Often referred to as the original Garden of Eden, the Seychelles is an archipelagic paradise in the Indian Ocean lying 1000 miles off the coast of Africa. As a place to explore under sail, the Seychelles is an island group like no other. For centuries it lay undiscovered and uninhabited allowing a paradise of flora and fauna to flourish above and below the waves, many species of which are found nowhere else on earth. Originally part of the land mass comprising Africa and India, it has the world’s only mid-ocean granite islands, the oldest ocean islands and the largest raised coral atoll.
Comprising 72 outer coral atolls and 43 inner islands, the Republic of the Seychelles, as it is formally known, has long been an aspirational location for honeymooners or anyone dreaming of a perfect romantic getaway. Pure white, empty palm fringed beaches, gin-clear waters and idyllic, safe anchorages are to be found around the inner islands and the fabulous climate and excellent predictable winds (at the right time of year) make it a wonderful location for a sailing holiday.
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Background to Sailing in the Seychelles
For centuries the islands of the Seychelles were known to seafarers but remained uncharted until the seventeen hundreds when they were surveyed and recorded by the Portuguese as part of Vasco da Gama’s expeditionary fleet. Uninhabited until 1770 when the first French settlers arrived, the region was a French colony until ceded to Britain after the Napoleonic Wars and remained a Crown Colony until it gained independence in 1976. English is still the commonly spoken language, along with Creole.
The islands are widely scattered over an exclusive economic area of around half a million square miles to the north east of Madagascar. Since obtaining independence from the British, the main focus of the Seychelles has been tourism and fishing. Marine tourism/yacht charter is a relatively new but growing industry which is well supported by reputable companies operating from the three main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue.
About Sailing Holidays in the Seychelles
What is Sailing in the Seychelles Like?
Sailing in the Seychelles is island-hopping through a paradise of tropical, jewel coloured bays with granite boulder vistas reminiscent of The Baths in the British Virgin Islands, which is also a fabulous sailing holiday destination. But, unlike the BVI’s, the Seychelles is blessed with a level of seclusion, a rich tropical backdrop and a plethora of bird and animal life found nowhere else on earth. Where else can you hop out of the dinghy and see tortoises the size of a suitcase walking around in the wild?! The waters are teeming with fish and are heaven for snorkellers and divers alike.
Spanning such a large geographic area, the Seychelles has been divided into two areas known as the inner and outer islands as indicated on the map below. The majority of Seychellois live on the Inner Islands, and even so, many islands remain uninhabited and undeveloped. The closest of the Outer Islands, the Amirantes, is 130 nautical miles from Mahé which makes it an impractical distance on a week long sailing holiday. However, if you have a longer time to kick back and explore, these more remote and untouched islands of the Seychelles are spectacularly rewarding, being breathtakingly beautiful and a haven for nesting seabirds and turtles, and are a comfortable reach for larger motor yachts. Several of the islands are privately owned and are the home of exclusive luxury resorts, many of which don’t welcome visiting yachtsmen. Others are off limits due to conservation work, so do check before route planning.
With 75 soft sand beaches, a wide range of accommodation and the only international airport, Mahé is naturally the main tourist location; it is the largest island in the group, home to the capital, Victoria and 90% of the population. Most of the yacht charter companies are based on Mahé, meaning swift transfers to all marinas once you crawl through their notoriously slow immigration process. Eden Marina, where many companies have their bases, for example, is just 10 minutes away.
The close proximity of the Inner Islands means that it’s easy to sail with line of sight from one island to another within a day.
Exploring Ashore in the Seychelles
On land, the forests are teeming with exotic birds such as the rare black parrot – the national bird of the Seychelles. You might also see one of the remarkable Aldabra giant tortoises, which can only be found on a few of the Seychelles islands, along with many geckos, lizards and chameleons. About 50% of the Seychelles is designated as either a nature reserve, national park or similar protected area, including the UNESCO world heritage site of Valée de Mai in Praslin.
