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Mauritius, Paradise Island of the Indian Ocean: Country of Contrasts; Nature, People, Infrastructure, Weather, Tourism

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I love visiting places unknown, at home and abroad. Learning about history and traditions helps us understand the world around us.

Map of Mauritius

Mauritius with main towns

Mauritius with main towns

Where is Mauritius?

I knew it was a popular tropical island holiday destination but had to look at a map for its precise location. Find Mozambique on the east coast of Southern Africa, fly due east over Madagascar, and the Republic of Mauritius will appear as a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean. It is geographically part of East Africa.

Our visit was a last minute decision to experience somewhere totally new, totally tropical. We were in the south-east, near the airport, between Mahébourg and Blue Bay (a little to the south).


Size

The island of Mauritius covers a mere 790 square miles, has a coastline of 330 kilometres, with a population of 1.263 million (in 2016). It is 45km wide and 65km long.

Formerly a Dutch colony (1638-1710) and a French colony (1715-1810), Mauritius became a British colonial possession in 1810 and remained so until 1968, the year in which it became independent.


Colourful Flag + Motto with Dodo, Stag & Sugar Cane

Mauritian Flag

Mauritian Flag

Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms

Motto

Its motto is ‘Star and Key of the Indian Ocean’. Three languages are spoken here; English, French and Mauritian Creole. Mauritius is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the largest religion. The administration uses English as its main language, though it seems French is more commonly used by the man in the street.


Contrasts

Mauritius is small but has a big heart. I have visited just once and found in those five days that you should never be surprised by the unexpected or the unconventional.

It has wondrous beaches, lagoons and reefs, a dormant volcano, dramatic verdant scenery in the Black River Gorges National Park and activities which cover chilling out, hiking or flying across ravines. It has rainforests, waterfalls and much wildlife - a rare bird called the Mauritius Fody and the flying fox. It has soothing, crystal-blue waters and shouting vibrant colours.

It has riches and poverty sitting side by side, along with a generous acceptance of several religions living side by side.


Local Bus

Colourful buses abound - driver opposite having a rest!

Colourful buses abound - driver opposite having a rest!

Mauritians

I’m speaking from only five days experience in the south east but we encountered an array of ethnic backgrounds, all friendly and helpful.

There is a wonderful, refreshing, complete disregard for time. The bus drivers give the impression that they are autonomous, will come and go as they please and will drive with total abandonment, seemingly disregarding any rules of the road that might exist but managing to miss hitting anything. Ask for a timetable and they don’t seem to understand why you want one. On the other hand, they will allow those travelling to dictate when and where they stop, as we experienced.


Tropical Downpour

It was a day of sunshine and rain; full-on searing heat giving way to all the cats and dogs you can think of, then back to tumble-drying atmosphere. The humidity, for the unaccustomed like me, was unbearable.

A group of women alighted at Blue Bay, the south end of the line. It was clear they were all friends. The conversation and volume rose as each smily face greeted the rest, one by one, some in the French custom of a kiss on each cheek. They plonked themselves on the solid bench seats, a few overflowing along with their multi-coloured garb. The driver decided it was time to go.

The next thing we knew, there was a whistle as though someone was trying to attract attention, then another and another. It turned out to be the bell which more than one of the ladies had pressed whilst yelling in a good-natured fashion for the driver to wait for yet another friend who had emerged out of a shelter to duck the pelting rain and make for the bus. He stopped and on she hopped.

Several times on our journey, this scenario was repeated, each time a woman emerging from a gateway or any available shelter either side of the road. Talk about girl power! It was hilarious, the more so because there we were, two obvious white tourists, happily in the middle of this friendly babble. I wanted to stay on that bus all day.


Landscape & Wildlife

We did not have time to go everywhere, even on such a small island. The backdrop of hills and dramatic craggy mountains gave us an idea of the valleys and verdant foliage hidden within.

You can experience a walk over a ravine on a rope bridge or dare the thrill of a zip-wire from hilltop to valley. You can visit the sugar cane factories. Indeed, sugar cane grows all around and is paramount to the Mauritian economy, not to mention its rôle in the production of rum (yes, of course we brought some home).

There are beautiful white sands lapped by translucent turquoise waters but a reminder of lurking danger are the shark nets ensuring safe swimming.

