So earlier this week Boobae and I returned from a week long trip to Mauritius. Now I know people are always saying they left their heart in some random exotic locale, but honestly guys, I really think I left a piece of mine on the eastern shore of Mauritius. Was it the sugary unlimited cocktails? The lulling sound of the waves hitting the rocky shore? The wind blowing through my hair? Or the ever changing shades of blue as I gazed at the Indian Ocean? High chances it was a combo of all of them. Mauritius I’m pretty sure we will meet again.
Some of you reading this might be asking “hmmm, where the heck is Mauritius?” Up until a few months ago I would’ve had a hard time pointing it out on a map, and would’ve just drawn my hand in a circle from India to Sri Lanka, to the entire coast of Africa and been like “it’s somewhere in this spot.” So to be a little more specific, the island country of Mauritius lies in the Indian Ocean and is part of the continent of Africa. It is about 2000km from the mainland of the continent. Mauritius is south of the Seychelles and east of Madagascar. I know that as my Pops is reading this he’s likely pulling out his atlas to get a clearer idea. The closest island to Mauritius is the French island of Reunion, which is about 200km away.
Mauritius was an uninhabited island until it was discovered by the Portuguese in the early 1500’s. For me it’s hard to imagine the island being uninhabited because it looks like the setting of a real life Jurassic Park, and I can totally envision native island people roasting boar on a beach, but I can’t dispute history. The Portuguese didn’t stay long. The Dutch landed there in 1598 and then abandoned it in the early 1700’s and then the French moved in pretty much right after. French history of the island is important as people still speak French. English is the official language, but most Mauritians we heard were speaking French or Creole. Anyways, back to history lessons by Kristine… back in 1814 the French gave Mauritius to the British as part of what is known as the Treaty of Paris, and Mauritius remained under British rule until its independence in 1968.
Slavery was abolished in 1835 and this led to the labour experiment called indentured labour. Basically between the late 1840’s and 1910 nearly 500,000 labourers arrived in Mauritius from China, the Indian subcontinent (many from India), Southeast Asia, Yemen, and from Madagascar and other parts of Africa. To be an in indentured meant that these labourers had a contract and had supposed freedom over their lives, but in reality the work conditions were harsh and they had little rights. These labourers were brought over to work on sugar estates. Afterwards about two thirds of the indentured labourers remained and today 70% of Mauritians are ancestors of those workers. The “experiment” in Mauritius was viewed as a success, and led to the migration of more than 2 million labourers around the world. If you visit Mauritius you should make a point of visiting Aapravasi Ghat a UNESCO site in Port Louis (the capital) that pays homage to this historical period and the labourers.
Ok, so now that you know where Mauritius is and a little about the history, let me tell you about what Boobae and I got up to. I wanted this trip to be equal parts taking in the sites and relaxation/day drinking. We had 7 nights on the island and I basically broke them up so that we stayed 2 nights on the west coast, 3 nights on the north coast, 1 night on the east coast and 1 night in the south. Most travelers to Mauritius just stay in one place and opt to do day trips from there. I’m not most travelers though and I like to plan my own itineraries.
We flew Saudia from Riyadh to Mauritius. My Saudi peeps have a couple options to get to Mauritius pretty easily. From Riyadh you could fly to Dubai and then fly direct to Mauritius, or you could take Saudia with a stop-over (you don’t get off the plane) in Jeddah. For us coming from Riyadh it was about 9hrs of travel time to fly to Jeddah- wait for the plane to board the Jeddah passengers- and then fly to Mauritius. Saudia is a decent airline, however; both our flights were delayed, and unfortunately that bathroom on our flight back to Saudi was the worst I’ve ever seen on a plane. Let me rephrase- it was the worst airplane bathroom I’ve seen in 79 countries of traveling. But anyways....
We arrived in Mauritius, collected our bags and got dropped off at Villa Anakao, which is about 20min south of Port Louis. The Villa is like a 3 star small hotel which more than met our needs. We checked in and were offered beers and sat on the balcony taking in the gorgeous pool area and ocean. We had already decided that we would visit the Flying Dodo brewery nearby for dinner so we went inside to freshen up. Boobae unzips his suitcase and pulls out a ladies flipflop. Yes a ladies flipflop. Oh shit. Identical black American Tourister suitcase. After a few comical minutes of figuring out what to do, the Villa helped to call the airport to tell them of the mix-up, and arrange a taxi to take us back to the airport to exchange bags.
