t’s no surprise that Mauritius Tourism has announced an 11 per cent global increase in visitor arrivals last year. In fact tourism now trumps both her impressive textile and her sugar cane industry as the major boon to her economy.
You need to know that in Mauritius the summer months of November to April are warm and dry with temperatures of 23-33 degrees. The winter months of May to October are cooler, at around 17-23 degrees, with the wettest months being December to March. Importantly the island is mercifully spared the worst of the standard tropical infliction of mosquitos.
As for birds, dawn choruses, the island is alive with her dawn choruses. For twitchers the endemic birds include the eponymous kestrel, pink pigeon, parakeet and bulbul. All of which are most likely to be seen in the Black River Gorge National Park.
As for animals, the tortoises sadly didn’t put on much of a show for me as they sat lazing together as a threesome huddled in a corner. But, to give them their due, their geometric lines on their shells looked amazing. As for the dodo, tragically it is now famously extinct. It was a slow somewhat clumsy bird the size of a turkey, with short legs, a hook-like bill and truncated wings that it used to defend itself.
As for fish and the attendant coral or for that matter the odd shipwreck, you can see the best ones at diving spots such as Shark Place, Cathedral and Couline Bambou just off the coast of Flic-en-Flac; Colorado and Roches Zozo very near to Mahebourg. Up at the northern tip of the island the options are even greater with Gunner’s Quinn, Silver Star wreck, Stenopus Reef and the Stella Maru wreck.
I left the airport to go inland. Where better than the Black River Gorges National Park. It’s stunningly rich in vegetation and from a high viewpoint I looked far beneath to see the gorge amid miles of dense, green forest. It allowed my imagination to drift and explode. Coleridge and “Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man” and all that!
Nearby the waterfall at Chamaral, though only visible from a distance, is nonetheless the largest one I have ever seen. It drops a hundred metres and there is something compelling and mesmeric about the perennial pounding of bouts of water. It left me imagining just how much more gushing it would become once a rainstorm was introduced to this dramatic process.
Nearby again is the Seven Coloured Earth, considered both a magical sight and a geological curiosity. The striking landscape is tucked within Chamarel’s forest and has been formed by volcanic rocks that cooled at different temperatures, creating this spectacular array of patterns and colours. Now turned to sand, the hills’ shades of red, brown, grey and purple were rather special it has to be said.
Another must, down in the south, is to pop in to see the Grand Bassin, or Ganga Talao. It’s a lake that sits in isolated mountains and it’s where there’s a Hindu pilgrimage in February for more than 400,000 devotees. It is so refreshing that there is no religious discord. They live in peace and rest in peace as even their dead are all buried together in the same cemetery regardless of their faith.
The taxi driver counted his 120 bends of the road before we descended to Le Morne. It’s an impressive and august stand-alone mountain at the south-western tip of the island overlooking another exceptionally beautiful lagoon. It was notorious early in the 19th century as a refuge for runaway slaves. After the abolition of slavery in Mauritius in 1835, a police expedition informed the slaves that they had been freed. However, a misunderstanding caused the slaves to leap to their deaths from the rock. And it was beneath this rock that I reached my hotel, the wonderful Lux Le Morne.
The hotel has a really special position from which to enjoy the blue from the sea against the setting of the sun and its changing palette of gold, pink and then orange as the clouds draw over the events of the day like the curtain of the ultimate theatrical performance. It’s along this beach that the leaves sough and the water laps. Sadly out to sea the waves were too agitated for me to go and swim along side the dolphins.
For dining, variety comes with three restaurants: a Buffet, a Beach Cafe and East which offers Thai cuisine. It’s where Chef Suksan Supprasert learned his trade in his aunt’s kitchen, shelling rice and peeling garlic and onions. His own speciality is the yaam per krob, a crisp roasted duck with lychee and grape. And the evening is rounded off perfectly with the pronounced clarity of the air emitting thousands of stars into view. Romantic and blissful!