In the absence of islets or offshore reefs, snorkeling is mainly practiced in the lagoons, protected by a coral reef, and on a few rare spots open to the ocean. All Reunion Island’s snorkeling spots are accessible from the shore.
Several lagoons follow one another along the western and southwestern coast of the island. Beginning in the south of Saint-Gilles, Lagon de l’Hermitage is the most visited in Réunion.
Facing a magnificent beach lined with casuarinas, this is the island’s favorite snorkeling spot. After the Hermitage Pass, it gives way to Lagon de la Saline, where the corals are more damaged.
Just south of la Saline, Lagon de Trou d’Eau, with its beautiful branching coral, is the last snorkeling spot in Saint-Gilles area. Some 10km further south, you reach Lagon de Saint-Leu, then L’Etang Salé, also known as “Bassin Pirogue”.
Lagon de Saint-Pierre, the “capital” of the south, is another excellent site for snorkeling. Beyond begins the Sud Sauvage “Wild South”, where the ocean is far too dangerous to get into the water.
On this volcanic coast jagged from the waves, it is still possible to go snorkeling in Bassin de Grande Anse and Bassin de Manapany, two natural pools artificially protected from the waves by rock barriers.
The few snorkeling spots open to the open sea are only for seasoned snorkelers. In the absence of a coral reef, they do not offer the safe conditions of lagoons, and the risk of shark attacks is real.
The superb Boucan Canot reef, north of Saint-Gilles, was recently equipped with a shark net, and the authorized swimming and snorkeling area is now very small, and does not cover the best areas.
Also equipped with a shark net, Plage des Roches Noires can be snorkeled when there is no swell, also in a very small, mostly sandy area. Cap Lahoussaye, popular with freedivers, is however not recommended anymore.
The coasts of Réunion are frequented by many dolphins and by humpback whales. While dolphins are present all year round, whales come to breed here only during the southern winter, from June to October.
Several diving clubs and tour companies organize boat trips to snorkel with them offshore when the sea conditions allow. These tours usually leave from the port of Saint-Gilles.
Despite their shallow depth, the lagoons of Réunion offer great sealife sighting. Over 1000 species of reef fish can be found there, including lagoon triggerfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, pufferfish, wrasse and small moray eels.
Starfish, giant clams, sea urchins, cowries, and nudibranchs are also easy to observe on the reef and seagrass beds. The coral health, which suffers from bleaching episodes but also from breakage on the most crowded beaches, is however very variable.
Réunion is not a prime destination for snorkeling with turtles or rays, but encounters with these fascinating creatures in the lagoons are more and more frequent.
For green turtles and hawksbill turtles, try your luck in Lagon de la Saline (near the pass), Lagon de l’Hermitage (in the seagrass meadows at high tide), or in l’Etang Salé (in the sandy areas around the boats).
For the rays, L’Etang Salé, where the semi-open lagoon is sometimes visited by eagle rays or stingrays, is also the most recommended location.
Established in 2007, the Réunion Marine Reserve now protects the fragile coral ecosystems of the island, and all of its lagoons, except that of Saint-Pierre.
On all the lagoon spots on the west coast, strict reserve areas (where all human activity – including snorkeling – is prohibited) have been set.
They are indicated by yellow beacons, and panels on the beaches allow you to find your way. These areas are also marked on the detailed maps of each spot published on Snorkeling Report.
Dive with us 👇 in Reunion Island’s shallow lagoons. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned on each sequence.
Snorkeling can be done all the year round in Réunion Island, but several factors need to be taken into account.
Water temperature varies from 70°F (22°C) during the southern winter (May to October, the weather is mostly cool and dry) to 80°F/27°C (with a peak of 85°F/30°C in the lagoons) in summer (November to April, hot and humid climate).
In October and November, conditions are ideal, but the coast has a lot of visitors. In summer, rain is more frequent, particularly during the cyclone season (January to March), when access to the water is sometimes impossible for several days.
In winter, the wind can be strong, making swimming less pleasant, and snorkeling outside the lagoon can be dangerous because of the waves.
Lieu-dit L’Hermitage, 28 Rue du Lagon, 97434 Saint-Gilles les Bains, La Réunion (France)
Located on the western coast of this lush volcanic island, LUX* Saint Gilles faces a shimmering expanse of aqua-blue waters, fringed by a stretch of immaculate sands. Tucked away in acres of beautiful tropical gardens, Creole villas sit in the shade of coconut palms and casuarina trees, just steps from the coral-sheltered lagoon at L’Hermitage.
Snorkeling spots nearby
123 Avenue Leconte de Lisle, 97434 Saint Gilles les Bains, La Réunion (France)
Relais de l’Hermitage Saint-Gilles is located on the west coast of Reunion, only 100 m from L’Hermitage beach and lagoon. The hotel offers 2 outdoor swimming pools and a tennis court. Each room at Relais de l’Hermitage Saint-Gilles is air-conditioned, and equipped with satellite TV and free WiFi. Most of the rooms have a garden view.
32 Rue du Boucan Canot, 97434 Saint-Gilles les Bains, La Réunion (France)
With its beachfront location, the Hotel Restaurant Boucan Canot offers you a panoramic view of one of the most beautiful beaches of La Réunion. A fusion of a preserved natural site with a typical Creole architecture, this greenery treasure is anchored on a basalt spur, beat by the softness of trade winds. Charming 4-star hotel, Le Boucan Canot in Saint-Gilles Les Bains opens its doors to delight your senses.
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Often seen in Boucan Canot; occasional sightings in l’Hermitage and la Saline especially near the pass
Common on all spots, even few meters from the beach
Rarely sighted in lagoons, take your chance at Boucan Canot
Easy to see at Etang Salé, frequent on other spots, like Saint-Leu, Saint-Pierre and l’Hermitage
Frequent on all spots, generally hidden under coral
In large schools on all spots, particularly at Etang Salé and Saint-Leu
On all spots
On all spots, but generally hard to find
Shallow lagoon with coral and reef fish
Level: Free shore access Resort nearby
Reef slopes with coral, fish and sea turtles
Shallow lagoon with coral, clams and reef fish
Level: Free shore access
Rocky pool with many corals and tropical fish
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