From whatever angle you look at this island country, the Seychelles is magical. It’s the ultimate in unspoilt natural beauty – clear turquoise water, postcard-perfect palms, dreamy wildlife, and deserted beaches and bays around every corner. My husband is a qualified skipper and I am an ocean lover so a bareboat yacht charter is our idea of heaven. Add six of your best friends to the mix for an utterly memorable holiday. On Sunsail’s sleek Leopard 404 we had a relaxed, five-star week away for just under R21 000 per person, including flights. You can see why we’ve been sailing in the Seychelles every year for the past three years!
We’ve done the trip with different sized groups and boats. Our first trip was spectacular – although far from relaxing. We chartered two Leopard 38s for our group of 16 adults, all desperate to get away from the pressures of careers and the routine of childcare. For most of the time we rafted the two cats up together. It was a nine-day party, high on excitement and wonder at this new-found paradise, slim on sleep and downtime, and it took military organisation with regards to menu planning.
We have also been with our family. Eleven of us on a Leopard 48, with our not-yet-swimming toddler, my athletic parents, a game but boat-fearing sister-in-law (who now can’t wait to go again), and my brother, who does not eat fish, but so enjoyed the taste of the freshest fish he had just caught that he was helping himself to seconds! Sharing the beauty of the Seychelles and the delight and freedom of sailing with people you love is a true privilege.
PREPARE WITH PROVISIONS
Remembering that part of the joy of the Seychelles is that there isn’t necessarily a restaurant, shop or market on every island – your provisioning is important. When you find a shop, they may only have a few pap tomatoes, some cooking oil and a bizarre assortment of curios, not all the desired ingredients for your next Instagramworthy meal.
When it comes to bringing supplies for your self-catering holiday, the Seychelles is generous in their duty-free allowances for alcohol and food. If you do enjoy the odd drink, don’t hesitate to take your wine and spirits over with you – alcohol is exorbitant in the Seychelles. Each visitor is entitled to bring two litres of spirits plus two litres of wine, in addition to SCR3000-worth of foodstuffs (note that animal byproducts and any unprocessed fresh produce are prohibited). Considering that clothing requirements are minimal – you will be living in bikinis, board shorts and sarongs – you have ample room to take supplies with you.
Some of the essentials we took: Indian and Thai curry mixes, poppadoms, wraps, condiments and cooking spices, rusks, wasabi and pickled ginger for all the fish we caught, sundried tomatoes and olives (good for pepping up a rice or couscous salad when you’re all out of greens and many nautical miles from the nearest shop).
Once you arrive in Mahé, if you’re trying to save on costs and have a few hours to spare, head for the colourful Victoria Market (closed Sundays) and buy your fresh produce here inexpensively – this is also the best spot in the Seychelles for a wide range of well-priced souvenirs. If you’re not keen on drawing out the shopping process, aim for the STC (Seychelles Trading Company), which is a short taxi ride (SCR600) from the marina. It’s a massive, modern store with a decent array of fresh local and imported produce, great meat and a huge variety of groceries. Ask your taxi driver to stop off here to stock up on mixers and the totally drinkable local Seybru beer. It handily comes in a small 280ml bottle – so your beer never has time to get warm. Anything you can’t find here, you will find at Foodmart in the marina, however this comes at a premium. If time is short and economising is not an issue – ask your charter company about provisioning for you. This way you arrive on a fully stocked boat, ready to set sail as soon as your briefing is over. Provisioning is normally finalised a few weeks before your departure – so don’t leave it until the last minute.
IDYLLIC ISLANDS AND BLISSFUL BAYS
With just a week to 10 days for each of our trips, we have kept our routes to the Inner Islands – a group of over 45 granite and coral islands in close proximity to the main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, offering endless possibilities to explore. Based on our trips, here are a few of our top anchorages…
Approximately 20km northwest of Mahé, Silhouette Island – a marine national park – is the perfect spot to aim for your first night in paradise. It is virtually uninhabited and totally unspoilt, with virgin rainforest covering most of the island and its peaks.
