February 20, 2018
The plus and minus of the island of Mauritius.
Sometimes, especially on a flight on the other side of the world, the following thoughts creep into my mind: I’ve lost track of my total number of air-miles flown, of the names of the places I’ve stayed at, of the interesting sights I’ve seen, and so on. To remember it all is practically impossible.
But then I recall: to remember things, people have always written things down, which is just what I’ve been doing since the year dot! And should ever laziness have gotten a hold of me (moi?), I could just consult our accounting department, who are even more conscientious about book keeping (whence ‘bookkeeping’!) than I am: where I was, how I got there, which airports I used, where I stayed and for how long, where I dined… even where I had a beer! And of course let’s not forget the 100GB+ of (sorted, processed and compressed) photos I’ve accumulated down the years. So yes – you get the picture photo: there’s no chance anything could possibly be forgotten!
I also have practically a bottomless store of (actually, nearly 20 years of) travel (both business and touristic) experience, which is now not a bad resource to be tapped by practically any traveler (ok, maybe not the budget traveler; apologies for that) or potential traveler since it’s so vast. And it just keeps being supplemented with more and more new places and experiences. I sometimes have a trip down memory lane and get all nostalgic for the places I’ve been to and haven’t returned to for so long, and also for the simpler days when cameras had film inside that needed to be processed at special shops :). I’m also rather proud of some of the detailed subsections of my blog; for example, my Top-100 Must-See Places in the World and its various sub-sub-sections, my hotels list, and so on…
I also get to thinking about how lucky I am to visit so many beaches of the world on my travels – a bonus of having to be at business conferences, which have a handy knack of taking place in sunny resorts. But of course they are: where are you going to get the most accepted invitations to a conference – in, say, Munich, or in, say, Hawaii? Yep: it’s not rocket science. And I can even give rankings of the best resorts/beaches/conference venues too (my current fave: Surfers Paradise).
And talking of sunny resorts and rankings of the best this or that, there’s also my ranking of the business events. What’s at the top of this list? Naturally, it’s our own: the Security Analyst Summit (SAS). And naturally it always takes place in a real nice sunny resort with obligatory beach. Examples: Croatia, Cyprus, Malaga, the Canary Islands, Caribbean islands; and next month – once again back in Cancun, which will be our tenth SAS!
So what’s most important to you when it comes to beach resorts? Yes, it all depends on your priorities, for a super resort that ticks all the boxes for absolutely everyone simply doesn’t exist. Trust me, I’m a doctor :). Let me explain.
One resort’s beaches may have the whitest sand and be longer than the eye can see… but in the ocean reside nasty jellyfish or stingrays (in Seychelles, for example). Another resort’s sea may be crystal clear, but that doesn’t help you avoid stepping on prickly sea urchins (in Dubai, for example). There may be the most beautiful scenery all around with volcanoes dotting the horizon, but the volcanic sand on the beach gets so hot by lunchtime that your sneakers almost melt! A place may seem idyllic in all senses but be just too small, so you need to take a full suitcase of books with you to pass the time away as there’s little else to do.
So I keep a note of all the respective pros and cons of the beaches I’ve been to (practically on all continents all over the world, apart from central Polynesia from Fiji to Tahiti). And the latest, freshest example is Mauritius (here). Like? Or not Like? Let’s see…
First, the downside:
1. If what floats your boat is exclusively dipping/paddling/swimming/playing/frolicking in the sea – this is NOT the place for you. Since Mauritius is both volcanic and tropical, coral reefs encircle the island. These are undoubtedly beautiful – if you’re viewing them from up in a plane out the window. Down below though, those coral reefs just get in the way of your bathing: to get to the water that’s deeper than knee-deep you may have to scramble over hundreds of meters of coral reef, which itself can be ‘prickly’; add to that the prickles you may encounter on the backs of sea urchins – it all adds up to a rather unpleasant experience, especially at low tide, which occurs rather frequently here.
However, if you’re not that bothered about actually getting into the sea, preferring just to admire it from afar, say, from the comfort of your sun lounger next to the pool or on the beach – the coral doesn’t count as a con: it’s irrelevant.
2. It can get reeeaaalllly windy and rainy here. In winter it can go one further and you’ve a hurricane to deal with. This can cause planes to be grounded or not able to land until the weather conditions improve. Who needs that? If you’re lucky (like we were) and you’re here in February (or March) there’s just a lot of rain without the hurricanes. But that’s ok: the sun loungers are fitted with umbrellas! In summer–fall there’s less rain, but still plenty. In short, if rain ain’t your thing – this is still a con all year round for Mauritius, albeit a minor one (the rain and wind can vanish in a matter of minutes and it’s all clear and sunny again for the rest of the day).
Btw: Mauritius’s farmland is given over almost 100% to sugar beet. Our guide did explain something about this crop-monopoly on the island, but I didn’t quite catch it. So I looked it up on Wikipedia. Turns out sugar beet is the only crop hardy enough to be able to survive the rigors of the Mauritius climate. Anything else simply gets blown away or washed away into the ocean.
