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In November 2008 Neil and I flew to Mahe, The Seychelles (the only mid-oceanic granitic islands in the world). There are 43 inner islands (mostly granitic), with a further 72 coralline outer islands to the south, ranging from the Amirantes, about 250km away, to the Aldabra Group, about 1,150km away. Originally French, they were ceded to the British by the Treaty of Paris 1814, which ended the Napoleonic war between France and the Sixth Coalition, which included Britain. The Sechelles gained independence in 1976, becoming a republic within the British Commonwealth.
The main religion of the Seychellois is Roman Catholicism and as such there is no problem bringing duty-free booze into the country (but see my later remark on the duty-free shop at Victoria airport). The people speak mainly French, English and Creole. This was our yearly outing with friends from the Divecrew. Last year we went to Bonaire and the previous year to The Maldives. We were staying at the Coral Strand Hotel on Beau Vallon Beach, the longest stretch of uninterrupted beach on Mahe.
We arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 quite a bit before our flight. We had a bit of trouble when we got on the plane and found that I was in seat 25A and Neil was in 24F. I asked a steward if Neil could exchange seats with the passenger in 25B. After some debate the steward said it wouldn't be a problem since that seat was unassigned. If I'd known that I'd have kept the two seats to myself, since I rarely get a peep out of Neil once he's esconced in his seat and immersed in his book.
It was an 11-hour direct flight to Mahe on an Air Seychelles Boeing 767. Coming in to land at Victoria Airport was quite spectacular. The sea was a beautiful aquamarine colour with the mountains of the island as a backdrop. We got through immegration quickly and then visited the duty-free shop (gin at €11 a litre). As usual Neil's and my bags were almost the last to appear on the carousel, but once we put them on the trolley it was just a matter of minutes before we were outside and onto the waiting bus to the hotel.
The hotel was OK, but not brilliant. The bathroom left a bit to be desired and the staff were not particularly outgoing. Service at the pool bar was abysmal. Even with four people behind the bar it seemed that only one was serving (at a snail's pace). One of our party complained to the manager about the state of the pool and to give him credit it was sorted the next day, but it shouldn't have required a complaint in the first place. Most places accept Euros, or at a push US Dollars (or even Pounds Sterling), so it is best to take Euros with you. Even the small corner shops will accept them, but you are likely to get Sesel Rupees as change. You can convert Euros to Rupees, but the exchange rate varies widely. At the hotel it was 11 to the Euro, while the local supermarket had a much better rate of 19! The hotel was right next to the beach and was very convenient for the dive centre, which was also located on the beach about 10 minutes stroll to the west.
The dive centre Dive Seychelles is a PADI 5-star centre located at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Hotel. The staff were very accommodating and the atmosphere was quite relaxed. It didn't have the best facilities that I have come across (that honour goes to Kuredu) but they weren't the worst either and quite adequate for us. Storing your kit at the end of the dives and trying to find it the next day was an interesting exercise, but it always worked out. The people were friendly and of the dive masters Kirsten was particularly helpful and knowledgeable. Our group was split over two small boats and entry into the water was done via a backward flip. Coming back you had to remove your gear and pass it up onto the boat before getting out of the water yourself. The staff on board would swap tanks and set up your gear for the next dive. I felt that safety could be improved. Because kit was spread over the boat you were not always close to your buddy, so buddy-checks were difficult to do. I know that ultimately each of us is responsible for ensuring our own safety, but it would have been useful if the staff helping us into the water could have done the buddy checks against us. For example, the staff switched on your air, but Neil always asked me to ensure that my air was switched on, sometimes having to shout across the boat. It always was on, but on one occassion his wasn't! We dived once in quite a strong surface current and Neil failed to reach the anchor line. The current swept him past the back of our boat and luckily the skipper on another boat tossed him a safety line and hauled him onto that one. Our boat should really have had a safety line available considering the strength of the current.
The diving was very good. There was quite a bit of variety and although we dived some sites two or three times it was a
different experience each time. The sites I really liked were Conception Point, Dragon's Teeth, Brissare and Dredger, but
the others were good too, especially from a photographic point of view. Neil took an underwater photography course on this
holiday, with Collin giving him instructions and tasks and reviewing the photos he took. Apart from his camera housing (my
old one) fogging up a bit on the second dives he improved considerably as the days went by, so that at the end of the holiday
he was taking some good photographs. I wasn't too well one day and had to miss the diving. Neil went and buddied with Duncan.
