The Seychelles islands are a popular yacht charter destination year-round. Located 1,500 kilometres east of mainland Africa, the small island nation is known for its stunning coral atolls, diverse wildlife and lush, dream-like landscapes. It is home to some of the world's most famous beaches and rarest animal and plant species. With tropical temperatures and calm waters, the archipelago offers nearly perfect sailing conditions throughout the year.
Seychelles' Inner Islands – mainly Mahé, Praslin and La Digue – are the archipelago’s most popular cruising destinations, with easy sailing distances and many safe moorings. The archipelago contains several protected reserves and national parks, as well as many geological wonders, tropical forests and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.
The average temperature in the Seychelles is 27°C, with highs and lows rarely exceeding 32°C or dropping below 24°C. In other words, the islands have the perfect weather for swimming, diving, snorkeling and other beach activities throughout the year. The occasional tropical showers usually do not last more than a couple of hours and are localised to a single island or just one area.
From November to March, the north-west monsoon brings warmer temperatures and blows with an average speed of 15 to 22 km/h. This period is perfect for diving because underwater visibility is exceptionally good, stretching up to 30 metres. The period between December and February has the majority of precipitation and the weather is the warmest from December to April, when humidity sometimes exceeds 80%.
The best time of year to go sailing in the Seychelles is from May to October, when the weather is slightly drier and the sea more turbulent, with mostly south-east winds blowing with a speed of 19 to 36 km/h.
The Seychelles archipelago consists of several groups of islands divided into the Inner and Outer Islands. The Inner Islands consist of the Granitic Seychelles, a cluster of 45 granitic islands around the main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, that also includes two coral islands, Denis Island and Bird Island.
The Outer Islands, 72 coral islands extending toward the coast of Africa, are divided into several distinct groups: the Amirantes, the Farquhar Group, the Aldabra Group, the Alphonse Group and the Southern Coral Group.
Mahé, the largest island in the archipelago, is home to the main port of entry and capital, Victoria. The Inner Islands are an easy sailing ground, with many anchorages around northwestern Mahé, northeastern Praslin and La Digue. In this region, there are always less than 32 nautical miles between mooring options. Most of the ports are found on the three main islands. Port Victoria can host 210 yachts up to 34 m in length, while the Eden Island Marina, situated just off the east coast of Mahé, has 140 moorings for boats and superyachts up to 100 m. In addition to these, Baie St Anne on Praslin Island and La Passe on La Digue are particularly beautiful moorings.
The Outer Islands are located between 130 and 630 nautical miles from Mahé and much less visited, but their unspoiled scenic landscapes make them a very special cruising ground. However, anchoring on coral is not allowed and, because of the many low lying coral reefs, anchorages on these islands are less sheltered. To sail to the Outer Islands, one must get a permit from the Seychelles Islands Foundation.
Mahé, the top sailing destination in the Seychelles, has 44 miles of coastline, with more than 65 beaches, countless hidden coves, grottoes and romantic hideaways. The island's stunning bays include Beau Vallon, Port Launay, Baie Ternay, Anse Soleil, Baie Lazare and Anse à la Mouche.
A short sailing trip just off Mahé's eastern coast takes travellers to the smaller islands of Cerf, Round, Moyenne and Ste Anne, while the route leading west of Mahé leads to Conception Island and Thérèse. The Sainte Anne Marine National Park is located only 5 km from Victoria and encompasses eight small islands, including Ste Anne, Cerf, Île Cachée, Moyenne and Round Island. The islands are prime destinations for scuba diving, glass-bottom boat tours and snorkeling among the coral reefs. Île Cachée is notable for being an important nesting site for seabirds, while Round Island and Cerf Island are the place to go to discover some of the local Creole-style restaurants.
Known for its relaxed pace of life, Praslin offers a number of world-famous beaches along its 18-mile coastline and has a good tourism infrastructure, with countless hotels, resorts, restaurants, shops and safe anchorages. Vallée de Mai, one of Praslin's best known attractions, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that houses a well-preserved palm forest that consists of coco de mer, with the largest plant seeds in the world, and five other palms endemic to the island. The nature park is home to a unique wildlife, including the rare Seychelles black parrot, the Seychelles blue pigeon, the Seychelles sunbird, the endangered tiger chamaeleon, the Seychelles treefrog and a number of other species that cannot be seen anywhere else.
