Up close and personal in the Seychelles
Some 250 km south of the granite islands of Mahé and Praslin, the Seychelles Outer Islands emerge from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, lying along a 40 km wide and 170 km long underwater ridge. Among them is the Amirante archipelago, a group of coral islands with gentle contours and a wild beauty, bedecked with palm trees, coconut trees and filaos, immaculate beaches and a colourful seabed. The Amirante islands, the other face of the Seychelles
See Rémire and return
As the colourful shores of Mahé recede, the trade winds take you towards the Amirante islands. There, all eyes focus on the island of Rémire, a 0.27 km2 dot of land, barely rising 3 m above the sea. It is the northernmost inhabited island of the Amirante archipelago, long the dreamy, secluded retreat of Seychelles’ president France-Albert René. Rémire now unveils its secrets to anyone who takes the time and effort to explore it. There’s no place like this magnificent coral island in Seychelles for a stopover; take an exotic stroll or hike under the palm trees, where lesser noddis, fairy terns and wedge-tailed shearwaters dance over the head of green turtles going for a swim. Where luxuriant vegetation meets a stunning seabed.
Diving from the African Banks
30 km north of Rémire, the African Banks, two uninhabited islets, the North and South islets, rise from the ocean, eroded by the wind and battered by the tides. These two rocky outcrops arising from the granite bedrock create a kind of open lagoon with abundant wildlife. The African Banks are renowned for their outstandingly beautiful seabed and waters filled with fish, just a few metres from the shore. A true paradise for divers as the shallow waters let them observe this precious and fascinating marine life with ease. The seabed on the west coast does not exceed a depth of 20 m but don’t miss the 300 m drop off to the east of the North islet, which is exposed to downward currents: a special spot for an exceptional dive!
Admire the underwater treasures of Poivre atoll
Another wonder of the Amirante islands is the tiny Poivre atoll, made up of three coral islands: Poivre Island, Florentine Island and South Island, separated from each other by a lagoon. Population: ten people! The atoll owes its name to a certain Pierre Poivre, an intendant of Mauritius who, in the late 18th century, contributed to the introduction of spices to Seychelles from the Middle East. But it is in its shallow, crystalline waters that its most precious treasures are to be found: green sea turtles as well as immense shoals of fish. They include the iconic bonefish, permits and other golden kingfish. Divers rate Poivre atoll as one of the most extraordinary sites in the world.
And a little more besides:
Relax on the beaches of the Bijoutier lagoon
Some 50 nautical miles separate the Amirante islands from the Alphonse archipelago, which is made up of two coral atolls: Alphonse atoll and Saint-François atoll. The remaining traces of now disappeared volcanoes, these little corners of paradise surrounded by fragile coral barriers are considered to be the most intact and pristine group of islands in the Seychelles Outer Islands. Two atolls and a desert island so small it’s hardly even there. And yet Bijoutier island, a ring of white sand crowned with coconut trees, is a real gem. Half a hectare of untouched nature bordered by a lagoon where herons, frigates, turtles and giant crabs live side by side. These treasures are protected by the Alphonse Group Conservation Centre, which has been responsible for the preservation of its ecosystems and natural vegetation since 2007.
Meet the giant tortoises of Aldabra
If you drift a little further south-west, you will eventually reach the Aldabra group and its eponymous atoll, “lost” some 1,150 km from the Seychelles Inner Islands. This vast coral reef surrounded by a huge lagoon counts four large, uninhabited and wild islands – Grande Terre, Malabar, Picard and Polymnie – as well as a few smaller islets. Make it happen! There you are, at the centre of the world’s largest raised coral atoll. On the island, a handful of researchers carry out work on behalf of the Seychelles Islands Foundation, the body responsible for managing the Aldabra atoll.. This fantastic but delicate nature reserve, fringed by mangroves and beaches is home to the Seychelles’ largest population of giant tortoises, also known as elephantine tortoises, the largest species of tortoises on the planet – even bigger than Galápagos tortoises! This is why it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Be in no doubt – a trip to the Amirante islands and beyond is a completely unique Seychelles experience ; a chance to discover unspoilt islands, seas and peoples, as well as to discover yourself, surrounded by the fascinating but fragile immensity of nature.
Photos credits : ©iStock
PONANT takes you there
Sail to the most remote islands in the Indian Ocean