Flitting around the trees by our small hotel was a wondrous orange-red bird, about the size of a sparrow. One of them had the grace to pose for us. I found out that it was a Mauritius Fody, a rare species in the weaver family and endemic to the island. It is also classified by 'Birdlife International' as 'endangered'. What a privilege to see it!


As Dead as...

Image of what once was - at the park in Port Louis.....

Image of what once was - at the park in Port Louis.....

and the Airport

and the Airport

Dodo

Talking of wildlife, once upon a time there was a Dodo. Unique to Mauritius, a flightless bird with no reason to mistrust others, it was rendered extinct by invading hunters so is no longer seen in the flesh. However, there are statues and likenesses in parks, gardens and the airport though much more colourful than the originals!

How sad that man is responsible for such carnage. How wonderful it would be to see this large, ponderous, quirky bird wandering around at peace.


Lion Resting by the Sea

Lion Mountain from Mahébourg

Lion Mountain from Mahébourg

Lion Mountain

The aptly named mountain rises above the sea just north of Mahébourg (pronounced ‘may-bour’). Often surrounded in rain clouds, it could be a threatening lion or a protective one; the latter I hope. It is visible from inland across the cane fields, recumbent and passive, covered in tropical foliage.


Blue Bay

I expected an idyllic white-sanded beach lapped by gentle waters with some small shops and cafés for visitors. The former is true, the latter can be described more as a couple of food shacks and a fruit and coconut stall, all open to flies but still with a simple charm.

Wild dogs wander at will, often badly treated, often emaciated but sometimes friendly and healthy enough.

Round the corner, an unexpected luxury spa and restaurant for the richer clientèle from where you can see the open sea and the bay but no shacks. Opposite the spa is a local bar and restaurant serving good food and drink, many dishes with prawns and local piña colada, rum and coconut being ‘de rigeur’ of course.

You can hear the bus coming through from the main road, its engine clattering and belching, tyres squealing round the corners. Time to wander down to the bus stop with plenty of time to buy a coconut from the stall and suck the milk through a straw.


More Torrents

Umbrellas at the Ready!

Umbrellas at the Ready!

Attempts to Divert the Water

Attempts to Divert the Water

Port Louis, Capital of Mauritius

Port Louis is an over-bustling version of Mahébourg, with a large port. We were short of an adrenalin rush so took the bus. It would have been a shame not to visit the capital. You must be prepared to be jostled along the narrow pavements, accosted by vendors coaxing you into their spaces (many aren’t self-contained enough to be called shops).

It seemed it was our duty, as English persons, to provide rain each time we descended from a bus. The heavens opened. There is no drizzle here, only tropical rain. Such is the roofing gutter system that at intervals on each block a pipe extends from gutter to just beyond the kerb, designed to protect the pedestrian. However, the splash which hits the road returns to cover the feet and legs of anyone nearby. The saving grace is that the rapidly returning sunshine dries clothes, feet, hair and walkways in a matter of minutes.

We decided to try to find the port itself, a glimpse of the dock or the sea. I spied a policeman with a couple of other officials. They would surely provide us with directions. The conversation went like this:

‘Which way do we go for the port?’

(with a grin conveying their opinion of English tourists). No, there is no sea, no beach.’

‘But this is a port. There must be some water. Which way do we go?’(more grins and shaking of heads)

‘No. There is no water.’

I was becoming increasingly frustrated.

‘This is Port Louis. The clue is in the name. There must be a dock, ships, some sort of water? You don’t know?’

Finally, one man let us out of our misery.

‘Ah, yes! Go along this path, take the subway under the main road. That will take you to the shops by the water.’

To this day, I’m not sure whether they were mocking us, or they didn’t care, or they had a vocabulary problem. When the steam had stopped coming out of my ears, we reached a pleasant port-side area.


Tourist Area

This was the Port Louis most visitors would see. Indeed, I’d be surprised if many took a look beyond the designer shops, souvenir stalls, cafés and restaurants. A cruise ship was docked nearby. Those cruising the pavements of gold bore no resemblance to those we’d been mingling with on the backstreets, or should I say main streets.

The punters here strolled in young groups, couples or families, dressed up to the nines and their languages intertwined as we passed, still mostly French or English but a spattering of German, Afrikaans or Dutch.

I wonder how many travellers bother to look at the ‘real’ country and its inhabitants, their homes, their shacks and their attempts to earn a living. Which do you think had the happiest faces, the widest smiles, the loudest laughs, the most sparkling eyes? Not the well-off pedestrians round these shops. I couldn’t wait to get back on the bus.