This is also the place to find the coco de mer – famously the world’s largest, and possibly cheekiest looking seed. Elsewhere, coconut palms are in abundance and the Morne Seychellois National Park on Mahé has an easy to follow hiking trail which includes the highest peak in the Seychelles at over 900 metres, eventually winding down through lush vegetation to the small secluded bay of Anse Major. If you want to see a giant tortoise, Curieuse is the place to go as it has a sanctuary and breeding programme for these stately creatures. There is also a former leper colony on the island, which closed in 1965 and is now a tourist attraction.
Note that wearing camouflage is prohibited; nudism/naturism is unacceptable and topless bathing is permitted on some, but not all, beaches.
Exploring Underwater in the Seychelles
You’ll find remote coves at every turn and if you’re interested in marine life there’s plenty to keep you company under the water as the very obliging inhabitants are unafraid of snorkelers and divers. This owes a great deal to the decision in 1972 to ban spearguns in the Seychelles. The wildlife, both on land and in the water, exceeds all imagination. Expect to see black tipped whale shark, turtles, dolphins, manta rays, over one thousand species of tropical fish, colourful coral and no less than 26 species of crab including the world’s largest terrestrial invertebrate, the coconut crab. Coco Island is renowned as the best place to snorkel in the Seychelles, but all the marine parks offer plenty of opportunity to see wonderful marine life. The national parks, such as Sainte Anne Marine Park generally provide excellent snorkelling thanks to the outstanding conservation work undertaken within. Curieuse is a great place to see giant rays, but beware of the stinging plankton and stonefish!
Fishing from your Charter Yacht in the Seychelles
There is no fee for leisure fishing from your yacht outside of the marine protected areas, and you might expect to hook a decent sized snapper, trevally, grouper, sailfish, tuna or wahoo, all of which are in abundance at different times of the year. Shore fishing is less popular with locals, and keen fishermen should bring their own gear; fly fishing for bonefish in the Outer Islands is said to be amongst the best in the world. Note that spearfishing is prohibited.
Yacht Provisioning in the Seychelles
Mahé is the best place to obtain food stores etc as there is limited opportunity on other islands, many of which remain uninhabited. (There is one prescribed sailing route which involves having pre-ordered food delivered to your yacht, but this, unsurprisingly, is very expensive). Some islands rely on deliveries every two weeks and you may well find you arrive as they are awaiting the ‘big boat’ and offer you no chance of obtaining supplies. Sailors have reported walking a long way up a dusty track on La Digue to a tiny shack selling – well, almost absolutely nothing. This provided great amusement from the locals when asked if beer was available. The moral is – stock up well at the start!
As most of the food is imported, prices tend to be high, but there is an abundance of local fish, shellfish and tropical fruits to be enjoyed in a wide variety of restaurants. The Creole influence is also reflected in many dishes, but given recent events it’s probably best to steer clear of one Creole favourite – bat curry!
Where Can I Visit on a Sailing Holiday in the Seychelles?
Setting out from a base on Mahé, you can expect to cover up to 100 nautical miles in a week on a typical sailing vessel, and up to 120 nautical miles in 10 days; practically speaking this limits your cruising area to the Inner Islands. Your sailing direction and choice of anchorages will depend on the season. Aside from their distance from your starting base, the outer islands are generally off limits to charter yachts as most can only be visited by applying for a permit in advance and/or by using the services of a local skipper or guide. Added to this, some islands are completely out of bounds as they are designated nature reserves. The following map from Coco Charters shows the information regarding different anchorages throughout the islands that you might visit on a sailing charter:
Bear in mind also that most charter yachts forbid navigation in the hours of darkness, reflecting the difficulty of navigating these reef-strewn waters in poor light.
Planning Your 7 to 14 Day Sailing Itinerary in the Seychelles
With 43 inner islands to explore, all in easy reach of one another, and so many enticing anchorages available to choose from, you’d be hard pressed to run out of places to drop the hook even if you sailed there for a month! It isn’t difficult to chart the perfect itinerary for a sailing holiday of 7, 10 or 14 days.
The top must-sees for your sailing itinerary in the Seychelles are:
Valée de Mai National Park, Praslin – a UNESCO site perfect for nature-loving hikers.
