For me, this trip was always a dream. I never really thought I would get the chance to visit the famous Alphonse Island! But with some last minute cancellations and a dip into my savings, last November presented that chance.
This resort is known for being world class, and it lives up to it. But lets start at the beginning. If I was going to do this trip I had decided to go all in and booked the L’ Escale Hotel for my night in Mahe before heading to Alphonse. After an hour’s flight Newcastle – London, seven hours London – Doha and finally six hours Doha – Mahe I was definitely feeling the fatigue of travel. Upon arrival at the hotel the first view is a bright blue harbour, I was handed an ice cold, freshly made ice tea and I instantly felt better. This hotel knows how to look after you, the rooms were immaculate, views stunning and it had an amazingly relaxed feel throughout. The infinity pool looks out over the marina and helps make for the perfect pre-island stay over. Until I arrived at the hotel I had not really had time to think about the trip, but that afternoon, laid by the pool, it really hit home that I was actually going to visit Alphonse.
The next morning I packed up and headed to the Island Development Co (IDC) hanger to be checked in. During this process your luggage is weighed as well as yourself as there is a strict allowance of 15kg for your suitcase and 5kg for hand luggage for the island. This is the only trip I have ever taken where my luggage has been underweight!!! A quick one hour flight over and you land in paradise.
The Alphonse Island resort is an experience. Arriving to palm trees, sand, sea and an incredible beach bar for introductions before being shown to your very own en-suite, A-frame bungalow placed just off the beach. My favourite part about the island is that from above, you don’t really see a lot of human activity, yes you can see the runway, but the bungalows are cleverly hidden amongst the palm trees along with most of the infrastructure. It really is the definition of paradise but every inch of this resort has been cleverly thought through, nothing is wasted.
For me this trip was not just about the fishing but the whole experience. Usually when I travel I am working and looking after clients, yes I still get to see amazing places but it is always a very busy schedule. Alphonse Island is a destination with so much to offer, apart from the obvious 5-star fishing they have multiple conservation programmes running such as the Giant Trevally tagging project, Milkfish, bonefish and manta ray studies. They have re-introduced giant tortoises to the island and are monitoring multiple bird species on many of the atolls. To see a fishery that is so heavily invested in protecting its species, conserving their habitat and making sure they have a positive impact is refreshing. So often there is bad press about many species and them being over-fished. Not the case here. I personally am very interested in conservation and anything to do with wildlife so attending the talks about all of these projects was a highlight for me, the data they have collected already is very impressive. Being able to sit next to a Giant tortoise that is probably over 100 years old and just appreciate them was a whole experience in itself. Most evenings at the bar I was joined by different staff members including the conservation team, Gale and George are so enthusiastic about their work and happy to tell you anything you want to know about any of the projects they are working on. There was also a whole conservation talk one evening which I attended, this gave me an overview of all the work happening and some results that have already been collected. I would highly recommend attending!
Lets talk routine. If you visit Alphonse to fish you will have a wake-up call around 5 to 5:30 (I know this seems very early but you are waking up to the sound of waves rolling onto the sand, not the worst start to a day) you will head to breakfast during which you will tell one of the staff what you would like in your packed lunch. There is a great selection of sandwich fillings and you can request other lunchbox fillers. After breakfast, head to the Fishing Centre to meet your guide for the day, get onto the mothership and head off to St Francois. On the short 30-40 minute trip over you can either sit inside and get prepared or sit on the front of the boat and admire the views. You will usually be in your skiff with your guide by 8am and you will head out to one of the many spots to search for some fish!. Tides are important here so your week really depends on how the tide is, you will usually start your morning either targeting what species you are interested in catching or, if that is not possible because of the tide, you will target whatever is catchable. After your days fishing you will return to the mothership by 4pm and head back to Alphonse. Each evening you will enjoy a ‘bell ringing’ ceremony around 7pm to celebrate the catches of the day then a very relaxed dinner (and multiple cocktails) before heading to bed ready for another day.
