Lonely Planet Writer

Tourists shy away from paradise isle following spate of shark attacks

Tourists are giving the paradise isle of Réunion in the Indian Ocean a wide berth following the latest killer attack by a bull shark on a rising surfing star in the French territory.

A spate of shark attacks has seriously hit tourism on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean
A spate of shark attacks has seriously hit tourism on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean Image by Alan Lee / CC BY 2.0

The  8ft bull shark attack on Elio Canestri, 13, at Cap Homard two weeks ago has brought to 16 the number of serious shark incidents – seven of which have been fatal – over the past four years.

The Daily Express reports that after the death of a 13-year-old girl two years ago, the island’s government imposed a ban on both unsupervised surfing and swimming that applied to over half the coastline of the island.

The latest incident however has led to a downturn of 13% in tourist activity with surf shops closing. Experts are baffled as to why Réunion Island seems to be a hotbed for such recent violent shark activity.

Two major local rival destinations – The Maldives and Mauritius – conversely have benefitted from the bad publicity over the attacks with more tourists ending up there.

A number of locals believe the opening of a marine reserve eight years ago is behind the sharp rise in attacks on swimmers and surfers. Others believe it has more to do with the urbanisation of the area. This has led to an increased level of waste water flowing into the sea which has created near perfect conditions to attract bull sharks to the region.