As a volcanic island almost completely surrounded by coral reefs, it should come as no surprise to divers that Mauritius is one for the ‘To Dive’ list. Known for pristine sandy beaches, gorgeous lagoons with crystal clear waters and adventure activities in abundance in the mountainous interior, Mauritius is well-worth a visit for both divers and non-divers alike. Named the Indian Ocean’s best diving destination in 2012, Mauritius boasts 330 kilometres of coastline for divers and beach-lovers to enjoy. Whale watchers will be pleased to note that Mauritius is a destination favoured by migrating humpback whales looking to mate and give birth in the winter months.
Although the island is only 45 kilometres wide and 65 kilometres in length, Mauritius has plenty to offer. It boasts 100+ dive sites, not all of which are reef dives as there are over 20 wreck sites as well as drift dives and cave dives too. Over 430 marine animals are located in the waters surrounding Mauritius, many of them exotic, brightly coloured tropical fish such as parrot fish, sweet lips, angel fish and clown fish. Beginner divers are best suited to target the sites within the shallow lagoon areas to gain experience in the calm waters, whereas deeper, more challenging dives are available outside of the barrier reef for more advanced divers.
Best Diving Destinations in Mauritius
Diving is possible all around the island of Mauritius with a large concentration of highly popular sites on the northern and western coasts. Where ever you choose to dive in Mauritius, you’re sure to enjoy variety, colour and an abundance of marine life. In fact, over 200 species of coral, sponges and anemones have been recorded on the barrier reef surrounding the island of Mauritius. Of the 20+ wrecks to explore, many are artificial reefs and so make for very interesting experiences.
This area of Mauritius is very popular with divers thanks to its regular sightings of large pelagic fish. The northern coast is actually made up of a few smaller islands such as Flat Island, known for its rough seas and large concentration of reef sharks. The underwater landscape in the region is one of impressive rock walls covered in coral, where colourful parrot fish can be seen as well as massive schools of roaming barracuda and dogtooth tuna. Gorgonian fans encompass a magnificent wall at a dive site known as Gunner’s Coin, where you are also likely to see large rays and a number of turtle species.
The Silver Star Wreck was once a fishing boat that now offers a home to a variety of marine species. Divers should take along their underwater cameras to capture the magnificent views from the swim-throughs at this wreck.
Another old fishing boat is that of the Djabeda Reck, known for its concentration of macro life for those interested in spotting interesting-looking leaf scorpion fish and nudibranchs.
South and East Coast
Although these sites are not as popular due to rougher seas, for drift diving enthusiasts these sides of the island are not to be missed. Many of the dives will start in the calm waters contained within the surrounding barrier reef and will then allow divers to drift right out to the open water. One site in particular, known to the locals as La Passe De Belle Mare, is a 2 kilometre stretch of indescribable beauty that offers sightings of large game fish such as barracuda, kingfish and wahoo. You’re also likely to see the magnificent eagle rays gliding past or menacing-looking bull sharks in the distance.
The south coast is home to the Blue Bay Marine Park, a protected marine area with much to offer. Roches Zoo is a deep dive that begins with a pinnacle at 40 metres and Pass St. Jacques is a drift dive that follows a very narrow path where you’re likely to see large pelagic fish. The HMS Sirius is an old wreck that was once a Royal Navy 36-gun frigate involved in the Battle of Grand Port in 1810.
One of the most popular dive sites in Mauritius is known as the Cathedral. Located in a well-protected area off Flic-en-Flac on the west coast, the site boasts magnificent arches and superb swim-throughs. An underwater tunnel takes divers along a narrow path filled with crayfish and shrimp and ending in an awe-inspiring cavern. The lighting effect in this Cathedral-like cavern is what really impresses divers time after time, as the filtered light coming through the narrow tunnel gives the cavern a beautiful glow. To add to this experience, dolphins are regular visitors to the site. Needless to say, taking your underwater camera along to a dive at the Cathedral is definitely worth the effort! Dolphins and the not-so-friendly-looking hammerhead sharks are known to visit the Rempart Serpent site, also on the west coast and aptly named due to the site’s serpent-like shape. Divers are also likely to spot lionfish, stonefish and moray eels when diving at Rempart Serpent.
There’s little mystery behind why locals have named our next site ‘Boulders’ – the site is littered with huge volcanic rocks and magnificent corals. A large concentration of moray eels makes this dive extra interesting and critter enthusiasts should be on the look-out for the many creatures hiding in the crevices between the boulders.
Stella Maru is a relatively new wreck site that takes the form of an artificial reef originally sunk in the late-80s. Now standing upright at 26 metres, it is a great site to discover macro life as well as interesting-looking creatures hiding in the shadows such as the deadly stonefish, frogfish and moray eels.
Getting to Mauritius
Together with the islands of St.Brandon, Reunion and Rodrigues, Mauritius forms part of the Mascareignes Islands which are situated roughly 2000 kilometres off southern Africa’s coast and 900 kilometres from the tropical paradise of Madagascar.
A tropical paradise in its own right, Mauritius is easily accessible by air, with the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport welcoming flights from Europe, Africa and Asia on a daily basis. Due to the island’s size, getting from place to place is as simple as hiring a car, taxi or bus and all of these options are quite inexpensive. To travel from the north to the south of the island, a major highway is in place which makes things extra convenient.
When to Visit Mauritius
With a warm, tropical climate and bath water temperatures throughout the year, it is possible to dive at any time of year in Mauritius. However, the most popular diving time is in the summer time between November and May due to heavy trade winds at other times of the year. Although summer is the rainy season in Mauritius and cyclones and storms are also prevalent, water temperatures are between 26 and 29°C and require only a 3 mm wetsuit at most. In the dry winter months, some divers opt for a 5 mm wetsuit, although the water temperatures are still fairly warm at 23-25°C.
Where to Stay in Mauritius
Mauritius has a very useful association known as the MSDA, or Mauritius Scuba Diving Association, which is very helpful when trying to source dive operators in the area you have chosen to dive. All operators associated with the MSDA are guaranteed to follow a high standard of good diving practices related to their environmental focus and concentration on diver safety.
Accommodation and dive packages are common in Mauritius and are a hassle-free way of ensuring regular dives through a reputable company, with all resources on-site including course qualifications.
Although liveaboards are not available in Mauritius, daily boat diving tours can be booked through the many dive operators or through mainstream hotels on the island.