After a fantastic 24 days in Madagascar, we flew back to Mauritius for a quick five day layover on our way to Southeast Asia. This won’t be a long post because frankly we needed to rest, so we did not do anything worthy of great detail. Several photos will help share the story. I am writing this post on the bus ride from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I am falling behind… sorry.
We watched closely out the plane window for the majestic views from above. One of the most spectacular things to see in Mauritius is the underwater waterfall. I know that sounds funny but what it is actually is a shelf under the water that drops off quickly. As the current brings in sand and then pulls it away, the sand falls over the shelf. It can appear from above as though water is falling over a waterfall below the water, but it is actually sand. You can only see it from above and so you can pay for a very expensive helicopter ride for this one view. We were not going to do that and we did not see it from the plane. Nevertheless, the shoreline views from the plane are still quite spectacular. Here is a picture of the underwater waterfall that I got off the web and if you decide to pay for a helicopter please be sure to tell us all about it.
Upon arrival in Mauritius we rented a car. It used to be a British colony so the driving is on the left side of the road. We picked up the car right at the airport. There was a board with our name on it but nobody with the board. About 40 minutes later, a guy walked us to the area in the parking lot where they were signing out the cars from the back of their car. I am sure it was legit but it seemed weird.
We arrived in Mauritius at 8:55 am and check in at the hotel wasn’t until 3 pm. We were tired because we were up at 3 am in Madagascar for our 6 am flight. We had decided that we would check out one of the better beaches and snorkelling areas in Mauritius which was close to the airport on the southwest side of the island. It was called Blue Bay. We used maps.me (offline mapping app) to find it but not without some misdirection mainly because I had put in a closed reserve into the location rather than the public beach.
At Blue Bay, parking was free. There was a roped off swimming area but multiple tour boat operators told us there was nowhere to snorkel here and we needed to go on a boat. We decided to just walk along further. An important thing to know about Mauritius is that all beaches are public. Even if there is a fancy resort there, you can walk onto the beach and enjoy it. You cannot use their chairs but the beach is public for all. So, as we walked past the myriad of vendors, we found lots of beach. We basically just walked in and snorkelled. It was pretty good but there was a bit of a current. Nevertheless, it ended up being one of the better places we found for snorkelling.
One of the reasons that the snorkelling in Mauritius was not the best IMHO (in my humble opinion), is this one fish that stares you down as you go by. He looks like he is angry and is going to attack you. In fact, I think a few times they did kind of nip at us. It did not hurt at all but it did feel like we were invading his territory and he did not like it one bit.
Our hotel was in Grande Baie which is in the far north of the island. From the airport and Blue Bay it was about a one hour drive on the highways through the centre of the island. We chose to drive up the west side of the island instead because we knew that we would be spending more time on the east. We learned however that the coastal drive was not really coastal. It roughly followed the coast but hotels and businesses seem to occupy the shoreline and so you are just seeing the backside of these places. We drove this way for a while but ultimately cut across to the middle again to get to our hotel quicker. We were after all pretty exhausted. At the hotel we crashed pretty hard for quite a while.
One day we decided to do a road trip to the southern end of the island. We went to Black River Gorges National Park. As the name suggests, there are pretty amazing views from above the gorge through which the Black River flows. In one of the park gates, there are monkeys wandering around. We like monkeys but they can be cranky, unlike the lemurs in Madagascar. Don’t tease them or look at them the wrong way. They will bear their teeth at you and will come at you to get you to back off.
We also went to a park called Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth in the southwest of Mauritius. The rock is an area of iron and aluminum oxide. Iron and aluminum repel one another, causing clearly defined lines of the metals. The different hues of the metals are red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple, and yellow. Inside the park there are a few other sites to see but this is the main one.
On a couple of other days, we checked out snorkelling spots around the island. Trou aux Biches was pretty good but you had to go out a long way for some of the better snorkelling and the water was quite shallow. Flic and Flac was also not too bad but again snorkelling just off the shore is a bit limited. Pointe aux Piments was less enjoyable for us. Overall, the reality seemed to be that boats were taking people out past a natural breakwater around the island. Snorkelling from shore was limited by your ability to get out past it on your own. I cannot comment about the snorkelling trips as we did not go out that far.
The nice thing about having the car is being able to follow your own schedule and route. For example, there are lots of people selling fruits on the side of the road. We stopped and bought two tiny pineapples on the side of the road which cost us less than a dollar. On the other hand, Nic bought some much more expensive lychees on the side of the road… about $6 for half a kilo. The baguettes in the grocery stores were two for a dollar for very large fresh (often hot) baguettes. I highly recommend them.
There are many beautiful things to see in Mauritius but I won’t be describing them all. There are volcanoes and beautiful beaches everywhere. Buy some food along the way and then pull into a public beach to have a picnic lunch on the beach. Find a park or a scenic view point for a short break along your drive. And if you are feeling under the weather like I was one day, go for some comfort food at McDonalds. You can pretty much choose your own adventures and experiences.
Especially for us, we were in need of a break. We probably did not experience all that Mauritius had to offer but frankly, that is what the doctor ordered for us. If you decide to go to Mauritius, do your homework and I am sure you will have an amazing experience.