The Seychelles is a chain of 115 beautiful islands located in the western part of the Indian Ocean, 1600 kilometres off the coast of Kenya in Eastern Africa. World-famous for magnificent beaches, an abundance of nature reserves and rare animal species, the Seychelles has much to offer for diving enthusiasts and non-divers too. Over half of the Seychelles has protected status as either a National Park or National Reserve and the area also boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first is Aldabra, the biggest raised coral atoll in the world and the namesake of the unique giant Aldabra tortoise. The other UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Seychelles is Vallée de Mai on the island of Praslin which is well-known for producing the sea cocounut or coco-de-mer nut. Thanks to great efforts made by conservationists and the government of the Seychelles, a wide variety of exotic fauna and flora is endemic to the area and continues to thrive even though tourism has increased massively.
The Seychelles is home to a number of top class coral reefs and as such provides some of the best diving experiences around the continent of Africa, with crystal clear waters that are warm throughout the year and masses of exotic, tropical fish all adding to the experience.
The island chain is made up of 74 outer islands and 41 inner islands. The inner islands are stunning displays of history as these granite islands are some of the oldest islands known to man. The outer islands consist of beautiful atolls coloured with all types of corals as well as sandy patches amidst the superb reefs.
Best Diving Destinations in the Seychelles
The Seychelles is truly a diver’s dream with wrecks, wall dives, reef dives and rock formations all just waiting to be explored. The inner islands offer more beginner-friendly dive sites with maximum depths in the region of 30 metres as a result of the islands resting on a shallow plateau. The outer islands provide more of a thrill for experienced divers, with sudden drop offs and a vastly different underwater landscape. Regardless of whether you visit the inner island dive sites or the outer island sites, every dive location is likely to offer a pristine underwater landscape bursting with colour and displaying everything from large gorgonian sea fans to hard and soft corals and barrel sponges. Of course, the majority of divers are out to spot more than just magnificent corals, and these divers will not be disappointed with the variety of underwater life on display in the waters surrounding the islands of the Seychelles. Some of the most sought-after sightings can be made in the Seychelles such as the seemingly laidback green sea turtles, magnificent manta rays and whale sharks featuring around September – November each year.
On the northeast of Mahé Island lie a number of popular sites that are best explored in the months of March through to December. Home to the Bay Ternay Marine Park, the area is renowned for its large underwater granite boulders covered in hard coral as well as the whale shark sightings during whale shark season. Willy’s Rocks and Willy’s Bay are particularly good areas to try to spot the ocean’s largest fish. Reef sharks, schools of pelagic fish, grouper, eels and turtles are all regular sightings on these highly popular reef dives.
Best dived from December through March, sites on the north east of Mahé Island are suitable for all divers regardless of qualification level. Some of the more popular sites are Cheedle Rocks and Beacon Island, well-known for reef shark sightings and a great variety of colourful reef fish.
The Seychelles is home to a number of wrecks that were deliberately sunk to make artificial reefs where marine life would continue to thrive. The Twin Barges, Aldebaran and Dredger lie at depths of between 14 and 35 metres and are now the homes of an impressive variety of invertebrates, sponges and corals. Another nearby wreck is an old auxillary tanker that is now located between the islands of Praslin and Mahé. The wreck is teeming with reef life, with sting rays, eagle rays and reef sharks being some of the top attractions.
Drift diving is a popular option in the southern islands thanks to strong currents, however many of these longer distance sites are only accessible during calm conditions. The deeper depths, steep walls and narrow swim-throughs make these sites better suited for advanced level divers who can enjoy sightings of barracuda, rays, sharks and turtles at sites such as Trois Bancs and Shark Bank.
Situated approximately an hours flying time, or 320 km (200 miles) southwest of the main Sechelles group, the Amirantes were known to Persian traders centuries long before Vasco da Gama sighted them in 1502. Originally known as the Admiral’s Islands, they comprise some 17 coral cays, islets and atolls, most barely inhabited and many leased for private use or for the cultivation of coconuts.
The large island of Desroches offers some of the best diving. Situated on the southern side of a huge atoll, the diving off the wall is indeed spectacular with dramatic caverns, caves, tunnels and overhangs. The ancient limestone reef has been sculpted by waves and weather over the centuries, creating a backdrop to scuba diving which is quite unlike any where else in the Seychelles.
Approaching the outer reef wall, divers are met by large stands of black coral and brilliant red sea fans, all of which have longnose hawkfish in residence….
Getting to the Seychelles
Mahé Island is located in the middle of the inner islands and is home to the international airport for the Seychelles. It is also the location of the island’s capital city, Victoria and as such Mahé Island plays an important role for visitors wanting to arrange transportation and experience the great culture of the Seychelles. Other popular islands that are centrally located are La Digue and Praslin and these can be reached by ferry or Air Seychelles flight from Mahé Island. The Seychelles offers the ultimate tourist experience with a number of helicopter charter opportunities to get an alternative view of these magnificent islands.
When to Visit the Seychelles
At any time of year the Seychelles boasts warm, welcoming weather, with air temperatures ranging between 24 and 32°C and water temperatures in the region of 25-29°C. For divers wanting the absolute best in terms of visibility, it is recommended to plan a trip during the calmer months of November to May, although many areas are largely unaffected by the slight changes in weather. Although rains occur regularly from December to February, the light trade winds make for easy diving conditions when compared with the stronger winds occurring in June to October. The Seychelles experiences an exceptionally mild winter around July where a 3mm wetsuit is all that is needed to protect you from the slightly cooler temperatures of 24°C.
Where to Stay in the Seychelles
The Seychelles is a diving hub and as such offers a number of options for divers. Although the main languages are French and Seychellois Creole, the vast majority of staff in dive resorts, hotels and dive shops will be able to speak English and dive courses are even available in a number of languages at certain locations.
Each dive operator will offer daily boat excursions for diving and snorkelling as well as equipment hire and refilling, making diving in the Seychelles a very simple exercise.
It is possible to experience the Seychelles from a liveaboard and these routes mainly include the outer islands with sites more suitable for the experienced diver.