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Mauritius: 8 Reasons I love this island

Mauritius is a lovely place, and impressive too. Yes it's a tropical paradise of sorts, with stunning beaches and long, arching turquoise bays, and acres of coral beach sand. But those aren't the reasons I found it a compelling and interesting place to visit, and an example of a society that seems to be getting things right. Here are my reasons: Continue reading "Mauritius: 8 Reasons I love this island"

Mauritius: La Preneuse

Flic en Flac, the epicenter of Mauritian tourism on the west coast, benefits from a long, broad coral lagoon, and a wide beach lined with pines (and ice cream/sandwich wagons!). But the town lacked the shady canopy I'd appreciated in Mahebourg and Blue Bay, and seemed well on its way to becoming the next Miami Beach.

Far better, and just a couple of kilometers south along the coast, was La Preneuse. Named for a French warship, the sandy beach was decorated with a couple of remaining cannons, and a thick, stone tower sat just behind the fringe of trees – both relics of a naval era of centuries past. Continue reading "Mauritius: La Preneuse"

Cap Malheureux

Cap Malheureux, Mauritius

Mauritius' generally round profile is pinned by two geographical features at its northern and southern extremes. In the south, it's the massive Morne Brabant, a Cambrian volcanic door stop joined to the rest of the island by a flat, fertile plain like earthen meltwater spilling from the sides of an ice cube. Its imposing, 250m high shape commands the eye from the horizon, and its profile is the iconic view of Mauritius, with tropical seas breaking around it on foamy reefs.

At the north end, we visited Cap Malheureux, the "Cape of Disgrace", witness to an untold number of shipwrecks during the age of Napoleon1. The bay was jammed with pleasure boats, mostly for nearshore fishing, none of which seemed overly unlucky to me, and in the channel before the immense offshore islet called Coin de Mire ("the Gunner's Quoin [sight]")a red-sailed dhow zipped across the wind, a sudden reminder we were again traveling in the Indian Ocean. Continue reading "Cap Malheureux"

The Mauritian Highlands

Mauritian Highlands

The unappreciated jewels of tropical islands are their highlands, away from the reefs and the crowds, where the breeze turns cool and the only sound is the call of the birds. Twice we ventured upward, regretful that this wouldn't be the trip where I get to hike into deep wilderness with compass and backpack.

The first was to the Le Val Nature Park wilderness northwest of Lion Mountain. We crossed a few stream beds where the water must run several meters deep during rain storms; dark volcanic rubble polished round and smooth by the running water glistened in the afternoon sun, but for now they were dry. From the hilltop (300m) the view was outstanding: green and rumpled, as far as the eye could see. Continue reading "The Mauritian Highlands"

Mauritius: Shades of Turquoise on Blue Bay

Blue Bay, Mauritius

On some trips the winds blow so strongly against you it's tempting to believe destiny is not on your side. So began our trip to Mauritius, with forgotten luggage, visa troubles, and hotel reservation issues. Was it a sign we should abandon the trip? No: before long the snafus were behind us and we were digging our toes into the sandy coastline of one of Earth's most exotic south sea islands: Mauritius.

We spent our first few nights in the southeast, on Blue Bay, named for obvious reasons but so truly deserving of the name. An enormous stretch of coral reef we'd admired even from our descending plane arches boldly out from the shore, embracing a small, wooded islet and a shallow bay steeped in a myriad shades of blue. A shallow channel brought in the rising tide from somewhere behind the islet, and well beyond that, against the ramparts of coral, thumping waves from the South Indian Ocean sent mares' tails of sea foam flying towards shore. Continue reading "Mauritius: Shades of Turquoise on Blue Bay"