Happily, the laid back atmosphere of some of the residents is infectious, making us relax, enjoy their way of life, blend in a little in accepting that others’ lives are different, that one can live with less and still be happy, or even happier.


Bus Ride

Bench seats for us & Lucky Charms (sometimes religious) for the Driver

Bench seats for us & Lucky Charms (sometimes religious) for the Driver

Girl on the Bus

On our return journey, a girl of about four or five sat behind us with her mother. She wore a pretty, colourful dress, had her dark tresses disciplined in an intricate style and wore a bright, mischievous smile. Her laughter tinkled just like my granddaughter’s and she sang songs obviously learnt at a nursery school, for the entertainment of her mother, but we benefited from it too, as no doubt did others close enough to hear above the general hubbub.

One song, in French, followed the tune of ‘Twinkle, twinkle little Star’ and a couple of others were familiar. I turned to smile at her and her mother, saying how clever she was to remember all the words and sing so well. Both beamed their pleasure in response.


Cyclists, Fishermen & Addicts

We were standing at the bus stop another day, debating whether it would be a couple of minutes or half an hour before the bus appeared, announced by its clattering engine. It was raining so we sheltered under a minuscule tree. Taxi drivers plied for trade but we stuck it out for the bus; much more entertaining. The rain teemed, determined to negate our beliefs that it wouldn’t last for long.

Two cyclists went by, one on the wrong side of the road, the other dicing with death by pulling out in front of a car but neither the cyclist nor the driver seemed to notice. Both cyclists were singing at the tops of their voices, full of life, beaming at everyone, bare footed and soaked through.

Two fishermen walked past, the first singing and smiling, the second also singing, managing to interrupt his vocal talents with a nod and a ‘bonjour’ for each of us before continuing his entertainment. Laid back, good humoured, these people, obviously poor, have no grudges towards anyone. We responded with smiles and bonjours.

Back from town on the same day, we walked up from the bus, round a different way this time just to look at the multi-styled houses. On the right, an empty plot, covered in high grass and litter, was waiting to welcome a building. Two girls (teenage - twenties?) approached the plot. I was surprised how stressed and troubled they looked. On the plot were two young men, armed with syringes and wary eyes. The girls met them and we continued walking, unable to see what we assumed would happen next. A place of contrasts. That image remains with me, a blot on the happy atmosphere of this vibrant society.


Sea Urchin Samples

Whilst by the sea wall one day, a middle-aged man approached with smiles and ‘g’days’. He claimed to be a fisherman, out of work because of the weather and poor fish stocks. From his pocket came a variety of jewellery, all made from sea urchin or small shells. Pretty bracelets and necklaces but nothing I wanted to buy. I felt guilty saying no but he smiled pleasantly and left having tried to ply his trade though with no pressure. I felt sorry for the sea urchin.


Contrasts Revisited

Poverty, riches. Tourists and locals. Residents who laugh and smile and provide colour and a huge welcome. Police who parade with vicious dogs and make sure they show you control (in the tourist sector). Merchants who are always pleasant whether or not you buy. Scenery from coast to mountain, sunshine to tropical storm. Vibrant colours to crystal cool waters. Local buses to community taxis. Colour, colour, colour. Noise, noise, noise. Drugs, misery and fear. Community spirit and friendship to all. Beaches and bustle. Speed and relaxation. Shacks and villas.

This is one fascinating country to visit but make sure you see the real people and countryside as well as relaxing by the pool and sipping your wine on the beach.


Homeward Bound

Mauritius Airport

Mauritius Airport

Back to Somerset... & snow!  Oh no!

Back to Somerset... & snow! Oh no!

Airport

It was time to leave and our taxi took us back to the airport. There are only two flights to France out of Mauritius each week. We had booked the first since we arrived and flew with Air France to Paris, Charles de Gaulle, before flying on a short hop to Bristol, England; an overnight flight of twelve hours followed by a much smaller plane taking just over an hour to take us home.

We had been away for 10 weeks in all and how good it was to see the reliable green of the English countryside beneath our gaze. But it was so cold; one more contrast that awaited us, coming from the high humidity of 30+ degrees to the contact humidity of a rainy, early Spring. I smiled and settled back to normality.


