Known as the Alphonse Group, the paradise islands of Alphonse Atoll, Bijoutier and St. Francois Atoll lie within the Outer Islands Group of the Seychelles. Alphonse itself is a one hour flight south of Mahe and sits just three kilometres north of St. Francois and a thousand miles east of the African coast. A population of less than three hundred people surround a central lagoon, with the entire island is eight kilometres squared in size.
Alphonse boasts tranquil expanses of utopian shorelines, crystal clear lagoons, immaculate white sandy beaches and stunning vistas. Head inland and a thrilling mass of dense jungle forests lie waiting for exploration, dotted with historic commercial coconut groves.
The ideal forever-summer holidaying weather and idyllic luxury accommodation on the island make this a dream-like destination for relaxing and unwinding. However it is the creatures that lie within and surround the island that are the star attraction for visitors. Shearwater birds, tortoises, crabs and a plethora of exotic bird species call Alphonse their home, as well as the extremely rare Chiffchaff and Tufted Duck. Alphonse sings with tropical wildlife, however it is only when you delve deep into the twinkling turquoise waters that surround the atoll, that you discover a whole new world of show-stopping creatures that attract visitors from all corners of the globe.
Alphonse Atoll is one of the most fabled fly fishing destinations in the world, often appearing in the bucket lists of the seasoned angler. The images of the pure white sand flats of St Francois that sit as the home screen wallpaper on computers across the globe serve as a constant reminder of a “one-day” destination.
There are many tropical flat fishing destinations all over the world, so what is it about Alphonse that makes it so special? Situated 400km from the mainland of Mahe to avoid excessive marine traffic and major industry, but close enough to be accessible by plane within an hour, Alphonse Atoll known as the best saltwater fly fishing destinations on the planet.
This magnificent island threesome comprising of Alphonse, St Francois and Bijoutier fast established a reputation for holding one of the healthiest populations of bonefish on the planet. Nearby St Francois is approximately seven miles long and four miles wide, consisting of firm white sand bottoms interlaced with channels and cuts. The uniqueness that sets St Francois apart from many of the other Seychelles’ destinations is the endless white sand flats. In addition to the abundant bonefish flats, the lagoon envelopes coral finger flats and coral heads allowing anglers to catch several of the now 60 species targeted on a fly in the Seychelles.
There’s more than just the remote location of these atolls and islands, which makes them so spectacular. Add in the terrain, the techniques, the season and the species diversity and you have an incredible mix, custom-made for fly fishing. On the terrain front, fly fishing in the Alphonse Atoll sets itself apart due to the largely land-based approach it offers. While blue-water, boat-based fishing is available to anglers, the main draw these atolls holds is for the angler to be able to target challenging species on foot. Whereas saltwater fly fishing destinations in many parts of the world are boat-based, the Alphonse Atoll stands apart because of the opportunities it gives anglers: to wading in shallow, warm water on hard white sand and turtle grass or on coral flats for to discover a plethora of exciting new species. It’s not all catching but getting the opportunity to cast at behemoth giant trevally or shoals of bonefish in the same knee-deep water you are standing in, is not something many fly anglers who are accustomed to boat-based fishing, will ever forget. It’s not that Seychelles guides’ and anglers are against boats in any way, but there is something more tactile, connected and satisfying about standing in crystal clear water, while site casting at fish.
Many of the species caught, like the vegetarian milkfish or the picky Indo-Pacific permit, used to be thought of as unattainable, but, through the perseverance and pioneering techniques of the Alphonse-based guides, they are now a viable target species on a fly. Off the back of the work done by these innovative guides, and the diverse species they were able to target with their clients, the possibilities around what is or isn’t possible with saltwater fly fishing have been rewritten. Alphonse Island is credited with deciphering how to catch the first milkfish, pink parrotfish, yellow margin and moustache triggerfish on a fly as well as refining techniques for catching numerous other species like giant trevally and Indo-Pacific permit. To date, this fishery still accounts for more than 90% of the world’s milkfish caught and released on an annual basis.
The cherry on top is that the luxury resort of Alphonse Island was refurbished in 2017 and is known as one of the most comfortable fly fishing destinations globally. The addition of the Blue Safari activities that can be enjoyed by non-fishing partners, has generated a considerable amount of hype, making it a must for couples that don’t only enjoy fishing.
The most important part of Alphonse is its conservation efforts that continue to preserve this amazing island threesome. The fishery is strictly catch and release, with a code of conduct that ensures sustainability. The assistance of the Island Conservation Society, Islands Development Company and Alphonse Foundation in managing the area ensures that minimal pressure is placed on this recourse but at the same still earning revenue to protect this Indian ocean jewel. Every catch brings a thrill, a lifelong memory and a story told time and again. Every release contributes to the health of the fishery and ensures that Alphonse remains as one of the ultimate bucket list destinations.