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Best Snorkeling from Beach & Tours in South-East Mauritius

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Mauritius Snorkeling Guide for Beginners

I’m not a local nor I’m an expert in this field, but I’ve spent the entirety of my 18 days in Mauritius looking for the best spots for snorkeling. I will not pretend that I’ve tried it all, but just want to share the results of my research, experience and of what I’ve been told by the locals. Due to the nature of my stay, this article is only limited to the South-East part of Mauritius. Fortunately, from what I read – this is the best area to snorkel on the island. I hope this guide will prove to be useful for any snorkeling enthusiasts visiting Mauritius for the first time.

Crown-of-thorns starfish feasting on the remains of Blue Bay corals. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Mauritius used to be an underwater paradise in the shallow waters but today it is just a shadow of its past. In Blue Bay Marine Park, just like in many other places around the island, a typical snorkeling tour might include feeding fish with bread. It attracts swarms of various colourful types of species like sergeants, parrotfishes, various wrasses and some other fish. Of course, like to any other animal, unnatural feeding does much more harm than good. We’ve been told that it is possible to grasp a bit of sand from the bottom of the ocean and use it in a similar matter as bread.

Even a reserve is in a very bad shape today. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots
The further away from the big beaches and hotels, the better chances for healthy corals. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Blue Bay Marine Park

Every local Mauritian you’d meet will say that Blue Bay is the best place for snorkeling. Justifiably so, Blue Bay Marine Reserve is designated as a wetland of international importance on the Ramsar Convention. Generally, it has a pretty big hype – if you want to see beautiful fishes – Blue Bay is the place for underwater beauty on the Island.

From the outside, Blue Bay still looks like a paradise. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

There is plenty of information on the internet ranking Blue Bay Marine Park as one of the most beautiful underwater places in the Indian Ocean but I hope this is rather an advertisement or outdated information than actual truth. I’m no marine biologist but quite a bit of the coral seemed to be dead and most of them are bleached, awaiting the same outcome. Needless to say, that hasn’t been so before. Many try to link the 2020 Wakashio event to the current state of the reef, but, sadly, it seems to have been like this for a while. A local scientist has told me, that the mass destruction happened around 2013. He has linked this tragic shift to the expansion of the airport, which, ironically, instead of increasing the flow of tourists might have the opposite effect due to the damaged beauty of the island. Of course, many factors had a play in the deterioration of the corals but he assumes that the rapid change required something swifter than the effects of the climate change.

Some parts of Blue Bay are just monuments of its bygone beauty. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

While the number of corals raises the imagination thinking of the beauty, Blue Bay once had, sometimes it rather feels more like a cemetery than a nature reserve. Despite all the doom and gloom, with time trying out different spots, I managed to find some beautiful colorful patches of corals with a wide variety of fish. In other places, new corals are rejuvenating on top of the old ones. Hopefully, for a better tomorrow.

– This is not a pretty story, but it is the inevitable story of death and life, – said the local scientist to us. He also assumed that either our or the next generation would be the last to see the coral reefs. Personally, I’m a bit more optimistic than the worst-case scenario but changes have to be made today. While reversing the effects of the climate change is a much more complicated thing, one easy thing we can do is to use less suncream, and if we use it – make sure it is labeled as coral-friendly.

The waters are so clear that one can see all the passages between the corals from a beach. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Blue Bay from Beach

After the first day of shock, I’ve learned to appreciate the survived diversity in the Blue Bay Marine Park. I would say that the best snorkeling in Blue Bay is from the beach further from popular tourist drop-off spots. I’ve marked the best spots for snorkeling on the map. They might be not perfect, but If you come to Blue Bay with realistic expectations, you’ll enjoy what it still has to offer.

Patches of Blue Bay coral reefs show the potential for rejuvenation. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Things to See

Blue Bay Marine Park has everything the lagoons of Mauritius has to offer just more. In Blue Bay, I’ve encountered every fish I managed to find elsewhere around the island. Some were much more plentiful, some I’ve never seen before. I was even (un)lucky to see a giant moray eel. Fortunately, it ran away from me as fast as I did from this gruesomely majestic creature.

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Blue Bay Gallery

I’ve spent over a dozen hours snorkeling in the areas around Blue Bay. Large parts of it are nothing but rubles and only some of it looks like a healthy corals ecosystem. This gallery might not represent the ratio between dead and alive corals in the Blue Bay area.

How to get to Blue Bay

Given that you didn’t travel to Mauritius by cruise ship, there will be no problem finding Blue Bay. The marine park is situated right next to the airport. It could be easily reached by car, or relatively cheaply by taxi from Mahebourg. If you feel adventurous, you can try a bus.

Blue Bay Snorkeling Tours

Blue Bay offers some decent snorkeling experience from the beach (spot #2 & #3), which arguably gives the best experience for healthy corals on spot #2, but only a boat will bring you closest to Blue Bay Marine Reserve. It is possible to get a guide on the public beach of Blue Bay but the results will vary based on your luck. I recommend booking in advance with one of the time-tested guided tours.