So the taxi comes and the drivers name is Kalam and he’s super chatty and telling us about Mauritius and naturally I’m equally chatty and asking him questions about his family on the way to the airport. We get there and the bag exchange goes down without a hitch and Kalam is driving us to the brewery and he’s telling us about “baby” who was sad and wanted to come to work with him. And so I’m like is “baby” a boy or girl and how old are they? Kalam corrects me that “Bebe” is a boy and he’s a bird. And “sometimes” he comes to work with him. And I’m now super into this bird. And so Kalam calls home on speaker phone and his wife answers and he tells her to put “Bebe” on. And “Bebe” starts squawking and I’m on a speaker call with a bird. Could Mauritius get any better?? Well just wait….
So we got to the brewery and Boobae gets to try some craft beer and I have some wine and then Kalam comes back to get us, and BEBE IS IN THE CAR. He’s perched on his shoulder riding shotgun and I’m so damn excited. I don’t even like birds, but I’m bigtime crushing on Bebe. So we get back to the Villa and Kalam tells me to put my hand out and he covers my hand with his and then kisses his hand. But Bebe thinks he is kissing my hand and gets jealous AF and starts making these jealous bird noises. But in the end we made up and he perched on my finger for a hot second.
The next day we had Kalam take us into Port Louis. We visited the Citadel from the 1800’s that has amazing views of the city. We then walked down to Aapravasi Ghat as I’ve already mentioned- a must do if you are in Port Louis. From here we walked over for lunch on the waterfront and headed back to the Villa for some relaxation and pool time. And to sip wine while watching a spectacular sunset. Kalam picked us up and took us to the nearby village of Albion for dinner and dropped us back. About 15min after he dropped us off he urgently called me to come outside quickly. He had Bebe. And Boobae was like a little irritated and told me that “weird things always happen when I’m with you.” And I ran outside to see Bebe and we got our picture taken with him and it was the best. And Bebe even kissed me on the cheek. Swoon.
The next day we had a driver take us to the north coast where we checked into an all-inclusive hotel. En route we stopped off at the botanical gardens in Pamplemousses. If you are into gardens then check it out- if you’re not then give it a pass. The main reason we were in Pamplemousses was that I had seen pictures of this abandoned orphanage and I was super keen to check it out. As in it was at the top of my Mauritius bucket list. But as it turns out the orphanage was fenced off and you needed special government permission to visit it, or risk getting arrested. And since Boobae is far too pretty for jail we just drove by and I took some sneaky pictures from the window. We also visited Chateau de Labourdonnais which is a restored plantation house. It is quite beautiful and included in the admission is a rum tasting which was basically all you want shots of rum. Turns out I do not especially like shots of rum so we didn’t get very much bang for our buck. We ate lunch at the restaurant on the Chateau property called Le Table du Chateau which was delicious but quite pricey. The lobster with vanilla butter was especially good.
We arrived at the all-inclusive. I’m not a big resort traveler. In fact I’ve only done all-inclusive one other time in the Maldives so that’s what I compare it to. We decided on three nights of doing nothing. I won’t name the resort we used, because I wouldn’t recommend it. The service was shit, and the food was pretty much on the same level as a buffet at your cousin’s wedding. The drink menu was on point though, and we never had to fight for chairs at the pool or beach. Our days there consisted of breakfast buffet. Getting another coffee from the bar. Finding 2 open lounge chairs. Reading/wasting time on social media. “Oh hey it’s 11am.” Direct to the bar. Now to be fair the bar opened at 9am but we are respectable day drinkers so 11am was go-time/show time. Then lunch. Bar. Pool. Bar. Read a bit. Bar. Catch the sunset. Bar. Back to the room to get ready for dinner. Dinner. And back to bar for some type of live music and to bed by 11pm. Next day- identical repeat of the previous day.
