I was enthralled even before my flight landed at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam international airport and this was because of the fact that I had the view of almost half a country from a single viewing angle. The excitement of having an aerial view of the lovely green island with the blue waters along its periphery was immense. The beautiful island country of Mauritius (Ile Maurice in french) is a part of the Mascarene islands and has many dormant volcanoes. The coastline of the country is protected by coral reefs, which has resulted in the formation of pristine beaches and beautiful lagoons.
I never had the feel of being transported to a different country as Mauritius resembles India in more than one way. With more than 52% of the population being Indian descendants I found Mauritians very similar to Indians. The feel of being on a foreign soil struck me only when I heard the locals speak in Creole. French and English are also widely spoken. Mauritius gained independence in 1968 after it was ruled for many years by both the French and the English.The country is covered with sugar cane fields all over and sugar is one of the biggest money earner for them.
The first place of interest that I visited was the the Grand Bassin (Ganga Talo) in the southern part of the island. This is supposedly a sacred lake which has water from the Ganges and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Situated next to a temple, this serene place is of great sacred importance. A few minutes drive through the Black river park and I was staring at the stunning 108 feet tall Mangal Mahadev statue. This massive Shiva statue has a pleasing expression on his face (quite unnatural). The sun was hardly out and the whole place was quite cold.
Trou Aux Cerfs is an extinct crater which was formed as a result of volcanic activities aeons ago. It is filled with water and covered with thick vegetation. The panoramic views of the crater are however breathtakingly beautiful. From this location, one can also have the wonderful view of Curepipe, the second biggest town in Mauritius with lovely mountains in the background.
Curepipe, situated in the central part of Mauritius is famous for ship making factory which creates miniature ships in various sizes. A nice little tour inside the factory helped me understand how the ships are made. They looked beautiful and were expensive. I also walked through the duty free shops of Floreal and picked up a few articrafts. Flic en Flac is another place where I went picking up a few curios.
Chamarel village is famous for its seven coloured earth. Formed due to the cooling of volcanic lava at different temperatures, this mix of sand and rocks portrays seven different colours on the surface. This colourful pattern is regarded as a national treasure. With the sun gleaming over the surface, the earth looked fabulous and colourful. This village is also famous for its waterfall which falls from a height of more than 80 meters. Flowing through primeval vegetation, the panoramic view of the falls were mesmerising.
Le Morne is of great historical importance to Mauritius. This beautiful mountain besides the blue waters lies on the south western part of Mauritius. This national treasure is important due to the fact that during the times of colonisation, Indian and African slaves hid in this mountain to escape slavery.
En route to Le Morne, I also happened to hop on to a view point from where one could view exotic colours of the ocean. The water colour varied from turquoise blue to copper blue. Mesmerising...!!
Casela Bird park is famous for its varied fauna and boasts of some colourful birds. This wide spread bird park is home to zebras, ostriches, emus, giant tortoises, peacocks, flamingos, kangaroos, antelopes and many more. A nice bumpy safari through the park helped the tourists have a closer interaction with the animals. The tourists were also allowed to feed the animals and have a few close up photos clicked.
Rochester falls in southern Mauritius is one of the best waterfalls I have ever seen. A small trek through a sugar cane field leads you to this cascading waterfalls. A small pond has been created where the water falls and my guide said that people swim and take a dip in the cold pond. That would definitely be an awesome experience. This wonderful place is a good choice for a day's picnic. Many bollywood movies have been shot at this location.
Most of my evenings in Mauritius were spent sipping beer by the beach side and staring at the setting sun. However one evening turned out to be eventful as my resort arranged for Sega dance. This national dance form of Mauritius is normally performed on the beach next to a camp fire. Due to the weather conditions it had to be done indoors. Vigorous, Sensuous and Colourful is the best way to explain Sega dance. Women twirled their colourful skirts and undulated their arms in a graceful manner to the rhythm of the beat. Slowly and steadily the beat gained momentum, the dancers turned vigorous and the viewers were treated to a beautiful evening of wonderful dance form.
It is a misconception that Mauritius is only about pristine beaches and blue waters. There is lots to see and explore and with the wonderful blend of Indian and African cultures, this island country is truly exotic. Mauritius always remains a big attraction for the Europeans and the Indian honeymooners. The best time to visit Mauritius would be between June and January.
Signing Note: Breathtakingly beautiful and sensuously exotic...!!