La Digue – sublime beaches and a nature lover’s hotspot.
Anse Lazio beach, Praslin – picture postcard white sand, coconut palms and aquamarine water.
Curieuse Island – giant tortoises, coco de mer palms and a former leper colony!
Copolia trail, Mahe Island – if climbing’s your thing, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views from the top.
Morne Seychellois National Park, Mahe – the largest, and arguably the best nature reserve in the Seychelles.
St Anne Marine National Park – a cluster of six islands perfect for snorkelling and scuba.
Cousin Island – home to rare Seychelles Warbler and many other bird species.
Bird Island – unsurprisingly, a birder’s paradise.
Silhouette Island – this mountainous granite island is bursting with lush vegetation and rich biodiversity.
Aldabra Atoll (Outer Islands) – outstanding wildlife, including giant tortoises.
Sample Sailing Itineraries
An example for a week’s holiday between November and April might be:
Saint Anne & Ile aux Cerf
Mahé (Eden Island Marina) to Saint Anne Marine National Park, Ile aux Cerf. You’ll pay in the region of £30 to anchor here, but the funds go to aid the conservation work in the park. A busy whaling port in the 19th Century, St Anne was conscripted to defend the port of Victoria during WWII. The main draw is the underwater life including turtles, whilst ashore there is a range of restaurants serving local cuisine.
Cousin Island & Curieuse
Ile aux Cerf to Curieuse, stopping at Cousin Island en route. A great spot for a barbecue, Curieuse is picture postcard beautiful and renowned for amazing sunsets and fab snorkelling. It has been home to a leper colony, now preserved as a Colonial-Creole style museum and giant tortoises bask in the sun on the shore.
Ile Ronde & Praslin
Curieuse to Praslin Marina, via Ile Ronde and Pointe la Farine, which has a beautiful beach with the opportunity to see huge fish when snorkelling. Praslin is the second largest island in the Seychelles and has magnificent, rainforest covered hills. Praslin National Park, and, in particular, Valle de Mai is a stunning stroll to see the famed coco-de-mer – the largest of the coconut species, weighing up to 30kg.
Coco Island & La Digue
Praslin to Grande Anse, La Digue, via Petite Soeur, Grande Soeur and Félicité, stopping at Coco Island en route. Coco Island is one of four tiny islands making up this marine park and snorkelling is excellent. La Digue boasts a large plantation and a working copra mill, and with a selection of local restaurants and lovely colonial era homes is a welcome (if slight) change in pace.
Grande Anse to Anse Pasquière, Praslin, via Ile Ronde and Pointe la Farine. A small beach with very shallow water which is popular for bird watching. Expect to see grey and greenback herons and sandpipers, and plenty of fish in the warm water.
Anse Pasquière to Beau Vallon, Mahé. Beau Vallon is a two mile stretch of white sand beach sheltered by a reef and there are snorkelling or dive excursions to two shipwrecks harbouring stunning fish and corals. For those looking for nightlife, it’s here in spades with bars, casinos and a nightclub. Time your visit for a Wednesday to coincide with the local market, fresh food and live music.
Beau Vallon to Eden Island Marina, Mahé.
Seychelles Sailing Itineraries Based on Season and Duration
When’s the Best Time to Go Sailing in the Seychelles?
As with most destinations, the weather plays a major part in choosing when to travel if you’re considering a sailing holiday in the Seychelles. The best time for enjoyable and comfortable sailing around the islands would be April and May or October and November. June, July and September are also great for more experienced sailors who prefer livelier sailing conditions but swimming and snorkelling can be a bit more challenging in the choppy sea.
General Sailing Conditions in the Seychelles
In general, the climate offers a steady 30 degrees all year, wall-to-wall sunshine and the occasional tropical shower, with sea temperatures rarely dropping below 26 degrees. You may experience some swell in unsheltered spots caused by waves unbroken since Australia. The sand bottoms mean excellent anchor holding and clear water provides an opportunity to spot sea life from the deck of your boat when moored. Choose your anchorages carefully as there’s not much protection, but the scenery, warm temperature and crystal water more than compensate for the lack of shelter..
