As we set our sails for an exhilarating winter yachting adventure, the Seychelles Archipelago beckons with its pristine waters and exotic allure. This time, we embark on a journey across this tropical paradise, navigating through its enchanting islands, each a treasure trove of natural wonders and historical mystique.
The Seychelles Sailing Scene
Seychelles, a yachting haven, offers a unique sailing experience, especially during the winter months when the northwest monsoon graces its shores. The journey typically starts and concludes at two key islands: Mahe and Praslin, within a comfortable sailing distance of no more than 30 nautical miles from Mahe. This accessibility makes it possible to explore the Seychelles thoroughly, even within a week, without missing its hidden gems.
Yacht Chartering Essentials
The Seychelles’ waters, dotted with reefs and affected by significant tidal differences, are predominantly navigated by catamarans. These vessels, known for their stability and spaciousness, are ideal for both seasoned sailors and novices alike. Chartering a yacht in Praslin is a popular option, with the flexibility to start or end your trip in Mahe. The logistics are straightforward, with ferry transfers and yacht delivery services readily available.
A Route to Remember
Our journey commences at Praslin Island, where a visit to the enchanting Vallee de Mai Park is a must. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a living testament to prehistoric times, boasting unique flora and fauna, including the legendary coco de mer palm trees with their intriguingly shaped nuts.
Day One: Praslin to Cocos Islands to La Digue Island
Our adventure commences with the sun cresting the horizon at Praslin Marina. Here, amidst a picturesque setting, sailors can stock up on essentials and freshly caught fish from the local market, a stone’s throw from the marina. The vibrant marine life of the Seychelles begins to unfold as we set sail. Praslin marina has only one pontoon for 15-20 yachts. The depth of the pontoon is up to 8 meters. Praslin Marina is home to a large charter company providing yachts for rent.
Praslin to Cocos Islands
The path to the exit from St. Anna Bay passes along the fairway, marked with navigational signs. This small section (about a mile) is worth passing under the motor, as the fairway is not wide, and the movement of ships, including high-speed ferries, can be quite intense. Leaving the fairway is strongly discouraged. Our first leg, a brief 7 nautical miles journey, takes us to the Cocos Islands, a cluster of tiny islets famed for their breathtaking underwater landscapes. As we navigate the clear blue waters, the anticipation builds. Yachts anchor west or south of the islands at depths of 10-20 meters on a sandy bottom. Upon arrival, the Cocos Islands reveal their true beauty – an untouched paradise perfect for snorkeling. The vibrant coral reefs, teeming with colorful fish and marine life, offer an underwater spectacle that is simply mesmerizing. The clear, warm waters make for an inviting and unforgettable snorkeling experience. In the Cocos Islands we stop for a few hours and snorkel over the reef.
Cocos Islands to La Digue Island
As the day progresses, we embark on a 4 nautical miles sail towards La Digue Island. The journey, often accompanied by the sight of playful dolphins and the gentle sway of the waves, is a serene experience. Approaching La Digue, the island’s laid-back charm and natural beauty become apparent. The most convenient anchorage on La Digue is in the nearest bay of Coco (Anse Coco). The island, steeped in history, was first discovered in 1744, but it wasn’t until 1768 that it received its name by French explorer Marc Joseph Marion-Dufresne.
La Digue presents a world where time seems to stand still. The lack of cars, replaced by bicycles and traditional ox carts, adds to the island’s allure. The evening at La Digue is a peaceful affair. Anchoring in Anse Coco, a picturesque bay, offers a spectacular view of the sunset, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink. The tranquil waters provide a perfect backdrop for an evening of relaxation and reflection.
The first day of our yachting journey in the Seychelles concludes with the promise of more wonders to come, as each island in this archipelago has its unique charm and secrets waiting to be discovered. As the stars begin to twinkle overhead, the gentle lapping of the waves against the hull lulls us into a peaceful night’s sleep, recharging us for the adventures that lie ahead.
Day Two: La Digue Island to Anse Royale Bay (Mahe Island)
As dawn breaks on La Digue Island, our yacht gently sways in the tranquil waters of Anse Coco. The day promises new adventures as we prepare for the longest leg of our journey – a 31-nautical-mile sail to Anse Royale Bay on Mahe Island.
The morning in La Digue starts with the soft chirping of tropical birds and the gentle rustling of palm leaves. After a hearty breakfast, we cast off, leaving behind the serene beauty of Anse Coco. The journey ahead, through the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, is both exhilarating and serene. The sail from La Digue to Mahe is an opportunity to truly embrace the art of sailing, with the yacht cutting through the waves, powered by the steady northwest monsoon winds.
The journey is also perfect for trolling, there are several banks along the way. You can try to catch a big fish. And most likely you will be able to replenish your supplies and enjoy freshly caught tuna sashimi in the evening.
