Mauritius: Somewhere In the Very Middle of the Ocean
January 1, 1970
by Oyku Dikmen
An Island Where African, Indian, French and British People Live Together
When my friends first got the idea of going to Mauritius, to be honest with you I didn’t even know where this country was in the world. I had no idea that it was going to be one of the greatest experiences of my life where I got to swim with dolphins in an open sea just as they were passing by through the ocean, where I got to see how a mixture of people can blend so well together from Africa to India and from India to Europe and live happily, but most impressively where this giant tortoise who was bigger than me came next to me and asked for affection, as playful as a dog. Nevertheless, when we got into the latest and biggest Emirates plane in the world I have started to sense that this place is something a little bit more than a paradise island with sand, sea and palm trees
Mauritius is counted as to be a part of Africa, but to me, it is right there – in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The closest piece of land is another island called “Reunion” and maybe you remember its name as the island where some pieces of the lost Malaysian flight have drifted to. Other than Reunion, the closest human connection exists in the Madagascar island, which people travel to by boat or by plane but as my diving instructor has warned me it is possible to find yourself in there (if not I don’t know in a big mass of ocean) if you swim too much to your left.
I went there at the beginning of August, which is still winter time for the country but the hotel was full. Sometimes it was raining cats and dogs but it was still possible to walk around in shorts and see around. Other than that, it was mostly swimming weather sunny. On top of that, in our hotel Shangri La (and I as know in many hotels) the sea sports were limitless and free all day. So, our first day we enjoyed the breakfast with a wide international cuisine and tropical fruits and by looking at an amazing view. After, we have been to an “hour of aquarium” program which is a thing where they give you diving gear and you watch some of the most colorful fishes in this world. Next, since I was really into sea sports we have been sailing on a catamaran and that was the time we made really good friends with the beachhouse staff.
When I travel, one thing I try to do is to make friends with the local people of that place who can tell me about how they feel living in that place, and what type of stories come along and of course where I can get the best local food. Usually since I have been living internationally for a long time, I have friends from all over the world however not very surprisingly I didn’t have any from Mauritius. Plus, I didn’t have any friends who have only lived on an island in the middle of the ocean for their lifetime and I had questions for these people. As much as that island looked like it was a piece of heaven, if I would have to live there for my entire life that place could get a little claustrophobic for me at times. So I asked them how it feels to live surrounded completely by water and never seeing anywhere else and they told me since they have never seen anywhere else this was their world and they were quite happy in it. What a paradox! So, I told them I would love to make a documentary about their experience if they would ever decide to visit Turkey or Spain! What they said was quite true though, to generalize, they were one of the happiest and easily approachable people I have seen in my life.
What Not to Miss:
1) Le Morne Brabant Mountain
This impressive mountain is in the UNESCO World Heritage list for a sad reason. As a Mauritian friend told me, in the past the slaves who could not put up with the rough lifestyle anymore used to go to the peak of this mountain and jump from it.
2. Chamarel: 7 Coloured Earth and the Botanic Park Next to It
Chamarel is the famous attraction of Mauritius where you get to see 7 different colors(purple, pink, blue, orange, red, green and yellow) on soil. We went there on a very impressive day where first we were lucky to walk around in sunshine and then when it started to rain we got to sit under those wooden huts and drank tea. Also next to the tea they were producing drinks of sugar cane and we could easily see the production of it which again was a completely different culture for me.
One thing I loved about being on this exotic island was that I could get to see some many interesting plants that I would never see in my life in the city. So the botanic park that you visit before entering Chamarel is also very impressive. There we walked from the forest and came to a big waterfall and we could see bats with yellow wings flying over the valley in between us and the waterfall. They were so far away so I couldn’t get a nice picture of them but by naked eye they were easily visible.
3) The Local Market in Port Louis
It was an interesting place to see how Indian and African people blend in a community there. Also it was an opportunity to see an immense color of interesting food on display which I haven’t seen some before in my life.
4) SSR Botanic Garden
It is a great place to see giant tortoises(although I don’t like animals being kept like that so I don’t support that idea), unusual trees or gigantic lilies
One day we rented a speedboat to roam in the ocean and once we passed the coral reefs the waves got so big that they started carrying us horizontally and some were so high that it was getting impossible to see anything else around. When we found a calmer spot we stopped and after a while we saw dolphins coming our way. Then we put on our goggles and jumped right in. It was one of the most stunning views of my life. The moment I was in the water, there was sunshine coming out and in that mix of light with the darkness of the ocean, there were at least fifty dolphins swimming below me. When I was out, some of them were playing in the water one two meters away from us. When we went back to the boat, the captain told us that sometimes they see a whale that was as well. I was bit terrified when I heard that because I had no idea while I was in the water.
Then we hopped on a catamaran and visited small islands that were close by.
I left a piece of my heart…
next to this giant tortoise who came next to me by itself and leaned in for a selfie (ok haha maybe I saw an opportunity). I loved it so much because it didn’t act that way to other people on the farm. It let me pat him on its head and almost gave me a kiss. After I want, I told everybody about it. My dad gave me a tortoise necklace with diamonds and a painter friend of mine made me a quick sketch when we were at a house party. So, I believe that tortoise to be a special lucky charm for me.
[single_map_place] Mauritius [/single_map_place]