ALPHONSE ISLAND FISHING COMPANY, SEYCHELLES
The Seychelles are made up of 115 granitic and coralline islands situated approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) off the east coast of Africa and between 4 and 10 degrees south of the Equator. Alphonse Island lies in the heart of the Indian Ocean, 7 degrees south of the Equator and 292 miles (470 km) south-west of the capital island, Mahe. It is part of the Alphonse Group extending 10 miles (16 km) from north to south, comprising three islands: Alphonse in the north, discovered on 27 June, 1730, by Alphonse de Pontevez, commanding the French frigate Le Lys; Bijoutier in the middle, so named for its jewel-like beauty and a national symbol of the Seychelles; and St Francois in the south, named after Saint-Francois de Sales, now perhaps more famous for its fishing.
Alphonse Island is a small triangular-shaped coral island strewn with swaying coconut trees, with over 2 miles (3.6 km) of coastline protected by a reef and offering the most idyllic setting for a very exclusive holiday.
The Alphonse Island Fishing Company (AIFC) represents the marriage of many talents to create a truly remarkable fishing experience in one of the last undisturbed self-contained wilderness ecosystems of the world. There is nowhere else that one can enjoy reputedly "the best bonefishing in the world", as well as a myriad of other species to be caught on the fly, while surrounded, literally, by some of the finest blue-water fishing and renowned dive sites.
The guiding operation has incomparable knowledge of the lagoons and species of the islands, and benefits from the full support and backup of Shackleton International and its extensive experience in the management of logistically complex and remote fishing operations, and its famous service and hospitality.
An international AIFC team of fourteen works closely together to manage the fishing from Alphonse, Bijoutier and St Francois Islands including all the blue-water fishing. Between them they have researched the fishing and have learned the intimate habits of many of the species in order to add them to the list of possibilities for the fly fisherman. In so doing they revolutionised saltwater fly fishing by adding milkfish, which until a few years ago "would not take the fly." Other fly-caught fish include seven species of trevally, three species of triggerfish, and many other reef and flats species. Such added interest in other species allows us to manage the truly remarkable bonefishing for which Alphonse and St Francois lagoons have become famous. The guides' desire to communicate the detail and fascinations of this ecosystem is matched by their patience and humour. Any member of the guiding team can teach beginners how to make their first cast and offer gems of technical advice to the most competent fly fisherman. Their abilities have been proven, having guided Alphonse guests to the capture and release of over 75,000 bones in 4 seasons!
The flats, which are hard white sand with minimal weed and coral growth, are interconnected with tiny channels, most navigable by skiff. There are only a few that are heavily grassed, but these are often productive fishing spots for larger bonefish. Numerous small coral "heads" and outcrops dot the lagoon. Wading the flats is very easy and the norm. Little or no boat fishing is done for bonefish, though the skiffs are useful to look for trevally and milkfish in inlet channels. The ocean side has hard coral reefs with fewer bonefish, but with exciting opportunities for trevally and other species on calm days. This allows the opportunity to target the many other species available. It is not unusual for anglers to end a weeks fishing with over a dozen species caught. To date we have caught more than 40 species of fish on fly.
Bonefishing is best when the tide is on the move. It is least productive at the highest and lowest tides. Typical bonefishing involves walking a flat for up to two or three hours, depending on how long the "run" of bonefish lasts. It is often possible to stand still and pick off the bonefish as they come toward you. Huge amounts of bonefish are often found at certain stages of the tide, when the fishing becomes frantic. When they disperse, numerous local pods of half dozen or so form, and you often have your next fish in your sights as you land another. Your guides will be able to locate these hotspots.
Some flats support very large bonefish and others smaller to average size, but a fair lagoon average would be about 3 to 4 pounds, with the bonefish on the outer reef averaging 4 to 5 pounds. The changes in the behaviour of the fish and the opportunity for targeting the really big specimens make the fishing that much more challenging and entertaining. AIFC regards St Francois Island as a first class fly fishing destination and does not promote spin fishing.
While the St Francois fishery will be viewed by many as a "bonefishing destination", there will always be those fishermen looking for something different. For anglers that have never before fished for trevally, they can be a special treat . . . if you come prepared! They are often found cruising the many channels, flats' edges and coral heads inside the lagoon but are most frequently seen charging around in the surf on the edges of the reefs, acting like gangs of thugs waiting for an unsuspecting victim. The speed at which they close on a fly is legendary, and the strike of even a modest-sized fish is an event not easily forgotten.
There are several species of trevally (a member of the jack family) present in and around the St Francois Lagoon. Any angler who tangles with one will surely come away impressed and ready for another battle. The two most commonly caught are the giant trevally, which put up arguably the best fight of all, and the beautifully coloured bluefin (bring your camera).
The milkfish rip line off reels at about twice the rate of a large bonefish and jump like a tarpon. Landing them while on foot is extremely challenging, often resulting in break-offs deep into the backing. The usual technique involved is to stalk, present and hook-up while wading, then jump into a skiff and follow to keep the fish at a manageable distance. While much exploring is still being done on this species, coming prepared is vital if you want to give it a try.
While bonefishing, the guides will be happy to carry an extra rod for trevally or milkfish, but be careful not to overburden them. They are far more valuable for spotting and assisting in landing fish or taking a snapshot of your catch than they are acting as sherpas.
As with all Shackleton operations, the focus is on sound practices that restore and encourage the natural populations of fish; therefore, all fish are released and all hooks used are barbless. Alphonse Island Fishing Company will also be initiating the ongoing scientific and tagging programmes that are already a feature at other Shackleton destinations. Only by learning more about our species can we ensure that they continue to thrive.
