Sailing The Seychelles - part 2

Day 5 - La Grande Soeur (30 km by boat)

Today was change day - having lost six of our fellow passengers yesterday (those who opted for a shorter voyage), we picked up another eight today to make a full complement of 24 passengers. Despite the changes and the arrival of two Québécois, the German-speakers remained in the majority - The Seychelles seem to popular amongst Northern Europeans. Still, everyone was getting on well, even with us anglophones.

Captain Claude takes us out from Praslin

Passing the northern end of La Digue

The rocky profile of Petite Soeur Island

We also had a change of skipper and, with the dread-locked Claude at the helm, we left the calm harbour waters and headed out into a strong south-easterly breeze and lumpy seas for the 45 minute voyage to La Grande Soeur. La Grande Soeur, is one of a group of granite outcrop islands to the north-east of La Digue and, as the name suggests has a little sister, La Petite Soeur, which we passed just before anchoring next to the only beach on the west side of the island.

Tricky arrival on Grande Soeur beach ....

The steep sand beach, protected by a close-in reef, lay on a sandy bar that joined the two rocky hill-tops of the island. It was not an easy place to access, and we had to wait an hour until the small dinghy that took passengers ashore came to collect us.

For me, the landing was even more undignified than for others ..... a wave surge pushed the dinghy into me as I stepped off, leading to a watery faceplant, a loss of face and a loss of sunglasses.

.... and a spectacular departure

The point of our visit was to have a beach barbecue on this beautiful, if treacherous, beach (it was delicious), as well as a chance to swim on the Indian Ocean side. The sand bar was just 200m wide and on its eastern side, the surf rolled in to a small white sand beach with its glassy, crystal clear, pale blue water.

Indian Ocean surf on the eastern side of Grande Soeur

Shaded reef-fringed beach on the western side of Grande Soeur

By contrast, the western side, where we landed, had a lovely sandy fringe, but broken coral lined the bottom and the water rolling across the reef made visibility poor. I tried a bit of snorkelling and, although there were some colourful fish around, the seas were too big to be enjoyable.

Petite Soeur viewed from the beach of Grande Soeur

Then, after the fun of leaving through the breaking surf in the dinghy and re-boarding "Costa Rica", we pulled anchor and headed off - first through the channel between Grande and Petite Soeur and then taking a direct line towards the north coast of Praslin and the setting sun.

Beacon guarding the entrance to Anse Petit Coeur

By the time we pulled into our anchorage in the calm sheltered waters of Anse Petit Coeur, the western sky was changing its sunset palette from gold to pink. It had been an enjoyable, if somewhat frustrating day - the landscapes of The Seychelles are postcard-perfect, but I really want to see a bit of what lies beneath the sea. Tomorrow, we will try another snorkelling spot - let's hope that this time the sea will be our friend.

Day 6 - St Pierre and Curieuse (10 km by boat)

Today we would not be travelling very far. From our overnight spot at Anse Petit Coeur, it was only 15 minutes to the rocky islet of St Pierre - a few palms and other trees on a cluster of fluted granite rocks just to the north of Praslin. We anchored and prepared to go snorkelling in the clear and calm waters.

View back towards the hills of Praslin

Fluted granite boulders of Ile St Pierre

The fair Nello and I did a slow clockwise snorkelling circuit of the island, once again fringed with a bed of broken coral fragments, but with a variety of colourful fish. Closer to the island, though, the rocks provided sheer walls, where a few small live corals still grew.

It was only later, when we learnt about the severe coral bleaching events in 2016 (water temperatures reached as high as 32°C), that we understood the demise of the Seychellois coral reefs in this area. The tragedy of climate change has well and truly commenced.

The fish and underwaterscapes of St Pierre

After lunch at St Pierre, we pulled anchor for another brief trip to the neighbouring, but much larger, island of Curieuse. Here Claude stopped the "Costa Rica" just long enough in Baie Laraie for everyone to go ashore by zodiac. Once on shore, we could visit the tortoise breeding facility (part of the conservation program for Seychelles giant tortoises), and then do a short walk around this south-eastern tip of the island to the white sandy fringe of Anse St José, where the "Costa Rica" would be waiting once again to pick us up.

Local swamp-hen

Approaching Curieuse

Giant Aldabra tortoise

The walk was an interesting one - over a knob of fluted granite rocks, around the board-walked mangroves, where giant crabs dug their rabbit-sized burrows and mud-skippers skipped on the water's edge, alongside a section of dense palms, including the iconic coco de mer and over a rocky ridge with excellent views of the bay.

View from Curieuse to distant Praslin


Boardwalk through the mangroves

Assorted crabs ........

....... and mudskippers

View over Baie Laraie on Curieuse Island

Once on the beach, we had time for a quick swim, before being picked up and heading on to our anchorage for the night at Anse Lazio. The feeling of déja vu was warranted, as this was where we had anchored three nights earlier. Still, it was a lovely spot and this time we had time to launch the kayaks on board and paddle over to the beach - there was definitely a need for a bit of upper body exercise after six days on board.

