Cruise The Idyllic Inner Islands Of Seychelles….. By Schooner or Catamaran
Since the 9th century, when intrepid Arab seafarers first sailed the then uncharted waters off the east coast of Africa, Seychelles’ waters have been visited by a succession of sailors under a host of different flags. Phoenician traders, Polynesian adventurers, a Chinese flotilla and pirates – all navigated the Seychelles archipelago, leaving little behind except footprints in silver sands and tales of buried treasure.
Today, Seychelles welcomes a new generation of sailors to its pristine waters to enjoy the myriad treasures that have remained wonderfully intact since the occupants of Arab dhows first wondered at these islands’ astonishing beauty.
115 sparkling and diverse isles set like gemstones in an azure sea and offering year-round sailing combines with international and local charter companies that provide a wide selection of specialized craft, both skippered and bareboat, to offer the sailing experience of a lifetime.
The Seychelles archipelago lies between 4° and 10° south of the Equator in the Indian Ocean and comprises 1,400,000 square km of azure ocean with 115 pristine islands that fall into 2 distinct groups, the Inner and Outer Islands and that lie for the most part, outside the cyclone belt.
The Inner Islands consist of 41 granitic islands that form a cluster around the principal islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, some with peaks rising nearly 1,000m high. Interestingly, there are also 2 low-lying coral islands, namely Denis Island and Bird Island within the Inner Islands.
The remaining 72 low-lying coral islands are known as the Outer Islands and extend mainly in a gleaming arc towards the coast of Africa.
Together, these form 6 distinct island groups: the Inner Islands, the Amirantes, Southern Coral, Alphonse, Farquhar and Aldabra … all lying between 260 miles and 865 miles from the east African coast.
Sailing around Inner Islands
Enjoy the experience of a lifetime sailing the Seychelles’ Inner Islands, where safe moorings and easy sailing distances will open up a world of diversity and breathtaking natural beauty to be explored the way it was intended…under sail.
Cruise the waters around magical Mahé, Seychelles’ largest island and home to the main port and capital, Victoria. The island offers memorable sailing opportunities with 44 miles of scenic coastline that features safe anchorages, over 65 beaches and a host of secret coves and romantic hideaways.
Scenicbaysinclude Beau Vallon, Baie Ternay, Port Launay, Anse à la Mouche, Anse Soleil, Baie Lazare, Intendance and Anse Royale. Some of the more secret coves include Anse Major, Anse Jasmin, Anse Du Riz, and Petit Anse.
The smaller islands of Cerf, Moyenne, Round and Ste Anne lie just off Mahé’s eastern coast in a marine park and Conception Island and Thérèse to her west. Further in the distance northwest from Mahé lies Silhouette and its close neighbour North Island.
Only a few hours sailing northeast from Mahé (23 miles) will bring you past the twin island gems of Cousin and Cousine and to the island of Praslin, where the gentle unhurried pace of life is an attraction in itself. Praslin is home to the legendary Vallée de Mai and a choice of world famous beaches. The island boasts a wide array of hotels, shops, restaurants and other attractions, all accessible from the numerous safe anchorages that are dotted along its 18-mile coastline.
Scenic bays and romantic coves around Praslin include Anse Lazio (also one of the world’s most photographed beaches), Anse a la Farine, Anse Petite Cour, Baie Chevalier, AnsePosession, Anse La Blague, Côte d’Or and Anse Marie-Louise. Satellite islands include Curieuse, St. Pierre, ÎleCocos, Aride, Cousine and Cousin, to name a few.
Less than 4 miles southeast from Praslin’sBaie Ste Anne jetty, La Digue is the island where time stands still, with heart-stopping beauty and time-honoured tradition nestled inside 9 miles of coastline. Discover its many coves (such as Reunion, Union and Patate) and silver-sand beaches, among which is one of the planet’s most photographed strand, Anse Source d’Argent. Enjoy the charms of its numerous satellite islands like Félicité, Marianne and Grand Soeur, all within easy reach and all offering safe anchorages.
La Digue features several out-of-the-way restaurants, shops and boutiques to meet provisioning needs. And the accommodation facilities reflect island-style Creole hospitality at its best.
