With 115 islands scattered across the Indian Ocean between 4° and 10° south of the Equator, Seychelles offers diverse and impressive diving opportunities.
The Inner Islands, remains of a submerged mountain range, rest on a shallow plateau with prolific marine life and excellent PADI diving facilities available to access a multitude of dive sites.
The Outer Islands to the south of the archipelago are all coralline or sand cays and mainly uninhabited, presenting the experienced diver with excellent opportunities to explore where few have gone before.
Diving is possible all year round but is governed by an island's position and the prevailing winds. Generally speaking, the best conditions for both the Inner and Outer Islands are in the calm periods, April-May and October-November, when the water temperature can rise to 29ºC and offers excellent (up to 30 metres) visibility.
In December and January, the north-west winds blow but conditions remain much the same as in the calm periods, with the exception of greater surface movement and some localised turbidity.
From May to September the winds are stronger and blow south-easterly. Visibility and temperature may thus drop during August with water temperatures of around 25°C. A wet suit of at least 4mm is necessary.
Unlike the Inner Islands, some of the more southerly Outer Islands are close to the cyclone belt, and during these months they can experience extremely rough conditions on occasion.
A 4mm shorty wetsuit is the minimum protection recommended for the Outer Islands. Islands with big drop-offs and walls often have marked thermo-clines with temperatures ranging from 19 to 27ºC and a full suit is an advantage for most divers.
With 43 Inner Islands to choose from, variety is the order of the day. All of these northerly islands offer impressive granite reef locations where the sculptured rocks can be covered with soft corals and sponges, and fish life is prolific, due to the archipelago's isolation and also strict conservation rules.
Wreck dives are available in some areas but only the islands to the south have wall dives, drop-off dives and drift diving opportunities as well.
Outer Island diving is rich and varied, featuring everything from mini-walls and canyons to migrating Manta Rays, numerous wreck sites and some of the finest Gorgonian fans in the Indian Ocean.
Diving on Aldabra's terraced walls is dramatic and Green Turtles are common both in water and on their habitual pilgrimages up the beach to nest.
The Cosmoledo atoll offers huge hard coral bommies with 3 metre Gorgonian fans and massive barrel sponges all under the watchful guard of inquisitive Potato Bass.
Astove's settlement reef presents another awe-inspiring wall dive whose reef top is incised with crevasses and caves and boasts a large resident Green Turtle population.
Dive depths vary, ranging from 8 to 20 metres for inshore sites and up to depths of 40 metres for dives offshore.
The Inner Islands’ marine life reveals an abundance of fish even on shallow inshore reefs and features different types of Butterfly fish and Angel fish, Soldier fish, Squirrel fish and Sweepers among many others. The island reefs are also havens for many invertebrates including Octopus, Spiny Lobster and a plethora of Nudibranchs, such as the Spanish Dancer.
Sites with regular current flows support fan corals and colorful tree coral formations while more remote sites shelter the larger fish species, such as the Napoleon Wrasse, Giant Grouper, Reef Sharks and Ribbon-tailed Stingrays. Most spectacular are the plankton-eating Whale Sharks found all year around the Inner Islands, with peak sightings in August, and October through January.
Marine life around the relatively isolated Outer Islands tends to be even more prolific, with frequent sightings of many of the larger grouper species, particularly the spotted Potato Bass as well as Grey Reef, Silver Tip, Nurse Sharks and the occasional Hammerhead Shark.
A number of rare exotics have been identified from this area such as the African Pygmy Angelfish thought to exist only in small numbers at depth off Mauritius and now found regularly in easy diving depths off Astove.
The cartoon-like Yellow Rubber Lipped Sweetlips is another firm favorite while elusive Long-Nosed Hawkfishcan be easily found in most Gorgonian fan areas.
Seychelles offers year round diving experiences in waters mainly outside the cyclone belt and dive centers around the country cater for novice and experienced divers alike, offering a number of specialised courses.
Divers should bring proof of certification and medical clearance for any medical problem.
Most dive centres offer modern dive equipment rental and service facilities. However, repair facilities for divers’ own gear may be limited, subject to availability of specific spare parts.
Air Seychelles offers a free sporting equipment allowance of 10kg, which applies to the equipment of diving, golf, fishing and surfboards. The equipment is weighed separately and if the weight is less than 10kg no supplement will be payable. If the weight exceeds 10kg, the equipment is added with the other checked luggage and any excess weight above the specified baggage allowance will be payable. To profit from the sporting equipment allowance on connecting flights to Praslin, visitors must travel exclusively with Air Seychelles and the Praslin sector must be reproduced on the same ticket as your international sector.
It is recommended there be a 24-hour safety window between the divers’ last dives and their next flight.
Divers need to bring proof of certification to be allowed to dive. However, those who have lost or forgotten their certification cards or log-books may be allowed to dive with a Dive master to a maximum depth of 12 metres, at the discretion of the dive centre.
Those planning to take a diving course who have had a previous medical problem, should obtain and bring with them a certificate from their doctor indicating that they are fit to dive. Local physicians in Seychelles are able to perform a diving medical if required.
Any medically fit person over the age of 10 and able to swim can learn to dive. Diver training is conducted by internationally qualified and insured instructors most of whom are members of PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the world's largest diver training organisation.
A non-certification "Discover Scuba Diving" introductory course for first timers is available leading either to the basic "Scuba Diver" qualification or a full certification as "Open Water” Diver.
Experienced diver courses are available to instructor level with specialty certifications available from certain centres, such as underwater photography, wreck and night diving.
For visitors not wishing to bring their own, all licensed dive centres rent out properly maintained, modern diving equipment which is inspected on a regular basis.
The centres also have a range of other beach accessories available, including snorkelling equipment.
To minimise the possibility of a decompression incident at the end of a diving vacation, the current recommendation is that divers should leave a minimum of 12 hours after their last dive before flying and, where possible, a 24-hour period is recommended.
The centres will not allow divers to dive on the morning of departure or prior to an inter-island or helicopter flight!
In early December 2016, Seychelles is planning to launch the Seychelles Ocean Festival, an event that replaces SUBIOS (sub Indian Ocean Seychelles) in the calendar of events as the country’s celebration of its extraordinary marine heritage.
The Seychelles Ocean festival is a week-long happening that looks to involve all the elements which make Seychelles an amazing destination for the ultimate marine experience.
Whereas SUBIOS, which started in 1990, largely focused on raising the profile of the archipelago as a diving destination through its famous underwater video and film competitions, film shows and talks by famous, internationally renowned personalities, the Seychelles Ocean Festival looks to broaden the event’s appeal by involving all marine sectors.
This newest addition to Seychelles’ calendar of events will continue to popularize Seychelles as a diving destination via the popular photography competition and by working with the dive centres, airlines and accommodation establishments to offer appealing dive packages to tourists during the period of the festival.
Work on the new programme is ongoing but the final programme is anticipated to involve a special Gala Dinner and film show, showcasing various aspects of the Blue Economy, highlighting the attributes of Seychelles’ sailing and fishing sectors through a coordinated programme of related activities and bringing hotels on board to promote special sea-food evenings, film shows and other forms of entertainment around a marine theme.
Schools and NGOs will be encouraged to participate, especially at a family day at Anse Royale when a host of activities is planned including exhibitions, live music shows, sporting events (Iron Man & Woman), volleyball/football competitions and other cultural happenings.
The intention is for the Seychelles Ocean Festival to broaden the appeal of SUBIOS by reflecting the wider choice of marine activities which, together, make Seychelles an exciting destination to visit.
For more information, please visit www.seychellesoceanfestival.com