The main advice I would give for any angler heading to the Seychelles is put the time in before you go. Practice casting into the wind, with the wind, changing direction and casting at targets, you need to be able to cast an 8 wt and above. I am 5’3 and had not cast a 10 wt before but I managed with some practice and help from the incredible guiding team. If you are lacking experience the guides will be your best friend, they will help you and have many year’s experience under their belts. You will also need to invest in some sun protection clothing such as legging, UV protection tops, buffs, gloves and basically anything to cover you up and keep you cool. If you are lacking any item there is a fantastic shop at the fishing centre in which you can buy some extra items. Personally I bought Simms Solarflex tops, fingerless gloves, buffs, saltwater boots/socks and Nike Drifit legging. Also remember to wash off your clothes and wipe down any phones or cameras at the end of the day (salt gets everywhere).
Now that the details and routine are out of the way… Fishing here was a whole new experience for me. I had done one half day saltwater fishing in Dubai but apart from that all my fishing experiences had all been freshwater. Spotting fish here is tricky, all of a sudden you have the tide, current, reflections, rocks, seaweed, turtles (of which you will mistake for rays or fish MULTIPLE times throughout your week) and many other factors which make spotting the fish difficult. Throughout the week you will adjust and learn what to look for but it took me a while. Once you do find your target you have to cast the correct distance and try to land your fly without spooking the fish (this is where target practice really comes in handy). Fishing for triggers you will use a crab pattern which is a little heavy so sometimes hard to land gently, you then slowly strip it back in so the fly imitates a crab walking across the flats floor. Bonefish flies imitate shrimp and here you can cast into the middle of the school or land your fly in front and wait for them to approach before stripping it back in, even though bonefish are easier to catch and some experienced fisherman can class them as almost boring, I thoroughly enjoyed catching these fish and admiring how iridescent they are. Milkfish are a very different game, they are filter feeders and feed on algae in the water, your fly is small, green and light! You will cast as far as you can into the school and keep your line tight so your fly floats just under the surface, if you do hook one you need to SET IT and then hold on for the ride, these fish have a uni-gill meaning they do not run out of energy quickly. No matter what you are going for a ride with that fish and you best hope they don’t find any coral to snap you on! With milkfish you need to give all you have got to pull them to the surface and try to guide them into a net. The famous Giant trevally, bigger rod, bigger flies and fast action. Your guide will have you stood on the front of the boat, fly in hand, line pulled out ready to cast. GT’s are usually spotted off the back of feeding rays and once spotted you will cast aiming for the ray, as soon as your fly hits the water, strip fast! If a GT hits your fly you will certainly know about it. Other species here include different species of trevally such as a bluefin, I caught one of these which was great fun, it slammed into my fly before I even know what was happening and took off into the distance, parrotfish, groupers, bohar snappers, dogtooth tuna. It really depends who shows up on and around the flats while you are there. You can obviously catch permit here too but given my lack of experience it is safe to say I spooked any permit I came close too!
If you are not visiting for the fishing then you will not be disappointed either, they offers many different activities such as some of the best diving in the world, conservation and nature tours and walks, snorkelling, yoga classes, spa, bird watching, flats expeditions and many more. The staff on the island will be on hand to look after you, the food is made up of pretty much anything you can think of, much of it is grown on the island. I would recommend trying all of the fish dishes on offer as they are all freshly caught. For me personally, I ate sushi and sashimi every evening!
So how do you visit this incredible destination? I travelled through Frontiers trvl who will assist with every step of your journey. The duration of the trip is seven nights, six days on the island, if you are fishing this will be Saturday to Saturday and you will need a day or two either side for travel to Mahe depending on flights. As for prices your best bet is to contact Frontiers directly as different times of the year have different price tags and you can personalise and build your package to get the most out of the trip.
Overall, this destination should 100% be on your bucket list. For me it was a fantastic break at the end of a very busy year and had the perfect combination of activities to keep me busy and relaxation back on the main island. The travel and transfers were super easy and well organised, if you need any help whilst travelling the Island staff or Frontiers trvl are on hand to help.