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Snorkeling in the Indian Ocean Islands

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

The Indian Ocean Islands look totally dreamy- is it paradise for snorkelling?
The western islands in the Indian Ocean offer various destinations, the marine life is exceptional! You can explore unique coral reefs , observe a huge variety of fish, and meet iconic species such as manta rays, dugongs and sharks. Between the Seychelles archipelago, the islands of Zanzibar, Madagascar, Comoros and Mascarene, the possibilities are endless! It can be difficult to make a choice (as they’re all special in their own ways!), so it will mostly depend on your level of snorkelling, the season in which you go, and the species you want to observe.

Indeed, more and more people want to learn to snorkel. What destination would you advise for a beginner or family with children?
The Reunion Island is definitely one of the best options for beginners and families. There are plenty of small lagoons on the west of the island, which are shallow (never deeper than 1.5m) and protected by a coral reef- so the currents are pretty non-existent, and they’re swimmable throughout most of the year. You’ll be able to see beautiful coral, tropical fish, octopus… in short, everything you might hope for. Navy Nationale Reserve offers guided outings on the underwater trail of the Hermitage, which can be the perfect solution for beginners. However it is possible to start snorkelling most places in the Indian Ocean, simply choose spots that are accessible and secure.

Which destinations would you advise for a more experienced snorkeler?
The Seychelles offer world class spots, and can often be fairly technical or physical- great for the more advanced snorkeler. Most are open to the sea, so get deep quickly, whilst others are prone to strong currents. In this case, you can follow the direction of the current, let it carry you further down the coast and then hike back along the shoreline. A session like this requires good physical strength, a feeling of ease in the water and minimal equipment (waterproof bag …). Underwater, you will be rewarded: turtles, eagle rays, schools of parrot fish, humpback and hundreds of other marine species are found above a colourful carpet of extraordinary corals. To get a little off the beaten track, the Comoros, including the lagoon of Mayotte, is home to many unexplored spots.

…and where can I see clown fish or turtles?

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Clownfish in anemone in Choizil islands, Mayotte

Children (but not exclusively!) often dream to see clownfish, particularly since the huge success of the film Finding Nemo . The arc of the Zanzibar Islands to Madagascar, including the Comoros archipelago, offer this possibility. The Madagascan clownfish and the skunk clownfish are usually visible between depths of 2 – 6m.
For turtles, some unmissable destinations include the island of La Digue, Seychelles (especially for hawksbill turtles!), and the French island of Mayotte in the Mozambique Channel, for green turtles. There are several spots in these two locations, where turtle watching is guaranteed throughout the year.
Finally, for those who dream to observe whale sharks, the Indian Ocean offers several destinations to choose from, but the observation periods are often short (September to October in the Seychelles, October to December in Madagascar, and November to January around Mafia island, off the coast of Tanzania).

Is there one spot in particular that you would really recommend?
The choice is difficult, and depends on expectations… But if I had to pick one, it would probably be Bay N’Gouja, Mayotte. The setting is absolutely stunning: a natural beach with golden sand, bordered by lush vegetation- baobabs with lemurs and bats hanging from their branches … and under the water, it is equally unforgettable. The reef slopes away beneath you, consisting of spectacular corals, and you can effortlessly observe clownfish swimming amongst the anemones, several species of angelfish, colonies of thousands of damselfish, giant clams, and even friendly green turtles…

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