Travel

© 2018 Ann Carr

Comments

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on May 05, 2020:

Thanks again, Patricia! It was an amazing place, one I never expected to visit. The people were the most amazing; their poverty didn't take away their zest for life and there was so much laughter on the buses!

Take care.

Ann

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on May 04, 2020:

O my

..that bay is breath-taking. And you're five days it seems as though you packed in so many Grand sights to see. I don't think I'll ever get to travel there but I think I got a nice view of it vicariously. Thank you so much for sharing all of the detail. Once again helping you all are safe and well. And once again Angels are headed your way.ps

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 24, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy. We always try to visit the back streets and real-life areas when we travel; it's usually fascinating. Although Mauritius is beautiful and the people are friendly, for me it's not somewhere to go back to.

I never thought I'd visit it but it just happened to be the quickest and cheapest route home! Strange how things work out sometimes.

Ann

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 23, 2020:

Thanks for giving us your impressions of visiting the island of Mauritius and seeing the real people, not just the tourist areas experienced by most people visiting the island. I will undoubtedly never get to travel there and see it in person, so thanks!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 14, 2018:

Hello Dianna! Good to see you again. That's good; I'm glad I've given you a picture of the place. My impression was that most of the people are outgoing and friendly.

Thanks for dropping by.

Ann

Dianna Mendez on April 14, 2018:

I really am grateful for your writing about Mauritius as I have a friend who is from there. She goes back each year to visit her family. She is so sweet and if all people there are like her it must be a lovely place to live. Now I can picture the place when she talks about it.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 11, 2018:

Thank you. I look forward to reading more of your articles.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 11, 2018:

Thank you, Eurofile, for your kind comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this and welcome to HubPages!

Ann

Liz Westwood from UK on April 11, 2018:

This is a really interesting and informative article.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 09, 2018:

Thank you very much, Jo. As much as I love to relax on a beach occasionally, I always want to see how the people live. Somehow, you can't say you've visited properly otherwise.

Ann

Jo Miller from Tennessee on April 09, 2018:

Seeing 'the real people and the countryside' is my kind of travel, Ann. Great travel article.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 06, 2018:

Yes indeed, Dora. I know it happens everywhere but the contrasts of this place really struck me, along with the apparent acceptance of whatever they have to deal with.

Thanks for popping in today, Dora. Have a great weekend!

Ann

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 05, 2018:

Ann, thanks for sharing the atmosphere, the sights, the culture of Mauritius. Poverty and riches side by side is a reminder of the real-life situation.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 05, 2018:

Hi Mike! Glad you enjoyed the trip. I like to present a personal view of things. More to come from my travels!

Ann

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on April 04, 2018:

Hello Ann - Thanks for the mini vacation. It's good that you are out exploring the world and bringing it back to all of us.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 04, 2018:

Thank you, whonu, for your kind comment. I have a few draft hubs and I'm hoping to get back to more regular writing as quickly as possible. Also still trying to catch up on others!

I appreciate your support.

Ann

whonunuwho from United States on April 04, 2018:

This was very informative and interesting Ann. I really enjoyed it a lot. Thank you for this nice article and hope to see more soon. whonu

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 04, 2018:

Thank you Linda. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I think it's important to see the 'real' side of any country one visits.

Ann

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 03, 2018:

This is an interesting and informative article, Ann. Thank you for sharing both the good and the bad points about Mauritius. I enjoyed learning about the country and your experiences.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Thanks, Glenis. Mauritius was a stop on the way home, the easiest and cheapest way at the time to travel from Perth in Australia to England with a break and it was somewhere we hadn't been. So no jet lag, thank goodness, though that sort of travelling is always tiring, I find. It also gave us an opportunity to avoid London and hop from Paris to Bristol instead.

The poverty is there but is relative compared to others in the world and their outlook is so positive. Tourism is essential to them too. I was struck more by the false facade of Port Louis waterfront in contrast to the rest of the capital. Don't go if you don't like high humidity though!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Ann

Glen Rix from UK on April 03, 2018:

Interesting article, Ann. It seems a long way to travel for a five day break. Was jet lag a problem? I think that I would be disturbed by the poverty if I visited.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Yes, for two years, but all by ourselves so it takes a while. My partner is well able to do it all but needs the time and energy! I just follow up with the painting and interior design!

Buckingham Palace I think not but our own little special dwelling, definitely.

Thanks for your interest.