The AIFC team work from a fully-upgraded fishing operation on the south side of the island. It is a hive of activity, interest and dedication ensuring that our guests have the best possible experience during their stay. It has become the social focus before and after fishing with a small bar and relaxed seating area that has been tastefully designed. Equipment both on the water and for loan is, as usual, top quality and will be consistently upgraded and unified during the course of the coming seasons. Guests will travel from the AIFC's base to the St Francois lagoon in our mother-ship and will be taken onto the flats in one of our fleet of skiffs, where the fishing begins. All skiffs are well equipped with radios, safety equipment and poles, and are fitted with coolers to carry the day's cold drinks. Lunch can be taken out on the flats or guests can return to the mother-ship to eat and perhaps rest and recharge for the afternoon's sport.
Bijoutier is an Italian-made ARS 29 fully-equipped with both big game, stand-up conventional tackle in 30 and 50 lb class, as well as a complete range of fly-fishing tackle from 10 weight right up to 16 weight rods.
The guides are all skillful in blue-water fly fishing and a variety of flies tied locally are on hand for your big crack at the speed and agility of the various big game species on fly. Sail fish are the prime targeted species. The blue-water fly fishing for sailfish is done using the tease and switch method and often results in more than one fish being teased up and cast to. The action is frantic with the guides teasing and giving orders to the client who is making sure that all his line is clear for that once in a lifetime cast to a "hot" sailfish. Get ready for the run of your life as you hook up and the backing seems to melt off your reel, but do not forget to look up because most of that first run you will see your fish in the air for more time than it spends in the water. We do not like to tire our fish out, and so we fight them hard and fast to ensure a speedy release and hopefully give another angler the joy of hooking the same fish another day.
Tuna, wahoo, barracuda and various bottom species, such as snapper and grouper, are also available. Often, weather permitting, a chum slick is formed while the boat is on anchor and the fish rise from the depths only to be fooled by well-tied baitfish pattern or chum fly. This fishing becomes extremely exciting with most of the fish being sighted before the cast is made. Some of the time we are required to use big clousers and lead-core lines to get down to the fish. The steep drop offs around the island allow anglers to fish over shelves which drop down to massive depths of up to 9,842 feet (3,000 m). Ultimately, the three islands are table tops providing a haven to the passing pelagic species that cruise the oceans of the world.
All big game tackle and lures are provided by AIFC so no need to bring your own. The dominant species that you can expect to catch are yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, wahoo, bonito, rainbow runner and barracuda. Please note that all our big game fishing is catch and release and only when the hotel has a request for fresh fish do we take fish home, therefore nothing goes to waste and the fish is always fresh.
At the fishing destination, there is always the chance that inclement weather will affect your trip. While weather is rarely a cause for cancellation, if your captain determines that for safety sake, the trip should not be taken, you will receive a full refund for that day's fishing. If, however, you choose not to go out for your own comfort considerations, there will be no refund.
Short of the presence or immediate threat of a hurricane, there always exists the assumption that the next day will be fishable. If you decide to leave early, there will be no refund on the remaining fishing days of your trip.
THE LODGE - ALPHONSE ISLAND RESORT
"A wonderfully elegant haven for those who enjoy unpretentious luxury" is how a recent guest described Alphonse Island Resort after their third visit. The Alphonse staff is focused on caring for the guests that stay each season as attentively as they care about and conserve the island ecosystem.
Alphonse Island originally was a coconut plantation. Active production ceased about 11 years ago. In the late 1990s, the deluxe Alphonse Island Resort was built. The hotel is located on the east side of the island and features 25 chalets and 5 executive villas, built alongside the lagoon and the beach, and effortlessly blends ecological awareness with first-class service. The central complex contains a restaurant, bar, kitchen, lounge area, snooker/conference room, swimming pool, a hard tennis court, and main office. Bicycles are provided for all guests and a driver and golf cart are always available. Standards of accommodation, service and cuisine are exceptional and the design offers a superb combination of deluxe accommodation, originality and a low-key island atmosphere. Water-based activities are handled by Alphonse Island Resort and include the 5-star PADI dive centre that provides diving, sailing, kayaking, pedallos, snorkelling, picnic and round-island excursions. It is fully equipped, even down to a comprehensive range of masks and fins. All water-based sports are located adjacent to the resort complex (three minutes by bicycle).
Each chalet is set on pillars with a thatched roof and a private veranda with an open-air shower. All are air conditioned, attractively furnished and have a king-size bed (or twin beds on request), en-suite bathroom with bath, international direct access telephone, TV, mini-bar, ceiling fan and individual safe.
The Restaurant and Bar
The Bijoutier Restaurant overlooks the lagoon and swimming pool. It offers refined and creative cooking, combining the best of local Creole specialities with international cuisine. Service is attentive yet relaxed and discrete, and the flexible menu makes provision for any special dietary requirements.
The Le Lys Bar has been relocated to the beach front area of the main hotel. Whilst sitting on the decking overlooking the beach and the ocean it is a great place for you and your companions to share stories about the catch or dive of the day and it is a must to try one of the tropical cocktails the "Alphonse Dream."
The second season of Alphonse Island Fishing Company's operation will see a slight increase in pricing. $4,990 per rod is the new rate for the 2004/2005 season. This includes air charter from Mahe to Alphonse and return, VIP meet & greet at Mahe airport (cutting the immigration lines), 7 nights accommodations, all meals, 6 full days of fishing, shared boat/guide, double occupancy, standard chalet. We have also introduced some early and late season packages, please see the rates page below.
This includes air charter from Mahe to Alphonse and return, VIP meet and greet at Mahe airport (cutting the lines), 7 nights accommodations, all meals, 6 full days of fishing, shared boat/guide, double occupancy, standard chalet. Blue-water rates are $700 for full day and $475 for a half day (max four persons).
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