Anse Lazio, situated in the northwestern part of the island, is one of the world's most photographed beaches. Other scenic bays and coves include Anse Petite Cour, Baie Chevalier and Anse la Farine, while the best known satellite islands include Curieuse, St. Pierre, Aride, Cousine and Cousin, and Île Cocos.
The Île Cocos Marine National Park encompasses three islets surrounded by large expanses of coral reefs. The clear waters and rich marine life make the park one of the most popular destinations for snorkeling. The neighbouring islands of Félicité and Grande Soeur are home to a number of fantastic restaurants that appeal to every taste.
The Curieuse Marine National Park is a bio-reserve and a popular destination for day trips. Known for its red coloured soil, Curieuse is the only place in the world other than Praslin where coco de mer grows naturally. The island offers a number of other unique things to see, including takamaka trees, mangrove forests, Aldabra tortoises, the Seychelles black parrot and the green sea turtle. The Doctor's House, a museum on the island, is a fine example of Creole colonial architecture and the beach in front of it is the place where hawksbill and green turtles make their nests.
Aride is a special nature reserve known as the Seabird Citadel of the Indian Ocean. It is home to more breeding species of sea birds than any other island in the archipelago, with more than a million sea birds breeding on the island each year.
Cousin Island is another nature reserve identified as an Important Bird Area. Covered by indigenous woodland, the island is home to the endemic Seychelles warbler, sunbird and blue pigeon, as well as the rare Seychelles fody and Malagasy turtle dove. More than 300,000 seabirds of seven species nest on the island.
St. Pierre Island just north of Praslin is another favourite for swimmers and snorkellers. Often featured on postcards and promotional posters, the small rocky island can only be reached by boat.
The smallest of the three main Seychelles islands, La Digue is known for its relaxed pace and some of the archipelago's most iconic beaches. Anse Source D'Argent, one of the world's best known beaches, is framed by commanding granite boulders and has very shallow waters. It is an excellent place to watch the spectacular Seychelles sunsets.
With longer sailing distances and few amenities, the Outer Islands appeal to more adventurous sailors and those looking for more remote and unspoiled landscapes. These islands are extraordinary fishing grounds and offer a number of unique attractions.
The Amirantes, the closest group to the Granitic Seychelles, are an excellent destination for fishing, diving and snorkeling, especially around the St. Joseph atoll and Desroches Island. The Alphonse Group is a wonderful sailing ground and offers a number of spectacular sights. These include Alphonse Island with a scenic lagoon teeming with wildlife and the atolls of St. François and Bijoutier.
The Farquhar Group is home to Farquhar Island, a low lying atoll with a stunning shallow lagoon and the Providence reef with the peak of St. Pierre and a small isle at each end. The Southern Coral Group consists of only two islands, both inhabited. Île Platte is part of a mostly sunken coral atoll and known for its rich fish life and significant population of hawksbill turtles. Coëtivy is the third largest coral island in the archipelago, after Aldabra and Assumption. It is home to the rare grey francolin and a large frigatebird colony. It is also a nesting ground for hawksbill and green turtles.
The Aldabra Group consists of the Aldabra Atoll, Cosmoledo Atoll, Astove and Assumption Island. Assumption, Cosmoledo and Astove are relatively close to each other and make for an interesting island hopping itinerary for anyone looking for unworldly natural habitats untouched by time and civilization.
The Aldabra Atoll is the world's second largest coral atoll and the single largest raised coral reef, with an elevation of 8 metres. The UNESCO-protected site is extremely isolated and lies at the southwestern tip of the Seychelles, closer to mainland Africa than to Mahé. It comprises 46 islands, including Grande Terre and Picard, and is home to 307 species of animals and plants, including the world's largest population of giant tortoises, a number of flightless bird populations and large seabird colonies, three endemic bat species, 19 endemic plants and 22 plants common only to neighbouring islands. Visits to the island are strictly controlled and only guided tours are given permission to visit.