Seychelles is considered to have some of the top scuba diving sites of the world. The marine life is plentiful enough to satisfy even the most imaginative underwater enthusiast, and the picturesque setting of the granite formations make delving into the blue waters a magical experience. The Seychelles offers a multitude of dive sites that are diverse and cater for all levels of experience.
The Seychelles is made up of the world’s most beautiful islands lying just four degrees south of the equator in the Indian Ocean. The 115 islands have a volcanic origin and consist almost entirely of granite. Mahe, La Digue, Praslin, Denis, Bird, Aride, Silhouette and several minor outcrops make up what is known as the inner islands. They are the remains of a submerged mountain range and lie on a plateau offering the unique choice of granite reef diving and the more common and widespread carbonate reefs. The impressive granite formations make excellent dens and magnificent swim-throughs for marine life and have a splendid mixture of both hard and soft corals, marking them as some of the best dive site in the world.
The outer, mainly uninhabited, islands comprise of Cocos, the Amirantes, Poivre, Desroches and the more remote ‘crown jewel’, Aldabra which is also a World Heritage Site. These sites offer wall dives, drift diving and drop-off dives where one can discover underwater caves and canyons, coral atolls and sand cays. They grant experienced divers a rare opportunity to investigate some less explored areas but can cater for beginners too.
The Seychelles truly has reason enough to celebrate the sea and has earned its title for being a top diving destination. The marine life is diverse and rich in exotic fish, large pelagics, invertebrates and beautiful corals. The islands offer enough to interest the leisure diver, underwater photographer and marine biologist. Seychelles has four marine national parks, and more than 150 species of tropical reef fish have been identified.
The plankton eating Whale Sharks, known as the gentle giants of the ocean, are common guests to Seychelles waters between October and April when it is often possible to swim with them.
There is a Whale Shark Monitoring Programme run by the Shark Research Institute at some of the local dive centres in the Seychelles. These dive centres have programmes where visitors can aid in continuing research into the behaviour of these fantastic creatures.
Some of the other species likely to be sighted are giant moray eels, scorpion fish, eagle rays, ribbon-tailed stingrays and giant sting rays, lion fish, schools with thousands of fusiliers, jacks, barracudas, giant cod, soldier fish, squirrel fish, napoleon wrasse and giant groupers.
The ever good-natured bat fish, colourful butterfly fishes, parrot fishes, hawksbill and magnificent sea turtles can be seen, as well as the occasional dolphin. At night a kaleidoscope of brightly coloured soft corals and various other interesting marine creatures, such as spiny lobsters, shrimps and crabs make their appearance. There are common sightings of nurse sharks and reef sharks and the occasional hammerhead shark.
The island reefs are also havens for many invertebrates including octopus, lobster and a surplus of nudibranchs, such as the spanish dancer. Rare exotics have been identified from this area such as the african pygmy angelfish thought to exist only in small numbers at depth off Mauritius and now found regularly in easy diving depths off Astove.
WHEN TO GO, VISIBILITY AND WATER TEMPERATURE
Diving is good year-round, although the best visibility and calmest sea is between April-May and October-November. The visibility is known to reach over 30 metres (100 foot) and water temperatures rarely drop below 27°C (80°F) so a 3mm wetsuit is generally adequate. Keep in mind though that there can be fluctuations in temperature when diving off walls and big drop-offs so a thicker wetsuit may be necessary.
The visibility can drop around November with the rise in plankton levels; however these conditions also attract whale sharks and manta rays with sightings a daily occurrence.
The dive centres in Seychelles are predominately PADI operated and mostly found at the beach side hotels particularly on Mahe and Praslin. They visit a wide choice of dive sites and hire well looked after equipment. There are also numerous live-aboard dive charters that travel to some of the outlying and seldom visited dive sites that offer spectacular experiences.
TOP DIVE SITES OF THE SEYCHELLES
The dive sites of the Seychelles vary in depth from between 8-30m (26-100ft). For the most part diving takes place from boat, and the majority of the sites are a 10-20 min ride from the shore. Seychelles offers varied and extraordinary diving opportunities that cater for most skill levels.
Some of the more noteworthy sites are detailed below.
Shark Bank, lies between Mahe and Silhouette Island approximately 8km (5 miles) northwest from the main island. An assembly point for many stingrays and, as its name suggests, is a frequent stop over for sharks. Distinguished by coral coated boulders and gorges, it is a magnificent granite plateau seated in approximately 30m (100ft) of water that can keep underwater photographers entirely occupied. Brimming with reef fish, this site also includes some species rarely found on the main island such as the cowfish.
On the tip of Beau Vallon Bay at North Point on Mahe lies a small granite protrusion known as L’ilot. This site is simply outstanding with an abundance of marine life that is not to be missed. The current can be quite strong but once within the central cluster of boulders the lavish concentration of marine life is astounding.
Sightings include: golden cup coral, gorgonian sea fans, sea whips and other soft coral, spanish dancer nudibranchs, shrimps, and whale sharks (in season).
Brissare Rocks, a remote offshore pinnacle on route to Praslin from Mahe, attracts almost countless species of fish. It is almost entirely covered in fire coral, which delivers a painful sting if touched. It is home to many reef-dwellers, snapper shoals, grouper, and parrot fish. Napoleon wrasse are present as well as eagle ray and moray eels. Turtles and nurse sharks are regular sightings at Brissare Rocks.
The famous wreck of the tanker Ennerdale sank in 1970 when it struck an unchartered rock between Mahe and Praslin. The area is now known as Ennerdale Rocks and has become a world recognised dive site.
The wreck lies in three sections in 30m (100ft) of water although most dives are likely to concentrate on the stern section which is largely intact. The wheelhouse, propeller and twisted superstructure are easily reachable.
The prolific diversity of fish that have made the wreck their home include white tip reef sharks, batfish, stingrays, giant moray eels, scorpion fish, eagle rays, onespot snapper, lion fish, schools of fusiliers, jacks, and barracudas.
Whilst the Seychelles provides many magnificent world-class dive sites, Aldabra is the crème de crème. Divers are engulfed by extravagant sightings as soon as they submerge. The remarkable drift dive carries divers through the pass of a giant lagoon, while diving off the wall creates a setting quite unlike anything else found in the Seychelles.
The only drawback to diving one of the best dive sites in the world is that reaching Aldabra can be quite an undertaking. The logistics restrict many divers; however there are many live-aboard dive charters that frequent the site. Keep in mind that whilst diving by boat is endorsed; landing on Aldabra is prohibited as it is a World Heritage Site. Despite this, the divers who make the journey all leave with a feeling of gratification.