Mahebourg Coral Reef

Like most people, I came to Mahebourg to see the enigmatic Mauritian Clownfishes. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that at the moment they no longer live by Mahebourg Coral Reef, or, at least, where you can snorkel. Thus, we have to go to a nearby spot, where these charismatic fishes still could be found living today. Mauritian Clownfish, like any other clownfishes, are very territorial, therefore you always know where to find them.

The tour operator will make sure that you’d see Mauritian Clownfish. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Snorkeling by the local coral reef went just as we were informed by our tour guide, I couldn’t find a single individual of these species here. Despite that, the corals themselves looked in a better shape than the ones in Blue Bay Marine Park. Though, I would say that the reserve has a bigger fish variety, which are probably overflowing from the strictest parts of the park, where it is forbidden to snorkel.

Our guide, who happened to be also a marine geologist, said that corals are probably in better shape due to the lack of beaches in Mahebourg. I never realized this before, but sunscreens aren’t just harmful to corals but it actually kills them pretty effectively. As an example, the corals are dead near a very popular hotel in Mahebourg with the only sandy beach in the city. This also explains what I saw throughout the island, where I had an opportunity to snorkel. Random beaches have much better snorkeling than the popular ones.

Melon butterflyfish in the middle of diseased corals. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Finding Mauritanian Clownfish

It took quite a while to find these endemic and charismatic Mauritian Clownfishes. I had to come back to the boat, and ask again for their location and for estimated fish size. Maybe, I missed them under my nose. In the end, the guide had to pinpoint the spot where the Mauritian Clownfish was living at. Once we got close to its home, the clownfish was very quick to introduce itself. This little gentle creature was impossible to miss.

Clownfishes are very territorial, they will come to you as soon as get close by. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

I was shocked to realize that we’ve been brought to a single individual. the fish was a big 11-year-old Mauritian Clownfish living there all alone with anemones. It was a truly heartbreaking moment to see this gentle little creature without a hesitation greeting us in an attempt to needlessly protect its home. I’ve been told that there is a couple of other individuals living not too far, but generally, there should be no more than a few dozens remaining in the lagoon. Happily, there are more Mauritian Clownfish living in the deeper water, further from people. Still, their population have declined a lot.

One of the last Mauritian Clownfish individuals still visible to snorklers. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Things to See

Everyone comes for snorkeling in Mahebourg to see the charismatic Mauritian Clownfish living together with one or another species of anemones. While finding a Nemo, don’t forget to look out for other fish species as well. I’m sure you’ll encounter plenty – the underwater visibility is surprisingly good around the Mahebourg coral reef.

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Mahebourg Coral Reef Gallery

These photographs are taken during a single tour to Mahebourg Coral Reef. It might not do the justice compared to the other galleries in this article because I spent much more time snorkeling in other areas listed in this article. Although you might not see it from the photos, it was one of the best experiences I had in the island and given more time I’m sure that the gallery would have been much more impressive.

How to get to Mahebourg

Known as the small Capital of Mauritius, Mahebourg is very well connected with the other parts of the island. It is located right next to Blue Bay, not far from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport. The best way to reach Mahebourg would be either to book a taxi driver in Mauritius or by M2 Highway, connecting the central parts of the island with the airport. Road A10, connects it to Mahebourg.

Mahebourg Snorkeling Tours

From what I saw, many tour operators disrespect the natural order of the local nature and its ecosystems. Fortunately, not all of them are like this. The owner of Case Nautique Mahebourg is a scientist by education and his guided tour was a perfect combination between snorkeling and education about the current status of corals in Mauritius. I have no doubt that he would light a bulb over your head as well.


This particular patch of Palmar Beach (1b) was particularly nice for snorkeling and healthy corals.

From Palmar Beach

This public beach is located in very close proximity to the coral reef surrounding Mauritius, therefore it is possible to reach parts of it from the coast. Given the length of Palmar Beach, the snorkeling experience will differ from place to place but compared to most places from the shore – Palmar Beach is in a surprisingly good condition. I would imagine that it is so because the beach is absolutely unknown and mostly locals come here. While some of them don’t avoid standing on corals and damaging them, apparently it does less damage than sunscreen of sunbathing tourists.

Based on my experience, healthy corals is rather a very rare sight in Mauritius. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

I’ve even managed to find a small spot between some rocks with relatively healthy corals. In fact, it was the only area without any dead corals I’ve managed to find in Mauritius during my stay. I expect this experience could be replicated from other beaches which are relatively close to the coral reef surrounding the island and further from the big hotels. While the variety of the fauna living here is comparably small, snorkeling from Palmar Beach doesn’t give you the sadness of the dead corals. Overall, I consider this to be an amazing place for snorkeling from a beach.

