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 the spots on Reunion Island are freely 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 largest and the best preserved 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. Continuing 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 Wild South (“Sud Sauvage”), where the ocean is far too dangerous to get into the water. On this volcanic coast jagged by the waves, it is still possible to go snorkeling in Bassin de Grand Anse and Bassin de Manapany, 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 not very interesting. 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 tours 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 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 suffer from bleaching episodes but also from breakage on the most crowded beaches, is however very variable. Réunion is not a famous 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 (they are also indicated on the detailed maps of each spot published on Snorkeling Report).
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.
More than 300 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
ADD A SPOT
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
Shallow lagoon with coral, clams and reef fish
Reef slopes with coral, fish and sea turtles
You must be logged in to post a comment.
(10 spots online)
(2 spots online)
(6 spots online)
(5 spots online)
(7 spots online)
(4 spots online)
(1 spot online)
Get monthly updates on trending destinations, amazing snorkeling trips, useful snorkel gear tips, and so much more.