Warning – lots of reading to be done here. I have so much I want to share with my blogging friends coming out of my recent holiday in Mauritius that I have to exercise constraint in not writing a book about it. Plus it is going to be more of a basic travel journal than a design article.
I guess the first place to start would be to say that Mauritius is everything the travel brochures and sites say it is. The images you see are real and not hard to capture on camera. In fact because the natural beauty is so distinct, I don’t think much Photoshop work needs to be done. The beaches are lined with coconut bearing Palm Trees, white sand – sometimes as soft as velvet and other times, the broken coral can be quite piercing.
The ocean is crystal clear and the colours are true aqua. It dumbfounded me to think that this actually did exist. We stayed in the north of the island, best place I believe and our nearest biggest town was Grand Baie. All along this coast there is very little wave actions on the beach – it is like a massive lagoon or lake – still. The only real ‘waves’ are those caused by the wake of the speed boats as they whizz by with skiers clutching to the rope as if their life depended upon it.
So, we spent most of days lazing under the palm trees, swimming in this still ocean or just standing in the water – which is slightly warmer than Muizenberg. However, there were many cloudy days, with drizzle and even a bit of rain. “How could this be? We are talking Mauritius here!” were my thoughts. Only to learn another startling fact – Mauritius has only two seasons – summer and winter. Really??? No autumn and spring??? And our visit was in ‘winter’ hence the clouds. Yet there was only one day out of the 15 that I wore a light cardigan. And we decided that if this was ‘winter’ we would not want to do ‘summer’ – it is tropical through and through.
So, our outfits most days – swimming costumes, sarongs, shorts, sleeveless T-shirts and always – slops on the feet.
The natural environment is filled with tropical vegetation, plenty of birds (no sea birds though) stunningly bright flowers – everything to constantly remind you that you are in the tropics.
The people – incredibly friendly and relaxed. There are a few groups – largely Indian, Creole, Muslim and French, with most people speaking French, Creole and English. Religion is intrinsic to the fibre of their culture. I cannot remember the stats too well, but Hinduism is the largest, with Catholics, Muslims, and Buddhism in tow.
The accommodation – this small island is littered with Resorts Clubs and Hotels all around it. Then there is also the self-catering, which we did at our stunning resort. Other than the self-catering, every other accommodation offers all the sea and sun toys you could want. It is a real playground – if you want to play in the ocean that is. If you are doing self-catering does not mean you don’t have those facilities available to you – there are plenty of “tour operators”, traders and the like, plying their services on the beach each day.
That takes me to the traders – they trawl the beach each and every day, selling sarongs, beach dresses, jewellery, towels, tours, pineapples, samoosas and whatnot. There is obviously a lot of bartering that goes on. Something that took me a few days to click onto, but once I realised what I could pay, I got into that bartering mode.
BUT – let’s move away from the coastline with all its resorts and playground venues into the streets of the general population. This is a far cry away from the sun and the sea pleasure areas. This is where you find that despite all the developments along the coast, Mauritius is generally a Third World country in terms of general living standards. There is a distinct feeling of neglect in their streets and always a house/ building that is incomplete to be found – lots of it in fact. It was one of the first sights that I saw when driving away from the airport in the south through to the north of the island. Many of the houses and building are in a state of disrepair and it was hard to find ‘suburbs’. (Which we finally did on our last day – right in the district we were staying in). I kept likening it to ourWoodstock area – a total mix of old and new.
The streets are also littered with ‘general traders’ who sell everything from a needle to an anchor. Quite an authentic sight to behold.
Yet even though there is a distinct air of ‘shabby’ – it was clear that the people were not unhappy. This was just how they lived! There was a sense of community and participation happening out there.
So, once you scratch the veneer of Mauritius the Playground, you will find what I have just described.
There is still so much to tell, but I think I must close off now.
The Highlight of my trip – snorkelling and the sunsets. This is ‘other world stuff’ – completely. You pop on the snorkel, mask and flippers, drop your head into the water – and there it is – the world below the surface. Full of breathtakingly beautiful live coral (so different from my expectations) and fish that feed of this coral. All shapes, sizes and colours. I called some of them Nemo fish. To top it, I saw a turtle and a Sea Eel (rare sight this eel).
Finally – the sunsets – well we used to sit and watch these amazing sights as often as we could, just drinking it in. Here at Clifton and on the West Coast we have totally amazing sunsets, but those we experienced in Mauritius had gentleness about them. Like being tranquillized. Our last night there, we sat drinking in this experience in not wanting it to end.
Yes – plenty more to tell, but that will have to do for the moment. Fabulous place!
I would recommend a holiday there – and you can definitely do it budget style. You just have to research and time it carefully.