The island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is known worldwide for its fat goofy Dodo bird and its most amazing white sand beaches – indeed it has beaches to suit and cheer everybody’s mood. Perebere, situated in the North of the island, with its white sand and green and blue sea is my favourite. However, as ODDITY representatives, on a visit to the island, we wanted to know what else lies beyond those beaches – and what we discovered was totally awe inspiring.
The bustling and buzzing capital Port Louis is in itself a microcosm of our world. It is a mind boggling delight for the senses – with the loud Azan (Muslim call to prayer chant) from the mesmerising landmark Jummah Mosque to the streets packed with locals shopping from the hundreds of shops selling all sorts of imported items including a variety of colourful Asian garments and a huge variety of European style clothing to suit everybody’s pocket. Also the streets of China Town just a few steps away from Place D’Armes are lined up with hardware shops selling mainly imported products from China. Le Caudan, the modern shopping mall by the harbour has shops with higher end-products and is also a cool tourist marketplace for pretty souvenirs. A great variety of restaurants can also be found in this idyllic shopping mall in the harbour.
The main food market of Port Louis known locally as bazar central, is also a very popular tourist spot filled with tumultuous arrays of sounds and scents that jostle the senses even further; all manners of local cuisine are on display there. The most popular one seems to be the ‘dhall puri’, which is a form of pancake made with ground chickpea stuffed in flour and served with a hot tomato sauce called ‘rougaille’; there is also a big selection of French pastries and gateaux. Popular drinks include the scented milk called ‘alouda’; fresh coconut water and fresh lemon drinks. Elsewhere a huge selection of seasonal exotic vegetables and fruits fill the market stalls.
During our stay on the island, we pushed the experience of the island life even further by staying at the Zilwa Attitude Hotel which is rather designed based on the islanders’ traditional way of living. The rooms have rustic designs with plain grey cement floors. Typical island flip flops and straw hats are provided to all customers on arrival. My fishing trips with the locals were arranged by the hotel staffs that were incredibly friendly at all times – the resort is huge and the natural beauty of its sea, sand and coconut trees is the main attraction. The food at the hotel was to die for and on top of that there was a big selection to suite everybody’s taste. The cosy and craftily prepared bed beckoned after a thoroughly beautiful end to a perfect first day.
Early the next morning we headed to the Trou d’eau Douce beach for a catamaran to the Ile- aux-Cerfs (Deer island) – the largest lagoon of Mauritius with mesmerising white sand and where we were to spend the best part of the day. Yet again the crew was very friendly and jolly. The whole atmosphere was incredibly jovial, our tourist group included people from Japan, Germany, South Africa, and France. The local traditional music called the sega was blaring in the background while we were welcomed with a variety of assorted drinks and snacks. I was very quick to find myself a relaxing spot on the catamaran and just sat down inhaling the air of the beautiful tropical sea. On route we also stopped at a location where one could choose to paraglide, and of course I could not resist the temptation! It was a scintillating experience to say the least. Later we were invited to swim at a shallow spot packed with colourful tropical fish- again I jumped in to the occasion without hesitation and persuasion as soon as the life jackets were handed out. Back on deck we were served with a freshly cooked barbecue meal accompanied by with a variety of alcoholic and soft drinks. We were then dropped off at the island of Ile aux Cerfs, which was one of the best sights I have ever come across – hectares of vegetation and white sand. In brief – paradise itself!
The next day I went for a hike on Le Morne Brabant (the mountain in the picture), which is also famously known as one of the wildest mountains on the island and declared a world heritage by UNESCO. It is a place where many slaves presumably committed suicide during their hard days of slavery on the island. The hike was moderately demanding physically, although there were a few sections of the trail that were steep and rocky and where I had to use my hands for support – we were lucky it wasn’t raining that day, otherwise it would have been tricky then to climb. I was glad to have my Oddity cap on as higher up, the spots were quite exposed to the sun. Reaching the summit was utterly fulfilling and the view of the southern west coasts were breathtakingly phenomenal. A great sense of achievement was felt once up there at the top!
Another unique experience – the Vanilla Crocodile Park, a lush green rainforest valley with natural freshwater springs surrounded with huge bamboo trees among others. In that park, there are thousands of crocodiles, all different sizes and ages. There are also giant tortoises and a few other harmless animals for petting around. I was by far most delighted by the huge collection of multi coloured, jewel like insects and butterflies comprising more than 30,000 species from 5 continents. I had the great pleasure to meet Mr Jacques Siedlecki who is responsible for this awesome collection, spanning over thirty years.
On my next visit I stopped at the Casela, another vast nature park. Situated in the west of the island, it has safari tours and exciting zip lining adventure which provides amazing views and a touch of adrenaline rush. I got to walk with the lions and fed the magnificent giraffes. There are around 150 bird species in Casela and a great variety of other animals such as monkeys, fish etc too. Beautiful exotics trees and flowers make the park a truly heavenly place to spend time – in my mind an ideal place for meditation. Feeling famished after such an exhilarating adventure – I stopped at La Bonne chute, a wonderful fish restaurant with amazingly delicious recipes. The setting was so airy and friendly and as usual in Mauritius, the service is warm and friendly. On my next visit to the island I will also add a morning swim with the dolphins in this same part of the island.
My last night was at the Angsana Hotel Mauritius – first floor in a luxurious spacious suite with luscious wooden floors and a private pool on the balcony – a very quiet and romantic place, perfect for relaxation. Needless to say the food was of great finesse on top of the atmosphere dreamy.
Without doubt we achieved more than what we expected. We wanted to explore what Mauritius has beyond the beaches and we were delightfully surprised by the exciting varieties of activities, culture, food and warmth. The great friendliness of the natives and the harmony and respect for each other’s’ faith were something very impressive to witness in this day and age of religious and social unrest.
Words By: Nariman Annut
Special Thanks: Hills Balfour