Since we were “in the neighbourhood", we decided to go check out Mauritius after traveling in Namibia. Mauritius is almost the antipode of Red Deer. That is, it is as close as we could get on land to the opposite side of the planet from Red Deer. We spent two wonderful relaxing weeks soaking up the sun and playing in its warm waters. It is a beautiful tropical island in the Indian Ocean, surrounded by a protective reef. The surfers would be disappointed but it made for calm shallow waters for swimming. There are sharp rugged green mountains, expansive sugarcane fields, and turquoise waters all around the island. Although it was their winter, it was still 27 degrees and sunny everyday!
The cultural mix of Mauritians is interesting, with people of Indian, African, European, and Asian descent. The majority of people are Indian Mauritians and at times it felt like "India Light". Needless to say, the food was amazing. We couldn’t get enough of the yummy chicken roti from our favourite roti shack on the beach. English was spoken by everyone but french creole was the primary language used by the locals.
One of the funniest things about Mauritius was the driving. In parts of the island, especially on the east side, the roads were narrow. There was usually, but not always, just enough room for both lanes of traffic. Also, there was rarely a shoulder but instead a sharp ditch that dropped down about 2 feet. Seeing as there was no shoulder, people routinely just stopped or parked in the middle of the lane. No one seemed to get upset by this, as it was just perfectly normal to block traffic in one direction as you ran inside to pick up a baguette. You just had to get used to the fact that it took one hour to drive twenty kilometers.
We rented a house in Trou d'Eau Douce on the east side of the island for the first week. This side was less developed than the north and west sides and had a more local feel. Our house was right on the beach and we never tired of the views of the water and the swaying palms.
Our second week we spent on the west side of the island in Flic en Flac. There were more amenities here and the beach was beautiful with a a large buoyed area for swimming. There was even an “aunties” swimming club that met regularly to swim. Although the coral wasn’t in great condition, the snorkeling was actually very good and we didn’t have to go out far to see the fish. We saw loads of colourful tropical fish, and were lucky enough to see a few lionfish and eels.
We even managed to get a couple of hikes in, both giving great views of the island and the pristine lagoon around the island.
One interesting side note is that Mauritius was the home of the now extinct Dodo bird. The first recorded mention of the bird was by Dutch sailors in 1598 and the last sighting was in 1662. It only took 64 years for humans to cause the extinction of the Dodo.
Mauritius was the perfect follow-up to our dusty adventures in Namibia. Next.... South Africa!