Tropical Travels Part 1

This story begins with a comment on a Facebook post. My comment got a reply from Sharon stating that they have a spare bedroom, so I am welcome to come and visit them in Singapore if I like. Within a few days of this comment I found myself doing some research on flight options to Singapore – not really thinking about heading out that way, but why not do some research.

Within a few days the travel bug had bitten, and messages were going backwards and forwards between myself and Eugene about the possibility of visiting them in December, and perhaps travelling to a nearby location as well – since I didn’t think there would be that much to do in Singapore.

Soon I realised that the cheapest and most direct flight was through Mauritius, and before I knew it, I had planned out a 4 week holiday.

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Work got very busy, and before I knew it, I was wrapping up an important meeting and everyone was wishing me well with my travels.

On the last Friday of November 2018, my mother dropped me at Pietermaritzburg Airport and I prepared to board my flight.

I had a bit of a layover In Johannesburg, during which I dealt with some work issues – which was great, it gave me something to do before my flight.

The flight to Mauritius was on one of Air Mauritius’ new Airbus A350 – the largest aircraft I have ever been on. It is an absolute beauty of engineering. Phenomenally quiet and stable. Seating was very comfortable and spacious, everyone had their own private tv, the coconut chicken curry was amazing. Overall very impressed with Air Mauritius – funny that I picked them for being the cheapest option!

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I arrived in Mauritius just after sunset. Passport control was fairly efficient and I soon found myself looking for the Ola Car Rentals guy who was there to provide me with my car for the week. After 10 minutes of looking I found him, and soon I was trying to find my way to a place in Blue Bay – less than 10km from the airport – where I had booked for the night.

The first thing I noticed about Mauritius is how exceptionally hot and humid it is.

My phone was dying and the accommodation was not sign posted – so it took me a while to find it. And on finding it, it took another 20 minutes to figure out how the self-check in system works. Eventually I had my phone on charge, aircon on full and had a shower. A few whatsapps to family to say I was safely there, and soon I was in bed.

Day 1 – Blue Bay and surrounds

My basic plan of action for Mauritius was simple – start around Blue Bay, which is right at the airport, and work around the island in a clockwise direction. I had booked accommodation at 4 different places to cover the week and ensure I was well placed to do this. Now that night 1 in Blue Bay was done, my next 3 nights would be in Souillac.

Fortunately renting a car meant that I wouldn’t have to find somewhere to store my bags for the day.

Seeing as jet-lag should have resulted in the opposite, I was surprised when I was awake just after sunrise. So I opted to take a stroll on the legendary Blue Bay.

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I am not much of a beach person, but even I have to concede that Blue Bay is an exceptional beach. I live an hour from the sea, and I had not been into the sea in roughly 6 years, yet I ended up spending an hour in the water this particular morning.

Unfortunately nothing in Mauritius opens before 9am, and I only had a few biscuits with me – so after my hour long session in Blue Bay, I was quite hungry. Annoyingly it was only 7am. And naturally I hadn’t figured out the 9am part yet.

So I packed up my things at my accommodation, and moved my car to Île aux Aigrettes parking and decided to take a walk on the beach. I also took a look at the nearby mangrove swamp, which was really beautiful.

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I walked on the beach, with the occasional walking in the water or rock hopping required to get the entire way from this parking lot back to Blue Bay. Upon arrival I noticed a vendor was busy setting up, and managed to get a mango and a local pastry with chutney – not really a proper breakfast, but it was a start.

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Just after 9, I was back at the ticket office for a trip out to the island. I used to assume photos of these areas were photoshopped (and no, not one of my photos on this writeup is in any way photoshopped, I have not even changed the saturation or colouration) – I was really surprised that the water actually is that blue!

Looking across the bay at Lion Mountain – I knew that would be full circle. In a weeks time I would hopefully stand on that summit and be able to say I had circled the island and covered all my goals for the week.

After getting a speech about how I should have booked my ferry a few days in advance, the lady behind the desk eventually admitted that there was space for me on the ferry leaving in 5 minutes, so I paid and waited with the others.

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Île aux Aigrettes is a conservation project. Sadly it would be more accurately described as a monument to extinct animals, seeing as we saw more statues in memory of extinct creatures such as the dodo and giraffe neck tortoise, than we saw of animals from the area. Nonetheless, they are doing the best they can to save the last few endemic special that remain.

The island visit was a bit of a let down, with very few of the animals being sighted. We only saw two tortoises, which sadly are of the Seychelles type as the local types are all extinct.

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Soon we were back on the mainland and my hunt for food could continue. I quickly learned that nothing is exactly where it is marked on google in this country. But I soon found a shop that sells pastries, and got some not-so-healthy lunch.

After lunch I was back at Blue Bay for some snorkeling (wait, did Ghaznavid just say he would voluntarily go snorkeling?) – which apparently is a must in Mauritius.

The boat operator I found was very cheap, but I soon realised why – as the tour started with us giving a lift to a friend across the bay. Snorkeling really isn’t my thing, but it was still really cool having a lot of colourful fish swimming around me.

We also saw some awesome fish and coral in the glass bottom boat.

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So while I wouldn’t go snorkeling again, I would highly recommend a glass bottom boat trip.

From here I decided to drive to what was one of my favourite spots in Mauritius – Pont Naturel. It is a bit of a rough road, but is fairly well sign posted (google’s directions are out of date). The rock arch is enormous. What is really awesome about it, though, is the power of nature as the waves crash into the rocks. It is very featured rock, so aside from the main arch, there is a lot of interesting activity going on. I could sit there for hours just watching nature doing its thing.

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I still hadn’t figured out where to buy things, and ended up having to settle for a burger and chips for supper – not what I was looking for. But I found a shop with a few basic things, so I was starting to move in the right direction.

My accommodation for the next 3 nights turned out to be a house that has been almost converted to a B&B. I say almost because the beds still have the kids old bedding on them, and the kids stickers are still up on the walls. Google had it in the wrong road, and the owner doesn’t live here, so figuring out how to check in took over an hour. It was also in a street barely wide enough for a car, yet not marked as one-way-only.

Eventually I managed to get hold of the owner, and managed to get sorted out. He was a lovely guy, very helpful. He took me on a tour of the surrounds to show me where to buy things, where the good restaurants are and where the best beaches are. Admittedly if you are looking for good beaches in Mauritius – don’t visit Souillac! If you like massive basalt cliffs with the sea crashing into it, then Souillac is really awesome, so I am not complaining!

This accommodation was very close to the local shops, so I went and bought a lot of much needed items. Annoyingly my phone charger had grown legs somewhere along the way, and no one that was open late on a Saturday seemed to sell them, but luckily the owner of the accommodation loaned me his.

Overall a very productive first day!

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