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SNORKELING IN THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS

5 questions for Guillaume Astegiano, co-founder of the website snorkeling-report.com

The Caribbean islands conjure up a heavenly image… Is this the ideal destination for snorkeling?

To be clear, contrary to popular belief, the Caribbean is not home to the most beautiful underwater world in terms of diversity of species. Certainly, the coral reefs in places, are quite remarkable, but the diversity of species such as coral fish) is much less than in the Indo-Pacific, for example. However, what these islands offer are calm, shallow and crystal clear waters, and a very high number of endemic species (that are found nowhere else in the world), such as the iconic sea turtles and stingrays. There are so many beautiful spots, all unique and special in their own ways, that each snorkeler is bound to find their own paradise.

You say it’s possible for everyone to observe stingrays and sea turtles, what’s your advice?

There are several spots in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands or Antigua , often called “Stingray City” where you can easily observe American Pastenagues stingrays. The principle is always the same, you are taken to a shallow lagoon and the stingrays, who are used to being fed there, arrive. You can even get a souvenir photo with a ray in your arms! This type of spot is very commercial (allow at least $50 per person for a tour), and will not suit everyone, but you can observe these fascinating animals up close and personal.

It is also easy to find sea turtles in the French Antilles. The spots of Anse Noire and Anse Dufour (in the town of Anses d’Arlet, southwest of Martinique) and one at the beach Malendure (Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe) are particularly recommended. The green turtles swim to the small, calm bays every day, and sightings are guaranteed.

Is it possible to swim with sharks safely in the Caribbean?

Of course! No need to go scuba diving to experience the thrill! The Belize Barrier Reef, in Shark Ray Alley is undoubtedly one of the most famous spots of the Caribbean. There, you can observe perfectly harmless nurse sharks in less than two meters of water. The idyllic islet of Petite Terre, Guadeloupe, a classified nature reserve is also a haven for young lemon sharks. From the beach, you will be able to see their fins splitting the surface of the water, and the bravest will not hesitate to put on their flippers for an unforgettable encounter!

On the other hand, are there certain species that can not be observed in the region?

Yes, many people who dream to see clownfish and hope to find them in this region, will be sorely disappointed! You will have zero chance of coming face to face with “Nemo” in the Caribbean! The clownfish inhabits the Indo-Pacific ocean, in an area extending from the Red Sea to the coast of Africa to the South Pacific (French Polynesia). Thirty species inhabit the reefs of this vast region, but remain within the precise range outlined above.

If you had to recommend just one spot?

It’s difficult to make a choice, as the quality of spots are plentiful in the area, but if I had to name one, it would undoubtedly be West Bay, on the island of Roatan (Honduras). This bay, with its white sand, coconut palms and colourful boats, suspended on a crystal sea, is enchanting. The seabed is equally breathtaking: multicoloured corals cascading down through a deep blue water, parrot fish galore, schools of blue surgeons and several species of angelfish, turtles, all with exceptional visibility. This remarkable spot will definitely leave a lasting impression!

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