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Qualified divers can book tanks and a guide to explore rich underwater worlds of coral reefs and abundant sea life. But you don't need to be a certified diver to enjoy the marine life of Seychelles, where shallow reefs and lagoons offer perfect conditions for snorkeling. Ask your hotel for a recommended operator. The best time of year for diving is the hot season (November to April), when the waters achieve that legendary crystal-clear visibility. Unfortunately, the coral bleaching that affected the entire Indian Ocean in 2002 damaged the majority of the Seychelles' reefs, so don't expect acres of colorful corals. The real thrill of diving in the Seychelles is the abundance of game fish and the rich, large marine life—turtles, rays, and huge shoals of fish—centered around Seychelles' unique underwater granite formations.
Port Launay Marine National Park. Located on the northwest coast, the Port Launay marine park is famous for its beautiful beaches and whale-sharks, which in season can be seen feeding on plankton. The white sand beach here, which is accessible by the Constance Ephelia Resort, is large and wide with plenty of shady trees, making it popular with picnickers on the weekends. If you come by boat you'll need a ticket for the marine park, but those just enjoying the beach don't need to pay. Port Launay, Mahé. Rs200. Daily 9–5.
Shark Bank. Also on the northwest coast, about 9 km (5 mi) off of Beau Vallon, this dive around a 30-meter granite pillar is famous for—surprise!—shark sightings. Usually divers will encounter reef sharks, though in season whale sharks also abound. Huge brissant rays, barracuda, batfish, and yellow snapper are common. This site is for experienced divers only, as a strong current runs here. Mahé.
Bay Ternay Marine National Park. On the northwest coast around the point from Port Launay, this marine park boasts reefs that are excellent for snorkeling. There is no vehicle road to Bay Ternay, so you must go by boat, usually with an organized tour. Bay Ternay, Mahé.
Ste. Anne Marine National Park. The first protected marine park in the Indian Ocean, Ste. Anne Marine National Park was established in 1973. Just offshore (a 20-minute boat ride) from Mahé, its boundaries incorporate six islands, one of Seychelles' most important Hawksbill turtle nesting sites, and large sea-grass meadows. The warm, clear, shallow lagoons are perfect for snorkeling and exploring the profusion of marine life from tiny, iridescent tropical fish to colorful corals and swaying anemones. The best way to get here is on one of the many half- or full-day boat trips offered by tour operators on Mahé, or to stay on one of the islands with accommodation. Mahé.
Sunset Beach, Northolme Beach. Both located in the northwest, you can swim to these excellent snorkeling spots from shore. Mahé.
Big Blue Divers. Located in Beau Vallon, these friendly folks have 20 years of experience and more than 75 dive sights to show you. They offer PADI certification, and focus on smaller groups. Next to Divers Lodge, Beau Vallon, Beau Vallon, Mahé. 426–1106 or 251–1103. www.bigbluedivers.net.
Dive Resort Seychelles. Another five-star PADI dive resort, this one is based in the south. Also with more than 20 years of experience in Seychelles, they are well versed in dive sights both in the inner and outer islands. Anse a la Mouche, Anse a la Mouche, Mahé. 437–2057 or 271–7272. www.scubadiveseychelles.com.