The beach of Anse St José on Curieuse

Sunset over the western tip of Praslin

Thus, yet another tropical evening ended with a beautiful sunset, cool breeze, the gentle movement of the boat on the water and a chilled glass of rosé in hand.

Day 7 - Back to Mahé (50 km by boat)

How quickly time had passed - the last day of our Seychelles cruise was already here. Once again a fine tropical day - a mixture of cloud and sun over the clear deep blue waters of Baie Chevalier. The morning was ours to spend, so the fair Nello and I did a quick post-breakfast circuit on the kayak around some of the lovely granite outcrops that reached out from the shore, before joining the others to head over to the white sand beach of Anse Lazio.

Time for a bit of kayaking (photo: Raul Scheibner)

Amongst the granite boulders of Anse Lazio

This was a good spot for our last activity - with its broad white sand beach, pinkish-tan granite boulders, calm turquoise waters and back drop of densely forested slopes, Anse Lazio is one of the most beautiful beaches in The Seychelles. It was the certainly the nicest we had visited.

The western end of Anse Lazio

The eastern end of Anse Lazio

It was a last chance to do a bit of swimming and a bit of snorkelling around the rocks, whose overhangs and hollows provided shelter for lots of tropical fish and whose rough edged surge channels can tear the skin off the fingers and leg of over-confident snorkellers when a swell pushes through. It was worth a few bandages, and our on-board hostess, Vanessa, seemed pleased to finally have a reason to pull out the first aid kit.

Some coral that survived the bleaching


While some snorkel, others snooze

All too soon it was time to head back to the "Costa Rica" - it was "one last time " time. One last time to zip across the turquoise blue waters on the zodiac with Danny, and one last time to enjoy a superb lunch of creole fish served by Terrence and Vanessa. We were about to leave the northern islands of The Seychelles and head back to Mahé.

Beachside track

"Costa Rica" at anchor in Baie Chavalier

View across the granite boulders

The lush beachside vegetation

Lagoon at the back of the beach

Nello sets out to swim back to the catamaran

After lunch, skipper Claude pulled anchor, fired up the twin diesel motors of the "Costa Rica", rounded the western point of Praslin and turned in the direction of Mahé, four hours away. Thus, we had one last trip across the open sea, a soft breeze blowing from the east and a gentle swell rolling the boat - the ambience was soporific.

Rounding the tip of Praslin to head for home

The glittering sea on a tropical afternoon

The cloud-covered tops of Mahé grew larger and finally we passed through St Anne Channel into the calm waters of the bay and pulled into our mooring at Eden Harbour. Our voyage was over, but the adventure not quite so. We had one last dinner - one last chance to sample the delicious food served up by our chef, Terrence (it had been a seven-day moving feast), and one last chance to take advantage of our free chilled wine and beer for want of air conditioning. The crew also brought out a bottle of Takamaka seychellois rum to celebrate a successful voyage.

It had been a great trip - The Seychelles are arguably the most beautiful islands that we have visited and we had great crew - thanks to our two skippers, Kevin for the first half and Claude for the second, the ever-reliable crewman and zodiac driver, Danny, our hostess and first aid expert, the lovely Vanessa, and our master of creole cooking, Terrence.

The "crew" of the "Costa Rica" (photo: Raul Scheibner)

Thanks also to our fellow passengers for their company and good laughs - perhaps if I understood German better I would have laughed a lot more.

A couple of days in Mahé

Air Seychelles do not fly to Johannesburg every day of the week. Thus the fair Nello and I found ourselves with two days to spare between our sailing trip and our flight home. As a consequence, we are now in a very pleasant studio in Bel Ombre, high on the western slopes of Mahé. Our views are not of the ocean, but of the mountain and its verdant forest, which makes for a nice change.

The road to our place in Bel Ombre

Colonial era church in Beau Vallon

The beach at Anse Beau Vallon

We did walk down to the famed Anse Beau Vallon on the first day. A long strip of white sand backed by a line of expensive resort hotels, it wasn't our scene, so today we found a small unnamed beach at the mouth of the Bamboo Rivulet. Shady, peaceful and with views across the aquamarine water to the cloud-capped silhouette of Silhouette Island (a well-chosen name), it was the perfect place for our last swim in The Seychelles.

Bamboo Rivulet

One last swim - looking at the cloud-capped silhouette
of Silhouette

Ocean view back to the mountains of Mahé

I really enjoyed the forest here - sitting out on our balcony in the late afternoon with a coconut rum and ice, as the colourful birds sing and twitter, the fruit bats do their lazy loops above the trees and a pair of barking geckos scurry across the wall.

And so ends our African adventure - the windswept, flower-filled coastal landscapes of the western cape region of South Africa, the stark beauty of the Namib and Kalahari Deserts, the green waterways of the Okavango, the wildlife of Etosha and Chobe National Parks, the majesty of Victoria Falls, and the tropical beauty and serene beaches of The Seychelles all slip from reality to memory. Here they wait their turn, to reappear in moments of nostalgia and bring back a smile of recollection of days well spent and companionship shared. Such is the joy of travel.

"Happy Days".