3. Activities. Rather, their near-total lack. I mean non-beach/pool/hotel activities for the more adventurously-inclined tourist. Ok, so, here’s one (1!) exception: the Tamarind Falls, which are a cascade of seven waterfalls. And that’s about it!
You get to the falls on an excursion. They really are beautiful. Sure, you’ll not be seeing any waterfalls like these in Munich, but at the same time they’re not jaw-dropping wonders of the world either to fly half-way round the world for :).
Aaaarrrgh! I spoke dissed to soon!
There is one natural feature of Mauritius that is totally worthy of an excursion to for a day. It’s totally unique too – not repeated anywhere else on the planet!…
I’m talking about the world’s only underwater waterfall! At least, that’s what it looks like. Alas, we didn’t visit it! Will just have to come back to check it out another time…
Ooops. There’s one more activity for a day visit, turns out: the Seven Coloured Earths. But that IS it. No more non-beach/hotel activities to be experienced in Mauritius. Honest!
But wait. Let’s back up a bit here. A ‘natural wonder’? My camera straight out LOLed!
Not that I’m one to show off but, well, my trusty old Sony has seen a great deal of volcanism all around the world (Kamchatka, Hawaii, Etna, Fuji…), plus Danxia, sunsets in the desert, and… I could go on for ages. So when it saw Mauritius’s ‘volcanic colors’, well, it was a bit of a let-down to put it mildly. Volcanism that’s about the same size as a football field… – sure, you go check it out. But you don’t travel to it on a long-haul specially. Not that we did, but… you know what I’m saying here.
This exotic-looking bird seemed to be in a right grump. Marching to and fro along that fence all angry beak and bad attitude :).
3.1. Another negative aspect that has to be mentioned – one which could easily have been a very positive aspect but somehow wasn’t: the special recipe for rum used at the island’s sugar-beet-moonshine distillery, where all tourists are taken without fail. Here’s the installation that greets you on the way in…
So, this ‘rum’ that’s produced here… Oh my ghastly! Awful stuff. Yes folks – whatever you do (if you ever make it to Mauritius), do NOT try the local brew here. I mean, it’s number-two on my list of the World’s Most Disgusting Must-Avoid Alcoholic Beverages in the World. (Number-one, btw, is Shōchū on the Japanese island of Aogashima.)
3.2. The island’s safari: mixed impressions…
We were expecting to just be driven around a nature reserve in a jeep. Nope – we got out at one point and were even able to stoke the lions!!! But wait – I’m still on the cons…
I’m just not sure about the safety of allowing us into the lions’ den. I mean – there’s these signs warning of the dangers… and then they put us inside to roam with known killer predators. Hmmm. Just glad they’d just been fed :).
// It reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt (incidentally, a prediction of the downside of the Internet of Things. Published in 1950!).
So why is this ‘safari’ in ‘cons’? Well, it’s just… ok. Nothing special; not like a Tanzanian Safari (with a big ‘S’:).
4. The Raphinae. The flightless, trusting, helpless, tragic, and now extinct birds. Man came along and killed them all off. Not good. Very bad; therefore, an emphatic, angry, Mauritian con.
5. And last but not least: geography. It takes ages to fly to Mauritius from anywhere (apart from Madagascar:).
Or am I being too harsh on poor little Mauritius here? After all, being in the middle of nowhere the Indian Ocean has one obvious benefit: no one else will be bothered to even attempt to reach it; they’ll settle for somewhere nearer. Less tourists: a major pro, actually.
All righty. Enough negativity (I don’t know what’s wrong with me; I normally NEVER dwell on the negative:). Time for some positive…
The first, main, only, and fully sufficient plus (actually a few plusses all rolled into one):
Everything here is new, fresh, clean and the cuisine is exceptional and the lodgings are top notch.
It seemed to me that Mauritius has gone down the well-trodden path of boutique islands like the Maldives or Seychelles: tourism, development, tourism, more development, tourism, some sugar cane plantations for authenticity. Everything here is noticeably well-planned and designed, well-built, nicely painted and polished and the rest of it: plenty of money has clearly been spent. Very cool, very comfortable, real nice. And not just the territory of the hotels. The whole island’s like that:
So what were we doing here anyway? Easy: we needed to be real far from the whole world, in a far-away hotel on a far-away island where the sun shines a lot. We do this once a year – the senior management of the company. To pow-wow and bounce ideas off each other without any distractions or interference from the outside world. And Mauritius, despite all the above-listed cons – ticks all those boxes.
We brainstorm here. We even paint and doodle and scrawl!
Joke. Those paintings were there when we arrived :).
Btw, the hotel. To find your room you need to complete a quest through a labyrinth. I go lost twice! That’s all great fun of course, but… naaah, no buts. It’s just great fun. After the third time I would have been able to locate my room blindfolded ).
Oh, Mauritius. You’re so precious!