Mascarene Islands, Rodrigues: Wild Beauty in the Indian Ocean
I am talking about Rodrigues island, an almost invisible dot somewhere in the enchanting blue of the warm Indian Ocean. It is the smallest of the charming Mascarene Islands. An average runner can run around it in three hours. This dot of an island is 18 kilometers long, 8 kilometers wide and has about 40 thousand inhabitants. Officially, it belongs to Mauritius, a island 400 kilometers away. Together they make the Republic of Mauritius. Local inhabitants (creoles of African or Indian origin and of Roman-Catholic faith) are very proud of their autonomous status.
However, in case you expected the wow effect you would have on Mauritius where luxurious resorts of western standards are located, then don’t go there. You would be disappointed. Rodrigues and Mauritius have very little in common. Yes, there are beautiful beaches on Rodrigues but to get to them is as complicated as the history of the island itself.
In 1528, Portuguese sailor Diego Rodrigues discovered it. In the 18th century, the French colonized it and the English in the beginning of the 19th (therefore, you can communicate there in English and French with almost anybody here). In case you want to see the most beautiful of bays which are lined with sugar-like sand like the Oyster Bay, then you have to come across sharp, parched tuff rocks. And it is pretty windy there. The whole island has little humidity. Any attempts to develop functioning agriculture have came in vain due to land erosion.
In case you want to visit Rodrigues, then you would be one of only 55 thousand tourists that visit the island every year. Thanks to 300 windy days, Rodrigues is the best place in the world to do some kite surfing Each June, a festival dedicated to this increasingly popular sport takes place there.
However, Rodrigues offers much more. You shouldn’t miss Francoise Leguat’s nature reservation where gigantic turtles live . Not so long ago, these animals inhabited the whole island. You can get so close to these old giants that you can even touch them. Also, you learn how to recognize male from female on the first glimpse. Thanks to maintaining of wild vegetation you can have a glimpse of island’s state as it was 300 years ago.
Typical for the island are low countryside buildings. Strings hanging outside are cowered with drying octopuses with tentacles twirling in the wind . Octopus is very popular local delicacy making a large shore of local meals. Waters around the island are rich on octopus so maybe it would surprise you that women are responsible for catching them. The most common food you can get is a curry from fresh octopus. To this is mostly served a sour glass of brown tamarind juice. However, don’t expect anything that would be truly delicious. Anyway, lets get back to the typical image of the island.
After couple of hours there, you stop counting goats. They are simply everywhere. Rodrigues is kind of a breeding station for Mauritius , in a small-scale. Goat, or other animals, breeding is the main source of income for the local inhabitants. To protect the environment there are hardly any breeding stations on the tourist-beloved Mauritius. Just to make the image complete – it takes about eight months to breed a goat eventually selling it for around 50 euros.
As for accommodation, there are quite good and affordable hotels. Even luxury mostly administered by immigrants from Europe is setting its foot there. Perhaps due to islands small size which make it very difficult to hide something and perhaps due to friendliness of locals the island has zero criminality. So you don’t have to worry about anything.
Rodrigues’ isolation make the island basically a live museum of creole culture. It isn’t artificially sustained to entertain tourists. The vivid Sega dance is its most typical feature. You will certainly see it and locals are very willing to teach you their cultural heritage.
Port Mathurin is the island’s capital. It is a port which is more a village than a town. A busy village that is. Narrow streets lined with inns serving curry while observing the ocean or listening to tales of old fishermen. Except for some extra catches, waves around the hide, for instance, romantic ship wreck beneath. The most famous is the British ship Trio sunk on its way from Calcutta in 1846. It is a dream of every diver.
Wonders of maritime life that exists already from fifteen meters of depth lure every adventurer. The main attractions are sea turtle Carangue, colorful tropical fish, and coral gardens. In case you find diving not adventurous enough, then go to the north up Montagne Malgache. You can zipline for half-a-kilometer between two edges of the 100-meter deep abyss. This is quite different level of tropical excitement while having a view of the ocean.
GPS: 19°40'42.0"S 63°25'40.2"E
Text and photo: Jitka Volnerová
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|Today:||wednesday 31. 5. 2023|