Paddling among tortoises

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If you have already gone on a boat trip to see dolphins, you would have surely embarked from Petite Rivière Noire. This small bay shelters quite a few tortoises, which some people are sometimes lucky enough to encounter. But they are mostly present en route to Ile aux Bénitiers, in a heavenly place called Ilot Fortier (Fortier islet). The name does not do it justice, because it is in fact a peninsula sheltering innumerable fish and a splendid sandy seabed surrounded by large immersed rocks. The place is ideal for paddling, even if strong winds make it a little more demanding. But the end reward is magical. Up until May, and preferably when the sea is calm, one can simply moor to a buoy and scan the sea. Initially, one only sees the vast expanse of turquoise water, barely rippling from a light swell. And then, suddenly, a large green head breaks water’s surface. A glance towards the paddle and us, the intruders, before the tortoise swiftly dives back under. We are forced to be patient, because the tortoise can hold its breath for extended periods of time before reappearing. Some resurface really close to the paddle. It is fun counting the number of dives and speculating on the place of the next appearance. On good days, one can see up to five tortoises on an outing. And the ultimate reward is paddling in the crystal clear waters following a young tortoise, who clearly does not mind the company. Even if the photograph is blurry, your memory will remain long-lived.