Silhouette Cruises, established in 1997 with one traditional motor-assisted sailing vessel, expanded over a 10-year period to develop a four-ship motor-sailer fleet at two different price levels to cruise amongst several granite-based islands and the oldest of their type in the world. British General Charles Gordon (aka Gordon of Khartoum) considered them to be the Garden of Eden. The ships sail year-round from Mahé, the main island and the island chain’s capital, where you’ll find the international air and seaport. The Seychelles are located in the Indian Ocean east of East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), northeast of Madagascar, and southwest of India. Until 1971, the islands were accessed by ship once or twice a month from Mombasa or Bombay, and during that period, visited by very few tourists, maybe a thousand a year. The Indian Ocean is blessed with two outstanding island archipelagos — the Seychelles and Maldives — for small-ship cruising interisland and for taking up a variety of activities such as diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking and swimming. You can also choose to do little or nothing if you can resist all the temptations of this pair of tropical paradises. And yes, they are far far away from just about everything. The line’s name comes from Silhouette Island, a popular eye-catching island rising from the sea off Beau Vallon on the main island of Mahé.
Ships, Year Delivered & Passengers
SEA SHELL (built 1920 as a pilot vessel, converted in 1997 & 23 passengers); SEA PEARL (b. 1915 as a sailing/fishing vessel, converted in 1999 & 27p); SEA STAR (b. 2004, 30p); and SEA BIRD (redesigned 2007 & 27p).
SEA SHELL & SEA PEARL two decks; SEA STAR & SEA BIRD three decks. No elevators.
International English-speaking clientele of all ages with a mix of interests — serious and novice divers and sailors, active types, and those who like “take it or leave it” activities.
$ to $$ — Lower range applies to SEA SHELL and SEA PEARL where cabins are without private facilities.
Year–round cruising of 6 and 7 nights from Port Victoria on Mahé to several out islands and atolls. The island of Praslin is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site and noted for giant Coco de Mer (palms trees) and the island of La Digue is known for giant tortoises and beautiful beaches framed by granite outcroppings that are also found on coral atolls. The local inhabitants are multi-cultural. with the French being the first European power to rule the archipelago and then the British, until independence in 1976. Between them, the two nations are responsible for bringing Africans, South Asian, Southeast Asians, and Chinese to the islands.
A few departures have specific themes such as diving, sea kayaking and natural history.
Snorkeking equipment (mask & fins), kayaking, and bottom line fishing.
The main attractions are remoteness and the sheer beauty of the seascapes, coral atolls, fine sandy beaches, granite outcroppings, tropical vegetation, birds and marine life, appealing climate and unique attractions such as the coco de mer and tortoises.
When to Go?
The islands have no extremes with the average high temperature varying between 85-89F and lows 79-83F. Slightly more rain falls November to January.
SEA SHELL & SEA PEARL, the heritage pair, have both double bed and twin-bedded cabins with extra bunks and shared shower facilities, while SEA STAR & SEA BIRD have double-bed cabins and some with an extra bed or bunk and private shower facilities. The latter pair have A/C in cabins.
As these vessels sail in tropical climes, the waking hours are spent out of doors with the lounge/bar and dining area used at meal times, and if there is a rain shower or squall. All vessels have an air-conditioned dining saloon and STAR and BIRD have A/C lounges. All offer on deck outdoor seating areas, including covered sections. TV, DVD, washing machines and dryers on all vessels.
Mealtimes are shared at open sittings with buffet-served meals. While the Seychelles are relatively remote islands, they do produce lots of fruit, some vegetables, and lots of fish and shellfish. Menus are international and creole.
Activities & Entertainment
Serious and novice diving comes with an instructor, plus there’s snorkeling, kayaking, standup paddle boarding, bottom fishing, sailing instruction, and cruising into colorful marine parks, isolated bays and coves. Enjoy short hikes to beauty spots, mangrove forests, birding, a vanilla plantation, copra mill, former leper colony, Vallee de Mai for coco de mer, and of course, good ‘ole fashioned beach bumming.
Given the long trek to get there and the expense involved, a visit Seychelles may include extra days at a beach resort or planning a completely different add-on such as an East African game park safari in Kenya or Tanzania.
Along the Same Lines
Silhouette Cruises Ltd., Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles; +248 4 324 026; www.seychelles-cruises.com.
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