A magical land of colourful corals, schools of barracuda, eagle ray and, in the depths, hammerhead sharks... For neophyte or seasoned divers, it doesn’t get much better than this, in an amazing lagoon protected by a double coral reef. The S-shaped channel on the eastern reef is still the most famous location within the lagoon. Just under three miles long, it offers up more than 10 dive sites visited by grouper, green humphead parrotfish, turtles, and grey reef sharks. It’s a true natural aquarium.
In N’Gouja, on the island’s most beautiful beach overlooked by tousled baobabs, we put on our flippers, masks, and snorkels to go swimming with green turtles at high tide. They love the sea grass that carpets the seabed, just a few metres from the golden sandy shores. Used to encounters with swimmers, they are more than happy for you to watch and follow them. Just one thing: don’t touch them!
Between July and late October, you’re in with a good chance of witnessing the spectacle of humpback whales leaping out of the water in Mayotte’s lagoon. These giants of the sea measure 11m to 18m long, and travel from the Antarctic to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean to breed. It’s the perfect chance to set off on a whale-watching trip with tour operators that adhere to a respectful charter for approaching these mammals.
Shadows flickering beneath the surface? Between April and June, it’s most probably a manta ray swimming along the reef. Further out, the fins of a school of dolphins make a boat’s passengers cry out in delight. There can be hundreds of them to follow a boat, in what looks like a friendly escort and occasionally a graceful ballet. These encounters with marine life, and the chance to drop anchor on Robinson’s islets, are the highlights of any boat trip out on the lagoon. Kids just love it!
A bird’s eye view of the lagoon is not something you’ll forget in a hurry. Islets buried beneath thick vegetation, fringed with a carpet of coral glittering in the light; shape-shifting sand banks that scratch the turquoise water with their gleaming white; entangled mangroves that scrawl darkly over sections of coastline, and immaculate beaches lined with coconut palms. And of course, this amazing double barrier reef, caressed by the ocean spray... Flying over the lagoon in a microlight will be one of the highlights of your trip.
Between land and sea, mangrove swamps are a mysterious, unique ecosystem made up of several species of mangrove trees that act as a nursery for a wide range of fish and shellfish. On land or at low tide you can walk between the mangrove trees’ overground roots, or even better, sail around their meandering branches in a pirogue at high tide. And why not visit Bandrélé where a community of women make mangrove salts according to an ancient recipe?
What better than a board, and oar, a hat, and a pair of sunglasses to explore Mayotte’s lagoon at your own pace, whether you’re feeling sporty or meditative. Rising above the water, you spot a dolphin’s fin, contemplate the cliffs and creeks that cut into the coast, and draw alongside a deserted beach accessible only by sea...