Travel to Alphonse Island in the heart of the Indian ocean
April 20-23, 2003
Are you looking for information about Alphonse? In this trip review you will find information on Alphonse, an atoll that belongs to the Seychelles islands and located about an hour's flight from Mahe. Alphonse is essentially an uninhabited island, where there is only a luxury resort (Alphonse Island Resort) that attracts tourists thanks to the nice tropical landscape dominated by palm tree forests and white sand beaches.
How to get to Alphonse? The adventure begins in Mahe' International Airport by boarding this Cessna 406 Caravan, which will cross the Indian Ocean for about 220 nautical miles, in order to reach its final destination of Alphonse Island Resort.
The small airplane is taxiing to the runway. In the distance I can see the Boeing 767-300ER where I've flown the last night in order to reach Mahe' from Europe. On the right: the small cabin of the Cessna.
After one hour of flight over the blue ocean, the airplane approaches the coralline atoll of Alphonse and then lands on the small runway in the center of the atoll. The tide is currently low and the view over the lagoon and the sandy flats all around, is simply breathtaking.
The airplane finally arrive at the small air terminal (left picture), from where I'm trasferred to my bungalow at Alphonse Island Resort (right picture).
Although I'm traveling from 25 hours, with one night spent on the intercontinental flight, I cannot resist to climb on my bike (a courtesy bike is included with the room) and start to explore. Soon, I discover that every place on the atoll, including the forest in the middle, is populated by many small crabs of different sizes and colors, which live in small holes on the ground. Another very common form of life is the big spider represented on the right picture.
Photos of Alphonse. After crossing a dense forest of palm trees, I arrive on the coralline beach. The sea is now in low tide, thence I can walk for hundreds of feet away from the island, without have the water's level higher than my legs. Under this condition, the beach sometime extends far away from the atoll and the actions of the elements create strange sculptures on the sand.
It is incredible the capacity of this palm, so survive in this condition... grounded on the sand and in a salt environment like this. On the right: the high tide is arriving, making the coralline beach smaller.
Near the equator the night arrives earlier and quickly. I take some picture of my bungalow from the outside and from inside, where the bed is well protected to avoid insects inside.
I finally take a short walk on the beach at night, where I encounter a lot of crabs of different colors. Some of them are running on the beach, others are inside their home.
The trails are well maintained and it is easy to bike over them. Most are also illuminated at night.
The central part of the atoll is dense covered by pal-trees and other vegetation. In the past years, before the tourism industry, the main activity on the island was growing palms, getting and working all their subproducts.
Again, I'm face to face with a quite big Seychelles spider.
At the end of the trail, I arrive to another beautiful deserted beach. Indeed, the entire island is surrounded by a continuous beach of white sand, of variable width.
A group of birds walk on the beach. Today the sea is very calm and the water very crystalline.
A very nice crab looks at my camera for a moment, then runs away quickly.
Turning around the island, I arrive at the end of the runway used for aircraft operations. Using a parallel track, I soon arrive to the opposite side where I can see the airplane arriving from Mahe' landing and taxiing to the terminal. The runway runs from one side of the island to the other and the beach is very close to both the ends.
An heron on the beach.
The tide is again low and I decide to walk far away from the island, toward the reef. During the walk, the level of the water will be never higher than half of my legs.
From this distance, during the low tide, I can see the entire island and the reef is still quite far fom here. Sometimes, there are pools between half and one meter deep, where several fishes remain trapped inside, until the next high tide will free them again. On the left picture, a beautiful stingray swimming in low water.
The day ends with a visit to the ancient cemetery, where I can see also a beautiful papaya tree with a lot of fruits on its trunk.
Today, I wake up early and decide to hike towards the reef, with the tide to a medium level (approximately 60 centimeters of water, increasing). An heron stays in low water, under a nice dawn.
I go away for some hundreds of meters, until I can see the entire island in distance. Unfortunately the sea level is going up, thus I'm forced to walk back to the beach, as I wouldn't get water in my backpack and on the camera!
Close to the beach, where the water is still very low, I notice some branches of fish probably trapped here by the previous low tide.
Top-left picture, a very nice green crab. Top-right: holes made by crabs. bottom-left: another crab, featuring different colors and much bigger size.
Unfortunately it is the time to leave this naturalistic paradise. A Beechcraft 1900 is parked at the air terminal and is ready to bring back to Mahe' all the persons who have finished their stay on Alphonse.
The takeoff from Alphonse offers spectacular views of the Indian Ocean from the air. Top-left picture: part of the atoll of Alphonse, the beach and the lagoon. Top-right: the channel that puts the lagoon of Alphonse in communication with the open sea. Bottom-left: the small, nearby island of Bijoutier. Bottom-right: St. Francois with its immense lagoon, where I've been the previous day.