Delightful coral reefs protect the white sandy beaches of Mauritius, one of the Mascarene Islands, from the warm waves of the Indian Ocean

 

Volcanoes that uplifted the island from the ocean bed went extinct about 20,000 years ago. Since then, their cones have been heavily eroded, but the ragged contours of the mountains are still impressive. Cliff peninsula Le Morne Brabant has even been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: from a bird’s eye view one may spot an illusionary 'underwater waterfall' at its feet – a unique phenomenon, formed on the reef by sanding and currents.

In 1598, the Dutch settled on Mauritius (and immediately planted sugarcane), they were later replaced by Frenchmen, who imported black slaves here, and Frenchmen were replaced by Englishmen, who employed Indian workers. As a result, the island’s multi-ethnic population speaks French, Creole Hindi, and English. Another language is the language of the Sega Dance, symbolizing abolition of slavery.

The highest point in Mauritius, peaking 828 meters above sea level, is called the Piton De La petite Riviere Noire, i. e. ‘a peak of the small Black River’ (which is not to be confused with a python – there are no dangerous reptiles on the island).

Other crops besides sugarcane are cultivated here: tea, corn, coconut and spices, including vanilla. Some modestly looking packed vanilla pods make a good souvenir similar to a dodo or rum: during cold winter evenings just unpack it, close your eyes and the sweet aroma will shortly send you back to the island.

A flightless bird dodo is a symbol of Mauritius. It is depicted on the country's coat of arms and coins. There are millions of dodo souvenirs. The dodo bird became extinct in about one hundred years after the first human landing: it was last spotted in 1662.

Sugarcane plantations cover around 45% of the island’s territory. And where there is sugarcane, there is rum. Local rum distilleries offer an impressive range of products, including strong distillate aged in oak barrels (3–25 years), as well as vanilla and other spices-infused rum.

A catamaran ride to Île Plate and Ilot Gabriel combines three amusements in one: ocean wave jumping in open waters, snorkeling in a secluded bay coupled with watching flight of a long-tailed tropicbird, and ultimately – a picnic and a wild beach bathing.

The major attractions in La Vallee des Couleurs Nature Park are a 100-meter-high Chamarel Waterfall and colored earth (scientists found here 23 hues of dune sands). Basalt sand, clay, volcanic ash – all these colors move, but never mix. It is a unique phenomenon worldwide.

Crowded and trafficked Port Louis – the island’s capital and a large seaport – is certainly worth paying a visit, but there is no sense in a prolonged stay. A walk along a well-trodden path would be sufficient: luxurious Le Caudan Waterfront with malls and boutiques, central market with eye-catching fruits, vegetables and spices stands; probably – the Blue Penny Museum exhibiting one of the world’s most expensive post stamps, and eventually Fort Adelaide with ramparts offering a view to the capital city from above.

Three encounters

  • Contrary to a popular belief, giant turtles are not native to the island – they were brought from the Seychelles. Seamen took these reptiles onboard as living preserves. Nowadays, turtles live in parks and in the grounds of some hotels.
  • A motorboat will deliver you to the place in the ocean where dolphin pods are likely to appear. If they do, wait for the captain’s order and dive immediately – now you are swimming among wild dolphins, which is miracle to be seen in beautiful dreams.
  • Casela adventure park’s coolest experience is a walk with lions. The enclosure is so large, it is as if you are entering a real forest. Tourists can stroke the lions and take pictures with them, albeit under the supervision of experienced rangers.
 

Text: Olga Savelieva

Published on: August 24, 2018