Approaching Anse Royale Bay in the afternoon, the breathtaking scenery of Mahe’s east coast unfolds before us. The bay, nestled amidst lush green hills and crystal-clear waters, offers a perfect anchorage. The reef provides natural protection from the winds and waves, making it an ideal spot for yachting during the winter monsoon season.
As we anchor in the bay, the depth of about 5 meters and the sandy seabed ensure a secure mooring. The setting sun casts a golden glow over the bay, inviting us to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Anse Royale Bay is not just a haven for yachts; it’s a gateway to exploring the vibrant culture and natural beauty of Mahe. The bay is close to a variety of amenities, including charming hotels, local restaurants, and shops along the shore, offering a glimpse into the Seychellois way of life. The evening can be spent exploring the local cuisine, with seafood being a must-try, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the bay under the starlit sky.
Day Three: Anse Royale Bay to St. Anne Island
The sun rises over Anse Royale Bay, casting a warm glow on the waters and marking the beginning of our third day in the Seychelles. Today, we embark on a 10-nautical-mile journey north to the enchanting St. Anne Island, a jewel in the Seychelles’ crown.
After a refreshing night in the calm waters of Anse Royale, we prepare for departure. The bay, with its vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs, offers one last chance for an early morning snorkel or a relaxing swim. As we hoist the sails, the yacht gently pulls away from the bay, guided by the gentle winds of the northwest monsoon.
The voyage to St. Anne Island is a delightful sail, with the yacht gliding smoothly over the sapphire waters. This leg of the journey offers a chance to fully immerse oneself in the tranquility of open water sailing. The Seychelles archipelago, known for its diverse and rich marine ecosystem, provides ample opportunities for spotting flying fish, and with a bit of luck, the majestic sight of a manta ray or a whale in the distance.
St. Anne Island, part of the St. Anne Marine National Park, is steeped in history and natural beauty. As we anchor in the strait between St. Anne, Ronde, and Moyenne Islands, the clear waters reveal a sandy bottom, providing excellent holding for the yacht. The anchorage, at depths of 5-8 meters, is ideal for yachts, offering protection and a serene environment.
The island has a fascinating history, having been a base for the Royal Marines during World War II and a whaling port in the early 19th century. Today, it is a haven for nature lovers, with superb diving and snorkeling opportunities. The marine park is teeming with vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life, making it a must-visit for any underwater enthusiast.
Day Four: St. Anne Island to La Digue Island
As the sun ascends over St. Anne Island, our fourth day in the Seychelles greets us with the promise of an exciting return to the charming La Digue Island. The 25-nautical-mile journey from the tranquility of St. Anne to the rustic allure of La Digue is a journey back in time, to an island where nature and tradition intertwine.
As La Digue Island comes into view, its iconic granite boulders and lush greenery offer a warm welcome. The island’s unique charm is evident as we near the port, where traditional fishing boats bob alongside modern yachts, showcasing the blend of old and new that defines La Digue.
Upon mooring at the harbor, the adventure on La Digue begins. The island is renowned for its laid-back lifestyle, with bicycles being the preferred mode of transportation. A visit to L’Union Estate Park is a must, where the history of the island is preserved in a colonial plantation house, and the famous Anse Source D’Argent beach awaits with its stunning rock formations and crystal-clear waters.
La Digue also offers a chance to connect with nature at the Paradise Flycatcher Nature Reserve, home to a variety of rare birds and lush vegetation. A hike to the top of Mount Nid d’Aigle presents a breathtaking panoramic view of the Seychelles archipelago, a reward for those seeking adventure.
As the day comes to a close, the tranquil atmosphere of La Digue provides the perfect setting for a relaxing evening. Dining in one of the local restaurants offers an opportunity to savor authentic Creole cuisine, a delightful blend of flavors that reflect the diverse cultural heritage of the Seychelles.
The end of day four brings a sense of fulfillment, as we experience the timeless charm and natural beauty of La Digue, a perfect representation of the Seychelles’ enchanting allure. The gentle lapping of the waves against the yacht lulls us into a peaceful slumber, under a sky full of stars, dreaming of the wonders that await in the days ahead.
Day Five: La Digue Island to Cousin Island to Curieuse Island
The fifth day of our Seychelles sailing adventure starts with the first light of dawn at La Digue Island, setting the stage for a day filled with exploration and discovery. We embark on a journey from La Digue to the conservation-rich Cousin Island, followed by a visit to the intriguing Curieuse Island.
Morning: La Digue Island to Cousin Island
Our morning begins with the departure from La Digue, where the rhythmic sound of the waves and the chirping of tropical birds provide a natural symphony. The 10-nautical-mile sail to Cousin Island is a journey that blends the excitement of open-sea sailing with the anticipation of exploring one of Seychelles’ renowned nature reserves.
