Located 900 nautical miles off the east coast of Africa, just below the equator in the Indian Ocean, sits the Seychelles Islands. Well known for its pristine beaches, coral reefs, diving, nature reserves, secluded harbors, and rare wildlife such as the giant Aldabra tortoise, the Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands, most of which remain uninhabited. With all that the Seychelles has to offer, it should come as no surprise that when it came time to pick a sailing destination to cruise for a week with my family, the Seychelles were our number one choice.
Our adventure began by first flying from Washington, DC to Dubai and then to the island of Mahé, the largest of the Seychelles Islands and home to 90% of the nation’s 89,000 citizens. From Mahé, we took a fast-ferry to the island of Praslin where we boarded a beautiful Jeanneau 469 that we chartered from Dream Yacht Charters. Picking the boat up in Praslin was super-convenient as it put us just a few miles from several smaller islands and saved us the 25 mile sail from Mahé.
I should stop right here an explain that there are two distinct seasons or monsoons in the Seychelles, the summer season and the winter season. The summer season (December -May), is high-season with loads of travelers flocking from the north to escape the winter chill of the northern hemisphere. The summer season, unlike the winter season, offers much calmer, more predictable weather which is ideal for the visiting yachtsman or visitors in general. The winter season (June-November) is low season and while the sailing is still good, it’s almost too good in the sense that you can easily find yourself having to deal with 25-30 knots of wind which is more than ideal if you’re trying to relax and have a good time.
As a family, we have never been very good at getting away from the dock early. We always seem to be running around doing this or that or checking on something before getting underway. I think it was close to noon before we finally cast off the dock lines, raised the anchor and headed out the channel of Baie St. Anne. The wind was blowing about 18K from the west, so once out of the channel, we decided to hook left and shoot down Praslin’s east coast in the lee of the island.
Once out of the wind and the lumpy seas of the Indian Ocean, we had a nice reach down Praslin’s eastern shore. Just a few miles down, we decided to make a stop at the tiny island of St. Pierre to take a swim and check out the island’s surrounding reef. We were expecting to find moorings here as you do in the British Virgin Islands but surprisingly enough, moorings are pretty non-existent in the Seychelles, even in the overnight anchorages. We anchored easily in 15 feet of water being careful to avoid the coral reef below, threw on our snorkeling gear and hopped into the warm turquoise water. We circumnavigated the island finding the snorkeling to be exceptional with great visibility and plenty of sea life. It was a well-worth stop for sure.
Just a stone’s throw from St.Pierre, we found a nice anchorage in Anse Possession in about 10 feet of water over a sand bottom just on the other side of Pointe Zanguilles. We didn’t take advantage of it but just a short dinghy ride away, is the four-star waterfront resort, Le Domaine de la Reserve in case you’re looking for an upscale meal along with a little first-class pampering. Other resorts are in this area as well that are just a short walk from the beach.
On day two, after a leisurely start, we slid over to Curieuse Island. Curieuse Island is a bio-reserve that is managed by the Marine Parks Authority of the Seychelles‘ Center for Marine Technology. Here you will find no hotels, no restaurants and from what we could tell, no permanent residents with the exception of the Aldabra tortoises and other wild creatures that roam the island.
In addition to the tortoises, there is a beautiful walking trail that winds its way through a dense section of Mangrove trees and weather-worn cliffs that leads to the other side of the island. Along the way, there are some beautiful views of the harbor and surrounding islands.
We stayed two nights in Curieuse before sailing over to the island of Le Digue. Le Digue offers everything that Curieuse does not; hotels, glamorous beaches, restaurants and plenty of entertainment. There is a clearly marked channel that leads into the inner-harbor. Once inside, you need to drop your anchor and tie-up stern-to, to the sea wall. It’s all fairly easy and there are people around to help you get your lines across to the seawall and secured. A big bonus of coming to Le Digue besides the island itself is that dockage is free. That’s right, free as in “no charge!”
We stayed three nights in Le Digue for the simple reason that we were enjoying ourselves. We rented bikes and zipped around the island from one end to the other, more than once! We treated ourselves to dinner out and somewhere along the line found this great spot at the top of the mountain that we hiked up to and indulged in some great, all natural, cold tropical drinks. It was terrific as was the view!
There are many other islands worth exploring but the wind continued to blow fairly hard for my young crew so we opted to keep things simple and head back down the coast of Praslin to Baie of Chevalier and Anse Lazio. Voted by Trip advisor as the 6th best beach in the world, anchoring off Anse Lazio is quite simply hard to beat.
When all was said and done, we didn’t put a whole lot of water under our keel and didn’t get to as many islands as we would have liked to. But, we had a terrific time exploring the islands and harbors we did get to and decided as a family that we’ll just have to come back and visit those islands a little further off the beaten path the next time around.
On we go…