Saturday, January 3, 2015

Isle Of Mauritius

New generation kids can be very demanding and they see to it that they get what they want. My kid is no different, a quintessential gen Y who thinks his dad is rich and can buy anything by simply withdrawing money from the ATM. That day he approached me and said I want to discuss our travel plan for this Diwali. Though very surprised, I liked his assertiveness. But this assertiveness quickly turned into a demand. He demanded, Baba we are going abroad this time for our vacation. I was taken aback by his innocent declaration. You know, he is so similar to my better half in these matters. A request / decision / order which you dare not reject. To corner me he brought his mother along who reiterated their desire with a lot of desperation (read pressure / force). It’s not that I don’t like vacations and travel, just that I need to be reminded. I am too happy and engrossed in my work (read Workaholic). All set, the hunt for a destination began in all earnest. We looked at all the exotic places on the world map, and after a lot of discussion (budget + available days) decided on an island called as Isle of Maurice. An island I had always dreamt of visiting someday. A volcanic island to the South of Africa. You guessed it right, its MAURITIUS. All set we embarked on this journey with a lot of expectations and excitement.
Port Louis

As we landed on the Seewoosagur Ramgoolam international airport, got a panoramic view of the blue ocean, beckoning us into its folds. With excitement rising all the time we left the airport exchanging pleasantries in French with the staff. (French is the official and most widely spoken language in Mauritius). As we drove towards the hotel we got a serene and eye pleasing view of the sugarcane fields everywhere we could gaze. Verdant land, monstrous mountains and neatly designed roads welcomed us to this magical island. What amazes is the calmness and slow pace of life here. It seems no one is in hurry to reach somewhere. The vehicles pass by with no or very little noise, what you hear is the wind blowing with a cool breeze. This is definitely a respite for mortals like us who all our life are leading a fast pace life, exposed daily to the cacophony of vehicles, their honking, blaring voices of fellow mortals hurling abuses and the pandemonium it creates
Mauritius - Sugarcane Fields
Sugarcane fields everywhere

Mauritius - Mountains galore
Mountains galore
This part of the world is oblivious to all this mess, it’s a different world all together, and I was happy to be here at least for some period. The mountains here have their own stories, how they were created and named. We had a breathtaking view of some mountains standing tall and adding a value to the already picturesque surroundings. All this while, the sugarcane fields gave us apt company (Sugarcane is produced on a large scale in Mauritius owing favorable conditions). Our journey to the hotel was pleasant to say the least.
Mauritius - Gorilla Mountain
Gorilla Mountain
Mauritius - Beautiful roads
Picturesque Roads
Hotel Tarisa where we were stationed is a sprawling estate with all the high class amenities you can think of. The adjacent sea shore with turquoise water added to its appeal. I was in a utopian world. There is so much to see in this tiny island of 1.2 million people. Yes that’s the population with per-dominantly Hindus of Indian origin. I met Bihari’s, Maharashtrians, Oriya, Punjabi's, and Tamilians who are now proud Mauritians and speak French with some languages of their forefathers. It was a feeling of seeing India outside India. 
Port Louis Hotels
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden

Our visit to the botanical garden was a cool affair, we walked into the garden with consummate ease, no rush no confusion. There is so much to see with variety of plants, trees, flowers, and each had an anecdote associated. The sprawling garden is not only pleasing to the eyes, but it is calm and you can find the solace you are looking for. The bleeding tree, crocodile teeth tree, lipstick tree, the almond tree and many more simply makes you awestruck and you indeed are bowled over by the nature’s bounty. Various palm trees (85 different varieties), gigantic indigenous trees, the flora keep you gazed not wanting to move beyond.
Mauritius - Botanical Garden
Crocodile teeth tree - Young - Middle Aged - Old
The lotuses and the heart shape leaves in the pond are a star attraction. These green leaves are so huge that it can easily hold a baby afloat. Some of the trees bore fruits and flowers which are not seen elsewhere and is the peculiarity of this garden. The metamorphosis of the trees from a new born to young and then old makes a very interesting story, worth capturing.
Mauritius - Lotuses
Lotuses Galore
You would see many medicinal plants and a spice garden as well. The stroll in the garden was special, thanks to absolutely no noise except that made by the birds and the trees swaying. No rush, no mortals plucking the flowers or tearing apart the shrubs and other plants, no cacophony of the burgeoning crowd and of course no littering and inscribing of love stories on the trunks of the trees. It was all beautiful to be absorbed and relished for a lifetime. We all left this magnificent garden with every inch of it stored in our senses to be ruminated and shared with others.
The Citadel Fort

