Copyright © 2005-2017 Ray Plowman All Rights Reserved
Mauritius (Ile Maurice) is a tropical island in the Indian Ocean between three and four degrees north of the Tropic of Capricorn and 800 Km from the coast of Madagascar. In May 2014, my wife and I spent three weeks on the islands west coast, in the village of La Gaulette, close to the Black River Gorges National Park. Photography from our visit includes:
To visit all the places featured, a hire/rental car is essential as taxi costs can mount up over several weeks and is not flexible. Driving is challenging as the locals and taxis just stop in the road often without warning and if you don’t want a damaged car its best to avoid parking near four by fours in car parks especially supermarkets or at the beach.
Travel books and tour guides often promote Mauritius as being a tropical paradise and quote Mark Twain, who after a visit in 1896 said, “Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius”. However, two hundred years of land of clearance for agriculture and the introduction of alien species of fauna and flora has taken its toll. Less than 2% of the island’s native forest remains, it was over 20% when Mark Twain visited and over 80% before the land clearance. In the Black River Gorges Nature Reserve, there are efforts to restore the forest and save the threatened endemic species but it a fraction of the park area and it may be too late – Mauritius has the third most endangered flora.
It’s no longer paradise and doesn’t deserve the accolades. It’s been spoilt by over development and its best assets, such as the Botanic Gardens, Black River National Park, screw pine fringed beaches and alike, seem to be unloved and in decline.
If you just want to sit on the beach, in an all-inclusive hotel, then you may find that it’s is paradise. I’m not a traveller who subscribes to this type of holiday, especially the hotels that hide behind high walls and create artificial environments. If that’s your bag, then you probably won’t be disappointed with this version of paradise. We prefer staying in small establishments with local character, sample the local culture, visit local restaurants and meet real people.
There is a stray dog problem, at least in the south and even the owned ones wander around in the roads. One evening my wife and I were in Le Gaulette village having dinner at Royal Spice Restaurant, which has a veranda type open front. The traffic speeds up after dark; we heard a bus coming, then the stretch of brakes, followed by acceleration and the crunch of the dog’s skull. It travelled several tens of meters before dying at the kerb side in from of the restaurant. The restaurant owner did what he could but this incident seemed to be the shrugged off as the norm.
Mauritius has a tropical climate with warm daytime temperatures drooping by less than ten degrees Celsius at night. Trade winds blow from the east and greatly influence temperature and rainfall. The east coast has considerably more rainfall than the west even in the dry season, which runs from May to October. From November to April, it’s the rainy season and cyclones sometimes hit the island between January and March.