So, you’re off to the Indian Ocean for your next vacay. You must be dreaming of those honeymoon sunsets by the infinity pool, the cotton-white bays, and the resplendent coral reefs? We can hardly blame you. However, before you get lost in the wanderlust, it might be worth swatting up on a few of the most dangerous animals in Mauritius…
There are quite a number dotting the island’s jungles, whizzing through its balmy airs, and patrolling the crystalline waters that slosh around its reefs. They range from colossal sharks to miniature fliers that you could swat in a moment if only you could catch them. The thing that ties them all together? Each has the potential to spoil a trip.
Yep, this guide to the most dangerous animals in Mauritius is all about showcasing five creatures that you’ll want to watch out for. Whether you’re off on a honeymoon or a hiking adventure, a scuba trip or some hard-earned solo R&R, it’s the list of fauna you probably won’t want to encounter.
The stonefish is the great rogue of the underwater world. Capable of hiding in plain sight, they have a camouflage that, just as the name implies, renders them nothing more than just a bump in the rocky seabed to the naked human eye, not to mention all sorts of other prey and predators. They are officially hailed as the “world’s most venomous fish,” and are unquestionably up there with the most dangerous animals in Mauritius.
Yep, the animal’s penchant for rock and coral gardens means it’s just about found heaven on Earth in the reef-ringed archipelago of Mauritius. They are thought to be prevalent all over the islands, but especially in heavily protected reef areas like Trou aux Biches, Cap Malheureux, and the lagoons of Case Noyale further south. It’s difficult to know exactly how many make their home here because they are such maestros of stealth that no reliable population numbers can be recorded year on year.
But, unlike the more feared sharks of the salty world, Stonefish don’t actively go out to attack humans. Instead, you have to go to them. Incidents occur when swimmers or snorkelers accidentally step on one of the creatures…
A run of spiny fins down the back can easily pierce the skin and inject the potent venom, which is an unusual verrucotoxin blend that can cause hyperventilation and shutdown of the cardiovascular system. The fish also has a special spine called an achrymal saber that it can extend further from its body when it feels threatened.
If left untreated, stonefish attacks can kill. However, the good news is that deaths are extremely rare, mainly thanks to an efficient anti-venom that can counteract the worst effects of being stung. However, there have been incidents in Mauritius, including one back in 2011 that all but ruined the perfect honeymoon trip for one particular traveler.
Like the stonefish before it, the lionfish is one of the dangerous animals in Mauritius that you’ll need to be wary of when you dive into the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Also known as the firefish or the butterfly cod, these guys aren’t the camo masters that their compadres are, though. In fact, they are flamboyantly noticeable while swimming, with alternating red and white stripes (hence the lion moniker) and flowing fins that extend well past the main body. They only usually disappear when tucked in between rusty corals and in nooks and crannies on the reef.
The good news is that lionfish aren’t as dangerous as stonefish. Not quite, anyway. They have the same row of venom-loaded spines down the back – more of them, in fact. It’s just that the venom itself is just a touch more forgivable. That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park. These guys can still wreak havoc on the central nervous system, causing vomiting, fever, pins and needles sensations, and dizziness. An attack is also said to be extremely painful, while complications in allergic or highly reactive patients can lead to death in rare cases.
On top of all that, the lionfish has been called the most invasion sea species in the world. It’s endemic to the seas around Mauritius itself, having started life in the Indo-Pacific. However, these days, its numbers span from the far Sulu Sea near the Philippines all the way to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, where scientists say they are upending the natural organization of the marine food chain. Not good at all!
That even led to a campaign to get people to eat the fish back in 2010 and there are still ongoing efforts to try to increase the numbers that are being caught and sold. The taste is described as light and butter-like, although the fish is said to be a touch tricky to prepare.
No list of the most dangerous animals in Mauritius could possibly skip out on the perennially damaging mosquito. This is a creature that’s arguably wrought more havoc on the tourism industry of these islands than any other. It’s responsible for outbreaks of potentially deadly exotic ailments that have the power to keep tourists at bay for months and months on end.
That’s happened in the past when a surge of chikungunya tore through the Mascarene Islands, most recently in 2006. Usually abbreviated to CHIKV, it’s a disease caused by a virus transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and the Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, both of which are found in this corner of the Indian Ocean, both of which have the noticeable white-and-black striping color scheme across the body.
Symptoms of chikungunya start within 12 days of being bitten in most cases. Initially, they are flu-like – including high fever and joint pains – and often mistaken for malaria or dengue. Later, they can branch out to cause rashes on the extremities and never-ending headaches. There’s an estimated 1/1000 mortality rate, but even patients that recover report some symptoms lasting for years!
There is little to no risk of malaria in Mauritius and very little risk of dengue fever on the island of Rodrigues, although some throughout the other islands. That said, it’s always a good idea to take precautions against these flying menaces. Cover up at key biting times like dusk and dawn, take a mozzie repellant spray, and try to avoid staying near open water.
Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrnidae)
Hammerhead sharks are one of the most iconic ocean dwellers out there. Known for the remarkable shape of their frontal lobe, they patrol the salt waters from the African capes all the way to Australia and South America. They are also known to be present in the H2O around Mauritius, although sightings are very rare (we’ll get to why a little later…).
Capable of growing up to a human-dwarfing six meters from snout to fin, they are among the larger of the shark species on the planet. The great cephalofoil head is the defining characteristic, allowing for 360-degree vision to keep an eye out for prey and rare predators. During the day, it’s thought that hammerheads hunt in large groups of up to 100 at a time, and they also tend to stick to shallower coastal waters that are a little warmer than the deep seas.
Now, if you’ve seen the map of the region around Mauritius then you might have noticed just how close Reunion Island is. That could strike fear into the hearts of would-be travelers, since that small isle with its meagre 128 miles of shoreline has the dubious honor of counting the highest rate of shark attacks on the globe – a whopping 27 fatal attacks since 1913. Yikes!
Well…not so fast. Mauritius has a natural shark barrier thanks to the shallow rock and coral reef shelf that rings almost all its beaches. That all but keeps most shark species at bay, although there have been a couple of alerts in the last decade that’s emptied the white sands of swimmers and sunbathers, so it’s not totally void of risk.
Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
The tiger shark is just as fearsome as its namesake land hunter. These apex predators have been attributed the blame for a great number of the fatal attacks on humans over the last couple of decades. That’s down to a few things, from their naturally aggressive nature to their preponderance for staying close to the shoreline around beaches and bays.
Now, the same natural reef shark barrier that keeps the aforementioned hammerhead away from the sands of Mauritius applies here, which is why incidents are rare along the white-tinged coastline of this honeymoon mainstay. However, it’s worth knowing that tigers are in the waters nearby, especially since they’re known to be the force behind a handful of the most prominent attacks on next-door Reunion Island.
It’s hard to miss a tiger. They can grow a mega 4.5 meters at full adulthood and look the quintessential shark species you’ve seen on TV. That means two rows of jagged, serrated teeth, and a top fin that might or might not protrude from the water Jaws-style in the run up to an attack. Usually found in tropical and subtropical areas, these guys patrol most of the globe, from Japan to New Zealand to the Mexican Gulf.
The most dangerous animals in Mauritius – a conclusion
This list of the most dangerous animals in Mauritius touches on five that we think rank among the most formidable in this nation famed for its paradise coves and see-through seas. There are some that are relegated to the reefs, like the poison-touting stonefish and the lionfish, some that only exist out in the open ocean, like the big tiger shark, and others that you’ll always need to watch out for, no matter where you travel in the tropics.