up close to nature in a way that you would never have thought possible, and the ability to make a real difference towards protecting the natural environment and improving the lives of those people who depend upon it for their livelihoods.

Playing games at a GVI open day

Kid’s at Port Launay primary school try out the GVI dive equipment

For many, volunteering is a life-changing experience, providing them with a new direction in life or an alternative insight into how they view the world. As our lives become ever busier, driven by mobile technology and our 24-hour lifestyles, many of us have forgotten what it is like to connect with nature. Our planet is facing increasing threats from climate change, overpopulation, pollution and dwindling resources, so it is good to know that there are people out there who still care enough to want to make a difference.

The Seychelles has an enviable record of looking after its environment with much of the land and surrounding waters designated as national parks. Small-scale conservation projects such as the one run by GVI in conjunction with the Seychelles National Parks Authority can go a long way towards protecting biodiversity, educating communities and conserving the environment for future generations.

For more information on GVI’s projects in the Seychelles and around the globe, visit: http://www.gvi.co.uk/

GVI staff and volunteers join the local community for a beach clean
GVI staff and volunteers join the local community for a beach clean

Seychelles Diving: Two worlds in one!

Seychelles Diving: Two worlds in one!

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I wake up with a jolt. The boat is moving! The subtle swaying of the boat on the ocean rocks me into reality. I have a slight headache, remnant of some extra Jack last night. Then I remember we asked Skipper Alastair to start early so that we can see the sharks of Marianne South before breakfast (and hopefully not as breakfast). We have three guests on board. Two of them are avid diving photographers, like my wife and I, and who have been on ‘seafari’ with us for the past three days in the Seychelles.

Text and Images by Clive Ferreira, with grateful help from SF Ferreira

I hoist myself up to the main deck to where my good wife Sue has already made some much-appreciated coffee. After helping myself to some tasty muesli rusks my morning stomach pang has been broken. I inhale the sweet, fresh air of the morning and find myself comforted by the collage of blue waters and sky. The weather is calm despite the slight breeze of the previous day, which caused some slight discomfort when deciding on a suitable mooring place. Rowan, our intrepid Dive Leader, is already up on the fly bridge of the 42 ft Catamaran, Suzy-Q, with Alastair. The boat is moving at about 8 knots on calm flat seas and no wind. Things are looking good.

Suzy-Q is 42 ft Catamaran with two monstrous IPS Volvo D6 engines.
Suzy-Q is 42 ft Catamaran with two monstrous IPS Volvo D6 engines.

“I hope we see some sharks today,” says Rowan. “We will try a better drop-off if the current permits.” We both silently relish the thought of some exciting animal encounters, especially for our guests. This is the second time we have tried this site, renowned for its schools of grey reef sharks. The previous time (about eight months earlier) we were restricted by bad weather. Although we saw some white tip reef sharks (a regular occurrence when diving in the Seychelles) no Grey Reef Shark were spotted. Truth be told we didn’t have the exact drop-off point. This is the sort of knowledge you acquire by paying or bribing the select few who reside on the island. It’s the best way to find some of what I like to call, “Exciting dives of Adventure and Discovery!”… Another option is to find another dive boat on the prospective site and watch their drop-off point carefully (assuming they know what they are doing). Marking the spot on the GPS then becomes a formality (It’s how we found Johnny’s Rock). This however is a rare occurrence in the Seychelles; to find many boats on any site, especially on remote ones like Marianne South. It’s the kind of site that is only accessible from the sole dive operator on nearby La Dique Island or by long-range yacht.

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I go down to the kit up area where our guests, Andrew and Fernanda, are already kitting up. While sipping some more of the aroma rich coffee, I am mesemerised by a flat sea in which everyone is excited to dive. Andrew and Sue are focused on preparing their cameras. Sue does not really care about Sharks as she has her macro lens on – which has become her religion. Andrew, on the other hand, is busy fitting his new 14mm wide angle onto his new camera. As an equally avid macro man he has asked me twice what lens to use. He also plans to shoot some video, as that is what his new toy (3D Mark II) is also capable of. He shot some amazing footage yesterday at Ave Maria of the masses of sweepers and schools of patrolling golden pilot jacks (kingfish or trevallies). Sue is becoming more proficient with my 100m lens and shooting some “good ones” – this compared to her relative and astounding skill with a 60mm. Fernanda and I finish our coffee. We had prepared our gear the previous night already, our foresight in this regard being unmatched. As it was, Andrew had kept me awake last night (or perhaps I am to blame), discussing, if not arguing, which dive site is better, and solving some of the world’s greatest problems. I am not so sure about those solutions right now as World Peace may never be practically accomplished by two good friends and a bottle of whiskey. The heavy “thinking” of last night is undoubtedly the cause of my slight headache, which fortunately subsides and makes way for the growing excitement of the morning dive. At this point I am glad Rowan did most of the kitting up.