Regardless of the season, wind speeds average 5 to 20 knots. The tidal range is only 30cm, but there is a lot of shallow water which can be dangerous at low tide, so skippers need to be confident in basic coastal navigation. In addition, although all islands have safe anchorages, there are many reefs and shoals and minimal buoyage, so most bareboat charter companies will insist on only accepting bookings from experienced and more qualified sailors.
Weather Patterns for Sailing in the Seychelles
Current Conditions in the Seychelles
The main islands of the Seychelles are outside the cyclone belt, but they are affected by the two main trade winds arriving during the year.
Best Time to Sail in the Seychelles
As well as being the best time for snorkelling and diving, the transitional months of April/May and October/November produce the calmer periods between the trade winds – perfect for sailing and other water sports. Although the wind is lighter and variable and rain showers are probable, the sea is calmer and sailing conditions much easier.
May to October
The south-east trade winds blow consistently 15 to 20 knots between May and October and the weather is relatively dry. Choppy seas can mean an unpleasant sail between the islands, especially for those prone to seasickness, but if you can endure a bumpy ride you’d be rewarded by the glorious sight of humpback whales arriving in the outer islands.
July and August are the driest months, but August is renowned for rough seas, making very uncomfortable sailing conditions.
November to April
The arrival of the north-west monsoon (wet season) in November means unpredictable weather around the islands when the beaches can be spoiled by heavy build up of seaweed brought in by the waves. The squally nature of the weather in the low season does mean sailing can be more than a bit challenging at times, with very strong winds best suited to experienced sailors.
Is it Safe to go on a Sailing Holiday in the Seychelles?
It’s perfectly safe to sail in the Seychelles provided you stay within the recommended itineraries for the Inner Islands. You should really only venture to the Outer Islands with a local boat and skipper.
One of the frequent questions asked about sailing in the Seychelles concerns modern piracy. In the recent past there have been incidents of kidnapping by Somali Pirates as close as 60 nautical miles from the Seychelles. Successful anti pirate efforts by Africa have had the unintended effect of moving the pirates’ endeavours nearer to the Seychelles but the closest, infrequent sightings have only been in the Outer Islands and it is deemed unlikely they would stray to the Inner Islands. There have been incidences of offshore fishing boats being attacked and there was a spate of these in 2019. Superyachts over 12 miles from shore might be considered prime targets but provided smaller yachts stay within the prescribed areas, there really is minimal threat. The Seychelles are exempt from the UK Government’s advice on non essential travel and, provided no ill advised bareboat excursions are embarked upon away from the inner islands, you should be perfectly safe. Advice by the US, French and Canadian governments imply that it will be safe to visit, post-COVID. It is important to check your government’s website before travelling anywhere further afield as events can alter the advice given.
On the mainland, widespread poverty and inequality is evident throughout the islands. Travellers would be well advised to take all the usual precautions regarding valuables, moving around at night and so on, but in general the Seychelloise are friendly people and most islands welcome visitors.
What Boats are Available for a Sailing Holiday in the Seychelles?
Catamarans, both sail and power, are widely available but for those seeking a monohull there is limited availability. For example, Dream Yacht Charters, one of the largest charter companies operating in the Seychelles, only has nine monohulls in their fleet of 39 boats. Most boats are fitted with air conditioning. A typical example would be a Leopard 48 catamaran from Coco Charters which also comes equipped with a water maker, fridge, freezer, genset and all other mod cons.
According to yachtcharterfleet.com there are also 14 luxury yachts – 12 motor and 2 sail – cruising the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles, and SouthEast Asia during the summer and winter seasons.
How Much Does it Cost to go on a Sailing Holiday in the Seychelles?
Despite its exceptional qualities as a sailing destination, yacht charter in the Seychelles, whether bareboat, skippered, crewed or by-the-cabin, is no more expensive than in other parts of the world. Dream Yachts, for example, have weekly published rates (before discounts and excluding mandatory fees):
Sun Odyssey 379 Monohull
Lagoon 380 Catamaran
Dufour 520 Monohull
Lagoon 52F Catamaran
Prices for a luxury private superyacht charter start from $26,000 a week for a party of up to 8 guests.
