Mauritius is what romantic dreams are made of. White sandy beaches, sky blue water, magical orange sunsets and if you can afford it, lavish hotel rooms. That small Island in the Indian Ocean manages to perfectly capture one’s imagination of a worthwhile holiday.
My working “holiday” could not keep me away from indulging in the delights of the beautiful “paradise”, walking on the beach, summer dress and shades, taking in the clean breeze, two weeks ago at MultiChoice’s Content showcase held at Trou Aux Biches Resort and Spa located the northwest coast.
Jumping playfully as the water waves brushed on my ankles was as thrilling as I imagined. The boats docked on the shallow shore looked like a canvas on an oil painting, while the tilted palm trees with the bright sun in their background seemed like a postcard.
Lying on the beach under the grass thatched shades, staring aimlessly at the Ocean was breath-taking. One’s peace was occasionally disturbed by vendors selling pearl necklaces which I discovered are priced almost triple the market price, no big surprise that being an area dominated by tourists. The other distraction were tour guides who with catalogues of different activities, try to lure one into taking an adventure in the ocean. One is spoilt for choice from snorkeling, deep sea diving, watching dolphins, speed boating among others.
Exploring the underwater world
I played safe with an adventure to see the Ocean bed. With about 15 tourists, we set off on a boat with a clear glass bottom that ushered us into the underwater world. For 45minutes, we sailed slowly over coral reef, marvelling at the formations of the reefs. Some points seemed so deep I was frightened about the boat hitting a reef right at a point in the Ocean where the waves had started growing rather big. Watching the clown fish, golden fish and lots of others with weird colours reminded me of watching Finding Nemo, Shark Tales or Sponge Bob Square Pants (yes, the things we parents are subjected to watching!)
Beyond romantic beaches
Forgetting the picturesque beaches, my colleagues and I ventured into the inlands. A tourist’s first challenge – affordable transport. A taxi from the hotel to the capital city we were told would cost 1,800 Rupees (60dollars about Shs150, 000), but we found one at 1,200 Rupees (40 dollars/Shs100, 000) for a return trip. The area, Pamplemousses, where our hotel was located can best be described as sleepy, with most shops barely opened at 10am and closed at 3pm. One could count the number of people on the street, probably something to do with the 1.3million population of the island.
Perhaps the capital St Louis held more adventure we thought. An hour’s drive through plantation after plantation of sugarcanes, the Island’s main export and rather narrow roads, soon opened us to a whole different world. Smooth relatively busy roads, numerous traffic lights, and a mix of lavish looking apartments, sky scrapers, scanty tin slum dwellings and modern shopping malls. As Vishnu, our taxi driver cum tour guide told us, the island is inhabited by Indo Mauritians and the native Creoles, French(majorly) and English speaking.
Interestingly, the communities exist in such harmony that Hindus can worship in Christian places and viceversa. The natives he said, are a hard working lot, whose only short coming is their spending rather than investing culture. It is not unusual to find one owning lavish cars, trendiest clothes, but living in a shack. In the capital, the most common sight was groups of Mauritians, mostly youth dressed stylishly (miniskirts, dresses and hot pants were the rage), hanging out by the bay.
The Central market was a photocopy of our own Owino (St Balikuddembe), albeit located on one long street, complete with “bending down” , vendors yelling out their prices and boy was it crowded. Gladly, I never heard a “size yange” or catcall. The clothes were a mix of secondhand and Chinese were most so substandard that it was hard to buy anything.
Amusingly, the shops play the music one would ordinarily hear on a Ugandan street, one of them was playing Mr Flavour’s Ashawo and another Mafikizolo’s Koona. For a better shopping experience we ventured into a shopping mall, it was quite a breath of fresh air and well gave one the “outside countries” feel, but the departmental stores brought something else to the price tag. From the ocean shores to the towns, there is quite an adventure of a holiday one can have in Mauritius.