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Another Day In Paradise

Holidaying in Mauritius is much more than having an affair with the sun and sea. Marcellus Baptista discovers its various facets by spending a day out on this island paradise

Sure, you can have a ‘fun-in-the-sun’ day in Mauritius, just walking on the white sand of the beach, splashing in the swimming pool at your resort, drinking Phoenix beer or Green Island rum, stuffing yourself silly with seafood, and trying to cash in at the casino.

But do stir yourself from your comfort cocoon, step out and get into the big picture. Here are some options of where to go, what to do and why you should, if you happen to have just one day on this temptation island.

Water, water everywhere, but you are not a water person! Don’t worry, be happy. The land beckons with plenty of down-to-earth stuff. Sugarcane fields are forever, but there are other sights too for your eyes and the lens of your camera.

Nothing gets more earthy than Chamarel or coloured earth. This is a wavy mound in patches of red, yellow, blue and green, said to be caused by weathering over the years. Nearby is a waterfall for that cooling effect.

Then there is Grand Bassin, a natural lake that rests in the crater of an extinct volcano, while Trou aux Cerfs is an extinct crater 85 m deep and over 200 m wide with a view from the top of the island, excellent for a snapshot.

Nature lovers will drool at the famed Pamplemousses botanical gardens with glorious greenery everywhere. The indigenous and exotic plants include the giant Victoria Amazonica water lilies and the talipot palm said to flower once every 60 years.

Ground realities should also include driving around the island to get a feel of the various places and pockets. A pleasant and picturesque place is Grand Baie with boats bobbing in the water, yachts on a gentle cruise, and eateries that sparkle along the coast. This is not only a watersports delight, but also a shopping spot. The island’s main urban centre of Curepipe is also an eating and shopping pleasure.

Of course, no visit to Mauritius is complete without a ramble in Port Louis, capital and main port of the Indian Ocean island. You can feel the character in the colonial buildings and heritage structures.

The rainbow nation comes alive at the market. For modernity and sophistication, there’s Le Caudan waterfront and Port Louis waterfront, a shoppers’ paradise and also a gourmet treat with vibrant eateries and bars.

An alternate for all this movement on land would be to take to the water for a while. Snorkeling, scuba-diving, deep-sea fishing and wind-surfing may not be your cup of water. But you can always take a glass-bottom boat ride to view the corals.

Better still would be to go on a catamaran cruise. The sea breeze and spray makes for a very refreshing feeling as the catamaran skims the water creating waves. You are on your way to Ile aux Cerfs, the island with a powder-white beach, lagoon and transparent turquoise-blue water.

Your water world for a day would mean a toss-up between the undersea walk and a submarine ride. The Blue Safari submarine offers you an airconditioned comfortable descent 35 m down to view corals, multicoloured fish, the wreck of the Star Hope and an old anchor.

A better bet would be Capt Nemo’s undersea walk. The beauty is that you don’t have to know how to swim to go down into the deep. Your head is dry inside a helmet box with a glass visor, there’s a tube supplying you oxygen, you go down and then you are on the bed of the lagoon, in close contact with coral formations, sea urchins and dancing fish all around. It’s truly a touching experience as you can touch the fish and even feed them morsels of bread and see the rush of colours unfold before your eyes.

And at night in Mauritius, you can have your chips in the casino or watch the Sega dancers sizzle on stage, moving their bodies to African rhythms and Creole lyrics. You understand their body language alright!
A day out in Mauritius is sure to enchant you, making you want to come back to its shores time and time again.