After the all-inclusive we booked a driver to take us to the east coast. This was the place I was most excited about staying, but because during July and August the trade winds are strongest to the east coast we decided to just stay one night. This was the only regret I had on the trip- I wish we’d canceled the all-inclusive and just stayed at the hotel we booked. Upon my research I found a hotel that opened last year. Salt by Palmar is environmentally conscious and everything is locally sourced. They provide a paperless check-in and get this….your phone opens your room. Mind blown. The attention to detail is impressive. The hotel is a total Instagrammers dream, but staying there is an experience. The hotel offers a variety of activities that are more culture oriented allowing you to visit markets, or learn a skill with locals. They don’t have single use plastic products and all guests are given a reusable water bottle that you can fill up at water stations around the small resort. And if you are a foodie like me this will be heaven for you. Every meal we had was interesting and they menu features a map with the names of the farmer who they get the produce from and the fisherman who provides the fresh fish. The entire concept was amazing and I would recommend it. It’s not a cheap hotel, but for me it was well worth it. We also got couples massages which gave us the chance to try their “Halotherapy” room, which is a room filled with Himalayan pink salt crystal and soft changing lights. It’s supposed to balance the flow of energy and calm your mind.
At dinner that night there was an Asian family seated next to us. A mom. A Dad. And their rambunctious toddler. The mom was exhausted and ended up falling asleep on a bench at the table, and the little boy wandered over to us. He didn’t speak much English but for the next 30 minutes I became his impromptu babysitter. We played a game I like to call hide behind my chair and tickle me. And the old school favourite of let me use your phone and take pictures of random things. He was super cute and while sometimes (often times) I’m not a huge fan of kids running amuck in nice restaurants, his parents looked exhausted so I made an exception. In the end their meal finally came. They had ordered the salt baked whole chicken which takes an hour to prepare. We had thought about ordering it but had opted not to. The kiddo at this point was in a highchair and the dad turned him around in it and slid him over and they handed us half the chicken. It was such a sweet gesture, and even though we were stuffed we ate the chicken, and it was delicious. In the morning the kiddo and I exchanged waves like we were old friends. I love travel interactions like that!
After sadly checking out of the hotel Salt we met our guide and started our tour to the south of the island. We visited Ganga Talao a sacred place for Hindu worshipers. The translation of the name means “Lake of Ganga” which refers to the Ganges river in India. There are several different temples and statues dedicated to the different Hindu gods. The island of Mauritius is very green and tropical and lush. There is an odd mix of vegetation with fir trees mixed in alongside tropical palms. As I mentioned before it was hard to look at the scenery without thinking about Jurassic Park or the mid-2000 TV show Lost. After Ganga Talao we went zip lining. You’re probably wondering how for someone who claims to be scared of heights how it was that I found myself zip lining for the second time this month. Well this was Boobae’s bucket list item and I’m a mostly supportive girlfriend, and I wanted prove to him that I wasn’t chicken. So I did it. And I’m not keen to do it again. We then checked out the scenic viewpoint of the Black River Gorges and stopped off for a fresh seafood lunch. More lobster? Yes please. We then drove to Chamarel to learn about rum production and to visit the Chamarel waterfall and the nearby Seven Coloured Earth. The Seven Coloured Earth is a geological field consisting of seven different coloured sands that separate into different layers based on their volcanic composition. The result is a portion of the landscape that looks like a watercolour painting with the various hues of brown, red, purple and yellow.
From here we drove further into the hills to the Chalets Chamarel which I had booked because of the insane view the chalets give of the southern tip of the island below. And the views were even more impressive in person than I had seen online. We sat out on our balcony until the last bits of sunlight had faded and the summit of Le Morne was just a shadow. It was equally picturesque as the sun rose on our last morning in Mauritius.
So that was kinda lengthy summary of our time in Mauritius, but I’m sure that pictures can make you understand how I left a piece of my heart there….
On another note, it’s been a busy summer. I was home in Canada and the US for almost a month and flew back to Saudi worked a bit and then flew to Abha to attend the AlSoudah Season festival with fellow blogger Laura from Blue Abaya, and then later that week we flew to Mauritius. In about 3 weeks Boobae and I are spending a weekend in Dubai and then I’ll be adventuring solo in Armenia for a week which I’m really pumped about. Happy adventuring to you….