Ten hours from London by air, and the view from the Boeing 767 is of granite rocks covered in lush green vegetation, rising from an Indian Ocean morning. It is early but already a catamaran is seen sailing past a headland.
After the night flight to Mahe, completion of immigration formalities and a fifteen minute flight to neighbouring Praslin, we are glad to reach our hotel and acclimatise for two days before taking over the catamaran.
At about 4 degrees south and 55 degrees east the main islands of the Seychelles are close together. However the reefs and coral atolls stretch for some thousand miles. The Seychelles tourism policy is to restrict numbers and provide exclusive holidays. English, Creole and French are widely spoken.
Dream Yachts Base Manager, Loic picked us up in a pickup truck from the hotel. The operation was a year old and we saw the unfinished new Base, with offices, workshop and café. A few metres away a dozen boats, mostly catamarans, lay at the company pontoon marina. We were soon aboard "Ambre" an Athena 38 cat with four double cabins and a head and shower in each hull.
We had taken advantage of the provisioning list and found what we had ordered to be on board. Our visit to a supermarket had not provided our further needs so Loic took me and a Breton party joining another yacht to a different supermarket. Actually we even needed matches, dishcloths and washing up liquid. Truly a bare boat! Local fruit was not to be seen. A few days later a local boat came alongside to offer this.
After our technical and navigation briefings, and the supermarket trip we only had an hour and a half of daylight in the short tropical day so we put off our departure until next morning. British Admiralty charts were aboard, and a bi-lingual English French pilot book.
On 4 June we departed early into a head sea and SE trade wind turning when we could clear Round Island to find the sheltered Petit Cour bay. We anchored near to two other catamarans. Distances are so short that we needed pilotage rather than navigation. Unmarked rocks had to be avoided. A clear sandy bottom had to be found as anchoring over coral or rocks was not to be recommended. The clear turquoise water was the place to go. Once anchored we were able to don snorkle and fins and observe corals and many varieties of tropical fish. The stern steps of Ambre made leaving and returning to the boat simple. The fresh water shower saved us dripping salt water into the cockpit.
Our next hop had less hazards to avoid so the genoa was unfurled and twin 27hp diesels turned off. Soon we were anchored off the white sand beach of Anse Lazio, one of the most photographed beaches of the Seychelles. We took the dinghy ashore and walked on the fine white sand. Two restaurants hide behind the palm trees but do not open for dinner. We had a late lunch, grilled fish in a Creole sauce, and fresh fruit salad.
Despite being sheltered from the SE trades, some swell usually affects this beach so timing is essential in landing or departing by dinghy. In fact the outboard refused to start and three waves came in to upset the equilibrium. The second capsized the small RIB dinghy and the third repeated as we fought to right it. We decided to swim the dinghy back to the boat and were lucky that camera and wallet were safe within a rucksack and remained dry.
Darkness came at 7.30 p.m. The clear sky was full of stars. The air was warm enough to need minimum clothes, and thankfully mosquitoes were rare. Early to bed, early to rise is the way to enjoy the daylight hours of the Tropics aboard a catamaran.
A snorkel to the rocks before breakfast is worthwhile. There are a number of islands to visit but many are private and yachts not welcome. It was rumoured that Paul and Heather McCartney were honeymooning on Fregate. Also the season dictates the places to go. Some wonderful bays were denied to us, but would be ideal anchorages in the NW monsoon season.
bay, inaccessible by road, Anse Georgette, was nearby. A slight change
in the wind direction left if exposed, and in swell. We soon left and
decided to try sailing properly for a couple of hours so raised main and
unrolled genoa just for a "spin". The large mainsail, typical
on French catamarans, combined with the bimini, makes handling the sail
difficult, and it is necessary to climb on the bimini to zip up the mainsail
The nearby Curieuse Island was a leper colony until 1965. Now it is a protected island and the waters around it are a nature reserve. Turtles nest on the beaches, giant tortoises, as on Galapagos, live safe from hunters, and visitors can walk on decking across mangrove swamps and visit the museum, once the Doctors house. Unsurprisingly Scottish doctors have been past key men on the island.
We motored the short distance to Anse St Jose, as the Laraie Bay is sheltered only during the NW monsoon, and went ashore to explore the island. The fee to land or anchor off was £5 or US$10 per day to include the nearby Isle St Pierre, famed for the underwater life. After visiting Curieuse we motored the mile to the pair of rocks. We anchored in 3.5m over sand, actually broken coral, and managed to drag the anchor four times. I swam to the islet, saw a small shark as well as many tropical fish before returning to Ambre to find a more secure anchorage.
We were surprised that a dozen boats including day charter cats anchored each day there but no moorings were placed to avoid damage to the bottom. After dragging we ignored the rule of relating the length of chain to the depth of water, and just put everything down. The anchorages are so empty that there is room to swing.
We called on the crew of Indiana, a 60 day charter cat operated by Dream Yachts to look at the outboard engine. It seemed the coil was damp and the fuel contaminated from the capsize. Loic had said they would come out and sort any problem, but we were not worried about lack of outboard, although the paddles would not take the dinghy far.
We motored a short distance and anchored at the north end of Côte Dor. Actually it was the worst night as we suffered from chain noise on the windlass. After that we let the rope bridle take the full weight of the pull from the windlass. We motored round to Petit Cour for breakfast. We made another sailing trip around Curieuse and back to Anse Lazio. With full sail up the wind gusted up to 24 knots and the boat felt overcanvassed.
Saturday started grey and windy. Another early start motoring into the wind took Ambre in two hours to the island of La Digue. After a previous accident in the small harbour Dream Yachts do not let charterers take catamarans into the harbour. We anchored off in light swell and invited newly made friends Claudia & Rob from the other boat there for a cup of tea. Low clouds covered the island and the local ferry schooners raced between La Digue and St Annes Baie, Praslin. Our friends needed a spare part to control their engine and had to meet the 5pm boat from Mahe to collect it. We did not fancy a night in the swell so the four of us had a fast sail back to St. Annes in Ambre and anchored off the Base during 25 knot gusts. We enjoyed a meal ashore together at the nearby Café Oganibar.
On Sunday morning we motored the three miles to La Digue leaving Claudia and Rob to fit the replacement and sailed back along the now familiar east side of Praslin, back to Petite Cour. The west side of Praslin is protected by a coral reef a thousand metres offshore, and is another prohibited area to charterers. On Monday we handed back the catamaran, had a debriefing and were returned to the airport to fly to Mahe for a few nights in a hotel, and to explore that island.
Local exchange control regulations restrict the use of local currency which is not permitted to be used in "tourist areas". Take plenty of £ Sterling, € euros or US$ dollars which are widely accepted, or travellers cheques.
Take Tea and Coffee and cooking essentials of your choice. Also take a litre of spirits each and a couple of wine as the costs are very high.
High factor suncream should be used but the large bimini over the cockpit provides good shade. The foredeck lookout is exposed while seeking safe passage to an anchorage, or past shallows. Timing of approach should be with the sun behind, to ensure good visibility of different colours underwater. Polarising sunglasses should be worn.
Go and try it for
2002 Rates from £253 a day