LIFE OF MAURITIUS"
is almost completely encircled by one of the world's finest coral reefs. Through millions
of years this beautiful cluster of calciferous polyps has built upon a precarious foothold
on the shallow sea bed near shore to form a veritable underwater world - a vast world in
which thousands of marine species live, eat, work and die allowing the whole universe to
proliferate. A coral reef can only exist in sea water so at river estuaries and at
the sea's surface it perishes. As the great ocean waves break upon its extremities a
translucent white pencil-thin white line divides the deep blue of the Indian Ocean from
the iridescent green of the lagoon. It is this phenomenon occurring at distances varying
from nothing to a few kilometres from the shore which is the unfailing characteristic of a
real tropical island.
coloured fish weave though coral gardens, great moray eels lurk in caves and crustaceans
scavenge the reef amidst a riot of ornamental underwater vegetation. Organised diving
trips to selected sites can be arranged though hotel diving schools who provide equipment.
snorkeller can easily sample some of the ocean delights and need not stray far to gaze
casually upon the amusing antics of delightful trumpet, clown and box fish to name but a
few of the hundreds of reef residents. The less adventurous can experience lagoon life by
taking a trip in a glass bottom boat.
creatures command respect. Divers should be wary of the great moray eel and the lionfish
with its delicate feathery fins and the stonefish or
laff with its venomous dorsal spine.
Both can inflict serious wounds which, it left untreated, can be fatal. Species of
interest to big game fishermen, such as shark, barracuda, marlin, sailfish, tuna and wahoo
confine themselves to areas beyond the reef.
of the abundance of marine life, the reef has been overexploited in recent years. Studies
show that there has been a dramatic decline in population attributable to pollution from
domestic and touristic outlets, coral attacks by the Crown of Thorns starfish and illegal
dynamiting of the reef by fishermen. The Mauritius Marine Conservation Group is an
organisation set up to highlight public awareness of damage to the coral reef by educating
schoolchildren and the public by slide shows and lectures. Their work includes the
creation of artificial reefs by sinking barges in areas where the reef has been destroyed
thus providing a fresh habitat for marine life.
collecting has also resulted in a population decline and the sale of shells from Mauritian
beaches has been banned. Exportation by tourists is limited to tree. Shells found in shops
or those offered for sale by beach vendors are likely to have been imported from the
Philippines. The best time to collect shells is immediately after a cyclone. However,
certain species of the cone and
cowrie shells emit poisonous infections if trodden upon or