We come from a land where forts are so huge that it would require hours and hours of walk to have every corner covered. They are a symbol of courage, opulence, magnanimity, architectural brilliance and great history. As compared to our forts this fort named Citadel would not be even considered a warehouse. There is nothing special about it except the fact that this is the only so called fort in the entire Mauritius which was built to keep a watch on the approaching enemies, nevertheless the view from this fort was amazing and panoramic. The nearby race course the 2nd oldest in the world and some churches around provided us with information that would come handy for quiz competitions. The highlight of the view from this fort was the demarcation of residential and commercial areas in the city of Port Louis. This was something which is hard to find in our country. Had a few photo op moments at the fort and we parted saying Au Revoir.
Mauritius - race course
2nd oldest race course in the world
The Pristine Beaches

What is Mauritius without the blue, turquoise crystal clear beaches? These pristine beaches beckoned us the moment we landed on this island. It was time to get carried away and enjoy the blue, green, turquoise water. The beaches are clean and the sea has shades of blue, green water. The water is so clear that you can see through for almost 10 feet. The corals, the marine life, the water bodies and the surrounding scenery all win your heart. Undoubtedly, this has to be the USP of the beaches here. I had my share of water sports which was exhilarating, though scary at times. Sitting on a wooden platform in the middle of the sea was a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Mauritius - Blue Ocean
Pristine Ocean Water
You simply cannot be satisfied by having a dekho at the sea for few hours or even days. The urge to hit the sea and ride on its waves is irresistible and we did an encore in a speed boat which gave us an unbelievable roller coaster ride to reach at the bottom of a waterfall. The thundering sound made by the falling water gave goose bumps and a sense of thrill. All this while the ocean changed its color from blue to green to turquoise and was a treat for the eyes. As they say, the earth looks blue when viewed from the space. I am pretty sure this blueness is contributed significantly by the ocean in Mauritius.
Mauritius - Blue Ocean
Blue Sea
Shipmodel Factory
One of the attractions in Mauritius is the ship model factory where souvenir ships of various shapes and sizes are made. The intricate work that goes into making them is praiseworthy and skillful. You can also find the national bird of Mauritius here, though in the wooden form. Dodo the bird is unfortunately extinct and the only way to see it is in the form of a show piece. Blame it on the Dutch for its disappearance from the island. The story goes, when the Dutch first came on this island, it was infested with wild animals, reptiles, thick forests. They had to face lots of hardships and were plagued by killer diseases. They found it difficult to get food and so the Famished Dutch killed the Dodo in large numbers and ate them. What a pity, one more example of human exploitation. 
Poor Dodo reduced to a show piece
Trou aux Cerfs

Mauritius is a volcanic island, though you won’t find any active volcanoes here. Trou aux Cerfs is an extinct volcano, though its crater is a great tourist attraction. It is surrounded by dense forest and shrouded in mystery. It is said, the depth of this crater cannot be ascertained and no one knows how deep it is. The mouth of the crater looks like a small pond with filthy water, but that’s just a superficial view. Beneath this water, extends a hollow where no man has gone before, and probably won’t go in future as well. That’s the mystery of Trou aux Cerfs.
Mauritius - Trou aux Cerfs
Trou aux Cerfs
The surrounding view is magnificent and gives a glimpse of beautiful Mauritius.
Amazing view from Trou aux Cerfs
The Smiling Shiva

Mauritius is home to 54% Hindus, and the presence can be felt as you move around. Temples, saffron flags can be seen in many places, women in traditional Indian attire with a Bindi and nose ring are seen strolling. No wonder you can see a humongous smiling Shiva statue more than 100 ft. tall erected next to a temple.
Mauritius - Shiva
Smiling Shiva
The temple with statues of Hanuman, Ganapati, Durga, Sai baba and many other Hindu gods make you feel at home. A traditional arti (hymns) reverberate the temple surroundings and a prasad is served after it. All the Indian festivals are celebrated with a lot of fervor in the Mauritius. It is heartening to see them connected to their roots, even though they have left the land of their forefathers. The new generation may not have seen India at all, but they still follow the Indian culture with lot of passion and devotion. I think they have perfectly molded themselves into an amalgamation of Indian culture and the culture of Mauritius which is again a mixture of European and African besides Indian.
Mauritius - Temple
Gods in Mauritian Temple
While you wander in Mauritius, it’s very rare that you do not get to see the mountains, the sea and lush greenery. This gods handicraft will make you happy and at peace. God must have paid special attention when it created this island on the earth, having said that, the pains and the hardships encountered by the mortals to make it beautiful is worth a mention. Every spot on this island is worth capturing and relishing. Chamarel waterfall is a must visit destination, though not as gigantic as others seen worldwide, it has its own charm and a view. The surrounding locales add to its appeal and its overall rating.
Mauritius - Chamarel
Chamarel Waterfall
Gods amazing craftsmanship is on a display at the Chamarel seven colored earth. This is one of its kind phenomenon's where earth with seven different colors is on a display. This relatively small area comprises of sand of red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow color. The thing that intrigues many is, the colors do not get washed out or get eroded in spite of heavy downpour or vagaries of the nature. This contour can activate your grey cells and make you wonder at this amazing piece of work. To give them an August company are some of the most aged, elderly companions who have seen life for more than 200 years or even more. The obvious reference is towards the Giant tortoise. These very shy and experienced (age wise) species can be seen in the vicinity of the other phenomenon. Both of these amazing phenomenon's are staying in harmony with each other since ages and complimenting each other to the core.

