Seychelles is an island nation with 115 islands full of natural beauty. They are in two distinct groups including the Inner Island Group and the Outer Island Group and almost all of them are outside the cyclone belt. The 41 granitic Inner Islands cluster around the three principal islands of Praslin, La Digue and Mahe. There are also two coral islands in the Inner Island Group. They are Denis Island and Bird Island. Sailing around the Seychelles’ Inner Islands offers miles of scenic coastline with safe anchorages and over 65 beaches on Mahe alone as well as many secret coves and grottoes.
The Outer Islands are 72 coral islands and form an arc towards Africa. The six distinct island groups in the Outer Islands are the Amirantes, the Alphonse Group, the Southern Coral Group, the Farquhar Group and Aldabra. They all lie between 260 and 865 miles from the east coast of Africa.
Entry and Exit Regulations
Port Victoria on Mahe Island is the only official port of entry and exit for private yachts. Any vessel from a foreign country that arrives or departs must call at Port Victoria for the customs, health, and immigration port and security procedures. Yachts that are chartered locally and that will sail within Seychelles are not subject to entry and exit regulations.
These documents must be submitted to the customs authority upon entry into the country:
• Crew list
• Valid outward clearance from last port
• Passenger list
• Arms and ammunition list
• Consumables list
Crew members and passengers are usually issued a one-month visitor’s permit. If an extension is required, permission must be sought at least one week before the expiry date. If the visitors are planning to go to the Outer Islands and return to Port Victoria after their permit expires, the visitors must get an extension before they begin their journey.
If a crew member or passenger is permanently leaving the vessel, the immigration authorities must be told in advance in writing.
At the time of leaving Seychelles, visitors must complete the outward clearance formality with customs authorities. After this, they may not visit any island. Assumption, Desroches and Farquhar may be alternative entry or exit ports, but it will be expensive because the customs and immigration officials well need to be flown to the other island from Mahe at the expense of the requesting vessel.
Seychelles offers sailing on calm waters all year round. Yachts that plan to visit the Outer Islands must have higher specifications in the over 60 miles class, and they need to have a captain and crew. Charter companies know which yachts are suitable for the different areas of Seychelles.
Access and Landing Fees
Seychelles has a few limitations for mooring near their Marine Parks. They have streamlined the process for the convenience of visitors. Yachts can arrive and anchor in the specified zones marked for visitors. The Marine Park officials will go to the yacht to collect the required fees for landing, entry or overnight mooring.
The Reserves and Marine Parks are:
Entrance is controlled by the owners of privately owned or managed islands. To land on these islands the island management must be contacted for permission. These islands are:
• Chauvre Souris
• D’Arros and St. Joseph Atoll
• Grand Soeur
• Petite Soeur
• Round Island near Mahe
• Round Island near Praslin
The Island Development Company (IDC) manages the following islands and they must be contacted for permission to land on these islands:
The Inner Islands offer safe and easy sailing with less than 32 miles between mooring grounds. There are mooring buoys provided around north-west Mahe, north-east Praslin as well as some of the surrounding islands. If there is not mooring place, anchorage is required. At depths of five to eight metres there is good sand bottom in most of the popular overnight places. In keeping with its conservation efforts, Seychelles does not allow anchoring on coral.
There are hazards when navigating the Outer Islands because of low lying coral reefs and other things. The Outer Islands are 130 and 630 miles from Mahe and the mooring grounds of these islands are less sheltered and not frequently sailed.
There are mooring guides that have been published at 1/10000 scale charts that are available in the offices of VPM and Sunsail, which are two sailing operators who are based in Seychelles. The waters of the Outer Islands are rarely sailed and mapping surveys are infrequent, so the depths may not be correct.
Visitors should sail cautiously over the mooring zones around the remote islands. The skipper should not simply trust the map, but should check the sounder constantly because coral bottoms vary frequently.
There are navigation aids that are available at the port entrance of Port Victoria and also on Praslin Island at the Baie Ste. Anne jetty. The buoyage arrangement is the same that is used in Europe. Port buoys are red cylinders with even numbers and starboard buoys are green and have odd numbers. Mahe and Praslin have a few lights with charted characteristics on their headlands.
It is considered a thrill to sail the waters of Seychelles and sailors use compass, charts and knowledge. The largest rocks that are offshore are visible by the eye and do not have lights or buoys. Yachts that are self-skippered are only allowed during the day and must be anchored by nightfall.
There are designated zones around areas of underwater pipeline, foul ground and areas of security where special care is required for anchoring and access to the beach. On Mahe Island in Beau Vallon Bay there are anchorages that are zoned and have special access channels near selected swimming areas.
The Indian Ocean around Seychelles has currents with speeds of 0.5 to 1.5 knots because of the trade winds. Over the Seychelles Bank the currents are usually 0.4 to 0.8 knots and increase at obstructions and headlands.
Within the Inner Islands the effect of the tides are felt more than the ocean currents. They are usually less than a knot. They may increase up to two knots in the channels that are between the islands or close to underwater ridges.
There is about six hours between high and low tide as they are asymmetrical and semi-diurnal. Around the Inner Islands the tidal range can be up to two metres during the spring and as low as 0.9 metres at neaps. Some tides give rise to lagoons in the channels that will completely empty at low tide.
Aldabra has a spring tidal range of four metres and 1.8 metres at neaps. The currents run to 2.5 knots. The tidal streams that flow around the atolls get up to three knots for the tides in spring.
There are upwellings and currents around the Amirantes Bank that may cause choppy conditions.
The swells are moderate with one to two metre waves and only become higher in strong winds on the open water.
The two contrasting wind patterns in Seychelles are north-westerly from December to March and south-easterly from May to September. Often the north–westerly winds get stronger when the sun rises, but it is still fairly weak from five to 10 knots with the peak strength in January. These winds bring intermittent rainfall and gain strength between December and March. They are associated with the cyclones over the south-west Indian Ocean, but Seychelles is outside the cyclone belt with the exception of the most southerly islands.
The south-easterly trades are dry and blow throughout the day and part of the night. They reach their peak in July and August. From June to September the average speed is 10 to 15 knots with occasional gusts that may be over 30 knots.
The trade winds change direction in April and November bring calm and windless periods. At this time the seas are calm and the water is clear.
The Outer Islands have stronger winds during the south-easterly trade’s season because of their southern location and low lying atolls. The Inner Islands have stronger winds during the north-westerly trade’s season because the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone with weaker winds would be lying to the south of the Inner Islands.
Seychelles Radio Coast Station on VHF channel 16, switching to channel 26 will have weather forecasts. Yachts may radio link call through Seychelles Radio.
There are 31 boat charter companies on Mahe Island and five on Praslin Island. They offer bare boat, crewed boat and day charters. These charter companies offer full gear and amenities on board for a safe and comfortable cruise.
The charter operators have both traditional sailing vessels as well as modern yachts. They take visitors to various islands in air conditioned comfort and also offer water sports and diving equipment. Visitors see the Marine Parks, UNESCO World Heritage sites, wildlife and beautiful greenery as well as the famous white sand beaches.