Over 480 ships have been wrecked off the coast of Mauritius over the last 400 years. Most of them have disintegrated or disappeared. You will not be able to dive Le Coureur or the Saint Gerain, the notorious slavers of the 18th century that foundered with their human cargoes off the coast of Mauritius. They are now just a shameful memory and a collection of artefacts in the National History museum. Treasure hunters pillaged many of the earlier wrecks until the Mauritius Government banned the removal of undersea artifacts, and began sinking condemned ships to create artificial reefs.
Most of these wrecks are within easy reach of the dive centres in the North, and a Safari trip to Coin de Mire makes a great day’s diving. You take 2 or 3 tanks each, the boat loads up with delicious snacks, water or juice and often a light lunch. Coin de Mire Island, so called because it’s shaped like the wedge or quoin that gunners used to raise or lower the barrels of their cannons, is a National Park, and the breeding ground for the long tailed Tropicbird. It’s a short 10-15 minute boat ride.
The Djabeda wreck lies at an average depth of 24 meters, from 20 metres on the mast to 32 at the keel, with dense shoals of fusiliers and blue banded snappers, scorpionfish, two massive Javanese Moray eels, rays in the sand and exquisite corals. It was sunk in 1967, and parts of it have scattered across the sand, offering additional hiding places for marine life. There is a pair of sling-jaw wrasses living and breeding there as well, worth looking out for them as they are uncommon. It is also rich in colourful corals and almost fully intact.
After 20 minutes on the wreck, you fin towards the Island and decompress for the rest of the 50 minute dive time in Confetti Bay, an exquisite shallow site just off the Island, where you have snacks and prepare for the second dive. Bliss.
The Silverstar is 5 minutes from Pereybere, but its much deeper from 39 to 28 metres. It’s absolutely stunning, because it is in the deep blue, resting on the white, white sand, and looms out of the ocean like a fantastical pirate ship. Wreck penetration is possible for qualified divers. You need a good torch and once you are into the hold, it’s almost sinister, but filled with crustaceans and morays. Around the mast there are massive shoals, with a resident school of spade fish and orbicular batfish. This is a huge wreck, with an intact propeller at 40 metres, plenty of coral growth, and is best dived with Nitrox, but you need to watch your computer. It was sunk away from the reefs, so this is a short but dramatic dive.
Stella Maru is an old Japanese fishing trawler was deliberately sunk in 1987 by the Mauritius Conservation Society to create an artificial reef, and it is almost fully intact. It has the aggressive oriental look of those Japanese boats you see in WWII movies. It’s full of shoals of blue banded snappers, giant morays and scorpionfish, but it is also a fabulous photographic subject. We recently found a hairy frogfish there, and huddled against a broken portion of the superstructure was a very small gurnard, that amazing little guy with wings and legs like a crayfish.
The Emily and Waterlily were sunk in 1981, and they lie in fairly shallow water. They are a superb example of how quickly soft corals can grow, and how rapidly they become home to a host of tiny sea creatures. Both wrecks are abundant with soft corals and tiny juveniles, creating a photographer’s paradise with white sand, blue water and lilac, purple, blue and pink soft corals. This is often done as a 2 tank dive, with snacks on the boat and a visit to one of the coral and reef fish infested sites in the area nearby.
Pics: Thanks to Abdul Khathlan for the pic of the shoals on Djabeda.
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