Alphonse Atoll, Bijoutier and St. Francois Atoll together are the Alphonse Group and are in the Outer Islands Group of the Seychelles. Alphonse is three kilometres north of St. Francois and has a population of less than 300 people. The island is 1.74 square kilometres with a diameter of three kilometres. Including the lagoon in the middle of the atoll, the island is eight square kilometres.
The small atolls were first named on the Portuguese charts as San Francisco after 1562. In 1730, the commander of a French frigate gave the islands his name, which was Alphonse de Pontevez. Today, Alphonse is famous for some of the best fly fishing in the world. The island is a one hour flight south of Mahe.
The Natural Habitat
The isolation of Alphonse attracts migratory birds. The Seychelles Bird Records Committee has found more bird species on Alphonse that on any island south of the granitics other than Aldabra. Conservation on the group of atolls is managed by Island Conservation Society.
In spite of there being cats and rats on the atoll, wedge-tailed Shearwater birds breed there. There are also introduced species such as common waxbill and house sparrow that breed on the atoll. Alphonse has the only record of Sociable Lapwing in the southern hemisphere and the first records of Chiffchaff and Tufted Duck.
The Perfect Beach Holiday
Fishing is the main attraction on Alphonse, but there is much more to do. It offers a great tropical beach holiday for the whole family, and those who consider fishing an essential part of any holiday will not be disappointed.
The lodge on the atoll has 25 air conditioned chalets and five luxurious villas. The villas are built on stilts with a private veranda that faces the sea. Decorated with exotic wood, each villa has a private outdoor shower and Jacuzzi, satellite TV and international direct dial telephone.
The resort has an excellent restaurant and bar that offer traditional Creole and international cuisine.
The activities on land include tennis, cycling and a swimming pool. Water sports include canoeing, kayaking, peddle boating, windsurfing, scuba diving from their own dive centre and snorkelling. The diving and snorkelling offer some excellent opportunities for visitors to see the hundreds of colourful tropical fish and coral in the reefs that surround the atoll.
The Main Attraction
During the season from October to May, Alphonse is famous for the fly fishing from its hard white sand flats. Visitors stay in the lodge on Alphonse and take a boat to St. Francois to fish in the lagoon. The Alphonse Island Resort owns the fly fishing rights for the St. Francois Lagoon. Considered by many to be the most fantastic place for saltwater fishing, there are sixty different species of fish to be caught by fly fishing, but the milkfish, bonefish and giant trevally are the ones fishermen and women travel half way around the world to catch.
• Bonefish are white, four to six pound fish that swim the sand flats in vast numbers. Alphonse Atoll offers the best bonefishing in saltwater today.
• Giant trevally challenge game anglers like no other fish. They are terrifying predators that grow to more than 100 pounds and will attack any large baitfish they see. When they are hooked, it takes a strong rod and reel to bring in one of these heavyweights. Sometimes anglers need to get back to their boats to chase down the giant trevally.
• Milkfish eat algae and weeds and have always been considered impossible to take on a fly because they are vegetarians and will not respond to a fly. They can grow to 40 pounds. Anglers who stay at Alphonse have worked out a technique to attract milkfish to bite. Some anglers go to Alphonse just to fish for milkfish. Once the fish is hooked, a boat is needed for the angler to have any prospect of landing it. During the fight, they often leap clear out of the water and run over 200 metres.
Along with fishing in the flats, there is blue water fly fishing where there are rainbow runners, tuna, permit, jacks and African pompano. This huge diversity of species in this one region of the Indian Ocean gives anglers the chance to target many different species in one trip. There is also barracuda, moustache trigger fish, blue fin trevally, dog toothed tuna, Picasso trigger fish and yellow margin trigger fish.
Only 12 people per week are allowed to fish the flats at Alphonse and the lagoon at St. Francois, which gives these anglers rare exclusivity. The Alphonse Island Fishing Company has five guides who have years of experience of fishing in the Indian Ocean and fly fishing and who enjoy their job. The guides take the anglers to various flats around St. Francois and Alphonse in a 40 foot catamaran. Once they reach their destination, the transfer to skiffs.
With the exception of fishing for dogtooth tuna, rainbow runners or trevally, which is done while in the skiff, all the fishing is done while wading. On Alphonse, the bonefishing is on the flats that are within walking distance of the lodge. May and September are the months that have the best bonefishing, but there are winds, so these months are recommended for experienced casters.
Bonefish are not the only fish on the flats, but they are so plentiful, the other fish are sometimes overlooked. Milkfish are also there as well as barracuda, triggerfish, trevally and, sometimes, African pompano. There are also many lemon sharks and occasionally a tiger shark is seen.
Alphonse offers a respite from the crowded beaches of the resorts on other Seychelles islands. The island is solely for fly fishermen and women and their friends and family. In 2012, a record was achieved by an Alphonse fishing guide and a guest. Called a Golden Grand Slam, the fisherman caught five species of fish on the same day. Permit, milkfish, giant trevally, a triggerfish and bonefish were caught with the help of the guide who has vast experience of the water around Alphonse Atoll.