Deep in the heart of the Indian Ocean where mankind’s footprint remains rare, nestles the coral island of Alphonse, largest of the three atolls in the immediate vicinity. Alphonse is a resort island, and as such, it is luxurious and smart, offering deep relaxation and a grand variety of activities to enjoy on a getaway. Because the Alphonse Atolls are raised coral beds, there are no mountains from volcanic activity and, therefore, little rain, ensuring your days on the beaches of Alphonse are sunny and warm.
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To look at the atolls from above, they are at first quite striking and a little unfamiliar. Just beneath the surface of the deep sapphire water stretches a vast dollop of coral reef, generally circular in shape, and from that vastness extends upward a tiny part of land, sandy and beautifully green with flora, teeming with marine and bird life.
These small extensions are the islands atolls, created by nature without the violence of molten lava, but over many thousands of years by tiny coral creatures. Of might conjecture that so much reef so close to the surface would make for amazing snorkeling and diving opportunities, and one would be correct.
Alphonse Island, eponymously named for its official discoverer, Chevalier Alphonse di Pontevez, was discovered in 1730, and up until the 1990s, it served as a location for cultivating copra, the dried flesh of coconuts.
As a resort island, it is rather new and has a great deal to offer, especially for the intrepid fisher. There are sparkling beaches here, of soft pale sand and limpid, stunning green waters, lagoons and forests to explore in their lush greenery, but the biggest draw to the island in unquestionably to experience the awesome fishing. This adventure encompasses the other two atoll islands of Bijoutier and St. Francois.
The islands practice conservation, with catch and release rules for fishing; only barbless flies are used, and there is no chumming or teasing of fish. Having stated that, the fly fishing possibilities are endless. Ten thousand acres of sandy shallows on St. Francois provide the bed for a massive amount of crustacean from which the fish feed, enticing large numbers of hungry fish. Bonefish are abundant here, and the variety of fish in the atolls waters are unique to the area: three variants of trigger fish (Yellow Margin, Giant and Picasso), eight kinds of trevally (Giant, Bluefin, Brassy, Bigeye, Yellow dot, Golden, Black and Fulvie), groupers, snappers, parrot fish, African pompano (Indo Pacific permit), and the native milkfish (Chanos chanos). However, only ten fishermen are allowed at a time. As an intriguing backdrop, there are still a small number of ships wrecked on the reef, peppering the horizon, caught unaware by the treachery of the atolls.
Bijoutier is the epitome of the island that springs to mind when you think about secluded tropical islands: small, sandy and covered in palm trees. She is the jewel her name suggests, sparkling amid the deep hues of the ocean and surrounded by shimmering beach sand. However, she can only be approached at certain times of the tide due to the massive coral base that supports her. No one has ever lived on the island, though many a shipwrecked sailor has awaited rescue there.
All three atolls boast exceptional wildlife, both above and below the water. Tortoises, turtles, abundant bird life, spectacular, rugged landscapes that beg exploration, and crystal clear ocean waters offer sights hitherto unseen and vistas unexplored. Alphonse Island and the Alphonse Atolls are captivating, incredible retreats from the usual quick pace of life, and if you need to slow down and smell the sea breeze, this is quite possibly the world’s best place to do it.