Travel Tuesday: Two Weeks in Paradise… A trip to Mauritius
By: Olivia Jasmine Wells
Home. That was the first word that came to mind when I hit the brick wall of humidity that struck me as I stepped out of the airport. The slightly less humid climate of Mauritius reminded me of being back in Singapore, the country in which I was raised. Throughout the trip, this nostalgic feeling would remain, largely due to the welcoming and hospitable nature of the Mauritian locals. Driving to the resort, lined by palm trees and lush countryside, it was obvious that I would be spending the next two weeks in a tropical paradise. The resort itself was idyllic, located on the shore of a private bay with a crystal-clear, turquoise sea and soft, powdery white sand. Moreover, the weather in Mauritius in December is perfect: the bright sunshine is ideal for sunbathing, whilst a constant, cool breeze prevents one from becoming too hot.
On the second day, we planned an excursion into the republic’s capital, Port Louis. The cosmopolitan city, a location of commerce and administration, stands in stark contrast to the rest of the largely rural island. The city is a treasure trove of historical and cultural discoveries, which provide an insight into how this magical country evolved. An example of these historical sites is the Champ de Mars, the Southern Hemisphere’s oldest racecourse. Other must-see spots include the La Place D’Armes, Aapravasi Ghat (classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO) and the Caudan Waterfront (a must-see for keen shoppers like myself). The city’s central market is an amalgamation of exciting colours, sounds and smells: tourists can mix with the locals by shopping from fruit, vegetable, and clothing stalls, as well as visiting the souvenir booths.
On the fourth day, my brother and I embarked on an entirely new experience by renting some underwater ‘bubble bikes’ (or Breathing Observation Bubbles). This was an adventure unlike any other. Despite feeling somewhat uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed in the goofy looking ‘scooters’, these feelings swiftly dissipated once we were deep in the water, feeding colourful shoals of fish and observing the vibrant reefs. This once-in-a-lifetime experience gives an unparalleled perspective of life underneath the sea-surface. Indeed, the sensation is like driving one’s own mini submarine.
Throughout the trip, there was the opportunity to go snorkelling, in the clear, azure bay. For a small sum, one could hire a boat to take them further out to sea, providing a more exhilarating exposure to the Indian Ocean. On more than one occasion, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins. Being able to swim with dolphins in such a natural environment (as opposed to the ‘organised’ swim I had previously experienced in Batam, Indonesia) was a magical experience that I will never forget.
Nonetheless, the trip was not without its perils. On the morning of the fifth day, my dad stepped on a sea urchin, which unfortunately resulted in a trip to the hospital. Relieved that he had been struck by a math sea urchin, rather than its more toxic cousin, the flower urchin, medical advice was sought to remove the many spikes from his swollen foot. Expecting a stereotypical white-washed complex, I was pleasantly surprised to spend my afternoon in a building which could easily have been another of the island’s many five-star resorts. With an enchanting view of the Indian Ocean, my father was more than willing to spend that day relaxing in an environment of tropical luxury. After merely one day in hospital, my father was fit enough to return to the holiday and continue with our Mauritian adventure. Undoubtedly, he will now forever remain wary of this parasite of the sea, l’oursin.
Mauritian cuisine represents the country’s truly multicultural population. One can savour the finest Chinese, Indian, Western and Mauritian food. Indeed, the Indian dishes we enjoyed in Mauritius were the best we had tasted since leaving Asia. In particular, I enjoyed the lighter, vegetarian options, for example, the sautéed paneer with cauliflower and tomatoes. The heavy French influence upon the island is especially noticeable, with fresh baked bread almost identical to that which can be bought in a local French boulangerie. As a fitness junkie, the abundance of local fresh tropical fruit was a huge delight. Following my daily morning workouts, I was greeted by a brightly-coloured array of the freshest fruits, ranging from pineapple to passionfruit, and from watermelon to baby bananas.
My holiday in Mauritius was a magical adventure, with exceptional experiences and encounters. This fascinating country will always occupy a special place in my heart. I cannot help but yearn for the sunshine, heat and humidity of Mauritius now that I have returned to the crisp, cold St Andrews wind. Upon my return to St Andrews, I have reflected on how incredibly fortunate I am to study in yet another stunning location. One must never take for granted the magic and adventure that permanently surrounds us. Sometimes, it takes a trip abroad to recognize this important reality.