Where are the best places for snorkeling in French Guiana?

Located close to the mouth of the Amazon River, French Guiana is a very challenging snorkeling destinationIndeed the Amazon basin streams empty into the Atlantic, disgorging tons of sediments in the ocean, making the water brown and the underwater visibility nearly zero most of the time. Encountering sufficient underwater visibility to be able to snorkel in French Guiana is pretty rare, but for those who seek something adventurous, the patience is well worth the reward.

Iles du Salut, Guyane
The Iles du Salut, off Kourou.

The Iles du Salut, off Kourou, are the best place to snorkel in French Guiana. These three small islands, located some 14 km from the mainland, generally experience better underwater visibility than on the coast, even if it is often nearly zero.

If you are lucky, and the visibility and sea conditions allow, you can snorkel from the shore at Ile Royale, at Bain des Bagnards and Anse Legoff. The Piscine des Bagnards and Plage de Saint-Joseph, on nearby St Joseph island, are also an option, although a little less easy to access.

Juvenile porkfish in French Guiana
A juvenile porkfish at Ile Royale.

The beaches of the Cayenne region, in particular the beaches of Rémire-Montjoly, can only be snorkeled during very exceptional clear water episodes. These occur at most once or twice a year, generally at the end of the dry season, when the flow of the rivers is lower and the currents are favorable.

The Ilets de Rémire, a small archipelago of 5 islands off Rémire Montjoly and Cayenne, can be snorkeled when the visibility is decent, which happens very rarely due to their location, just in front of the mouth of Mahury.

Bain des Bagnards and Anse Legoff, on Ile Royale, are the main snorkeling site in French Guiana.
Bain des Bagnards and Anse Legoff, on Ile Royale, are the main snorkeling site in French Guiana.

Inland, you can snorkel in specific river basins, called “Criques” (creek) in French Guiana. Crique Crabe, in Sinnamary, is the best known. It is indeed at this location that the local scuba divers get their first lessons.

The site is very nice and features immersed statues and wrecks, and the decent underwater visibility allows for spotting some freshwater fish. The site is private, get in touch with the local dive clubs to join one of their sessions.

Dog snapper in French Guiana
The dog snapper is one of the most common fish in French Guiana. Here, at Ile Royale.

If you are lucky enough to be able to snorkel in French Guiana, you will discover a surprisingly rich underwater life. On the seabed, rocky and covered with small algae (turbid waters prevent the development of corals), you will spot a diversity of fish species including the Atlantic spadefish, the porkfish, the French angelfish, the Bermuda chub, as well as several species of snapper and pufferfish. In the Iles du Salut, encounters with green sea turtles at shallow depths are frequent.

Remire-Montjoly Beaches, French Guiana
Rémire-Montjoly Beaches, French Guiana.

French Guiana’s shore waters boast perfect temperatures, permanently between 82.4°F/28°C and 86°F/30°C. It is advised you wear a rashguard for sun protection, even if the weather is cloudy.

If the bad underwater visibility is the main reason which makes snorkeling in French Guiana a challenge, also be careful with the currents, which can be strong along the coasts and near the islets. Always seek local advice before engaging in a snorkeling session in the region.

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