Zilwa Attitude

'Island life'

Mauritius. Yes, it’s a little touristy (I didn’t get much of a say) but I wouldn’t say no to doing two weeks of…well, pretty much nothing!

In case you’ve not heard of Mauritius, it’s a tiny tropical island located in the Indian Ocean south of the equator. It’s a tiny country – no bigger than London; you could drive all the way round in a couple of hours. Historically it’s been ruled by the British and later the French, however today has a high Indian population as a result of mass immigration of labourers in the 19th century, most of whom sadly were slaves under British rule. Combined with the fact that it’s not far off the coast of Madagascar, the country features an intriguing mesh of cultures. The national language is French Creole, sort of a mix between French and ancient African languages. I was hopeful I could understand the dialect having studied French as a child, however it proved challenging to understand any spoken words at all, to my surprise (perhaps I should have paid more attention in class!).

Fun fact if you’re bored already – the Dodo was endemic to Mauritius until it was hunted to extinction by…yep you guessed it, the Brits. Quite ironic that the national emblem of Mauritius perished over 200 years ago.

So anyway, what’s there to do in Mauritius, I hear you ask? Well, the short answer is – not much! It’s an idyllic place for honeymooners (seriously I lost track of the number of couples) and those who prefer a slow, easy-going life as it’s so cut off from the rest of the world. Of course if you’re after some sun, sand and sea, it’s perfect. The climate is sublime year-round – it’s warm but not mind-numbingly hot like Borneo/Singapore, although a bit cloudy and rainy from time-to-time. I must have spent three quarters of my 2 weeks by the beach doing absolutely nothing, but it was a welcome break – 4 months of intense YapDot development + work had truly burnt me out. So in that sense, heading to Mauritius was a blessing in disguise.

There are a couple of days out that were memorable though. The first was visiting Ganga Talao, a breathtaking Hindu temple located high up in the mountainous south, characterised by the massive statue of Lord Shiva. Hinduism is one of the main faiths in Mauritius and there are temples everywhere, including outside many people’s homes. This temple, set beside a monkey-inhabited lake was a sight to behold; and the statue reminded me of the equally stunning one of Lord Hanuman in Shimla, India.

Ganga Talao temple

Ganga Talao temple

Nearby is Chamarel in the south west which forms one of the nature parks in Mauritius. It’s worth going for the great view over the the park and waterfall, although not so much for the “seven coloured” Earth rock formation (*tourist trap alert*) – I could only count about three!

Chamarel Waterfall

Chamarel Waterfall

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden

If you enjoy the sweet taste of sugarcane then Mauritius is your kind of place. It’s by far the main agricultural commodity there, and there’s a nice little museum showcasing the different uses of the plant, including as food, fuel and building material.

Port Louis, the capital, is also worth checking out to get a feel for Mauritian city-life. It’s pretty hectic, especially the market where anyone and everyone will try and flog their goods at any passing tourist. I couldn’t find much else to do there though apart from browse the occasional textile shop (one of the city’s main exports). The street food snacks were pretty tasty and reminded me of some of my favourite Gujarati treats.

Some yummy snacks straight from the back of a motorcycle in Port Louis

Some yummy snacks fresh from the back of a motorcycle in Port Louis

So, that’s a brief summary of my experience of Mauritius. The locals were generally friendly and welcoming, although many were quite reserved by nature. I was really taken aback by the cultural complexity in Mauritius and how different periods of history have shaped it’s contemporary attitudes. Many people we spoke with didn’t even know their family roots or their ethnicity, which I found unusual.

I wouldn’t recommend Mauritius if you’re after a short week long break. If you’re after sun, it’s just too far away – by the time you return after 13 hours in cattle-class from the UK, that holiday feels like a long time ago. Especially if you have to head back to the airport the next day to collect the correct baggage (oops!). If I was to return I’d probably combine it with a stop in South/East Africa to have a better balance between activity/rest. Quite honestly though I think I’ve sun-bathed through Mauritius’s best attraction for a lifetime =)

Where next for my travels, I wonder? Europe calling, methinks!















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