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Sailing among the Seychelles Islands: By Glynn Burridge.

You will find that the Seychelles Islands are pretty much a year-round sailing destination with that year divided between two opposing trade winds: the northwest trades averaging eight to twelve knots and blowing from November to March with the slightly brisker southeast trades appearing between May and September with an average speed of between 10 and 20 knots. Generally speaking, the cusp of the trade winds produce fairly wind-free conditions throughout April and again in October. Tides are semi-diurnal and asymmetrical with a gap of nearly six hours between high and low tide. The tidal range is as high as two metres at spring tide and as low as 0.9 m at neap tide. You will find that Seychelles is subject to only mild currents averaging 1.5 knots that develop in line with the trade winds, producing a swell that is generally moderate.

I would add that sailing within Seychelles’ Inner Islands is very picturesque, easy and safe, with many secure moorings and sailing distances of under 30 nautical miles. The other principal islands Praslin and La Digue and their various satellite isles are just a few hours pleasant sailing away from the principal island of Mahé.  Together, Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, form Seychelles’ cultural and economic hub and, between them, host the vast majority of the nation’s accommodation and leisure facilities. These range from exclusive five-star resorts and exquisite island hideaways where the optimum in comfort, service and amenities conspire with magnificent natural surrounds to offer a supremely tranquil and memorable vacation.

The Banyan Tree, Ste. Anne, Le Méridièn Fisherman’s Cove, Lémuria, La Briz Silhouette and Maia resorts are already in place with new projects for a Four Seasons and Shangri-là and Ephelia hotels envisaged. Seychelles tourism industry is, visibly, taking off. The signs of it are everywhere. Fabulous island refuges such as those on North Island, Frégate, Denis, Round, Alphonse, Desroches and Bird provide everything from the five-star opulence to the homely comforts of picturesque beach-side chalets. What is particularly refreshing is that Seychelles tends to be very unprocessed as a tourism destination and the vestiges of an authentic island lifestyle are everywhere to be found; in the architecture, customs, cuisine, music as well as in the genuinely laid-back pace of life.

The coralline Outer Islands lie in a spectacular, gleaming arc that stretches towards the east coast of Africa, ranging between 120 and 700 nautical miles from Mahé, Seychelles’ principal island. You will discover that this is where sailing still means seeing no other sail but your own and where opportunities for diving, fishing and island-hopping abound in places where few have gone before. Stunning atolls, sand cays and reef islands are the order of the day in these remoter south-western waters of the archipelago, strung like pearls on invisible lines of surf amid an azure ocean.

1/10, 000 scale charts of the ocean surrounding the islands have been published as mooring guides and are available on the mainland but captains are reminded that, due to remoteness of the islands and the infrequency of mapping surveys, the depths (soundings) are often missing or inaccurate. Special care should be taken to sail cautiously over the mooring zones and in waters surrounding the remoter islands and the printed figures should not be trusted blindly as coral bottoms can vary constantly. The skipper should remain alert to the sounder at all times

Seychelles’ amazing diversity is the result of its 115 islands (41 granitic and 74 coral) having existed in splendid isolation for much of the time since it broke away from its surrounding landmass some 65 million years ago, proving sanctuary for myriad life-forms that, today, include some of the rarest species of flora & fauna on earth. Seychelles is already home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the amazing Vallée de Mai, a primeval glade where grows the Coco-de-Mer, a seductively shaped double lobed coconut in the exact form of the female pelvis that was once believed to be the fruit of an underwater tree. So convinced was the famous General Gordon of its provenance that he claimed that the Vallée de Mai was the original site of the biblical Garden of Eden. The second site is that of fabled Aldabra, the largest raised coral atoll on earth, given its name by those intrepid Arab seafarers of the 9th century who, undoubtedly, first made landfall on this atoll they named ‘the green one’.

However, these represent only some of the gems that Seychelles have to offer. Gorgeous, pristine sanctuary islands such as Aride, known as’ the seabird citadel of the Indian Ocean’, the twin island reserves of Cousin and Cousine and the northern island outpost of Bird, together, host some of the rarest wildlife on the planet. Guided walks and trails through the many national parks will reveal not only stunning land and seascapes but also a host of species not to be found anywhere else in the world.

Throughout the islands you will find dotted an array of restaurants serving excellent Creole cuisine with its fusion of French and far eastern influences and drawing from a rich palette of local produce to provide dishes rich in texture, aroma and taste. Most restaurants also cater for an international clientele in settings that range from sophisticated hotel surrounds to the rustic charms of the beachside diner. Whether you prefer to sail, walk, bike, hike or enjoy the air-conditioned comfort of a self-drive or chauffeured car, the diversity of the Seychelles experience will never cease to amaze you, as will the friendliness and courtesy of its people for whom harmony and joie de vivre remain, comfortingly, a way of life.

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