Stretching across the Indian Ocean, with more shades of blue and green than it is possible to imagine, is the Seychelles archipelago, a scattered pattern of 115 islands hosting some of the world's most beautiful beaches. A paradise for those of us who love to snorkel. Each island, different from the others, has it's own story to tell. You'll discover a variety of accommodations, from high-end elegance to lovely Creole guesthouses on the sixteen islands that currently offer places for guests to stay the night.
Mahé is the largest island. Praslin, the second largest, has a reputation for being the original Garden of Eden. There may be no other place on earth as spectacular and breathtaking as the forest here, Vallée de Mai, where incredibly tall coconut palms bear their delicious fruit amid the lush vegetation and the indigenous black parrots fly freely in your view. The beach, as you come out of the glade, is one of the most famous on earth, Anse Lazio. The marine ecosystem under the clear turquoise waters offers snorkelers some of the most vibrant and exciting coral reef exploration anywhere.
The third largest island, La Digue, is a step back in time. If you are looking for a break from our hurried lifestyle, you'll find it on La Digue, where ox carts and bicycles are the main form of transportation. Year round the snorkeling is amazing, the beaches idyllic, and the people some of the friendliest you'll ever meet.
Great Snorkeling Everywhere
Everywhere you look in the Seychelles you'll find great snorkeling. The locals are happy to give directions and it's easy to find masks, snorkels and fins to rent if you don't bring your own. Many excellent snorkeling locations are close to the beach but the very best spots are just off the rocky shorelines.
Rich plankton in the waters surrounding the Seychelles creates a marine life that is incredibly diverse. The rocks are bursting with marine life. You'll swim among tiny shrimps, little gobies and pipefish, groupers, clown fish, putter fish, stingrays, turtles, barracudas, humphead parrotfish to name a few. They are guaranteed to entertain your spirit of adventure as you swim and explore.
The possibility is great that while snorkeling in the Seychelles waters you'll have an encounter with a whale shark. These are the largest fish in the ocean, upwards of 20 tons, with the proportion of a whale. And, even though you know they feed on plankton, not people, your heart will surely race as one approaches, most often with it's mouth wide open. Sometimes they will stop and then 'stand' on their tails.
Never try to ride them because, feeling attacked, they will quickly turn and swim away generating a terrific force in the water. They do enjoy interacting with you if you move slowly and are gentle. You may look one straight in the eyes and will often be granted the privilege of swimming close enough to stroke the top of it's head. The experience is unforgettable. Definitely something to write home about.
Encounters with whale sharks are most common at the St. Anne Marine Park just off the island of Melé where the white sandy beaches lined with palm trees, crystal clear waters, and brightly colored tropical fish swimming among the coral warmly welcome you.
We can relax just about anywhere but we know environment can play a big role when we are intentional about being fully refreshed and revitalized. If you are ready for a great snorkeling vacation in a location that is both serene and rich in cultural diversity, it might be time to start planning a trip to the Seychelles archipelago off the western coast of Africa.
The local people, the Seychellois, are a mixture of Indian, Asian, European, and African descendants. Their languages are French, English, and Creole and, as you can imagine, the cuisine reflects the wonderful mix of these cultures as well.
It wasn't until the early 1700s that people began exploring these islands and it's said that the huge numbers of rare plants, animal and marine species, (over 900 recorded) is the result of so many long years of isolation. We humans can be so invasive and careless in our explorations. We often destroy habitats and environments without any awareness or thought. Coral reefs around the world are still in a state of recovery from our insensitive, 'shopping mall' treatment of them. Our need to collect things and take them home leave the natural environment completely stripped. We are getting better though so we'll celebrate that as we continue educating and encouraging ourselves and fellow explorers to be respectful in our observations.
The Art and Music: Catch the Flavor of the Islands
A place of this extraordinary beauty can't help but inspire some great art and music. I'm a fan of Michael Adams' work, but there are a number of local artists you'll want to discover, many of whom have studios in their homes open to the public. You can purchase their work there or in the local galleries.
The folk musician and guitarist, Patrick Victor has recorded a number of CDs that are great background music for packing snorkels, masks, and fins in preparation for your trip. They call his music Creole pop. Here's a tiny preview of what awaits you on the islands.