Prices for provisioning and eating out are slightly higher than elsewhere as many ingredients are imported, and charges apply for taking moorings in, and entrance to, the marine park areas.
Who Provides Sailing Holidays in the Seychelles?
Since obtaining independence from the British, the main focus of the Seychelles has been tourism and fishing. Yacht charter is a relatively new but growing industry but is well supported by reputable companies operating from the three main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Information on companies providing sailing holidays is given in the sections following and in our listings.
Numerous companies offer day trips for diving, snorkelling, fishing or just nature watching, however these are excluded from the listings on this site.
Luxury Yacht Charter in the Seychelles
There are a handful of luxury crewed charter vessels based in the Seychelles throughout the season; these can be accessed through the charter brokers listed at this link. Other super and mega yachts, both sail and power, choose to spend a season in the Indian Ocean and SouthEast Asia from time to time and a broker can give you best advice concerning vessel itineraries during your chosen vacation time.
Bareboat Charter in the Seychelles
The main players are Sunsail, The Moorings, Coco Charters, Nautilus and Dream Yacht Charters. Dream Yacht Charters have 39 boats in total and Sunsail provide three catamarans but have no monohulls in the area. If you’re looking at Nautilus or The Moorings, you’ll have to give them the dates you’re interested in and they will let you know which boats are available – The Moorings have catamaran and power boats and Nautilus just call them ‘cabin yachts’ without defining type. Some customers may find this frustrating, especially if you’re used to chartering a specific type of craft.
Private Crewed Charter & Skippered Charter in the Seychelles
All bareboat charter companies in the Seychelles require a high level of skipper qualifications for chartering in accordance with the Ministry of Tourism and the SMA (Seychelles Marine Safety Administration) but that shouldn’t mean that those with little or no experience need be excluded from the experience. Several companies offer skippered charters whereby you can charter a boat that suits your needs then add an experienced skipper provided by the company. This will, of course, mean booking an extra cabin to accommodate him or her and the inevitable added cost. It doesn’t mean you’ll just be uninvolved passengers (unless you want to be). You can alway take advantage of their local knowledge, but in the main you’ll be in control of which locations you visit and assist with boat handling. If you want to go a bit more up market, you can hire a skipper and a chef which pretty much guarantees a luxurious experience afloat.
Stay and Sail in the Seychelles
Okeanos Cruise are the only company offering a stay and sail combination online, however Just Seychelles travel agents can tailor a package to suit which includes some sailing.
Single Sailing Holidays in the Seychelles
Single sailors are also catered for with some companies offering a ‘by the cabin’ charter. For example, Dream Yacht Charters has six itineraries for singles to choose from, ranging from four to 11 days. You don’t have to be single to go for this option – many non-sailing couples book this type of charter. I would suggest you check the passenger profile before booking, however, as singletons might find sharing a boat with a honeymoon couple a bit disquieting!
LGBTQ Sailing in the Seychelles
I should mention here that whilst homosexuality has been legal in the Seychelles since 2016, there is still a stigma attached to anyone in the LGBTQ community which in some cases has led to affray. As unpalatable as this may sound, it might be wise not to host a massive rainbow flag in order to avoid the possibility of unpleasantness from others who may be less enlightened.
Sailing Holiday & Charter Companies in the Seychelles
Agents & Brokers Offering Sailing Options in the Seychelles
Online booking agencies such as Boatbookers and Samboat provide a one stop view of bareboat and skippered charter vessels on offer by location; these operate in much the same way as bookings sites for hotel rooms and we have provided some information here about the main players and how they work.
There are no luxury superyacht brokers based in the Seychelles, however the usual suspects can broker a private luxury charter with a yacht in the area. See this page for additional information on Charter Brokers & Agents.
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Have you been on a sailing holiday in the Seychelles? In the space below, please let us know your favourite spots and things to do, and don’t forget to leave a review for your holiday company or agent/broker on their listing.