As we near Cousin Island, the sight of its lush greenery and vibrant birdlife becomes prominent. This island, a sanctuary for a myriad of bird species, is a testament to successful conservation efforts. The anchorage near Cousin is a unique experience, requiring careful navigation to avoid the protected areas. The crystal-clear waters around the island offer a perfect spot for snorkeling, revealing a rich underwater world teeming with marine life.
Visiting Cousin Island involves a short dinghy ride to the shore. The island’s nature reserve is a haven for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers. Guided tours are available, offering insights into the island’s diverse ecosystem and its role in conservation. The lush trails and the sound of rare bird calls create an immersive experience in this untouched slice of paradise.
Afternoon: Cousin Island to Curieuse Island
After a morning of exploration, we set sail to Curieuse Island, a journey of approximately 7 nautical miles. The sail is a pleasant one, with the yacht hugging the coastline, offering stunning views of the neighboring islands and the azure waters. Curieuse, part of the Marine National Park, is known for its unique geological features and its population of giant Aldabra tortoises.
As we approach Curieuse, the island’s distinct red soil and lush mangrove forests come into view. The anchorage at Laraie Bay provides a safe and scenic spot to moor the yacht. This bay, protected by the park, offers a serene setting, with gentle waves lapping against the sandy shores.
A visit to Curieuse is a journey through nature and history. The island’s former leper colony and the Doctor’s House, now a museum, tell the story of its past. The walking trails lead through the mangrove forests and to the beaches where the giant tortoises roam freely, offering a unique opportunity to interact with these gentle giants.
The island’s diverse flora and fauna, along with its striking geological formations, make it a photographer’s paradise. The sun setting over the park casts a golden hue on the landscape, creating a magical end to the day.
Day Six: Curieuse Island to Grande Soeur Island to Round Island
As the dawn breaks on Curieuse Island, the sixth day of our Seychelles sailing adventure promises an enriching finale. We set sail from the natural sanctuary of Curieuse to the secluded Grande Soeur Island, before heading to the tranquil Round Island, and eventually making our way back to our starting point at Praslin Marina.
In the morning you can go to the island of Curieuse and take a walk along one of the hiking trails and get acquainted with the National Park of Curieuse. You will also have to pay for going ashore.
Morning: Curieuse Island to Grande Soeur Island
The length of the passage on a yacht from Laraie Bay to Grande Soeur Island is 9 nautical miles.
The transition to the island of the Grande Soeur is comfortable – with a fair wind. The most interesting anchorage is to the east of Grande Soeur Island, as here the yachts will be protected from the winter northwest monsoons. Yachts anchor at depths of 6-8 meters in front of the hut on the beach. The bottom is sandy. The anchor is holding up well. The western anchorage can only be used in consistently calm weather, as it is subject to the prevailing winds throughout the year. Grande Soeur Island is private. You will have to pay to go ashore.
Afternoon: Grande Soeur Island to Round Island
As afternoon approaches, we embark on a serene 6-nautical-mile journey to Round Island. The sail is peaceful, offering one last chance to savor the open waters of the Seychelles. Yacht anchorage is located between the coast of Praslin Island and Round Island. Entry to the anchorage is only from the east. Yachts anchor at depths 3-6 on a sandy bottom. Round Island is an ideal location for our final anchorage, inviting us for a last snorkeling adventure in its vibrant waters.
Returning to Praslin Marina
After savoring the tranquility of Round Island, we prepare for a short but sweet sail back to Praslin Marina. This final leg of our journey is a reflective passage, allowing us to contemplate the incredible experiences we’ve shared. As Praslin Marina comes into view, there’s a sense of coming full circle, returning to where our memorable journey began.
A Journey Full Circle
The evening finds us moored at Praslin Marina, under a starlit sky, reminiscing about our journey through the Seychelles. From the lush Vallee de Mai on Praslin to the conservation-rich environments of Cousin and Curieuse Islands, and the rustic charm of La Digue, each destination has imprinted unforgettable memories.
Our journey has been more than a voyage through the islands; it’s been a journey through history, nature, and culture. The Seychelles archipelago, with its diversity and beauty, has instilled in us a profound appreciation for the ocean and its many treasures. As we retire for the night, anchored in the familiar waters of Praslin Marina, we are filled with gratitude for the experiences and insights gained.
This sailing adventure, while now at its end, leaves us with lasting impressions and a yearning for more. The Seychelles, with its enchanting islands and vibrant marine life, remains a yachting paradise, calling us back to its shores. Until we set sail again, the memories of this journey will continue to inspire and delight us, reminding us of the beauty that lies in exploring our magnificent planet.