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L’Hermitage is the widest, most extensive and best preserved lagoon in Réunion Island. It is protected from the agitation of the Indian Ocean by a coral reef, and its shallow, crystal-clear waters (less than 6ft/2m deep), sprinkled with coral, make it the top snorkeling site on the island.
The beach lies south of Saint-Gilles, and is easy to reach by car. Follow the “Hermitage” signs on the coastal road (former national road, N2001) or the N1 expressway (Route des Tamarins, exit “Hermitage”). A large shaded car park, planted with casuarina trees, gives direct access to the spot. From the car park, turn right and walk along the beach for a few minutes. On foot, from Saint-Gilles-les-Bains town center, go past the marina, then walk south along Plage des Brisants for about half a mile (600m).
You can enter the water anywhere along the beach, but you might prefer the central part – the further you go towards the right, as you are facing the sea, the shallower the water is. In places, the sand is replaced by relatively slippery rocky areas, so you should be careful not to walk on them.
The area to explore is located between the beach and the coral reef, which are distant of 350 to 500 yards. The further you go to the right, the shallower the water is and the less coral you will see (replaced little by little by seagrass meadows). The further left you go, the closer you will be to the channel, which is a hazardous area because of strong currents.
In this part of the lagoon (entirely listed as a marine reserve), a total protection zone (with access strictly forbidden) is set off by yellow buoys. Don’t go beyond them. The information signs along the beach will let you know where you are.
As you move away from the beach, you cross 100 meters or so of sandy seabed with scattered coral areas (↕1.5-6ft/0.5-2m), which grow denser as you move closer to the reef. Make your way between the coral to reach the more preserved areas. 100 meters before the reef (↕1.5-3ft/0,5-1m), the coral becomes so dense that you can’t go any further, while the water level gradually falls.
In this area of the lagoon, the seabed is the best preserved. The diversity of coral is striking, and a large amount of animal life is drawn to the coral areas. Lagoon triggerfish, shoals of convict surgeonfish, cornetfish, octopus and squid are easy to see. During your explorations you may come across a lionfish or the redoubtable false stonefish, which is hard to distinguish from the rocks. Fire coral, which can sting, can also be found in some places. Don’t touch it, and as a preventive measure, don’t touch the rocks with your hands or your swimfins either.
Branching coral of the acropora type is the most prevalent in the lagoon. It is spectacular, but also highly fragile, and can be broken by a passing swimfin. Watch where you are going, especially when your way lies through narrow or shallow passages.
The lagoon can be explored at almost any time of year, since the waters are particularly well sheltered. In winter the wind forms waves that may make your return to shore more complicated.
There is a wide range of accommodation and restaurants on the site. Le Récif*** and Le Relais de l’Hermitage*** hotels directly overlooks the beach. A large number of food trucks and snack bars are dotted along the beach and the road alongside it, so you can get something to eat and drink at low prices.
Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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