Mauritius, Rodrigues & La Réunion. Part 1.
The African nation of Mauritius is made up of two main islands, Mauritius and Rodrigues. They’re 560km apart and make up two thirds of the Mascerene Islands. The other island is île de La Réunion which lies 175km South West of Mauritius and is a territory of France.
Although politically and financially part of the Eurozone, geographically Réunion is part of Africa and since I’m nearby I’m not going to miss the opportunity to visit one of the World’s most spectacular islands.
Our arrival in Mauritius was delayed by two days after spending the time in Johannesburg Airport Departures. I’d decided to take the risk of flying with only one page remaining in my passport and it back-fired. I had hoped to get more than eighteen months out of my latest passport but it was not to be either.
When we went to check in they wouldn’t let me board the flight despite showing them that I had an appointment at the Embassy in three days time to renew my passport.
“Get something from Mauritius Customs and Immigration saying they’ll let you enter their country and we’ll let you on the plane” “How am I supposed to do that at 7am on a Sunday morning?” was my reply.
On Monday I received a reply from Mauritius Immigration, which pretty much said, “of course we’ll let you in with only one page, come on over.”
At 7pm that night we finally landed in Mauritius.
With a three week wait for my new passport we decided to spend each week at a different part of the island starting with Blue Bay in the South.
We stayed in a guesthouse and the above photo is from our veranda. We hired a car and buzzed around the bottom half of the island visiting just about all of the attractions, as well as doing a couple of hikes in the national park to see the few endemic birds that are not yet extinct.
Mauritius has an horrendous history of habitat destruction and driving its wildlife to extinction, the most famous of which was the Dodo, which they wiped out within five minutes of discovering the islands.
Not long after that just about everything else was finished off by the usual offenders, rats, mongoose, cats and a lack of any remaining forest.
We visited Black River National Park and Ferney Valley where we saw wild Mauritian Kestrel which was once the rarest raptor in the World with only FOUR birds remaining.
As a last ditch effort to save the species, all four birds were caught and a captive breeding program initiated. Incredibly all four remaining birds were unrelated. Today there are 500 in the wild.
After a week in Blue Bay we moved to Flic en Flac on the Western Side of the island with the intention of having a week at the beach but we were beaten by the weather. Every one of our seven days was overcast. (Below: Telfair’s Skink)
The poor weather gave me time to do some more trip planning for the next few months and time to delete a few thousand photos.
From Flic en Flac we moved to the North Coast town of Pereybere for nine days, where finally the sun came out and we spent long days on the beach and of course continued exploring the island.
One of the best days was when we joined up with an Italian couple and went hiking to a waterfall. We descended down a steep muddy rainforest track for an hour, finally reaching a 30m waterfall.
On my second last day I took a dive trip to Round Island which is 30+km north of Mauritius. About all I have to say about that dive is, it was the worst dive I’ve EVER paid to do anywhere in the World.
Mauritius is certainly an easy to do, comfortable tropical paradise that is nothing even remotely like mainland Africa. The people were warm and welcoming. The maximum temperature typically hovers around 25 and the water roughly the same.
Around every corner is another perfect picture postcard view but dig a little deeper and its not as good as it first appears. I’m not saying it’s not good, just not as great as the magazines and paid bloggers make it out to be.
We’ve enjoyed our stay in this tropical paradise but its a long way from being perfect. People rave about the beaches but they’re only average. I’ve probably seen 500 beaches around the World nicer than the best beach in Mauritius. Australia alone has 500 nicer beaches.
Very few are any good for swimming. Most are shallow and lined with dead broken coral. The only good swimming beach we found was at Pereybere.(below).
The reef anywhere near beaches is dead and has been destroyed. Not that you can snorkel. Despite the water being tourqoise, once you’re underwater it’s that milky blue and you can’t see anymore than a meter or two.
Just about all the island has been de forested, the native wildlife exterminated and most of the island is carpeted in sugarcane.
After being on Mauritius for 25 days you get to know the place fairly well. We’ve driven just about ever road on the island, visited the best beaches, visited all the major attractions apart from the zoo and made friends with a few locals.
We know the best patisseries, the bus routes, how much a taxi fare should be, where the markets are, how much to pay for things and where to buy a good meal. It kinda feels like home but before I got too comfortable, my new passport arrived and now we’re off to Rodrigues.
Bye for now…