I’m firmly of the opinion that diving in the Seychelles is under-rated. The reefs off the main islands, Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, offer incredible topography and a teeming profusion of marine life with everything from big pelagics and turtles to unusual tropical fish. Spear fishing is banned in Seychelles so the fish are less skittish than in most areas. This is easy diving, in warm, clear water with excellent visibility and plenty of both macro life and obliging big stuff – a diver’s, and particularly a dive photographer’s dream. Add to that short boat rides to the dive sites, world class dive schools, a full range of dive courses and English speaking instructors – what better place to indulge in a dedicated dive holiday or get dive qualifications?

 

           

Although conditions are good all year round, the best months for diving are March to May and September to November. The latter period coincides with the likely visits of whale sharks to Seychelles so this is an excellent time to visit. The annual underwater photography competition that forms part of the SUBIOS Underwater Festival in October is worth attending – the winners get a free trip back to the festival the following year.

The marine parks are also a haven for snorkellers. Sure, there has been some coral bleaching following the El Nino warming of 1998, particularly on the shallow corals, but even here the coral has made a remarkable recovery and estimates are that it will have regenerated almost completely by the end of the decade. And most of the reefs that you dive on the inner islands of Seychelles are granitic – albeit adorned with beautiful soft corals - and have therefore escaped the ravages blighting the hard coral formations of neighbouring areas. So don’t be put off by horror stories.

There are now two specialist liveaboard dive boats available from Mahé, the Indian Ocean Explorer and Sea Star, for scuba divers wishing to dive the inner isles on a boat based holiday or to venture further afield to the Natural Heritage Site of Aldabra.

Top dive sites:
Horseshoe
This shallow, natural aquarium has lovely reef formations and an abundance of fish so is perfect for novice divers. A highlight is the tiny garden eels that sway in the current.

Brissare rocks
The dramatic boulders with their deep gullies provide shelter for large schools of snapper and Napoleon wrasses and the soft corals are particularly colourful.
Maximum depth 20m, suitable for novice divers.

L’Îlot
Another place for colourful soft corals and gorgonian sea fans is on the walls around L’Îlot. Moray eels peek out from the crevices and the strong current ensures there are usually large schools of fish. An added attraction is turtles, which are regularly spotted grazing in the shallows.
The picturesque jumble of rocks is a short boat ride from Beau Vallon, on the exposed North Point. A strong current rushes through the narrow passage between the island and the shore making this an advanced dive. The site is an exciting night dive particularly to see the lovely Spanish dancers. Maximum depth 23m.

Ennerdale wreck
The Ennerdale is a former British Royal Navy motor tanker, which went down without loss of life in 1970 when she struck an uncharted rock some seven miles from Port Victoria. The 200 metre long superstructure, with its outsized moray eels, stingrays and schools of batfish and barracuda is also a good place for viewing sharks.
Maximum depth 30m. The wreck is about 8km off shore and is an advanced dive.

Shark Bank
This granite massif, with its protected overhangs usually enjoys clear blue water and good vis. The dramatic boulders, with their colourful sponges and white gorgonian fans, are subject to current so are clothed with huge shoals of batfish, jackfish and snapper. Marbled stingrays, eagle rays and sharks are regularly spotted and schools of barracuda and tuna are often seen cruising by.
Maximum depth 35m. An advanced site.

South Marianne, off Praslin
This is one of the best sites I have ever dived – I loved it so much that I came back on three consecutive dives! The dramatic, underwater pinnacles that fringe the tiny island reflect its surface topography, and you can swim through gullies and next to incredible, sheer walls. We saw a hawksbill turtle as we descended and several more as we swam towards the first gully. I could almost feel the beady eyes on me before I saw my first shark and as I tried to attract my buddy’s attention a dozen more flashed by, light reflecting off their white underbellies. We drifted through a narrow canyon, transfixed by the graceful denizens of the deep before reaching a wall, complete with a perfect natural viewing balcony, where dozens of curious grey reef and white tip sharks circled. Huge wrasses passed above us and the waves crashed overhead. Wow.
Maximum depth 27m usually with strong current. Definitely for experienced divers only.

Ave Maria, off Praslin
This jumble of granite boulders is, in many ways, similar to L’Ilot. Expect lots of fish, including some big shoals, the odd ray and regular shark sightings.
Maximum depth 26m. Suitable for novice divers.

Snorkelling
One of the big attractions of Seychelles is that you don’t have to be a qualified scuba diver to appreciate the beauty of the reef. The clear, shallows waters and colourful aquariums of archipelago can be explored on snorkel.
The islands offer some of the easiest and best snorkelling in the world particularly on the popular reefs around Ste Anne and in the remote Baie Terney National Marine Park in the north west. (See excursions)

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