With its black sand and sea beds covered in coral, the Bassin Pirogue, a semi-lagoon located at l’Etang Salé, is an unusual spot in Réunion Island. Partly protected by a coral barrier, snorkelers can observe in the basin a large number of species, including stingrays, which are rare in the island’s other lagoons. Be careful not to stray too far away from the recommended areas, since the northern part of the lagoon is extremely dangerous (strong currents, waves, sharks).
The Bassin Pirogue is at the southern tip of the Etang Salé-les-Bains beach. The Pointe des Sables, commonly known as “La Pointe”, divides the beach from the Bassin Pirogue. From Saint-Pierre or Saint-Denis, follow the Route des Tamarins (RN1) and turn off at the Etang Salé exit. Continue towards Etang Salé for a few minutes. Park in the large car park with its flame trees and bar vans, which you will see soon after arriving in the town. Buses from the Car’Jaune and Alternéo networks go to the beach.
We recommend getting into the water in the boat anchoring area, near the small landing stage. Be careful, because there are a lot of sea urchins in the area, and the sea bed is stony. You should remember that once you reach the channel, the currents tend to carry you towards the open sea (that is, from the left to the right as you are facing the ocean).
The area to explore covers the inner part of the basin, between the shore and the coral reef (although it is not possible to explore the reef itself as the water is too shallow). In the central part, the reef is divided by a relatively deep channel, big enough for boats to go through.
The first few meters from the beach area are rocky (↕2-4ft/0.5-1m), but this is where you have the best chance of coming across stingrays, particularly near the landing stage. Criss-cross the area early in the morning to increase your chances.
You need to go a little further to reach the coral areas (↕2-4ft/0.5-1m). Black sand, purple sponges, mainly yellow, porous coral beds and long-spined sea urchins – if you have visited other spots on Réunion island, you will see that here the sea bed has its own features. The area is rich in fish: butterflyfish (including the yellow teardrop butterflyfish, with its bright yellow color), bannerfish, wrasses and triggerfish, among others, inhabit the waters. Giant clams, with their bright colors (green, blue, etc.) are one of the major attractions of the area. To find them, explore the upper part of the coral beds in particular, which are more exposed to the light.
Once you arrive at the channel (about 6-7 meters wide), the depth increases abruptly (↕12-15ft/4-5m). A number of species (including angelfish) that usually stay on the outer slopes of the reefs enter the basin through the channel. See if you can spot the moray eels that live in the reef drop-off.
Cross the channel (watching out for passing boats) to get to the newer areas of coral (↕2-4ft/0.5-1.5m). Here the sea bed is very well preserved. Shoals of convict surgeonfish swim across the area. The water level soon becomes too low to go any further towards the barrier reef.
The end of the basin (near the Pointe des Sables) is extremely dangerous (currents, waves and potential presence of sharks) and several people have drowned here. Always keep at a safe distance from the Pointe des Sables. Don’t swim in the channel. If the current gets stronger, go back to the shore. Ask at the aid station if you have any doubts about conditions in the basin.
L’Etang Salé is a lively town during the day and at weekends. There is a wide variety of places to buy food nearby (food trucks, snack bars and restaurants). There are no hotels on the beach, but a range of accommodation is available in the town. On the beach, there are free showers.
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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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.
Shallow lagoon with coral and reef fish
Reef slopes with coral, fish and sea turtles
Shallow reef with a decent variety of fish
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