Mauritius, one of the world’s most gorgeous islands, is a vacationer’s delight any day. Mark Twain called it “paradise” while Joseph Conrad labelled it “a pearl”. Interestingly, Mauritius is not only about beauty; it is a beautiful island with a generous doze of adventure. Imagine this: you arrive on the island for holiday and your first encounter is with a man parading a long metal pin through his cheeks. No blood or pain, yet looking happy and ecstatic. Around him are other pilgrims, similarly robed and punctured…
Did I hear you say “Gosh!”? Yes, this is still Mauritius – the world-famous Mauritius – an island with a unique combination of adventure and paradise. What an unusual ‘welcome’ to adventure and paradise wrapped in one! So if you are considering a vacation with a mix of paradise and adventure, Mauritius is the way to go. Here’s more of what to expect.
Arrive Mauritius and begin with a drive across the island. Fairly big in size, Mauritius displays the ambition of the Alps. As you make your way round, look out for vast ridges of granite towering overhead at a freaking height of 2,600 ft. Yes, it’s so high; and most had good old pirate names like “The Bodyguard”, “Ramparts” and the “Three Tits” (or Trois Mamelles). Check out the gorges which had formed between these peaks as well as a delicious landscape of waterfalls, woodland and pine forest. You can’t miss the river whose falls is as high as the Statue of Liberty. Moving ahead, you’ll come across a mountain lake at Grand Bassin where the eels grow 6ft long. What an amazing sight it is!
So how did this all begin? Well, legend has it that the island was formed from a cataclysmic explosion, which occurred about eight million years ago on the floor of the Indian Ocean. On that fateful day in history, the earth ruptured and poured basalt into the sky. By the time the smoke cleared, a beautiful new world had formed, which is now inhabited by quirky plants, fantastical creatures and later humans.
Now fast-forward to the present. Let’s assume you are spending your first week in Mauritius at the edge of the Black River Gorges National Park. A wilderness of sorts, the park is so sheer and thickly wooded. Here, you’ll see lichens and astounding ferns not seen anywhere else on the planet, including the family of pink pigeons. Imagine going on a five-mile hike through the gorge without seeing a soul; yes, it could be that lonely, scary and adventurous. But not to worry, you’ll be fine. Go along with a bike to enjoy some exciting rides through the lava, by the avenues of mango and the great gingery fruit bats flopping lazily overhead. Interestingly, these bats are the last endemic mammals on the island, having survived hostilities from mankind over a number of years.
So you’re back at the hotel, a 12-acre stretch of luxury buildings and gardens built on a ridge, high above the sea. Try not to freak out at the carnival of birds congregating near you at breakfast. It’s their way of saying good morning. They include but not limited to pic-pics, weavers, mynas and the outlandish bulbus with their conical hats and bright red knickers. The geckos are also not left out, though they’ll prefer to join you at your private pool, in their wacky colours. Trust us, they make good company. Then at night, the forest is magically transformed into an opera as millions of love songs rent the air, thanks to the ‘Daddy Frog’ and the orchestra.
Your itinerary should also include a visit to the island’s “African” village. This is a special destination because many of the people here are descendants of the slaves brought during the period of French occupation (1715 – 1810). Many of the villagers here have kept their old slave names and you can visit one of the restaurants or corner shops to interact with the locals and get a feel of their culture, language and lifestyle. You can also order a sumptuous plate of octopus curry, served with papaya, for lunch.
Before heading northwards, stop by to enjoy the nearby sea. Hire a boat at Tamarin Bay for a ride to see the dolphins. Imagine yourself snorkelling among a school of 30 gigantic spinners. It’s like being rushed by a wall of gigantic sausage. Such experience is simply unforgettable.
Take a deep breath before checking out this site. It’s the great promontory – the spot that marks the tip of the island: Le Morne. Watch out for the deep gully at the edge of its 1,820ft summit. This site has some interesting history to it. In 1810, it was reported that there was a community of runaway slaves on the other side. If you’ll like to see them, you can of course do a bungee jump down the summit. (That’s a joke). However, the closest to a living thing you’re likely to see is a gorgeous whip-tailed bird: tropicbird. People say this must be the only seabird been hunted by monkeys.
By now, you’ll probably feel you’ve seen the last of wild Mauritius. Nope, you haven’t! Let’s head north for some captivating views of Mauritius’ endless savannah of sugarcane. The luminous lime-green plain, prickled with old chimneys and churches are incredible sights to behold. The roads meander like tunnels through the plantation and, at some point, huge pyramids of lava emerge from a distance. Unfortunately, what would have been a perfect habitat for the island’s fauna is occasionally burnt to its roots at least twice a year, possibly for land rejuvenation ahead each planting and harvesting season. What an irony of sorts.
Finally, there is no better way to end this adventure than a visit to the museum in Port Louis – the capital city of Mauritius. Port Louis is a bold little city, chopped out of granite and beautiful in all ramifications. Among other things, the museum parades a range of impressive dodo skeletons which looks like giant phoenix-headed turkeys. The sight is amazing. Another great place to be is the Botanical Gardens. Established in 1767, one of the unique plant species in the garden is the ‘Tailpot’- a beautiful palm tree. This tree flowers once its lifetime. It lives for only 60 years and then dies off. Interesting, you might say.
Generally, stepping out every day in Mauritius is an adventure and discovering of something new. Either you come across an abandoned village with thick roots prising its granite apart or a massive bat colony with thousands of blind bats, this is indeed one island too many. So have you been to Mauritius lately? Why not share your wildlife experience with us?
Sam Adeleke is Writer, Photographer and Brand Strategist at Afro Tourism.