The stunning archipelagic nation of Seychelles can be found in the middle of the Indian Ocean, around 1750 kilometres off the East African coast. The tropical archipelago is made up of 115 islands, only 30 of which are inhabited. With its azure blue waters, bizarre coral reefs, colourful tropical fish and bright white beaches, the Seychelles islands are a dream destination for anyone who wants nothing more than to bathe, dive, snorkel, and simply kick back, relax and unwind.
While the underwater world of Seychelles, with all its beauty and diversity, is considered one of the best diving areas in the world, the stunning beaches that line these granite and coral-cut islands are still relatively undiscovered and remain an under-the-radar destination for diving trips. Divers can expect to see incredibly varied wildlife and nature in these waters, and because of the area’s remoteness, it has all been been allowed to develop relatively undisturbed. A stunning abundance of fish adorns the colourful splendour of the Seychelles’ countless reefs: here, it’s possible to see sharks, rays and turtles almost every time you dive.
There are about 80 different dive and snorkel sites round the islands, all of which are easily accessible from the three main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
During my two-week trip I dived at the reefs at Beau Vallon Beach in the northwest of Mahe.
Here is a selection of the best and best-known dive sites:
Among the many spectacular dive sites in Seychelles, the Shark Banks is one of names that stands out. As its moniker might suggest, a variety of sharks have made this site their home, but they’re not alone. It’s also the rays, huge shoals of snappers, Napoleon humphead wrasses and numerous turtles that serve to make this area, about eight kilometres from Mahe towards Silhouette Island, a particularly attractive diving destination. However, due to the challenging conditions of constant and often powerful currents running at an average depth of 24 meters, only experienced divers are recommended to take the plunge here.
The dive starts at 19 meters and drops to a maximum depth of 30 meters. A large number of yellow snappers and jacks await those diving along the granite plateau, with the rugged rock formations offering plenty of shelter. The countless eagle and stingrays, barracudas, turtles and whitetip reef sharks that inhabit Shark Banks make this dive-spot a must-see attraction.
Brissaire Rocks & Dragons Teeth
To the northeast of Mahe, some 20 minutes by boat, lay the most famous dive sites in the Seychelles: Brissaire Rocks and Dragons Teeth. Here, the maximum depth is 20 meters, and it’s quite normal to come across whitetip reef sharks, nurse sharks, seasonal whale sharks, as well as Napoleons, turtles, stingrays, and the magisterial eagle ray.
The eagle rays that populate these waters glide majestically through the diffuse blue, their pectoral fins, which can reach a span of up to three metres, rising and falling like waves. The elegant movement of these animals as they circle in the thermals is closer to that of birds of prey in flight than to floundering fish. The spotted giants almost always swim freely in mid-water, which sets them apart from most of the 300 or so ray species that prefer to stick to the seabed. Eagle rays can even be seen to jump out of the water, their whole bodies elevated above the water like dolphins.
Northwest of Mahe near the island of Cap Matoopa you can find another interesting dive site, Grouper Point. Because of its relative proximity to a nearby lighthouse, the dive site is also known as “Lighthouse”. The site’s spectacular block formations create an impressive ambience. The dive-spot is known for its big fish, with turtles, whitetip reef sharks, eagle rays, shoals of barracudas and jackfish making up just a small number of the areas many inhabitants. Here, the maximum depth is 24 metres.
Baie Ternay Marine Park
Baie Ternay Bay is located between Cap Matoopa and Morne Seychellois National Park. It is covered with lush vegetation, surrounded by steep granite slopes and can only be reached by boat. The bay is popular with both divers and snorkelers alike, and since the coral reef, seagrass meadows and tidal flats of Baie Ternay provide excellent habitats for an amazing variety of marine life, in 1979 it was declared a protected area.
It is best to start the dive near the shore at a depth of three metres and swim across the sandy seabed to the reef. The coral growth here is probably the healthiest on the whole island. Huge table corals compete for space with lush soft corals and colourful brain corals. In addition to eagle rays and the occasional turtle and young shark, medium-sized groupers and pearl moray eels can also be spotted in these waters. The reef drops to a depth of 16 metres until the sandy sea bottom appears again.
The tiny island of L'Ilot can be seen from the northwest peninsula of Mahe, framed by the granite rocks typical of the Seychelles as it drops steeply into the sea. Only one dive is enough to circumnavigate the whole island and encounter big fish like reef sharks and rays.
Also, if you pay special attention, you’ll be able to spot giant morays and octopuses in the numerous caves and crevices that line the islands shores.
One of the most impressive things about the L’Ilot is that every year from October to December, the island is visited by whale sharks, making it the place in Seychelles to catch a glimpse of the magnificent animals. Swimming in the company of these huge gentle giants of the sea is an unforgettable experience for every diver, but watch out for the strong currents. The maximum depth here is 20 meters.
Aquarium & Coral Garden
The Aquarium and Coral Garden dive sites are ideal places for beginners to start exploring the reefs. The dive sites are 12 to 14 meters deep at most and are dominated by table corals. Large fish aren’t common, but parrot, butterfly, anemone, doctor, emperor and many other reef fish are easy to come across. You can occasionally find porcupine rays on the sandy bottom at the reef’s edge.
While it is possible to see clown fish among the reefs of Mahes, the Aquarium is one of the few dive sites in the area where you can find this particular species, the pink skunk clownfish.
At a maximum depth of 16 and an average of 12 meters, Joker Reef is highly suitable for beginners. Here you can expect a highly varied underwater world, with different types of corals and exotic marine life like the butterfly fish, the playful batfish, and the colorful parrotfish. Of course, you’ll also be able to catch stingrays and turtles.
Most of these diving areas can be visited all year round due to the constant tropical climate. With that said, the months of March and April as well as October and November remain the best times for diving and snorkelling fans, as there is little wind and accordingly, the sea is much calmer.
Numerous diving bases and diving schools have been established at the dreamy locations of the islands’ holiday resorts, with many offering full and half-day trips by boat to nearby diving areas. Many of the dive-sites can be reached in less than 20 minutes.
In the Beau Vallon bay on the main island of Mahe I made several excursions with the Blue Sea Divers and Dive Seychelles diving centres. The guides were very helpful and friendly and I felt safe and very well looked after. The only downer was the high prices for a dive, but that appears to be normal in the Seychelles.
As an added point of interest, Seychelles’ Beau Vallon Bay doesn’t only attract divers: it also brings treasure hunters from all over the world. It’s said that a massive amount of pirate booty has been hiding here for over 250 years, and visitors and locals with the doubloon-bug can still be found searching feverishly for the lost treasure today. Among the hidden loot, there are alleged to be diamonds that were taken from the Nossa Senhora do Cabo e São Pedro, a famed Portuguese ship captured near Saint Denise in 1721 by the legendary buccaneer La Buze. But that's a different story. [Read here more about the "The treasure of Bel Ombre"]