Seychelles

Paradise rediscovered

A thousand miles off the African coast, in the western reaches of the Indian Ocean, the 115 equatorial islands that make up the Seychelles are the epitome of a tropical island paradise. The natural arrangement of granite islands and curved coral reefs; of white sandy bays and sheltered salt lagoons, makes the Seychelles an ideal venue for watersports – not least surfing, diving, fishing and kayaking. However, they are vast in area, extending more than 600 nautical miles from their capital on the island of Mahe, so the chief yacht charter region tends to revolve around the three primary islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.

Whichever part you choose, your Seychelles yacht charter experience will include steep, forested mountains, spectacular golden beaches and clear turquoise waters teeming with marine life.

As the largest island in the group, with a capital city, a national park and an international airport, Mahe tends to be used as the central hub for most Seychelles charter yacht itineraries. But with around 70 beaches, plus a busy port, a lively market and all kinds of activities on hand, this island is not without merit. Top entertainments include watching giant turtles, swimming with dolphins and hiking the tropical mountains of the Morne Seychellois National Park.

Silhouette Island is a place of astonishing loveliness. The lush, forested inner peak of Mount Daubon climbs to nearly 800 metres while around the shore, flawless white beaches are littered with vast granite boulders. The walking, diving and fishing are superb and as a national park and a national marine park, that’s not going to change. But there’s luxury as well as rusticity, with a selection of high-end spa developments, not least in the form of the five-star Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort.

As well as being the most easterly of the Seychelles inner islands, Fregate is one of the largest private resort islands in the archipelago. It’s an important place for bird and bat colonies and in addition to Hawksbill and Green Turtles, which use the beaches to nest, there are around 400 relocated Aldabra giant tortoises roaming free. Aside from the wildlife and the wonderful isolation, there is a modest scattering of super exclusive holiday resorts and villas for those who are keen for serious escape.

The pace of life on La Digue is decidedly relaxed. The traditional production of coconut oil and vanilla may have declined but in its place, a low-key form of tourism has developed, with a modest peppering of guesthouses and restaurants and some watersports operators, bicycle companies and horse riding businesses to take advantage of the island’s lovely natural setting. However, it remains at heart a simple Creole island, with ox carts, plantation houses and blissful white beaches – and it’s all the more appealing for that.

The Sisters Islands, Grande Soeur and Petite Soeur, sit at the eastern perimeter of the inner isles, in close proximity to Félicité and Ile Cocos. Managed by the Hotel Château de Feuilles on Praslin, there are no moorings available but there are good anchorages at the Reef Bar on the western side of Grande Soeur. The attractions are all about big ocean views, great walks, idyllic picnic opportunities and high-class diving in fish-rich waters – the perfect charter cocktail.

Despite the absence of any hotels or restaurants, the protected island of Curieuse remains a key destination for day-trippers from neighbouring Praslin. Its National Marine Park status means you have to pay to enter and to moor overnight and in order to protect the pristine coral reef, you can only anchor in designated spots. But with its mangrove forests, its turtle breeding grounds, its glorious dive sites, its excellent fishing and its giant tortoises sunbathing at the harbour in Baie Laraie, it’s a charming place to be.

The Seychelles’ second largest island is a true beach lover’s paradise, with bleached powdery sands, scatterings of pink boulders and magnificent bays and coves everywhere you look. Diving off the north coast is also a treat and the UNESCO-protected Vallee de Mai, a primeval palm forest, is of international importance. However, for the ultimate in seclusion, nothing beats Round Island. Perched just off the south coast, the whole of this lush, tropical island is available to rent.

Top Ten Seychelles attractions

  1. Climb Morne Blanc for one of the finest views in the Indian Ocean.
  2. Visit Vallee de Mai, a UNESCO site and ancient palm forest in Praslin.
  3. Swim with whale sharks at the Port Launay Marine National Park.
  4. Enjoy a spa treatment at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz.
  5. Fish the oceanic drop-off for tuna, grouper, snapper and marlin.
  6. Anchor at Baie Laraie for the night and enjoy an evening meal on deck.
  7. Take on the surf at unprotected, reef-free Carana beach in north Mahe.
  8. Dive Shark Bank, a world-famous site northwest of Mahe.
  9. Rent Round Island and become master of your own tropical paradise.
  10. Visit Anse Lazio in southwest Praslin, one of the world’s finest beaches.

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