About thirty minutes after departing Anse Petite, our wonderful anchorage off the island of La Dique, we arrive at Marianne South which is located at the southern point of the island Marianne. We are all ready and there is a shared silence of excitement. The “viz” looks good and we can see the turquoise bottom surrounded by navy blue seas. Alastair and Rowan scout the site. We want to drop off close to the southerly point. The depth gauge shows that we are now around 20 meters and decreasing. I look over to the seemingly out of place green mounds of land that stand about 50 meters away. The land mass is dramatic with beautiful shaped granite rocks covered with lush green vegetation. For most, if not many, this is as good as it gets.

“Lets drop here” says Alastair, and so Rowan drops in first to gauge the current. He quickly gives the all-clear sign and we all drop in like excited children at a pool party. We have one non-diving guest on board who watches on with bemusement. She is a solid 80 years of age and wisdom. Although she isn’t a diver, she is probably one of the strongest swimmers on board.

We descend into the warm blue waters (temperature 28 degrees) and the photographer’s frantically get their cameras ready on the way down. The viz is really good and there is no current to speak of. Marianne South is actually very different to most other dive sites in the Seychelles as it is almost a wall dive. The 20 plus meters of granite boulders are really awe-inspiring and it “colours” up nicely when photographed, especially with some coral on it.

We see our first white tip and everyone is now fully alert and awake as we move along “right shoulder” (In the Seychelles you only have two directions depending on current). We soon see some great schooling snappers, soldier fish and big eyes. We watch a small squadron of eagle rays glide past effortlessly and a turtle making its way up for air. Then suddenly, swimming effortlessly out of the blue abyss, he appears. A nice two-meter grey reef shark! His mere presence immediately has the attention and cautious respect of us all. Serenely it circles us a few times before moving in closer to investigate. We try our best to get a good shot of this truly magnificent creature. Suddenly it rears off, losing interest, realizing there is no breakfast but bubbles for our fearsome friend. Unfortunately, no one grabs any great photos. Wide-angle shots require virtually kissing the animal and we were still about four meters away!

We realize we have to honour our deco times and some of us are running low on air after a dive where we touched 22metres. Slowly we ascend until we reach our safety stop. A few friendly batfish come closer and play. There are some interesting jellyfish for the macro guys in the water and a remora is seeking a host with one of us. After a fabulous 61 minutes we are back on Suzy-Q for breakfast, in time for a Spanish omelette.

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The dive at Marianne is the second last dive on our three-day seafari. We breakfast on the boat as we make our way back to base camp on Eden Island which sits about 20 nautical miles away on Mahe; the largest and principal island of the Seychelles. We reach the island in the early afternoon after a leisurely trawling speed. To everyone’s delight we manage to hook some Job and Bonito for the braai we’ll inevitably enjoy later on in the evening.

Rowan calls the last dive of the seafari at the Eden Island “house reef,” Johnny’s Rock, a most special reef. The rock is a series of submerged boulders covered with beautiful stag and plate coral as well as some interesting soft coral. The site is only about 20 minutes from Eden Island off the Mahe coastline. The highest point of the boulder lurks only 5m below water level. There is significant fish life, a lovely pair of “swim-through” caves and a number of interesting cleaning stations. There is the usual resident reef shark, a pair of huge Napoleon wrasse and buffalo parrot fish. Some of the fish are so large you actually get a fright because of their looming shadows! There is a resident pod of dolphins that patrols the area and we often encounter them underwater. When we arrived earlier in the summer the whole reef was covered in millions of sweepers and baitfish dancing around the boulders. A huge school of golden kingfish patrolled the area in hunt of nature’s bounty. Every time I submerge myself in the mystical and enigmatic beauty of the ocean I can’t help but feel at peace. A feeling of love and appreciation washes over me as a smile stretches my lips.

We have wasted a bit of time fishing along the way and it is quite overcast when we finally fall into the water (with giant stride and all) around 4 o’clock. The viz is not as good as the previous week and it is almost eerily dark. However, arriving below, a new sight greets us. The entire reef is covered in “yellow flowers” as the turret coral have opened up mixed with red thistle coral. Added to this is the dark blue sea and silver dancing baitfish, which makes for a spectacular display.

It is quite clear that the mass of sweepers has now been seriously depleted by the marauding golden trevallies. However, there are still a few million left. The macro guys find some spectacular anemones accompanied by a porcelain crab. The resident white tip scouts around as we approach the swim-through. An eagle ray drifts past looking for food. This reef is gorgeous and we can’t help but enjoy the spectacle below us at the safety stop before ascending after 61 minutes. Another great day, another great dive…

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I visited the Seychelles for the first time in 1991. At that stage I was not yet a diver but I can remember the pleasure of snorkeling and the lingering interest in the resort course being taught in the hotel swimming pool. However the sheer beauty of the islands’ paper white beaches, piercing blue water and rugged grey mountains coated in lush vegetation forced me to make a promise. Some how, sometime, my feet would feel the sands of the Seychelles again.