Anse (meaning beach) Mondon in the north is perfect for overnight anchorage – and chances are you will be the only boat there with the bay entirely to yourself. The snorkelling here is beautiful – including some very relaxed rays and hawksbill turtles. Make friends with the scavenging batfish that are always close to your boat. Sit on the foredeck watching the fruit bats swoop down over the ocean and listening to the birds squawking in the ancient trees, or snorkel to the beach, cool off in the fresh mountain stream and grab yourself a newly fallen coconut. We sailed around the island to Anse Grand Barbe for amazing snorkelling and to visit the giant tortoises on the beach, and swam in the crystal water off Anse La Passe.
No trip to the Seychelles would be complete without at least one night anchored off Anse Lazio on Praslin. A long beach partnered by a friendly sheltered bay and very gentle water, it’s highly likely you will find other boats moored here. Being on a boat you get to enjoy the real beauty of this place long before (and after) the many day visitors arrive (and depart). The restaurant Bonbon Plume on the east side of the beach is perfectly situated under the shade of the trees for an excellent coffee or cocktail (SCR120 for a double shot of espresso or a cocktail), or try the more authentic honesty bar tucked away up the hillside at the opposite end of the beach – if you’re nice to them at the end of the day, they might even sell you ice. Paddleboard across the bay with the friendly spotted eagle rays, or put on your takkies and take in the scenery by land, heading up and over the steep hill down to Anse Takamaka and Anse Possession, in search of the rare Coco de Mer palm tree… and do lock your boat if you leave it or when you go to sleep. Sadly, visitors to this pristine place have also attracted opportunistic thieves who are bold enough to board a boat.
The star of every book or feature on the Seychelles, La Digue is where the tourists flock. Just beyond the quaint harbour front, plush resorts and restaurants geared for Western tastes serve up overpriced, average tasting meals and clichéd cocktails. But you can sidestep the tourist traps and hire a bike for the day, exploring the true nature of this enchanting island. While you don’t want to miss the main attraction, the breathtaking Anse Source d’Argent with its spectacular granite boulders and crystal-clear lagoon, it’s a good idea to wait until the afternoon (or early evening if you are looking for great light for photos) when the masses have departed. In the meantime, use your bike to reach the deserted beaches on the east side of the island.
We have used Sunsail for all three of our trips and have always had outstanding service, which keeps us going back. However we have had competitive quotes from Moorings too, and while we have never tried them, Dream Yacht Charter boats are everywhere. For bareboat charters, you need originals of your qualifications and Very High Frequency (VHF) licence. Boats have chart plotters and all the latest navigation equipment, taking the hard work out of sailing. But, although these waters are idyllic, they are not without their share of danger. The boats are well equipped, generally all having a small motorised dinghy, masks and fins, bedding and towels, a braai and sufficiently equipped kitchen. If you’re in need of a holiday that combines adventure, relaxation, wild beauty, peace and space, you’re looking for a charter in the Seychelles. If you’re a sailor, it becomes an affordable dream destination for you to take your friends and family. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more carefree, joy-filled, exquisite place on earth.
FIVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO PACK
Ziploc bags: To keep things dry or to keep things wet, you’ll find a myriad uses.
Eco-friendly cleaning products: Everything you use on the boat, from body wash, to shampoo and dishwashing liquid basically goes straight into the ocean. Use the green stuff.
Fishing gear: Even a complete novice can catch fish in the Seychelles (swot up on filleting a fish if you don’t yet know how). Yellowfin tuna, skipjack, wahoo, jobfish, garfish and dorado are all delicious fish to eat and can form the backbone of your menu. Trawl while you sail between the islands in the deeper waters, using lures. Don’t forget a gaffe – we had to use the hammer from the boat toolbox on one of our trips, which was far from ideal.
White spirit vinegar: As a treatment for stings, an environmentally sound cleaning agent, good for rinsing out and softening salty towels, and of course for dressings and marinades.
Baby powder: A light sprinkling of baby powder on your body or sheets as you turn in for the night will stop that below-deck clammy feel in the heat of the tropics.
Paradise Islands – Words By Kim Richter
Images Supplied by: Ingrid Hale, Carl Richter, Andrew Hofmeyr and Dean Westmore