They were diving at Dragon's teeth and they both guzzled air a bit fighting the current, so they came up about 5 minutes earlier
than most of the others. The boat picked them up and the skipper ferried them over to another boat where Tina and Steve,
who had surfaced earlier, were snorkelling with a whale shark! Unfortunately this giant fish had dived by the time Neil
got to the other boat, so he didn't manage even to catch a glimpse of it. At a whale shark lecture given by Glynis's
husband, who runs the monitoring program, Tina and Steve offered to show the photos they'd taken and consequently we found
that this was a brand new visitor; that shark had never been spotted in the Seychelles before.
On the Tuesday before flying back to the UK we took a catamaran over to Praslin and visited the Coco de Mer forest there. We had a guide on the trip and it took about an hour to go through the Valle de Maiforest, which is a World Heritage Centre. It was great to see these plants that grow nowhere else in the world, but in the Seychelles. They don't grow in the Maldives, but it was there that they were first found, having floated from the Seychelles, which had not been discovered by Europeans at the time. We then visited Anse Lazio (Lazio Beach) which is reputed to be one of the best beaches in the world. I can certainly second that opinion. We then took a smaller catamaran to La Digue, which is a small island, with taxis comprised of a cart pulled by an ox. La Passe, where the catamaran berths is very quaint. Most people get around using bicycles. We visited a fantastic beach, the name of which escapes me, but it is not suitable for swimming during the summer months because of the rip tides. We then visited l'Union plantation where coconut oil is produced, the press being powered by an ox. The plantation was the location for the set of "Emmanuel", the iconic soft porn movie of the 1970s starring Sylvia Krystel. They have giant tortoises here. Then we went to one of the most photographed beaches in the Seychelles, Anse Source d'Argent, with its giant granite boulders. There is a very shallow reef here, so bring your beach/diving bootees if you want to explore the rock pools. See www.threebestbeaches.com/seychelles.
We found a couple of supermarkets about 10 minutes walk from the hotel, which sold most things considerably cheaper than the hotel. One could be reached by turning right out of the hotel and then right again at the T-junction. The other was a short walk east along the beach. Within walking distance there are also some good restaurants like The Boat House, La Fontaine and Al Mar, as well as a good pizza place (opposite La Fontaine). If you go to the pizza joint make sure you get there early. They run out of stuff quickly, like wine, as well as even water! We ate further afeild a couple of times, but by far the best night out was on the last evening at La Scala. We arranged taxis to get there and the food and service were incredible and not too pricey. We invited Glynis Sanders, who has run the dive centre for 30 years and her husband to join us. It was a great way to finish the holiday.
This was yet another great holiday with the Divecrew. Yet again Collin picked a winning formula for the location and the diving. We had a great time, and although the weather was not brilliant all the time, the showers were a welcome break from the hot sunshine. I would definitely recommend this as a diving holiday destination. For more (higher-resolution) photos and videos, click on the icons ( & ) at the top.
|Date||Depth (m)||Time (min)||EANx||Seychelles Dive|
|11 Nov||17.1||33||-||Bay Ternay Marine Park - Lost my integrated weight pocket|
|11 Nov||15.5||53||-||"Joker" (Vacoa Reef) - Nudibranchs, sea snake, eels etc.|
|12 Nov||27.4||44||-||Grouper Point - Lovely dive with starfish, eels & barracudas|
|12 Nov||18.0||53||-||Conception Point - Excellent dive with great topography and sharks|
|14 Nov||25.0||30||-||Shark Bank - Poor viz, not too exciting, but lots of current & hard work|
|14 Nov||21.0||49||-||Twin Barges Wreck - Very poor viz, but lots to see - lionfish expecially|
|14 Nov||17.7||52||-||Conception Point - Again a fabulous dive|
|15 Nov||22.6||30||-||Dragon's Teeth - Good dive against strong current, missed the dolphins the others saw|
|15 Nov||16.5||51||-||Brissare - Beautiful drift dive, lots of coral & fish, plus 3 large octopuses|
|15 Nov||16.2||46||-||"Joker" (Vacoa Reef) - Night dive, great for photography|
|16 Nov||19.8||47||-||Conception Point - Great dive, with stonefish, several of them in pairs|
|16 Nov||21.0||54||-||Grouper Point - Lovely dive, morays, lionfish, cleaner shrimp etc.|
|17 Nov||25.0||40||-||Dredger - Rainy day but brilliant dive onto the wreck, ginormous friendly batfish|
|17 Nov||11.6||51||-||"Joker" (Vacoa Reef) - Lovely last dive, large octopus and nudibranch|
For the whole photo album click on the "Photo Album" icon ( ) at the top.