I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit the remote and untouched Alphonse Island - one of the outer islands of the Seychelles. Located one hour away by plane from the main island of Mahe, Alphonse sits in prime position to offer the chance to encounter myriad marine species, from giant trevally, sailfish and manta rays (if you travel in the right season) to creole wrasse, sea turtles and eagle rays. The dive sites around the Alphonse group - including Alphonse island itself, Bijoutier and St. Francois - offer some stunning, uncrowded diving sites. Read on to find out all about my trip…

circling shark in deep blue water Sailfish in open blue water
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Snorkelling with Sharks & Sailfish

A particular highlight was the day we boarded the Amani catamaran to venture out for a two-tank dive trip and then take part in the Alphonse's signature experience of sailfish snorkelling. This experience offers guests the chance to snorkel with the fastest fish on the planet, with sailfish reaching top speeds of up to 68 mph (109 kmph). The experience is led by the expert Blue Safari team who will deploy teasers off the back of the boat to lure the sailfish up from the depths at which they usually swim. Sometimes they manage to lure other species up as well and it is not uncommon to see bull, hammerhead, silvertip and dusky sharks in addition to the sailfish.

On our experience we came across some relatively timid bull sharks swirling beneath us and two very curious juvenile silvertip sharks who got very close indeed. Adrenaline pumping, we got back on the boat and went for another run. Within moments, the team shouted 'sail, sail, sail' and we quickly donned our fins, masks and snorkels and got our cameras ready. After the 'ok' signal, we leapt off the side of the boat and into the water and just ahead, a sailfish was circling around the lure. The water is so unbelievably clear here that no photography expertise is required to get a good shot. You could see the twinkle of the sunlight streaming down as the sailfish progressively came up and down and raised its distinctive sail fin up in the air. They are pretty magnificent creatures and among all the adrenaline of the day, I didn't really register how stunning they were until I was back at the resort enjoying a cold beer, reminiscing about the majestic nature of such an event.

close up of a small reef fish on orange coral

Manta Ray Encounters

In addition to the sailfish experience, we were lucky enough to experience three manta ray encounters with individuals from the local manta population around Alphonse. The dive site 'Trigger Hill' is a known manta cleaning station and on one dive there we spotted three reef mantas, showing off their majestic wingspan as they glided gracefully through the water column. The visibility was poor that day, indicating high plankton concentration in the water, which most likely attracted the mantas in the first place. On the same dive day we also saw a leaf scorpionfish, juvenile black snapper (the cutest looking thing ever), schools of blue lined jacks, a hawksbill sea turtle and lots of schools of wrasse and snappers. Timid coral groupers and lyretail groupers also lurked on the coral bommies, with delicate cleaner wrasse darting in and out of their gills. Lacking the extensive coral growth of Raja Ampat, Alphonse has more patchy coral, with younger colonies, but it certainly delivers in terms of the volume of fish and pelagics.

orange coral fan underwater in the Seychelles

St Francois Nature Walk

Another memorable experience was the day we did the St Francois nature walk, followed by the flats lunch. The uninhabited island of St Francois is a benchmark as to what islands were once like before human settlers. We were guided across the island by the resident marine biologist and environment officer - Elle Brighton - who took us through the wildlife on this untouched island, from baby sicklefin lemon sharks in the mangrove shallows to land crabs in the forests. There were also healthy colonies of nesting red-footed boobies, terns and frigatebirds. Around the outskirts of the island we saw juvenile turtles in the shallows, along with white-tailed mangrove rays. We even saw a pod of spinner dolphins on the boat journey back. This was then followed by a glorious barbeque lunch on the sand flats: a special treat offered by the Blue Safari team and a dining atmosphere like no other. I went for an extended walk around the flats after feasting on the delicious buffet and it was one of the most surreal experiences I have had.

Mixing high-quality service, accommodation and cuisine with conservation approaches in the natural environment, Alphonse is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those with a taste for luxury diving.

All of the photos included were taken by Emily Chappell