Diving and snorkelling in Mauritius is an exhilarating adventure you’ll never forget, but to make sure we can continue to enjoy this activity in the future it’s vital to protect this beautiful island: its seas, shores and wildlife. We’ve asked our friend, Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, a biodiversity expert at The Marine Conservation Society, to give us his top tips on enjoying our waters responsibly.
How should we dive around coral reefs?
Coral reefs are incredibly fragile and can take many decades to grow. Practise your snorkelling away from the reef, and be aware of where your fins are – try not to stir up sediment as this can smother animals living on the reef. Do not touch or stand on the reef or other marine life – even the lightest touch will damage coral. Ensure your operator abides by a strict code of conduct on marine life excursions, including avoidance of anchoring on the reef.
Have you got some quick tips we can remember?
• Don’t touch the corals. Corals make up a coral reef. They are delicate animals, and can die if you touch them.
Don’t hold onto the seabed unless in a current for safety.
• Watch your fins – and, indeed, dive buddies’ fins. If a dive buddy is getting close to knocking in to some corals, let them know.
• Be neutrally buoyant. Neutral buoyancy means you are able to move exactly where you want to in the water, neither sinking nor rising unintentionally. This helps avoid accidents with corals or sealife. Ask your dive instructor for extra help if you’re struggling.
How about photos?
• You can take photos (just don’t take anything else while diving). Be particularly aware of your surroundings when taking pictures (watch those swim fins) and be very careful with flash photography, which can scare fish and other creatures. Flashes can easily alarm fish – remember: the more relaxed they are, the more naturally they behave and the easier they are to watch and enjoy.
Anything to remember on night dives?
• Don’t shine torches directly into the eyes of sleeping fish during night dives. This can disturb and stress them. Much like flash photography, don’t stress the locals with bright lights.
• Don’t touch or harass turtles that are sleeping or resting – particularly on night dives.
How about the sea life itself?
• Watch out for poisonous creatures such as cone shells, lionfish, fire coral and stonefish – all found in Mauritius. Best not to touch. If you’re just paddling or getting to and from a dive boat, wear water shoes – also great for protecting against spiky urchins. However, please remember none of these creatures is looking to harm you. Just be aware and enjoy the amazing sea life.
And turtle watching?
• Hawksbill and Green turtles both nest on Mauritian beaches. The season for turtle nesting in Mauritius is between November and March. Check guidelines are in place for watching nesting and hatching turtles. Bright artificial light can disorientate hatchlings with baby turtles heading inland instead of seaward. Look out for local turtle education centres and book a visit to learn more about these amazing creatures.
What about souvenirs?
• Don’t buy any marine curios in shops whilst abroad. You can’t be sure if it’s endangered, and many are illegal to bring into the UK. Reef animals are already a gift – don’t buy them as presents.