Diving in a paradise-like setting is always a superb experience, but in Seychelles it is even better, with incredible sites available for all levels of diver, from beginners to experts. My recent trip there with a small group of divers was nothing short of amazing.
I am happy to report that now is a great time to engage in some submarine exploration in Seychelles. The reefs that were bleached out by El Nino in 1998 have mostly recovered, leaving diving excellent in many areas. We saw plenty of rebounded reef growth, with colours returning, and life on the upswing, always a cheerful sight for divers to see.
As a 115-island archipelagic country – located in the Indian Ocean about 1,500 km east of Africa’s mainland, northeast of Madagascar – Seychelles offers exactly what scuba divers seek on trips to explore the world’s oceans. There are numerous types of reef, impressive sea walls, engaging pinnacles and drop-offs, as well as a fair share of sunken wrecks and undersea canyons.
The waters are calmest between March and May, and then again between September and November. During these months, you’ll enjoy the best ‘viz’ (visibility). In early October, we were treated to some amazing 30 metre marine views, and as most experienced divers will tell you, clear waters add a surreal element to a dive, almost like swimming through air. To add further to the pleasure, with water temperatures averaged around 29˚C, so we only had to wear rash vests and shorts for the most part, more to keep from getting sunburned than cold.
This time of year was also chosen because several in our group had never seen sharks and manta rays, and this is when they’re more evident. The chance to see these incredible creatures up close came with the calmer waters, which allowed us to access more remote dive sites. That’s where the big fish go – and so did we. If you visit between June and August, you’ll face a bit of the southeast monsoon, with winds raking up surface waves and temperatures dropping to about 25˚C. The downside is that stronger currents shift in, bringing more nutrient-packed plankton, so viz drops. The upside is BIG, literally, as the plankton draws more whale sharks, the harmless but amazingly huge and graceful creatures with which all divers love even a brief encounter. Even snorkelling trips to contact whale sharks are run in this time.
There are always plenty of the “standard” multi-coloured fish in Seychelles, a staple presence that all divers love. I never tire of filming the beautiful pelagics as they check you out, or watch “nemos” guard their shallow water domains. A range of different species inhabit the Seychelles’ inner reefs, and others hang out around the outer reefs that surround the outer islands. The inner reefs hold more angel butterfly fish, angelfish and lionfish, as well as octopus.
I’m a bit of a macro-photographer, so I heartily recommend the inner reefs for up-close and ‘poisson-al’ shots of lovely nudibranchs and mantis shrimp. Catching the latter striking out with its powerful claw on film is always a proud moment. Based on previous attempts I had to caution one new diver to not get close enough for the powerful claw to damage her camera. Or worse still, put a finger or thumb in between, which could mean a serious gash or even the loss of a digit.
One can only imagine the bounty of marine life that was around back in the 12th century, when Maldivian mariners first plied these waters. Evidence of their presence has been found and dated on Silhouette Island. Fortunately, despite centuries of fishing, the outer sections of the reef are still home to wide-range posers such as teeming schools of humphead parrotfish, napoleon wrasses, a variety of stingrays, as well as a fair number of reef sharks, hawksbill and green turtles.
We made several dives at the more remote outer island sites, and were treated to regular passes by large silvertip, nurse and oceanic white-tip sharks, even one hammerhead. A manta ray almost 5 metres long captivated our entire group for a long while, though it seemed possibly more interested in us than the other way around. Then, just as it disappeared as gracefully as it had entered our area, along came three more, albeit for only two gliding arabesques. As with whale sharks, avoid the temptation to touch these wondrous creatures. You can break sensitive body-protecting systems that shield them from infection. Just watching them glide is incredible enough. There’s nothing quite like it.
It’s easiest and cheapest to only take minimal equipment with you to Seychelles. Your trusty regulators and cameras, for example. You can rent most everything else from a reliable PADI-approved dive shop. All the members of my group were PADI-trained to Advanced level. However, newcomers to diving can tap the Open Water and other courses with several local dive schools, all of which offer individual and group dives.
Dive insurance is a good idea if you’re not already covered for underwater activities, and air evacuation insurance is also a wise addition, just in case of an emergency. The odds are you’ll never have any problems in Seychelles. Indeed, you’ll come away feeling blessed for having dived in one of the most beautiful remaining marine destinations in the southern hemisphere.
Dive Centres worth checking out in Seychelles.
There are a good number of Dive Centres worth checking out in Seychelles. It is recommended that visitors do their homework before booking a dive course or excursion. It is possible to check on the proper certification of companies, instructors and dive masters online. Below are some good places to start your research.
Mahe Island: Big Blue Divers, on Beau Vallon beach, puts together a weekly trip to Baie Ternay Marine Park. It includes diving and a BBQ, served on a secluded beach, that includes superb “Sechiose” Creole cuisine, with its exciting curries, sweet and pungent chatinis (salsas) on seafood, as well as amazing local fruits. Snorkelers and non-divers are all welcome. If you’re looking to take a course, The Underwater Centre, also on Beau Vallon beach at the Coral Hotel, has several multi-lingual instructors. Our friends booked PADI courses ahead for some friends that were coming a week after us, as they’re cheaper than walk-in bookings.
Praslin Island: Octopus Diving Centre, found on the Cote d’Or’s Anse Volbert, boasts some well-trained guides familiar with the local undersea life. This can be a great help to cut time searching about for creatures to watch and photograph – although that can also be part of the fun.
La Digue Island: Azzura Pro Dive, abutting the La Digue Island Lodge, impressed us with their professionalism and small-dive group approach. You can take early day dives or even afternoon ones if you’ve had too many chatinis and too much late-night dancing the night before.