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.
Shoreside, the beach was shallow and the water was warm, and we jumped in accompanied by hundreds of hundreds of Mauritians, young and old, enjoying an afternoon at the beach. This was one of Blue Bay's – and Point d'Esny's – greatest pleasures: in Mauritius the best beaches are often the public ones, and the hotels get second dibs. Indeed, our bed and breakfast, which promised a room at water's edge, offered up a beach that was rockier than sandy. Adjacent, the public beach was sandier, shadier, and more fun, and that's where we spent our time.
The Mauritians were on a sort of holiday themselves, as classes were out for the month of December. Families relaxed under the shade of the pines and almond trees and enjoyed picnics of spicy sauced dishes, and the children splashed around in the shallow water. My own children enjoyed it as much, and even made a few Mauritian friends.
Equally enjoyable about the beach at Blue Bay was all that shade. Stands of trees lined the water's edge and provided welcome respite from the tropical sun, as December in the southern hemisphere is high summer. Blue Bay lived up to its name, as did a once favorite (sadly, now discontinued) bottle of Waterman fountain pen ink, South Seas Blue. I spotted that shade as well, somewhere between the sky and the reef.
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