Nine years later I visited Mauritius and had to do a resort course. I had watched my wife and youngest son qualify as PADI open water divers and oozed with some jealousy. The rest of the family and I duly did nine dives and then as they say the rest was history. The family got hooked and to this day the family dives whenever the opportunity arises.

We eventually made our way back to Seychelles in 2007 for a holiday. It was then that our love affair was renewed and we validated this affair by buying a place at Eden island and then, of course, the good ship Suzy Q! It is, today, the ultimate diving experience in the Seychelles… If you don’t believe me, there is nothing stopping you from trying.

Suzy-Q is 42 ft Catamaran with two monstrous IPS Volvo D6 engines. There are three cabins and everything you need to make you feel at home on the ocean. There is a TV (which we hardly ever use) and a mass of dive gear, among other things. Suzy-Q operates from the new Eden island marina; a highly successful marina development in Seychelles that has been largely done by a South African developer.

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Location of Seychelles:
The Seychelles is a group of 115 islands spread over a very large mass of ocean. The islands have two prevailing wind systems. The stronger SE monsoon blows May through September and the milder NW Monsoon prevails in November to February. In between these times it is fairly wind free and makes for the best diving. Although diving is in fact possible all year round.

Mahe is the main and biggest island with Victoria as the capital. The population of Seychelles is around 90 000 with most people living on Mahe, Praslin and La Dique but with the majority on Mahe. The island sits 4 degrees south of the equator and so the weather is highly tropical with harsh sunshine, high ambient temperatures of around 30 degrees and a fair amount of humidity (one has to get used to this). If you are diver this is much less of a problem as we spend so much time at 28 degrees our bodies hardly know better. Rainfall annually approaches three meters and the rain showers can be torrid. Regardless of this it is always welcome as the rain cools things down quite significantly. The best time of year, without a doubt, is April-May or October/November, although you will have to trust me when I say it is still quite nice in December as well.

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The Seychelles mainly consists of the inner islands situated on a large underwater granitic plateau that is no deeper than 50m. At the so-called drop-off, where the depth plunges to thousands of meters, there are the first of the outer islands that are all in fact coral atolls. These islands are all varying distances away from the capital Victoria and beg for further exploration. At the moment we have restricted ourselves to the inner islands. Apparently there are some stunning wall dives at Des Roches, Alphonse and of course Aldabra, but that surely must be the subject for later exploration.

Diving the Seychelles is indeed quite something as the waters are bountiful. There are masses of fish and other examples of underwater life despite the significant bleaching that followed the 1998 El Nino. The good news is that the coral is recovering nicely. The fish life is still prolific and many interesting species abound.

In my view the reefs, albeit limited at this time, are not in such bad shape and appear to have improved over the last few years although there are certainly less turtles. As it is Turtles have been a delicacy in the Seychelles for decades, although this is now officially banned.

The viz is generally good and one can dive year round in warm water (27-30 degrees). One only requires a “shorty” to enjoy the salty blue waters. There are many sites and a good variety of fish, reef and chances for macro photography. There are species that are quite numerous, more so than any other place I’ve seen. The chances of seeing various animals, for an example, are listed below.

1. Eagle rays; battalions; 90%
2. Many white tip reef sharks: 70%
3. Buffalo parrot fish: 75%
4. Napoleons: 60%

Seychelles has a whale shark season from September through November. In fact I have seen these creatures as late as January and this last December I am aware of at least four sightings and two in January. All the sightings occur, usually, around the main island of Mahe.

Other reefs

Brisaire and Dragon’s teeth
About 20 minutes outside of Victoria there are two large boulders. One is more visible than the other. The big one is called Brisaire and the other one, Dragon’s teeth. Diving below water on either one is similar and both fabulous. Many people rate them the best dives in the Seychelles. Brisaire deserves a mention in most dive books. The viz is normally quite good but the site is prone to mild currents. These sites both have excellent coral and schools of snappers, big eyes, soldiers and fusiliers. There is always much pelagic activity as well as the usual white tips (they actually have a cave here), buffalo parrots, napoleons, eagle rays and hawksbill turtles.

Shark bank
This is one of the iconic dives of the Seychelles; almost like Pinnacles at Ponta. It is the deepest popular dive at 30m. It consists of a few large boulders, but with very significant fish and pelagic life. There are literally banks of yellow snappers and big eyes. Unfortunately I have not seen any sharks there but, just as with Pinnacles, there is always a chance. The location is about 20 minutes by fast boat towards Silhouette. In December a whale shark patrolled the area and some fabulous video footage was captured. The shark swam elegantly with a bevy of remoras. The footage rolled out on a continuous basis from one of the local dive operations.