Ann

manatita44 from london on April 03, 2018:

Good Lord, Ann.

You have been doing this renovation for a while, no? I seem to remember. It will be like Buckingham Palace when it finishes, right? Lol.

Now I understand your long trip. Always good to renew, like Spring flowers.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Thank you, manatita, for your great comment. Glad you liked the journey. Yes, the Indian history contributes a great deal to this island.

We were in Mauritius for only 5 days but away for a total of 10 weeks which gave us a great break and re-charged the batteries, ready to carry on with gusto on the house renovation.

Thanks for the visit.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Thank you, Eric, for your kind words and your great input, as always.

Glad you enjoyed the trip.

Ann

manatita44 from london on April 03, 2018:

A very beautifully written Hub for a colourful and fascinating country. You stayed a long time! I have not been, but when I started nursing at Hillingdon Hospital in 1973, it was largely West Indians and Mauritians as they were able to speak good English.

I was 21 and hot-blooded and we parted most nights in the nursing residence and I learnt to dance the Sagaa, a sort of Creole African dance with music and much swear words like the Jamaicans do.

Mauritius is similar to many African countries and indeed even some West Indian Ones and I'm not surprised that you were hastled a little. People in the sun works and act in a different way or time zone and are not usually in a hurry.

You have managed to make it a very interesting story and of course one would love to visit the place. Their history is similar to the Indians of Trinidad and Tobago with the Indians being brought as indentured servants, some 250 years ago. Ganga Taloa is their beautiful sacred shrine and lake and I wrote a piece about it for a Mauritian friend at work.

Thanks for a great insight into the life and colour of the country.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 03, 2018:

This is just wonderful. Reminds me of way back when I worked and lived in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. They treated the Mauritians like dirt slaves I mean like less than human. Our "houseboy" was one and he was a great guy. And the times I visited his home in France everyone was just plain happy.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful trip with us. I really feel like I have been there now.

I would love to go there some day. I like how you travel.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Thank you, Frank, for your very kind words. I'm pleased to be able to take you with me. Keep it on your bucket list - you never know!

Good to see you today.

Ann

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on April 03, 2018:

Ann thanks for traveling and virtually taking us with you,,, the photos are breathtaking.. the time of your life spills easy into our eyes because of how you penned them, shared them and enjoyed them... I love seeing what you see and feeling what you felt through your words... now I can erase this trip off my bucket-list since I've already experienced it through your words..Ha!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Thanks for the visit and comment, Flourish. Yes, those are the bits that spoil my memory of it but sadly there are always such things behind the scenes in most places one goes, I suppose. The openness of the drug meet surprised me too; I don't know how well they deal with that problem there but the odd police presence we did see was quite scary.

No vaccines are required where we went, thank goodness! New Zealand requires that you have a ticket out, Australia requires a visitor's visa and Mauritius just required a passport. We had thought of seeing India on the way back and that would've involved jabs but we changed our plans as it got too complicated.

Good to see you today.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Hello, bill! I had to look it up too but then I've never taught Geography! Glad you enjoyed the quick tour and thanks for commenting regarding grammar; as you know, it's one of my bug-bears too though I'm not above errors.

I could do with just a touch of tropical here as it's cold and wet. I'm wondering when Spring is going to arrive; the only saving grace is that I have loads of daffodils in the garden which always make me smile.

Hope Spring has touched you in bucket loads, bill.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 03, 2018:

Thanks, Jackie. Tropical's great - if only it wasn't so uncomfortable, but then I'm just a wooz!

Ann

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 02, 2018:

What a wonderful description. The sad dogs and the men with the syringes would live with me, but the rest is such a gorg ohs description. What types of vaccines did you have to get for your travels?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 02, 2018:

Confession time: I taught Geography and I had no clue where Mauritius was. LOL I am officially embarrassed. Thanks for the guided tour. I have about as much chance of being named President of Mauritius as I do of visiting it, so this was my only option and you came through beautifully.

Good to have you back. It's such a pleasure to read a hub with proper grammar. :)

Wishing you a terrifically tropical Tuesday!

bill

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on April 02, 2018:

So very interesting! Perhaps I will get to see it in the next life. I love tropical anything!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on April 02, 2018:

Thank you, Mary, for your kind comment and for the visit.

Ann

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 02, 2018:

Often, what we see of Mauritius are the beaches. This is interesting to see so much local colour.