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Marine life


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.


Brightly 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. The 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.

Photography by Natasha Constantinou


Some 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.

In spite 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.


Photography by Natasha Constantinou


Shell 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 handled carelessly.







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Content of Website 1999 by Mauritius UK Connection


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