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Trois dames
This is a submerged series of large underwater boulders covered with coral near Therese island on the west coast of Mahe. There is a wide variety of fish life around the boulders with the usual resident white tips. Again we find many cleaning stations dealing with giant starry-eyed puffer fish, angel and batfish. Schools of bat fish keep you company on your safety stop.

Grand Bazaar
This is a small but deep reef with much “action” to it. Emperor snappers, pompano, eagle rays, napoleon and buffalo parrot fish. The maximum depth is 25m and in most cases there may be some current as it is more in the open channel. It is a reef almost like Bikini at Sodwana, small but with much to offer. Large schools of fusiliers followed by pelagic activity are always prevalent.

Mannes bank
Here we have what is probably the best dive on the East Coast. It normally has a mild current and it is relatively deep at 22m. The coral at that depth is in excellent condition. Mannes Bank is home to a large resident nurse shark, a number of white tips, flotillas of eagle rays and schools of skunk anemones and turtles. The bank rises from a depth of 25m up to 15m, which makes for a nice wall dive. Large schools of fusiliers with schools of barracuda, king fish and bonito patrol the area as well as large eagle rays. In addition to this, fairly large napoleons patrol the area. These fish, unfortunately are, not as friendly as potato bass so taking good pictures of them remains a challenge.

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L’ilotte
This is the site where I last shot on macro. It is in fact a magical wide-angle site with lovely soft coral and teeming with some magical fish life given the prevailing currents. This is where I encountered a whale shark covered with its team of remoras and pilot fish with a 100m lens at 16m. We immediately surfaced and found seven more swimming around in January 2008, well outside the whale shark season.

L’ilotte is a must dive on the Seychelles and has some great photo opportunities. The island is small, sitting about one 100m offshore. The dive is not very deep with a maximum depth of 18m. Depending on the current one may proceed on your right or left shoulder round the island. Viz is very much dependent on conditions. At L’ilotte one normally gets large schools of big eyes, hanging in the current as well as white tips and eagle rays.

L’ilotte is therefore one of my all time favourites. It is also the only place where I have seen a large school of buffalo or hump-head parrotfish. These fish cast a large shadow and you always know when they are around. Although shy, their curiosity compels them to approach you. To see a large school of them is simply awe-inspiring.

Some more reefs:

Harrisons, Isle Seche, Turtle rock, Lost City, Aquarium, Booby, White bank, Light House, Conception, Matoupa, Chuckles, The Ennerdale wreck, twin barges, Marmelle and many more.

Diving is done mainly on the West Coast of Mahe from four different dive centres. There is one dive centre on the East Coast, three more on Praslin and one on La Dique. The Seychelles also has some very up-market island resorts which run their own dive operations at Silhouette, Denis island, Frigate, Des Roches and North Island. Currently Suzy Q is the only specialized dive charter although a number of other boats also offer diving.

Diving is currently restricted to the inner islands. On our to-do list, however, we look forward to exploring the Amirantes, Alphonse and, above all, magical Aldabra.

Other things to do in the Seychelles:

You may visit one of the many fabulous beaches of powder white sand and light blue, and at times turquoise waters. All this can be found on Mahe or one of the other islands. Most of the beaches are fairly quiet and can be enjoyed on your own or with very few fellow tourists. The Seychelles has some of the best beaches in the world. Top of these are Anse Lazio (voted no 1 in the world.) Other good ones are Beau Vallon, Grand Anse on la Dique and Anse Soleil. La Dique is well worth a visit. Time has chosen to stand still on most parts of the Island. There are also giant tortoises a-plenty on nearby Moyenne. It should also be said that The Seychelles has two World Heritage sites: the Vallee de Mai, with the famous black parrot, and coco de mere on Praslin and Aldabara. Obviously, visiting the botanical gardens and the local market can be quite a treat. In Victoria, Little Big Ben, is a must-see and of course, if it’s not too much of a bother, you can always just go diving!

Some reference

Marianne Island is a small (238 acres) granitic island of the Seychelles. It is located 3.8 km ESE of Félecité Island. The island was a former coconut plantation, and on the western side of the island is a long beach. The southern tip of Marianne is known as a world-class diving location. The tallest peak on the island is Estel Hill at 130 meters.

Presently, Marianne Island is uninhabited but is routinely visited by tourists and boaters. For much of the 19th and 20th century, farming and copra production took place on Marianne. There was a former settlement called La Cour, and in 1940 the island had 60 inhabitants.
There are a few species of gecko on Marianne, including the La Digue day gecko (Phelsuma sundbergi ladiguensis) and Phelsuma astriata semicarinata. Reportedly, the rare Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher {Terpsiphone corvina) is occasionally spotted on the island.[1]. Also, it was once home to the extinct Seychelles Chestnut-sided White-eye

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