If you consider visiting this off-the-beaten-path beach have in mind that it is dominated by Dusky Farmerfish. These territorial damselfishes will throw themselves into danger trying to protect their home. This behaviour is not dangerous to humans but must be respected and understood. Dusky Farmerfishes, in fact, are cultivating certain species of algae on which they rely on. Opposite of human farmers, these gentle creatures increase the overall ecosystem productivity in the areas they live in by increasing nitrogen, phosphorus and oxygen concentrations. Maybe, Dusky Farmerfish are responsible for the good shape of Palmar Beach?

Dusky Farmerfish by Palmar Beach. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Things to See

Generally, the fauna found in Palmar Beach is very typical for the island. While the local Dusky Farmerfish will look at you, look out for Moorish Idols, various butterflyfishes, box fishes, filefishes and other colourful creatures. I even managed to see Zebra Moray Eel and my wife saw some species of rays. For me, the highlight of snorkeling from Palmar Beach is healthy corals.

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Gallery of Palmar Beach Underwater

The diversity of fauna doesn’t compare to the usual suspects like Blue Bay or Mahebourg Coral Reef but it is very pleasant to look at. Palmar Beach corals make you wonder how snorkeling in Mauritius might have looked like as recently as a decade ago.

How to get to Palmar Beach

Since it is snorkeling from a beach, you don’t need a special guide or boat. Palmar Beach is easily accessed by car. If you decided not to rent your own, just look for one of the plenty taxi drivers in Mauritius. The price should depend on the location of your accommodation.


From the outside, all the beaches look similar, but inside, some contain fish and some are overrun by echinoderms. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

In Ile aux Cerfs

I wouldn’t consider Ile aux Cerfs a great place to snorkel but since I’ve seen people listing this paradise island among the best snorkeling places in Mauritius, I had to add it to my list in order to do it justice. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Ile aux Cerfs searching for a good spot to snorkel from the beach, but to be honest – I haven’t found one. You could hire a tour boat on the island for a typical underwater fauna in the area, but it would be snorkeling in the lagoon, not in Il aux Cerfs.

While there is not much to see underwater, the island provides majestic views above it. Naturally, Ile aux Cerfs has a wonderful setting for snorkeling, but with much fewer fish than in most of the places around. As I’ve written in my Ile aux Cerfs best beaches and activities guide, this island has a lot to offer. Ile aux Cerfs is a must-visit place in Mauritius but definitely not for snorkeling and it won’t be just because we wish so. If you think about it, the most popular tourist destination in Mauritius must bring lots of sunscreen into the water, which must have killed most of the corals a long time ago.

The amount of sea-urchins makes it challenging to snorkel around Ile aux Cerfs. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Things to See

The best catches I’ve seen were in the plain sand areas and not by the rocks or other formations. I found it a great place for the charismatic lagoon triggerfishes but also look out for some threadfin butterflyfishes around the rocks, trumpetfishes and other undersea sand-dwelling creatures by the long white beaches.

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Snorkeling Ile aux Cerfs Gallery

Overall, it is possible to see some colorful and interesting fishes underwater from Ile aux Cerfs beaches but it is obvious that the vast majority of the corals and their ecosystem has long been devastated. Swarms of sea-urchins don’t make it easier either but if you happen to be around it wouldn’t hurt to try snorkleing.

How to get to Ile aux Cerfs

Plenty of water taxis navigates between Ile aux Cerfs and the mainland in the area of Trou d’Eau Douce. Some hotels, like Tropical Attitude, offer it for free for their clients. If you are not in the area, booking a guided tour to Ile aux Cerfs might be the best option.

Ile aux Cerfs Snorkeling Tours

Any boat transfer to Ile aux Cerfs will give you an opportunity to snorkel from its magnificent beaches but your best shot for snorkeling are the tours that include both the transfer to the island and a snorkeling trip to the lagoon surrounding Ile aux Cerfs.


Map of Mauritius

Personal Experience

Snorkeling in Mauritius left me with mixed feelings. On a one hand, I was quite touched by the bad shape of corals around the island, but on the other – I had a lot of fun encounters with various fishes and swimming in blue, almost luminescent, staghorn coral labyrinths. While it is obvious that corals in Mauritius are no longer in the shape they used to be, this is the situation we have to live with. Instead of turning our backs and running away to areas with the remaining world’s healthy corals, we have to embrace the current state of the damaged areas. If we see the picture, maybe, there is a chance of protecting what we have left. After all, there is no one to blame for it but us, and only we can turn the tides by acting responsibly. One can call the island a cemetery of corals but snorkeling in Mauritius will reveal the reality.

I’ve tried many different beaches in Mauritius looking for what it has to offer. Photo by A.L. [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

What Can I Do to Protect Mauritius Coral Reefs?

All content and photos by Alis Monte. If you want to collaborate, contact me on info@ctdots.eu Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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