Look at pictures of Reunion Island and you’ll find stunning white beaches with mountains heavily blanketed with trees. Luxury beach hotels are tucked away in private spots, giving vacationers their own oasis. But there is more to the island than meets the eye (at least when you’re on land). Reunion makes the ideal diving destination thanks to its fabulous location off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. There is an estimated 150 species of coral found in the water surrounding the island and up to 500 species of fish sporting many colors from neon pink to iridescent blue. Keep in mind, this doesn’t include the larger marine animals you’ll come face to face with off the coast. Divers have reported swimming alongside seals, dolphins, whales and sea turtles on their journey. The coral reefs are so abundant around the island that most boat rides to ideal diving sites only take five to ten minutes to get there.
Reunion Island has multiple diving company tours including Reunion Plongee, B’Leu Ocean, Bulle d Air and Bleu Marine Reunion that will take guests to secluded hotbeds of marine life. The tours usually includes a ride on a charter boat, scuba diving gear, an instruction course and a certified diver leading the tour. First timers may want to consider Wulfy Diving, where they offer 40-minute intro classes on all the safety protocols before your dive. With many options and operators on the island, it makes sense to plan ahead and decide when and where to go. While you can dive year round, it’s important to do your research and arm yourself with knowledge to arrange the best time of the year to go diving. For example, cyclone season in Reunion is between November – April and also brings forth lots of rain. Also, water temperatures tend to stay around 80F/27C from January to March and 23C/73F from July to September. Many diving companies on the island will tell you that between February to May is usually the best time to book your tour since winds coming off the Indian Ocean keep the island’s temperature moderately low and less rainfall is predicted. Water will remain crystal blue all year and it’s incredibly easy to spot marine wildlife no matter when you plan your dive.
On the east coast side of the island, divers will find an unusual surrounding of underwater cliffs, lava flows and caves. Despite there being no coral reefs on the east side, you will still see wildlife like batfish, snapper, surgeon and more. Head over to the west side (by Saint Paul and Saint Leu) and you’ll find a wealth of coral reefs along with millions of tropical fish. Divers are advised to explore both sides of the island for a change of scenery (also depending on your skill level). For the best and easiest dive (great for first timers), the west coast region off Saint Paul or Saint Pierre is the place to be as the water in the east can be more challenging. The east side is only suggested for seasoned divers since it will require strength to withstand the strong winds. However, expect the water to be insanely clear. For something worth bragging about, visit the Hai Siang, a famous sunken ship at the depth of 55 meters. There are quite a few shipwrecks scattered around on the deep end of the island.
Lesser known marine life are also found hidden in pockets of coral reefs and lagoons (they pose no threat when left alone) such as the moray eels, stingrays, crabs, shrimp, lobsters, mollusks, starfish, jellyfish and many more. Manta rays can be spotted as well and can reach up to 22 feet long! There is however a presence of sharks living nearby the coast, but they’re rarely spotted by divers. There are five species of turtles that are found looming around the island so your chances of seeing one are higher. If you’re diving anytime between June and October, you’ll get a greater chance to see humpback whales since they come to the island during mating season (mostly off the coast of Saint Gilles). Whichever route you choose to go, it’s sure to be an incredible experience.
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