Then set sail towards Denis and Bird, those coralline jewels of the northern waters, or even solitary Frégate, which was once the haunt of pirates, to the east.
Sailing around Outer Islands
Journey to Seychelles’ sparkling Outer Islands, where precious few have gone before and where you can rise to the challenges of longer sailing distances and few, if any, of the numerous amenities found around the Inner Islands. Here is where true adventure lies, amid the azure world of the open ocean and the turquoise of remote lagoons.
These are areas of ocean passages, grass roots navigation and map making in the time honoured method of laying off and sounding by tender.
Some 130 miles southwest of Mahé, the Amirantes is the nearest grouping of Outer Islands to the main granite cluster of the Inner Islands. This dazzling chain of coral isles was first discovered and given their name by Admiral Vasco de Gama on his second voyage to India.
The Amirantes lends itself well to cruising, with each of its islands – from Marie-Louise and Desnoeufs to the fine resort island of Desroches, or the isle of d’Arros with its magnificent lagoon and the twin isles that make up Poivre – being only some 4 hours sailing from the next. Fishing en route is excellent and the snorkelling and diving are unrivalled, especially around the St Joseph atoll and off the walls of Desroches.
Some 50 miles southwest of Desnouefs resides Alphonse, which boasts some of the most spectacular diving, fishing and sailing opportunities in Seychelles, as well as a resort. Its lagoon is home to teeming wildlife and the majestic isles of Bijoutier and St. François. Both atolls (Alphonse atoll and St. Francois and Bijoutier atoll) are partially navigable at the right tide and both have passes to gain access to their calm interiors.
It is preferable to include Alphonse in a tour of the Amirantes and extend the visit to cover these amazing atolls. An overnight sail from the southern end of the Amirantes gives early morning access to the area around Alphonse and is a worthwhile extension for seekers of lost horizons.
The Farquhar group lies between 370 miles and 420 miles southwest of Mahé. It was the first of Seychelles’ island groups to be sighted by modern explorers and still, today, offers the sailor an authentic blue-water sailing experience.
Situated on a shallow bank of sand and coral, Farquhar is more exposed to the sea than either Aldabra or Cosmoledo and rises majestically from the ocean depths to form a low lying atoll complete with its own dazzling shallow lagoon.
Navigation within the atoll is limited and mainly restricted to the eastern section. Although entry and exit can be difficult, it is nonetheless worthwhile for the shelter offered within.
Close by is the massive Providence reef with a small island at each end. With its northern tip crowned by the protruding peak of St. Pierre, this area, detailed with fine reefs and offering excellent diving and fishing, is mostly the preserve of adventurers seeking the very last word in out-of-the-way cruising.
Flying into Farquhar for rendezvous with a pre-booked yacht is a recommended solution to avoid the long sail there and back. However, those who relish ocean passages may continue on past the Amirantes, stop over at Alphonse and finally push on to Farquhar.
Home to nesting seabirds and turtles, this remote island outpost offers the intrepid sailor a unique combination of breathtaking scenic beauty and ocean adventure.
One of the most fascinating natural places on Earth, and one of Seychelles’ two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, can only be reached by sea: Aldabra. The Aldabra group is 630 miles south-west of Mahé and consists of 3 atolls, Aldabra itself, Cosmoledo and Astove plus the raised limestone platform island of Assumption. Only Assumption and Aldabra carry skeleton staff whilst both Cosmoledo and Astove are at present uninhabited.
The relative closeness of Assumption, Cosmoledo and Astove makes for an interesting sailing itinerary around these ‘lands that time forgot.’
This area is very seasonal with the best times to visit being the transition periods of March/April and again October/November. Often the best way to visit this area is to charter a plane and fly to the airstrip at Assumption and meet up with a charter yacht.
For the continued protection of its unique biodiversity, special permission is required by all visitors to Aldabra.
It is as if Seychelles was deliberately designed for the recreational sailor. With most islands lying outside the cyclone belt, Seychelles offers year round sailing in calm waters. There is no better way to enjoy a dazzling array of islands than by cruising its pristine waters and exploring the extraordinary bounty of Seychelles at your own pace. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your sailing holiday experience.
