Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mesmerizing Mauritius


Mauritius is an island nation known for its unparalleled scenic beauty off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean (east of Madagascar). We had been to Mauritius for a week in October 2008. It was a family holiday that came together after months of planning and discussion as we had to coordinate mine and my husband’s schedules with that of my parents and siblings.

Interesting trivia...

  • The main languages spoken are Mauritian Creole, French and English
  • The currency is Mauritian rupee
  • The cuisine is a blend of Indian, Creole, Chinese and European influences
  • More than 50% of the population of Mauritius is Hindu.
  • Mauritius is renowned for having been the only known home of the dodo bird as a result of which, most souvenir shops in Mauritius bear the image of this bird on their merchandise!

Setting foot in Mauritius...

We arrived at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International airport on October 27th 2008.  The airport has been named after the first Prime Minister of Mauritius. Our hotel was in Trou aux Biches, located at the opposite end of the island from the airport. I remember the long and interesting drive to the hotel passing through stretches of sugarcane fields, parts of the city and tiny villages. We checked into Hotel Le Palmiste and spent the rest of the day loitering around the hotel. The day we landed was the beginning of Deepavali and we were pleasantly surprised to see traditional Indian dishes and sweets served at the dinner buffet.

The adventure begins...


The day began with a trip to a model ship factory followed by souvenir shopping at a few nearby garment outlets. We then arrived at the dormant volcano of Trou aux Cerfs located in Curepipe. We had a nice view of the landscape of Mauritius from here. Our next stop was Ganga Talao or Grand Bassin, a sacred place for Hindus in Mauritius. At the entrance of Ganga Talao we saw the second tallest statue of Shiva in the world (30 m high). Our tour guide Madhuri, a local told us that every year, Hindu pilgrims from Mauritius walk to the Ganga Talao bare feet from their houses. After performing prayers at the temple, we were ready to go to our next destination. We arrived at a viewpoint overlooking the Black River Gorges National park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that covers over 67 square kilometers of thick forest. We took pictures, bought some knickknacks and then headed to an Indian restaurant for lunch. After lunch we arrived at Chamarel waterfall where there were three distinct streams plunging down 100 m from the St. Denis River into the gorge. I have seen better waterfalls in other places so I wasn’t very impressed with this one. We then went to see the very popular Chamarel 7 colored earth. The colors formed as a result of volcanic ash are indigo, purple, pink, red, yellow, blue and green. We were blown away by the uniqueness of this place and I would strongly recommend it as a must-see place. Our stint at Chamarel also included feeding the giant turtles. After a very eventful day, we headed back to the hotel. The beach at Troux aux Biches was a short walk from the hotel so we decided to go there to catch the sunset. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day! 

Model ship factory
Volcano of Trou aux Cerfs
View point



Shiva statue
Ganga Talab

Black River Gorges National park

Giant turtles at Chamarel
Chamarel 7 colored earth








Sunset at Troux aux Biches

The tale of a beautiful city...

It was the beginning to a new day and after a leisurely breakfast we set off for Fort Adelaide (the Citadel), an ancient fortress built by the British to defend the port from invading ships. The fort sits on a hill, offering splendid views of the capital city of Port Louis and the harbor. We then visited Marie Reine de la Paix, an open church in Port Louis which has a wide paved walkway offering breathtaking views of the city. I instantly recognized this church from the various Bollywood movies that had scenes shot there! The last stop of the day was the Le Caudan waterfront at Port Louis. We had a wonderful time exploring the place, shopping and having lunch in an open restaurant overlooking the port. I would recommend trying the sugarcane juice there as it is supposed to the only place in Mauritius where you get it.

Fort Adelaide
Port Louis

Marie Reine de la Paix
Over-looking the city






















Amidst nature...

The next day, we left for the Pamplemousses Botanical gardens. I had heard a lot about the giant water lilies and wanted to see what it was all about. We spent the whole morning exploring the lovely Botanical gardens and by lunch-time we were starving! I remember going to the Happy Rajah Indian restaurant at Grand Bay. Once we got back to our hotel, we decided to go back to the beach of Trou aux Biches. It was a glorious sunny day and the beach looked even more beautiful that it did on our first visit. The rest of the day was spent cooling off in the pool at the hotel.  

Pamplemousses Botanical gardens
Grand Bay










Trou aux Biches

Grand Bay again

A slice of paradise...

This day was by far the most exciting and eventful day in Mauritius. We arrived at the Grand Bay to experience the undersea walk, a once in a lifetime experience. This included an underwater walk on the ocean bed and a chance to feed the fish. We were able to witness firsthand the magnificent marine life of Mauritius, the beautiful fauna, corals and a wide variety of exotic fish in their natural habitat. 


After the excitement of the undersea walk, we took a speedboat to the Grand River South East waterfall. We saw some very adventurous people dropping off the ledge of the waterfall into the water! The next activity was parasailing and so the speedboat stopped at a floating platform in the middle of the Indian Ocean where the parasailing gear was set up. We had a bird’s eye view of the ocean and lagoon and it was truly a sight to behold! We spent the rest of the day at Ile aux Cerfs beach, the most beautiful beach in Mauritius. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. We took loads of pictures, swam in the lagoon and had some refreshments at the Le Touessrok Sands Bar. By the end of this day, the scorching sun had given us a wonderfully bronze tan! With a heavy heart we left Ile aux Cerfs and got back to our hotel.

Grand River South East waterfall

Parasailing

Ile aux Cerfs beach
The most gorgeous beach



Time to be a roadie...

The last day in Mauritius was spent at Domaine de l'Etoile, located in the southeast of Mauritius. Domaine de l'Etoile is 2,000 hectares of beautiful landscape - green grass, trees and plants, hills, ponds, and mountains. We decided to try quad biking which was one of the activities that this place offered. We rode the quad bike in pairs and the whole biking session lasted more than two hours. The landscape being mountainous, the domain offered several viewpoints from which magnificent panoramic views on more than half of Mauritius could be seen - from the central plateaus to the Lion Mountain via the Moka range. After our ride we had lunch at the restaurant on the property – a delightful combination of Indian and Creole foods. We came back to the hotel and started to prepare for our departure the next day. 

Domaine de l'Etoile
Quad biking

Goodbyes are hard...

I fondly remember this holiday as the most fun I’ve ever had. Mauritius is known for its beaches but I can tell you that there is much so much more to Mauritius than that. Mauritius has diverse natural beauty, an interesting culture and wonderful people. If you are seeking to experience a slice of paradise, Mauritius is what you are looking for!  

2 comments:

  1. nicely written (as usual!) :) feeling nostalgic!! it was absolutely an amazing experience n a holiday ill always remember :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! That was a wonderful documentation with amazing pictures! It was nice to get a glimpse of paradise through your eyes :) Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

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