Blue, green, moving, dynamic, awe-inspiring, dark, rocky, fishy, slimy, pebbly, black, beautiful, scenic, moving, exciting, dangerous, calm, soothing, vast, ceaseless. If there is anything that is truly awe-inspring, and reaffirms my faith that there has to be a supreme power to create something like it, it’s the Sea. The Sky, the mountains, the desert, are no doubt vast, and imposing, but the sea is different. It moves. It contains life, it has moods of its own, it is alive.
After a long hiatus, I finally took off to that dream foreign junket to Mauritius. Exceedingly happy to escape the monsoon traffic in Mumbai and the humdrum work and chores, I eagerly awaited that Air Mauritius flight that would take me away from chaos to the tranquility and excitement of a lovely beach!
Why did we choose Mauritius?–
– A destination where most honeymooners go, although, I wasn’t on my honeymoon, Mauritius was certainly a place we decided that would be the one to relax and rejuvenate.
– Fantastic pictures from other travellers, made us sit up and want to go there
– The falling rupee made Europe very expensive
– South east Asia being at the equator, was way too hot for my liking at this time
– We only wanted to relax and rejuvenate and a beach at an exotic locale sounded like a great idea
– Hubby SS had accumulated plenty of Starwood hotel points which we needed to finish off this year
– Visa on arrival for Indian citizens allowed for one less time-consuming hassle for a visit!
The Air Mauritius flight in the wee hours of the morning (4 am) in the middle of the week, saw me fighting to the finish to send off that last email and then rush to the airport at midnight. The visa being on arrival was one less hassle and we were relieved to have chosen this destination. The flight was full (of honeymooners as expected) with girls in huge red bangles, green bangles, and there were hardly any girls without the mehendi on their hand and feet! How easy it is to tell newly weds in India I realized than anywhere else where they only have a tiny hardly visible ring to indicate they are married!
Immigration formalities completed, the flight left in time for our destination as we tried to get a few winks in the 6 hour flight. However, dear reader, the flight was frightfully uncomfortable with cramped seats and little leg room. A snack was served immediately after take-off and before they dimmed the lights. Thankfully, they served an Indian vegetarian breakfast consisting of upma, sambaar and dosa in the morning which was the only redeeming factor in the whole journey! I would have recommended booking an Air India flight if it were not for the striking pilots, but then, Air Mauritius also has a tie-up with Air India, so one might end up in the Air Mauritius plane after all, so unless you are flying business, expect an uncomfortable flight!
We arrived in the morning bleary eyed and tired but looking forward to the long day that stretched ahead. As I entered the Mauritius airport, I noticed all the Mauritians looking no different than Indians! Infact, they even dressed like Indians – The women wore salwar kameezes, bindis and sindur! That was my first brush with the Indianness in Mauritius and I went on to discover more that I will describe in my next blog.
Several money-changing personnel assailed us as we got off, not unlike the vegetable market style of yelling their exchange rates perceiving which countries tourists arrived from. We changed some of the Indian Rupees for Mauritian Rupees (yes, their currency is Rupee too) and then looked for the next step – transport to take us to the hotel. Unlike us, most tourists, had booked package tours which are usually inclusive of accommodation, transfers, and sightseeing. But well, we have never enjoyed that form of tourism where everything is mostly tailored for you and there is less chance of discovery and self-exploration. As the crowd disappeared we ambled to taxi counter and bargained for a taxi . The taxi charges were around Rs 1700 Mauritian for a 1.5 hour ride to the hotel – this is around 3,400 Indian Rupees.
The first impressions imprinted in my mind on the road are the breezy heads of crops billowing in the wind, lush green sugarcane crops spread over long stretches, peeks of the blue ocean and green stretches on both the sides of the ‘motorable road’ as we were to call it later. Ten minutes down the road, the taxiwallah asked us if we wanted a car on rent. Well, we did, and he took us to a private car dealer outside the airport where we got a shiny red car after plenty more haggling and a tattered map to get to our hotel. Thankfully, driving on an Indian license was permitted, and we got our means to roam around without worrying about the high taxi fares. Petrol was pretty expensive at nearly Rs 100 (Indian) for a litre and for once, we didn’t grumble about high petrol costs in India!
Quite a large chunk of Mauritius’ coastline is lined by hotels, and our hotel, Le Meridian was situated in the northwestern part of the little island in a place called Pointe Aux Piments. Most of the names in Mauritius are French and utterly unpronounceable for the ones like me uninitiated with the silent letters in French language! After passing the main city of Port Louis with its picturesque harbor and office buildings, and many twists and turns later, we finally made it to our hotel a couple of hours later.
A magnificent view from the hotel room beckoned us to stay awake and the exceedingly plush room beckoned us to recover from the long flight, but well, the hotel stay is worth another blog.
Stay tuned for more on Mauritius.
Tips and lessons learnt
– The best time to visit Mauritius is in their Summer – October – February. We visited in their winter (July). Although it wasn’t very cold, and got mildly chilly in the evenings, you might not be able to get into the water as many times as you would like to.
– Air Mauritius is not a comfortable flight. Carry an extra cushion, wear socks. Get those few hours of sleep. It will help.
– Check out foreign currency rates in your home country and try to get the best possible rate. If it works, withdraw in dollars if you have a dollar account somewhere.
– If you are comfortable with group tours, go for it, they usually turn out cheaper and hassle free
– If you like to discover things on your own, book only your flights and hotels in advance and also find out the best modes of transport available.
– Mauritius allows driving on an Indian driving license. You can rent a car here. Check out options before arriving here since airport rentals might be a bit more expensive. We got a car for Rs Mauritian 1000 a day whereas at the airport they charged nearly Rs 1400-1500 for a day. Public transport is quite weak and I wouldn’t recommend taking the few buses available there. Taxis cost about Rs Mauritian 500-600 (Rs 1000-1200 Indian) for even short distances of 5-6 kms.