Whale Shark Odyssey Details
A joint initiative between Silhouette Cruises’ expedition travel brand Ocean Odysseys, and the whale shark monitoring programme of the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles (MCSS), this 7-night liveaboard trip in Seychelles aims to combine the intense fun and excitement of swimming with whale sharks amidst the islands’ beautiful scenery, together with the enriching experience of learning more about these massive creatures by participating in actual scientific monitoring work being carried out by the MCSS.
This programme hosts guests onboard the Sea Star and Sea Bird yachts, which are ideal platforms for guests to be able to maximise their chances for whale shark encounters in a convenient, comfortable and cost effective way. Using the yacht as a ‘floating hotel’ passengers benefit from its large air-conditioned cabins and public areas, excellent service and cuisine from a full crew complement, and the excitement of continual new surroundings in beautiful Seychelles throughout the programme.
While snorkelling with whale sharks may be the main highlight of the programme, it is far from the only thing on offer. We’ll also experience Seychelles’ unique diving and snorkelling seascape, the charm of several different islands and authentic Seychellois hospitality, as well as the rewarding feeling of contributing toward a real scientific programme bearing results for this threatened species.
Embarkation from Mahé at the Inter Island Quay, Port Victoria at 10.30 am. After the captain's welcome briefing, the yacht departs toward Ilot island at the northern tip of Mahé, for some diving near this beautiful rocky granite outcrop. The currents around this peninsula may also provide a sliver of opportunity for our first whale shark encounter. In the evening, enjoy a presentation from our onboard experts from the MCSS about whale sharks in Seychelles, followed by a BBQ dinner as the yacht anchors in the beautiful Beau Vallon Bay overnight.
The yacht continues cruising around Mahé's north-western coast toward the Conception channel, a waterway in between Mahé and the islands of Conception and Therese that has over the years become known as a popular whale shark hotspot on account of its currents and plankton-rich waters. But first, we'll visit nearby Baie Ternay for a morning dive or snorkel in this amazing marine national park. While we're in the water, MCSS pilots will be overhead in its micro-lite, surveying the seascape for whale sharks. In the afternoon, the locations of any sightings will be relayed and we'll position ourselves to meet up with the MCSS vessel in search of the whale sharks that have been spotted. The vessel will moor overnight in the flat calm of Baie Ternay.
A southerly course brings the yacht further down the western coast of Mahé toward Anse a la Mouche, for some diving and snorkelling with the pastoral south of Mahé as our backdrop. With MCSS in the air spotting for whale sharks in the morning, the afternoon will again see us rendezvous with the MCSS vessel in search of any sightings. In the evening, we'll learn more about the work currently being done by the MCSS to monitor and conserve whale sharks.
The yacht sails back northward, to Shark Bank off the northwest coast of Mahé for a morning dive at this unique site, one of Seychelles' deepest on the inner island plateau. With the microlight's morning reconnaissance, we will hopefully have another excursion with MCSS for a whale shark encounter in the afternoon. Before dinner we'll enjoy a presentation on whale shark migration across the world, and say goodbye to the MCSS staff who will be disembarking back to Mahé in the evening. Overnight anchorage will be at Bel Ombre, where we'll have the opportunity for a night dive at its small wreck site.
The yacht cruises across toward Praslin, arriving at Booby rock, where we'll have two opportunities to dive at this thrilling location for a variety of marine life. Although we will not have aerial support through the rest of the journey, we'll take advantage of our observation deck to search for additional whale shark encounters along the way. With the experience gained from having the MCSS officials onboard, our guests will now be able to record details for any sightings on their own, for inclusion into the MCSS database. As an option, guests may also disembark at Anse Possession, Praslin, for an afternoon visit of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Vallee de Mai.
After an early morning dive at Pointe Rouge, this leisurely day will be spent visiting Curieuse Island, where passengers will be able to explore its mountain pathways and mangrove boardwalk, as well as its giant tortoise farm. A beach BBQ will be arranged on the island for a late lunch and afternoon swim, before returning onboard for a night dive.
In the morning the yacht cruises toward the Ave Maria rock near La Digue. Not only is this an excellent dive site on its own merit, but this passage is also a common place to spot whale sharks as well. Following any encounters, the vessel will cruise back toward Mahé for overnight anchorage near the Ste Anne Marine Park. In the evening, we will have a final de-briefing and a farewell BBQ.
Disembarkation at the Inter Island Quay, Port Victoria, Mahé at 8.30 am.
Whale sharks are wild animals and while MCSS have identified their usual favourite feeding places these can vary on even a day-to-day basis. MCSS find the sharks using a microlight aircraft which does a complete survey around Mahé each morning to direct the monitoring boats into the best location for the afternoon. In the afternoons the aircraft directs the boats on to the sharks to ensure the maximum possible chance of success. As such, our ability to locate the whale sharks is weather dependent as rain or high winds stop the microlight aircraft from flying. Because of this the itinerary should be regarded as a guide only and we will reschedule days to enable us to make the most of the situation during the week; days may also shift around due to poor sighting conditions or days when the sharks are not at the surface.
The MCSS have been monitoring whale sharks around Seychelles since its pilot project in November 1996. The programme has grown steadily both in terms of scope and size and is now one of the most comprehensive whale shark research programmes globally. The programme is led by whale shark researcher Dr. David Rowat and receives financial support for specific project components from the Save Our Seas Foundation, which enables a wide range of activities to be implemented. From its inception in 1996, the programme has relied upon the enthusiasm and support of the public in assisting with the gathering of data and this 'citizen science' has been the primary building block on which the programme is based. However, in order to maximise the value of the data collected, the monitoring systems require strict standardisation and while the public is directly involved in the in-water encounter activities, the data are handled by a team of intern volunteers who are trained in the necessary data capture activities and data entry to ensure compliance with standards.
There are a number of activities that will be going on during the monitoring days, the most important being the identification of the whale sharks, which is largely done by in-water digital photography. There are also a number of environmental monitoring activities such as plankton tows and temperature / depth profiles, all of which the MCSS team will be pleased to have guests assist in, if they so wish. Back onboard the yacht the team will process the information from the day's activities allowing guests to assist in the photo-identification of the sharks seen that afternoon.