An island retreat. So… The initial plan, travel plan, was to do Madagascar. Actually, there was no plan. Woke up one day and decided that this would be the year that I would start all the travelling I’d been drooling about my entire life. It was on some Thursday afternoon that I sent my sister an e-mail saying something like, “we have to do Madagascar”. I should have known better than to send HER an e-mail and not expect an immediate plan of action. The following day, she wrote back: “Let’s do it nowwwwwwwwwww.” We couldn’t find a package to Madagascar soon enough, so Mauritius was the next best thing. Five days later, we were on a plane to L’ile Maurice (French for “Mauritius”).
The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the coast of the African continent in the south west Indian Ocean, about 900km east of Madagascar (source: Wikipedia). If you didn’t know this before, Mauritius is known to be the only known home of the dodo. I didn’t know this till I got there. Practically every souvenir comes in some shape or form of the extinct bird. There is little else that is distinct about Mauritius. Perhaps this is true of most islands. I suppose it is, because I never quite thought about what it would all mean for us, my sister and I that is, to be alone on an island. Being on that island alone is probably best compared to what Whoopi Goldberg and Angela Basset’s characters experienced in Jamaica in that movie, How Stella Got Her Groove Back. The funny thing is that, while you imagine that is what you might want out of an island getaway, it is really not all that enticing when it actually happens. So there were many potential Winston’s but we didn’t bite. Wait. I take back that Winston bit. Winston, in the movie, was slick. He was dark. He was incredibly handsome, enchanting with a Colgate smile. Winston was haart! What we encountered in Mauritius were scavengers. We got to our hotel around 2 o’clock in the morning and were welcomed by a skinny little man, who seemed rather eager to show us a good time. We hadn’t spent a minute at the place before he was offering to bring us a drink and have a party in OUR room. The skinny little man I’m talking about, mind you, is the hotel “help”.
“I get off at 3am,” he said. “Let’s party.” He said… Something like that. The waiters at breakfast were similarly indiscreet. These grown men giggled like little kids when they spoke to us, sending all kinds of sexual innuendos. ARGH! It wasn’t so much that they weren’t particularly good looking, but rather that they weren’t all that charming that was even more annoying about them. One thing one realises very quickly about Mauritius is that there really isn’t much to do, nothing particularly Mauritian, and not much to see. It’s an island, and we soon realised what people do best on an island is chill. Our first day in Mauritius; we decided to take a cab north-west to Port Louis – the capital city of Mauritius. We were staying in one of the beach hotels along the east coast called Le Coco Beach. My sister’s former boss had recommended Port Louis, insisted that whatever else happens, Port Louis was not to be missed.
Well, we went, we saw, and wondered what the big deal was. There isn’t anything particularly fascinating about the capital. We ventured in to the city deep and found a flea market and attempted to do a bit of shopping but got mobbed by the sales people and lost our appetite. The vendors really make you despise being a tourist. You can’t tell them that you are just looking at something without having them suggest a hundred other items for you to buy. This would all be bearable if they were actually offering you good prices. Things are super expensive on the island. You get quoted in euros even though the country has its own Mauritian rupees. And even though the rand is a stronger currency than the local currency, you just can’t justify spending any money there because everything is so costly.
What’s worse is that there really isn’t anything special about the goods that are sold there. The merchants sell the same designer labels you can find almost anywhere in the world, just at a seemingly higher rate. We went searching for some distinctly Mauritian goods. We didn’t find any. The only thing I ended up buying in Mauritius was tea. Tea and sugar cane are the big commodities in the country and tourism is the country’s livelihood. There’s not much else to say about the economy there. After our adventure in the city centre, we had lunch and a drink at Black Steer by the Waterfront, the set up is quite similar to what we have in Cape Town. It really is like little South Africa there. The Black Steer was a little disappointing though. We had to order drinks from the restaurant downstairs because they didn’t have any cocktails, any long island ice tea, and not even southern comfort and lime bru. The worst about Mauritius was over that day. We travelled back to the hotel and went for a dip in the sea, had sundowners and it all started to make sense. This is what an island holiday is all about, just chill-relaxing. The evening was a little ruckus. The hotel had an island party of sorts with hip hop, R&B and a lot of house music. It was fabulous.
We spent the rest of our time on the island just lounging. We went on a day cruise in the ocean. There is something about the sea that just…well you can’t quite get bored with it really. We got treated to a braai on the boat. Truly speaking, the braai was mediocre, but it didn’t’ matter, we were on a boat, cruising in the sea. Nothing else matters when you have that. I had my first dip at snorkelling. It took me some time to work the mouth piece bit. Think I swallowed quite a bit of salt water that day, it was well worth it. The world under the sea is truly unimaginable. You can almost see the plant life taking in its breath; fish in their natural habitat are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before – truly amazing. Think; Nemo as a real fish. I also went parasailing. I must say thought, the excitement before the flight was far more thrilling than the actual activity. I suppose it is because I expected a rush similar to bungee jumping. This was more like flying and the view from the air was sweet. Our last night in l’ile Maurice was spent sipping on cocktails and dancing till our clothes were soaked in our bodily fluids. Hahaha. We met an incredibly beautiful young woman from Reunion who was on holiday with her family. She says Reunion has far more character; we plan to go there next.
Photographer: Tebogo Serobatse