The 7 Best Snorkelling Spots off the Main Island of Mahe, Seychelles
By Christopher Salerno
The Snorkelling Hotspots
The Seychelles is a perfect vacation destination for the whole family; with snorkelling and diving along the beautiful coastlines, nature hikes through thickly vegetated forests and many other activities that allow all to connect to the phenomenal natural beauty it has to offer.
The main island of Mahé offers the largest variety of activities, as it is the biggest of all 115 islands, and is the first point of entry into the Seychelles. One of my personal favourite pastimes when I am vacationing here is to discover the stunning beaches and coral reefs that surround the island. The list that I have compiled includes my top locations to visit when snorkelling close to Mahé.
Sainte Anne Marine Park
The park hosts an abundant variety of marine life with rolling meadows of seagrass that billow with the tides, creating an ever living home for green sea turtles, which are often spotted near many of the pristine beaches surrounding the area. As you move through the crystal clear waters one might give in to the feeling of flight, as the rays soar across the ocean floor and you lose yourself amongst shimmering clouds of fish.
The marine park encompasses six islands on the East coast of Mahé, these islands include: Sainte Anne, Moyenne, Long, Round, Cerf and Cachée islands, in addition to two rock outcrops. It was the first marine park in the Indian Ocean and hosts a number of great snorkelling opportunities. The St. Anne Marine Park is only accessible by boat, either organised via snorkelling tours or by chartering a boat. Since this is a Marine Park, a fee is payable for a ticket to enter the park by boat.
A recently constructed island lying only 100m off the Eastern shore of Mahé is Eden Island. This island hosts four private beaches and some of the best snorkelling around Mahé, due to the creation of coral protected areas during construction. Most snorkelling spots are easily accessible from a beach and support an amazing array of coral species, many of which are well preserved and thriving.
The first spot, a mere 50m walk from Maison 83 is Anse Bernitier. Once you leave the powdery white sands of the beach you are rapidly immersed in an incredibly unique snorkelling experience, with the rocks on either side of the bay providing but a taste of what lies ahead. It is recommended that you venture beyond the bay and journey to the right, following the shape of the island until you reach a large shallow reef area, with coral fields stretching out far before you. During low tide these coral structures reach beyond the limits of the sea, creating a bridge between worlds. An alternate option is to swim or kayak from the inland beach, known as Anse Bernik to the right of the inlet, where a similar shallow coral area is located. At both locations a hybrid landscape like no other unfolds, the realm of man claimed by the sea creates the perfect fortress for vividly coloured parrot fish and squid alike, not to mention the thousands of other fish that dart between the structures in an endless spectacle.
Anse Major is a protected bay on the North Western coast of Mahé, it is easily accessible by boat, or a more strenuous hike through the Morne Seychellois National Park beginning at Bel Ombre. Due to Anse Major being directly open to the ocean, it is recommended to visit on a day when the sea is relatively calm or between May and September, when the winds generally blow from the South-East.
No matter the means of travel, it is impossible not to lose oneself within such a breathtaking environment. The land laid before you is one that seems to exist beyond space and time, a jewel unaltered by man and offered as a gift for those travellers who seek to marvel at its incredible beauty. Strong mountains stretch across the island, reaching far to plunge their feet into the ocean, their stone toes expressed as magnificent submerged granitic boulders, through which a plethora of fish species swim. Between the mountains protective stance lies the beautiful bay which provides great snorkelling no matter the side of the beach one swims to, and with the hundreds of colourful fish calling this area home it may be a challege in itself just to leave such an alter to the splender of nature.
Baie Ternay Marine Park
The second marine park that is truly worth a visit is the Baie Ternay Marine Park. It is a paradise for both snorkelers and divers, due to the variation in the height of the coral and its crystal clear waters. This marine park can be accessed either by boat or by foot from Constance Ephelia Resort, through an old abandoned education centre, the gate at the end of the footpath is generally monitored by a security guard who filters access to the beach. If accessing the park with a boat, a conservation fee per person may need to be paid.
Baie Ternay is probably one of my favourite spots to snorkel around Mahé, with its completely immersive bay you are immediately deceived, no matter the side from which you enter, by the incomprehensible clarity of the water. Its seemingly ethereal nature blurs the barrier between the dense vegetation of the island-scape and that of the aquatic variety, with many interesting coral formations forming an alluring funnel unto the deep ocean bed. Swimming through these coral canyons offers up delightful viewing opportunities, be it the wonder of commonly sighted rays gliding across the sandy ocean floor or that of gigantic schools of fish which nestle themselves within the deeper reef, it is undeniable that if you are an avid snorkeler it is definitely worth a visit.
Port Launay Marine Park
Port Launay Marine Park is an extremely popular destination due to the stunning beach that sits in front of the Constance Ephelia Resort. This spot is very easy to access by boat or car, and is mostly protected from the winds and currents year round. Once again, since this is a marine park a fee is payable if accessing it by boat.
An immaculate beach envelopes the area stretching side to side in front of you, with waters that sparkle in their shimmering dance and visibility almost as crystalline as Anse Major, Baie Ternay or Ile Therese. Depending on the time of the year, water temperature can become hot in some of the shallower areas, yet during these times there is still adventure to be had around the cross on the rock outcrop on the left hand side of the bay where waters are deeper and cooler, hosting snorkelling which is simply quite stunning.
Thérèse Island is our most recently discovered snorkelling destination and is my number one on this list. It is only accessible by boat, located in a protected area created between the islands surrounding the mainland. Snorkelling along the North Eastern beach is unbelievable, as waters are crystal clear, and have the best visibility of all the snorkelling spots listed. The coral reef is extremely shallow close to the beach and I find the best snorkelling to be slightly deeper, where massive schools of brightly coloured fish can be found.
Ile Thérèse is in itself the vision of the Seychelles, blackened mammoth boulders of granite opposing delicate white beaches of powdered sand, given life by the vivid expression of luscious green forests and palms that hang from rock shelves or lie lazily upon a beach in the splendid heat of the day. From the silky soft sands sprout large seagrass meadows which entice snorkeler and sea turtle alike, creating an environment in which all float within an endless painting. On the Eastern side of the island, where massive granitic boulders fell into the embrace of the ocean we find a world built for schools of fish to inhabit, where Barracuda, Needlefish and other varieties of larger sea creature are also spotted regularly. On our most recent visit to the island we were extremely lucky to catch glimpses of joyful dolphins leaping through the channel in a zigzagging parade, should one be extremely fortunate perhaps they will let you join in on their merriment.
Anse Soleil is definitely a spot to visit, with one of the most picturesque beaches on the island. It is easily accessible by car and is located on the South-East of the island, next to the Four Seasons Resort. Access to the beach is through a small Café on the Western end of the beach. Snorkelling is best off of the left of the beach amongst the granitic boulders, however currents can be relatively strong so it is recommended to snorkel with fins.
Beneath the emerald waters that role over Anse Soleil lies an explosion of colour and an expression of life; the preserved coral beds paint the seafloor whilst seemingly animated angelfish, surgeon fish and varied species of eels, decorate all else that surrounds you. Such treasures are not easily spotted anywhere else on the island, therefore one should explore Anse Soleil to witness the scintillating beauty of the angelfish and the curious weavings of the eels as they extend towards you in equal fascination.
Click the images to view the gallery of photos taken from the snorkelling hotspots discussed above. There is also a video of most of these spots on our YouTube Channel.