Current legislation mandates that all yachts visiting the Outer Islands shall be of the higher specification ‘Over 60 miles’ class and that they be supplied with captain and appropriate crew. The charter companies can advise which of their yachts are equipped to visit these areas.
Fringing reefs and shallows make navigation a full-time occupation and currently only crewed charters are offered in the Outer Islands. Anchorages tend to be better during the south-east trades (May to September) or during the calmer transition months (April and October), although each island may have its own particular configuration for favourable moorings depending on the season. Be sure to get the necessary permissions prior to landing on the various islands.
Access and Fees
While you are free to explore most of Seychelles’ waters at will, there are a few limitations which are often meant to help preserve the unique and fragile environment so that all can enjoy it today and in the years to come.
Access to the ecologically sensitive Marine Parks and Reserve areas are managed by various conservation organizations and requires either permission, and/or payment of a landing or entry fee, and mooring fee for overnight mooring. However, streamlined procedures now make it easy for yachts to visit. Simply arrive and anchor in the marked zones and the marine park officials will come out and visit the yacht to collect the required fees.
The Marine Parks and Reserves areas are: Aride, Cousin, Curieuse Marine National Park, ïleCocos Marine National Park, Ste. Anne Marine National Park and St. Pierre. Entrance fees start from Euro 10 per person. Overnight mooring fees start from Euro 10 per yacht.
Some islands are privately owned or managed, therefore access is controlled by the owners. Islands that fall into this category are: Anonyme, Bird, Chauvre Souris, Cousine, D’Arros and St.Joseph Atoll, Denis, Félicité, Frégate, Grande Soeur, Petite Soeur, Moyenne, North, Round Island off Mahé and Round Island off Praslin. Please contact the island management for permissions. Landing fees start from Euro 10 per person.
The following islands are under the management of the Island Development Company (IDC): Alphonse Island, Bijoutier, Coëtivy, Desroches, Farquhar, Poivre Atoll, Platte, Providence Atoll, Remire, Silhouette and St. François. Please contact IDC for permission to access. Landing fees start from Euro 20 per person.
Entry and Exit Formalities
Port Victoria on Mahé is the only official port of entry and exit of the Seychelles. Locally chartered yachts that will sail within Seychelles are not subject to entry and exit formalities.However, all vessels arriving from a foreign country or departing Seychelles must call at Port Victoria to carry out all customs, health, immigration, port and security formalities.
Vessels must submit the following documentation to the customs authorities upon entry:
1) A valid outward clearance from their last port of call
2) Crew list
3) Passenger list
4) Store (or consumables) list
5) Arms and ammunition list
A one-month visitor’s permit is normally issued to crew members and accompanying passengers (if there are any) on arrival. Extension of the permits must be sought at least one week prior to its expiry should they decide to stay longer. If a trip to the Outer Islands of Seychelles is planned and the return to Port Victoria, Mahé will be later than the expiry date of their permit, visitors must secure the extension of their permit prior to embarking on their journey.
Immigration must be advised in advance and in writing of any crew member or accompanying passenger either signing off or joining the vessel.
Upon exiting Seychelles, vessels must complete the outward clearance formality with the customs authorities and are not allowed to call at any of the islands once cleared by the relevant authorities in Port Victoria.
The islands of Assumption, Farquhar and/or Desroches may be substituted as alternative entry or exit ports, but this is a very costly option, as all officials concerned will have to be flown out from Mahé at the requesting vessel’s own expense.
Sailing within the Inner Islands is easy and safe, with sailing distances of under 32 miles between mooring grounds.
Mooring buoys are provided in several locations (particularly around north-west Mahé, north-east of Praslin and a few of its surrounding islands) and should be used where available; otherwise anchoring is required. Good sand bottom anchorages with depths of 5-8 metres may be found in most of the desired overnight areas. In line with Seychelles’ eco-friendly policies, ANCHORING ON CORAL IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN.
In the Outer Islands that lie between 130 miles and 630 miles from Mahé, navigating is more difficult due to the presence of low-lying coral reefs and other hazards. The mooring grounds of many Outer Islands are less sheltered and the waters between them less frequently sailed.
