In May of 2015, Lara on our sales team traveled her family to Alphonse Island in the Seychelles. The trip was a celebration of 20 years of marriage (!!!) for Lara and her husband Jim and they picked Alphonse Island because as fishing and diving enthusiasts, it was the perfect choice. We asked her to tell us a bit about their time on Alphonse, and for those of you who love fishing and diving, get ready to be seriously jealous!
How did fishing become a thing that your whole family does together?
We are a fishing family! My husband Jim and I have both fished our whole lives and started seriously fly-fishing about 15 years ago. As our kids have gotten a bit older (they are 14 and 12 now), they have started coming out with us and have become accomplished in their own right. Jim and my son Graham have even started a list of species and locations to fish for throughout their lifetimes.
How did you decide on Alphonse Island?
We chose to go to Alphonse as a celebration gift to ourselves for our 20th Anniversary. We felt like it was the perfect time not only because of our anniversary but also because our kids were old enough not only to join us, but to really engage in and enjoy the fishing and diving.
The Seychelles have always been on the top of the list for the pristine beauty, amazing wild setting, and the sheer volume of life under those waters. Specifically, we had read for years about the bone and GT fishing in the waters around Alphonse and St. Francois. This is a 10,000-acre area of salt flats, with thousands of bonefish, as well as dozens of other species to go for including the super aggressive GTs and the rare milkfish.
We also chose Alphonse because of the diving. As a family of newly minted certified divers, we were able to pursue our passion with dives in the super clear and warm Indian Ocean waters, which are home to some of the healthiest reefs I’ve ever seen. There are everything from tiny nudibranch’s, sea turtles, reef fish, sharks and rays. In some seasons there are also whales around the islands. The dive team was welcoming, safety-oriented, and professional, and the gear was all top-level and brand-new.
What was your daily schedule like?
Since we were both fishing and diving, it mixed from day to day (you can also do programs that are exclusively fishing or exclusively diving). On fishing days, we would head to the “mother ship” after breakfast, and all of the 12 fishing guests, along with their guides, head off on the 45-minute run out to the St. Francois atoll. From there, we all set off on skiffs of two fishermen and a guide. From there, you assess the tides, wind, and other fishing conditions or species you want to target, and everyone heads off in their own direction. You fish for several hours, wading across flats or fishing from the skiff. Everyone is covered from head to toe in lightweight clothing, even gloves and boots, to combat the equatorial sun bouncing up off the shimmering flats. The water is so warm that it doesn’t matter at all that you are pretty much wet the entire day.
Lunch is a gourmet packed picnic, which can be taken on the mothership, your skiff, an island or my favorite “the Flats Lunch.” This was amazing as the staff set up shaded canopies in the water, tables to hold a full buffet, and chairs to sit on in the water.
The afternoon generally zips by with more fishing, trying to get your final casts in for the biggest fish of the day, or an elusive species. In the later afternoon everyone heads back to the lodge on the Mothership, enjoying a beer or soda on the ride back and sharing the day’s adventures. Back on the island, the excellent fishing staff looks after all of your fishing equipment, so your only job is to head back to your cottage to shower and change before cocktails!
Each night there are “awards” which is really fun! Those with the biggest, rarest, smallest, etc fish come up and ring a bell and have a shot. It creates a really nice feeling of comradery and celebration. Elsa and Graham even got in on the action most nights, as they were very successful at fishing (with apple juice shots of course!).
What was your favorite thing about the fishing experience?
It’s too hard to say one thing! The landscape is so huge, so untouched and raw and the sheer volume of catchable fish was amazing. And that doesn’t even touch on the high quality of the support team. The guides are some of the best in the world. Our first-day guide, Wayne, is a true legend. He is not only a pro-fisherman but a biologist as well who has written books about the species in the area.
What was your favorite thing about the diving experience?
On the days we weren’t fishing, we were diving. Each day, we dove at different sites, and each one was more beautiful than the next. The clarity of the water, the health of the corals and volume of reef fish were all fantastic. The dive masters were so good we felt confident in them and our equipment and that made the dives stress-free and fun. The kids even got to see a nice big hammerhead while we were on a deeper wall dive. Graham was really awestruck by that sighting and is doing a big school project on hammerheads now. It is exactly that kind of experience that has made me such a champion of family safaris and family travel!
What can you do on the island besides fishing?
We had so much fun biking around the island! This island is a former coconut plantation and the coconut groves are thick that it feels like an ancient jungle! That combined with prolific birdlife and giant tortoises lumbering around made it feel a bit like Land of the Lost. We had bike races on the runway, sunset cocktails out on a beach even a private picnic lunch on the beach where the manager, Jess, came and played charades with us! For our anniversary they set up a private table by the beach covered in twinkling “fairy lights” and we toasted our 20 years together. The kids loved the huge pool and playing with the life-sized chess set.
What were some of your favorite family moments from the trip?
There were so many great moments! Some of our favorite were:
- Watching Elsa gain so much confidence fishing with expert instruction and grinning ear to ear after landing her first bonefish!
- Having the kids tell us their adventures diving the reef and seeing the hammerhead.
- On one day we passed a school of 15 feeding Manta Rays and just jumping into the water with snorkels to swim with these gentle giants
In addition to those amazing memories it was just such a wonderful chance to be together as a family. We got to focus on just doing things that we all love to do, disconnected and far removed from the hustle bustle, surrounded by nature and being guided by the best of the best in fishing and diving.
Alphonse sounds amazing! So here are a few practical questions for you: anything people should know if they are considering Alphonse?
Alphonse is special because it’s so far away, so it takes considerable time and money to get there. The island isn’t open year round and even in season planes to the island are basically once a week, so your trip should be planned well in advance to get the dates you want!
In addition while they are hoping to increase the available activities for a more general “leisure” traveler, right now Alphonse really is for serious fishermen and divers. People who want to do that all day, every day. If you just want to relax on the beach, a property in the main islands of the Seychelles, Mahe, Praslin or La Digue or private islands like Descroches, Fregate or North Island might be a better fit.
What gear did you bring with you and why?
Fishermen should bring all their own rods/reels/line and bring back up as well. Flies can be purchased in advance (lists given) or on the island. Clothing for flats fishing includes full coverage so long pants/shirts, wading boots, buffs, gloves, etc. For diving, we just brought our own masks/snorkels. Dress on the island itself (for dinner etc.) is totally casual, and with the hot and humid tropical environment, dressing in light layers is recommended.
Where are you considering for your next fishing trip?
There are so many fabulous places to fish in Africa! Our next trip there will either be Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park for tiger fishing and a wildlife safari. Or, we’ll head to South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal coastline for another saltwater fishing adventure, along with some great diving.