Mauritius - 7 colored earth
7 colored earth
Mauritius - Giant Tortoise
Giant Tortoise - More than 250 years old
The Abyss
Have you ever thought of hitting the ocean bed? Leave aside experiencing it. Only the most adventurous and trained can dare do it. But guys that thinking is of the past and you can dare do it. Believe me you can do it with certainty, unless you have a deep rooted nausea, fear, hatred for water J. This once in a lifetime experience is made possible by a submarine ride which would drive you to the abyss and bring back safely. I wonder why it is called a submarine, as it sinks itself completely under water and hits the ocean bed 35 meters or 115 feet deep. Isn’t it amazing? Through this submarine you can watch the corals, various species of fish, other marine life, and if lucky wreckages of doomed ships from a handful distance. The amazing world beneath the oceans is in front of your eyes, which otherwise you would view it on a TV. The experience of touching the ocean bed in itself is beyond explanation and can leave you dumbfounded, hysterical. After a dive for an hour in another world the sub emerges from the abyss to a thunderous applause from the people on-board. The journey is exhilarating and most importantly safe, so Folks, give it a try, go dive...
Mauritius - submarine
Ocean Bed - Fabulous Marine Life
Mauritius - Ocean bed
The Abyss
Mauritius Bird Park

Bird parks all over are more or less the same. The Mauritius bird park is house to more than 150 different species of birds from 5 different continents. It’s a huge park and you would see the birds indulging in shenanigans. From making various sounds, cuddling, dancing, to even sleeping, and not giving any importance to the passersby, who are hell bent on attracting their attention. You would get to see some indigenous birds as well with very attractive colors. It seems like they have come to birth from a color palette absorbing all the possible colors. You can hardly stop gazing at these amazing species. The highlight and the main attraction of this park is peacocks trying to attract their female counter parts by spreading their multi-colored feathers and doing everything possible to get the females attention. Their movements would have a rhythm and this is a sight to behold. All this happens while you are in close quarters of this beautiful bird. Their playful gestures are like tips to humans on romance.
Peacocks in full bloom
A keen bird watcher would have a gala time at this park. The locales are soothing and invigorating which is something very striking on this island. One can have many photo op moments at this park with the bird species giving you company.
The Sega dance
It is always recommended to have a rendezvous with things local to the land you visit, to get the real feel of the place. Be it food, people, culture, traditions. Mauritian music has a strong African influence and you would see it in their instruments, dances. Sega dance is one form which will make even a bore get on to a dance floor. Its very foot tapping and joyous and no one can stop shaking a leg or two, and it’s infectious. Getting to dance with the locals was a treat and heightened our joy. Matching their sensuous steps was something we all tried but failed miserably, but who cares, we had a time of our life. This interaction with the locals was something we would cherish all our life. This interaction was the icing on the cake and it filled in the gaps in our Itinerary island.
Mauritius - Sega dance
Sega Dance
Ubiquitous sugarcane fields, gigantic mountains, clear Blue Ocean, picturesque locations, friendly people all adorn this volcanic island of Mauritius. The laid back lifestyle is something which amazes people like us who are on the move every moment to earn livelihood. I was told Mauritian government takes very good care of its citizens, education and healthcare is free for them. This is something which we cannot even think of. Isn't it something which can make you jealous? The time spent here with my family was very special and is etched in my memory. Saying Au Revoir to Mauritius was a sad moment and we did it with a heavy heart, but with a promise to visit again.

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