A visit to Mauritius
Everyone dreams of visiting a tropical island and I was no different. Having a wife who loves to travel we have over the years visited many places in Europe and the U.S.A. including a six month road trip visiting 33 states in the U.S.A. in 2009. But now it was time to do something else, a once in a lifetime luxury holiday in an island paradise. An insurance policy that I took out as a young man came due and so following our motto 'you can't take it with you' we decided to spend it on a dream holiday.
Mauritius facts and figures.
The Republic of Mauritius is a part of the Mascarene Island group that is situated about 2000 km East of the African Continent and lies in the tropics at about 20 degree South Latitude. When first discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1507 there were at that time no indigenous people living on the island. It was settled by the Dutch in 1598 and abandoned in 1710. Five years later it became a French colony until in1810 when it was taken over by Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1992 it became an independent republic.
At 2040 km square it is the 180th largest country in the world.(That also makes it one of the smallest) Its economic well being depends on agriculture and a well developed tourism industry. In 2012 it was awarded an award as the World’s leading Island destination, for the 3rd year in a row. The population speaks French and English and although its constitution does not designate an official language business in parliament is conducted mainly in English. The per capita GDP in 2012 was $15 591 giving it one of the highest per capita GDP’s in Africa.
Famous as the home of the Dodo Bird that became extinct only 80 years after it was discovered it enjoys an interesting and unique natural diversity.
The Island of Mauritius is a popular tourist destination for South Africans as it is only 4 hours by air from Johannesburg and the local press was advertising specials this summer, so in an extravagant moment of madness we booked a trip to the Island. The choice of where to go was difficult, as we really had no idea as where would be best. A search on the web gave us some ideas and so we picked the area of Flic-en-flac on the west coast and the 3 star hotel, Pearle Beach.
This turned out to be a good choice as it was located on the beach along a 8km by 200m lagoon that offers hours of snorkeling, swimming and paddling. Add to that the wonderful views of the sun setting every evening, good meals and a comfortable room at relatively low cost. A bus trip into the capital Port Louis was an interesting experience as we rode the efficient bus service with the locals at a very cheap rate. Transport is easy with several options. Taxi's are eadily available but rather expensive but the bus service is good and cheap. Most of the locals use it to get around. Hiring a motor-scooter or a motor car is a third option.
Our big splurge was a day outing to the east coast. We were picked up by the organizer who was also our bus driver and who drove us to the N/W part of the country. A boat trip to a beautiful waterfall and a Mauritian island lunch hosted by some of the organizers family consisting of barbecued game fish, fruit and rice proved to be tasty and filling. All in all it was an interesting day out. It also helped us to see more of the Island life of this amazing small country of French, British and Indian origins. It also showed us how Maritain families using their skills ran a family business that supported them. Their friendly service was typical of the attitude of most people on this tropical island.
Most people in Mauritius live simple lives but are hardworking and friendly. Crime rates are very low in comparison to our country where there is such high unemployment. The weather is moderate and pleasant with temperatures varying between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade. The economy is based on agriculture, tourism and manufacturing and seems to be a model for many other African countries. Food is based on Asian and French influences and is not cheap except for their wonderful bread.
As we traveled into Port Louis we were amazed to see a basic simple sports field named after Nelson Mandela. The very primative nature of the sport complex was another indication of the simple lives lived here.
Will we return to Mauritius for another holiday, probably not, as there are so many other options in the world? Are we sorry we spent out first (and perhaps last) island holiday there, definitely not. Go Mauritius! We can see however why this Island was voted as one of the top tourist destinations in 2012 and would definitely recommend it to others!