Several of our friends have visited Mauritius, and inspired by their experiences we booked a week of holiday on this increasingly popular island. If we had been able to fly straight from Maputo, it had not taken more than around three hours. But since no such connections exist, one must take the detour via Johannesburg, adding an extra hour. Anyway, a very reasonable travel time, compared to Fritidsresor’s long haul flights from Sweden. Now back home in Maputo we are really satisfied with the week, both with our hotel at the Trou-aux-Biches beach, as with the country as a whole. Mauritius is approximately two thirds as large as the island of Gotland, so with our rental car we could easily make day trips to other parts of the island.
Colonial Mauritius went from the Dutch to the French to the English before independence 1968. Most citizens are, however, of Indian descent, and there is also a significant Chinese population. So it’s a good ethnic mix, which is also evident in the religion: churches, mosques and Hindu temples next to each other along the roads. But everyone lives in harmony, side by side, a mood that also rubs off on us visitors.
This was the season of rain and cyclones, but the temperature was constantly at around 30 degrees and the sun shining for most of the time. We had heavy rain one afternoon, and light drizzle a couple of other days. When we stayed at the hotel we could use the hotel’s kayaks, when not swimming in the ocean. Once we went out with a glass bottom boat through which we saw corals and fish. We stopped at a coral reef a couple of hundred meters out, where we snorkeled among fish in all the colors of the rainbow. They did not hesitate to feed off of the bread we had brought. An fantastic experience!
In Maputo we have ocean view facing east which means we don’t see any sunsets. But since we were now on the west coast of Mauritius, virtually every day we had spectacular sceneries when the sun rapidly (”blink and you’ll miss it”) set behind the horizon… especially colorful the days when it had been raining.
Some days we were doing excursions with our car. The first time was to a wildlife reserve at the very south of the island, called La Vanille. They had a few monkeys, crocodiles and lizards, but the biggest attractions were all the giant turtles, some of which were up to 150 years old. The kids were allowed to ride on the biggest ones. On the way back we took a scenic route through the Black River Gorges National Park where we stopped at some beautiful lookout points at high altitude.
This road also took us to the small crater lake Grand Bassin, which is a mythical location for country’s Hindu population. It is believed to have a subterranean connection with the river Ganges in India, and therefore it is a sacred place. A goal for all Hindus on the island is to do a pilgrimage from their homes to the lake, once in their lifetime.
The lake is lined with temples and a number of statues depicting different deities of Hindu teachings. The center piece is an impressive 33 meter high Shiva statue. Our last stop on this route, on the way down through the Black River Gorges, was the rum distillery Chamarel. We purchased a couple of bottles (still unopened at the time of writing). Unfortunately, we arrived just as they were closing for the day, so we were not able to take the guided distillery tour. By the way, the entire island is like a huge sugar cane plantation, so it goes without saying that they are big rum producers.
Another day we made an excursion to the small island of Ile aux Cerfs, which many people claim is pure paradise. We had to take the car across to Mauritius’ east coast, then boat for 20 minutes. The island is actually uninhabited, and most of it is occupied by a golf course belonging to a nearby luxury resort. Near the boat harbor there are beaches that are undoubtedly very nice, but it was a bit too much of an ”Ibiza vibe” for our sensitive minds … beach bars with pumping techno music, abundant with sun loungers, and a bit too exhibitionistic, scantily-clad sun-worshippers. We definitely preferred our ”home beach” but good to have been there at least.
Our last day of the holiday also happened to be my birthday. For me it began with a nice back/neck treatment at our hotel’s spa department (well, in fact, a small hut with massage bench and relaxation music over the speakers). Then we went to a restaurant that we had been recommended from different people, Domaine Anna. Despite the French name, it was a Chinese style place, with fish ponds and small temple-like tents where you sat down at the table. The menu leaned heavyly towards seafood, and my grilled prawns were almost as good as here in Mozambique (a great verdict!).
Finally, I can not help but reflecting on how Mauritius differs from Mozambique. The infrastructure of course, with good roads that make it easy to go anywhere. And not to forget, the traffic police were out doing their job, assisting traffic, etc. Not for manning absurd amounts of radar controls intended to solicit money from drivers. And levels of service levels at restaurants. The food was brought to table withing 15 minutes, not the 45-60 minutes that is customary in Mozambique. And if you had ordered a Coke that was also what you got, not a Fanta. Karin has a theory that some of the differences relate to how the English handed over well functioning colonies at the time of independence, while – at least in the case of Mozambique – the Portuguese hastily abandoned a difficult to administer government apparatus, and a to large extent ravaged civil society. All dumped in the hands of an uneducated and quelled population. Tragic, when you think about how it could have been also in Mozambique.