1/10000 scale charts of the ocean surrounding the islands have been published as mooring guides and are available in the offices of Sunsail and VPM (two sailing operators based in Seychelles) and on the yachts themselves. Due to the remoteness of the islands and the infrequency of mapping surveys the correct depths (surroundings) are sometimes missing or inaccurate, so care should be taken to sail cautiously over the mooring zones and in waters surrounding the more remote islands. Do not trust the printed figures blindly as coral bottoms can vary constantly, obliging the skipper to be alert to the sounder at all times.
Navigation aids are provided at Port Victoria and at the entrance to the Port, as is the case at the BaieSte. Anne jetty on Praslin. The buoyage system is based on the IA system, as in Europe. Red cylindrical buoys and even numbers to port; green cones with odd numbers to starboard. There are also a few lights with charted characteristics positioned on headlands of Mahé and Praslin.
Apart from these, navigation is by pilotage. The return to compass, chart and feel is a most refreshing change from the world’s buoyed and beaconed waters.
Sailing by chart is both enjoyable and rewarding and with due care for the well charted rocks and reefs makes Seychelles a delight to navigate. The most severe offshore rocks are visible by eye but do not carry buoys or lights.
Self-skippered yachts are therefore limited to daylight hours only and are required to be at anchor by nightfall.
Special Zones have been designated around areas or foul ground, underwater pipelines and cables and areas of special interest or security where care with anchoring and access to the beach are required.
For example, in Beau Vallon Bay on Mahé, there are zoned anchorages and access channels around designated swimming areas.
The art of sailing is a combination of reading the weather, using it to one’s advantage, avoiding dangers and using depth, bearings and transits to navigate freely, enjoy the voyage, and finally anchor in a safe and beautiful location. Seychelles provides this in abundance.
Water and Refuelling Facilities
Water and refuelling facilities are available on the islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue at the areas listed below.
On Mahé, local charter yachts may use the facilities available at the Marine Charter Association, Port Victoria. However, foreign yachts must contact the Harbour Master at Port Victoria at least 24-hrs in advance.
Marine Charter Association
PO Box 20
Tel: +248 4 32 21 26
Fax: +248 4 22 46 79
Seychelles Port Authority
New Port, PO Box 47
Port Victoria, Mahé
Tel: +248 4 22 47 01
Fax: +248 4 22 40 04
Emails: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Pier Master – Baie Ste Anne Jetty
Baie Ste Anne, Praslin
Tel/Fax: +248 4 23 24 34
Pier Master – La Passe Jetty
La Passe, La Digue
Tel/Fax: +248 4 23 43 00
There are two opposing wind patterns in Seychelles, blowing seasonally either north-westerly (December to March) or south-easterly (May to September).
In general, the north-westerly winds strengthen at daybreak, however, it is relatively weak with average wind speeds of 5-10 knots and reaches its peak strength in January. The north-westerly trades often have intermittent rain squalls and stronger winds during the period December to March. These are sometimes associated with the presence of tropical cyclones over the south-west Indian Ocean. Remember that all but Seychelles’ most southerly islands lie well outside the cyclone belt.
In comparison, the south-easterly trades are drier and tend to blow more consistently throughout the day and into the night, reaching its peak in July/August. Average wind speeds during the period June to September are 10-15 knots, with occasional gusts exceeding 30 knots, normally associated with surges in the trade winds.Sailing in Seychelles – Copyright Koos Van der Lende.
In the months of April and November there are calm and sometimes windless periods when the trade winds change direction. These light and variable wind periods are accompanied by calm seas and clear waters.
In terms of strength, the Outer Islands would probably experience stronger winds during the south-easterly trades season due to their more southern location as well as exposure (low lying atolls). Whereas, the Inner Islands would expect to have stronger winds during the north-westerly trades season since the zone of weaker winds (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) would normally be lying to the south of it.
Weather forecasts are available by calling Seychelles Radio (Coast Station) on VHF channel 16 and normally switching up to channel 26. Yachts may also place a radio link call via Seychelles Radio.
Source: Seychelles Tourism Board