Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Retreat by the waves

By Swetha Amit

We have often wondered what life under the sea would be like and were always curious to find out. Our trip to Mauritius gave us an opportunity to find out and we headed out for what promised to be an adventurous trip.

Mauritius is known as the star of the Indian Ocean. When we set foot on this paradise island we realized that it more than lived up to its name.

Our exciting expedition began with a visit to the lle aux Cerfs (the Isla
nd of Deer) situated towards the east of Mauritius. As we drove down the smooth roads, we couldn’t help but admire the lush green sugar cane fields on either side. Before we realized it, we had reached the ocean bay from where we took a speed boat to the Miniature island.

On the way to the Miniature island we stopped for parasailing.
Riding on a high! This 20-minute flying high in the air is a must for those seeking a thrill. Gazing down at the ocean from high above enhances the serenity of the sea. The most exciting part was when we swooped down to dip our feet into the sea and were immediately transported back to flying high over the ocean. The experience was well worth the 50USD that we spent on it.

When we came back to the lle aux Cerfs, it was vibrant with activities. The beach itself was one of the most beautiful that we had ever seen. Some tourists bathed in the scorching sun of May hoping for a tan, other trying out the different water sports and yet others just enjoying the lively beach. The locals pointed us in the direction of the many water sports that Mauritius was famous for. Several options were available and all of them so attractive that made it impossible for us to choose.

Wrapped around the tube
This is a ride is a tamer version of water skiing but for couples. Two people have to sit on a tube that is attached to a speed boat. We placed ourselves hesitantly on the tube and started off on an aqua roller coaster ride on the bumpy waves. The alteration of the speed from a slow to a fast pace left us swinging side to side as we held on fiercely. Even a seconds distraction can mean that you are dunked into the water.

Water scooter
I avoided the water scooter ride that looked very tempting but appeared to require more skill and experience.

Banana boat
The banana boat ride is another thrilling experience and I am glad I didn’t miss it. Six people were taken to the middle of the ocean in a boat shaped a little like a canoe and more like a banana. This is why the name I guess. The boat and its screaming occupants are mercilessly pushed into the waters.

The cost of most of these sports ranges from 30 to 70 USD.
Under the sea
My first journey into the mystic world of corals and fish began in the Grand Baie, situation towards the north of Mauritius. We were taken to the middle of the sea in a motor boat. Our enthusiasm was only matched by nervousness and uncertainty. However, our inhibitions gradually disappeared due to the comforting reassurances of the trained professionals. We were given instructions on how to breathe under water with an oxygen mask. Then we were joined by our guide and a scuba diver who promised to introduce us to the treasures of the sea.

As we gradually dipped lower and lower, almost fifteen feet the surface of the water, we saw an effervescent world. Colorful shoal of fish swam past deftly and the corals were shone in colours we had never seen above the water. The allotted thirty minutes just flew while we gazed at this strange world and regretfully climbed back aboard. Photographs can be taken under water with a special camera that is provided at the cost of about 100 USD.

Quad biking and bird watching
Mauritius is not all water. A visit to the Casela bird park taught us about 150 different species of birds in Mauritius. We even had the delightful opportunity of feeding an ostrich!

Near the bird park is something called ‘quad biking’. We were taken for a two and a half hour drive on these heavy powerful bikes by professional guides. As we drove further into the ravines, we could see zebras lazily munching grass. Around were also a herd of spotted deer that scurried away at the sound of our bikes.

A tour of two cities
A tour of the capital city- Port Louis, gave us a glimpse of the life and culture of Mauritius. This largest city in Mauritius, Port Louis is cushioned between the mountains and the sea. The famous ‘Ganga Talao’ is located in this city. The Ganga Talao or the Grand Bassin is considered a tributary of the Ganges. Idols of Shiva, Laxmi and other gods and goddesses stood tall around the lake. We were told that Shivrathri was widely celebrated in Mauritius. It is the pilgrimage site for the Hindus, one of the most famous ones outside India.

Curepipe is the second largest city in Mauritius. This city is a great haunt for shopaholics and aesthetes. Shops and boutiques selling not only handicrafts and local products but also duty free international goods are in abundance in this city.

Other sites
The Paplemousses garden is a popular tourist spot and after all we had heard we had to go and see the famous giant water lilies. For plant lovers and photographers this garden has plenty to offer.

One evening we went to see the seven-colored earth of Chamaral (south east of Mauritius). The different colours of sand were almost unreal. It almost felt like a painter had just been playing around with his brush. Evening, especially just before sunset is the best time to see the glistening palette of Chamaral.

How to get to Mauritius
Air Mauritius offers direct flights from India, Maldives, Singapore, Europe, Australia and the United States of America to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, Mauritius. Visa can be obtained on arrival.

Mauritius is also accessible via ship, though takes about 9-10 days from Asia and 6 days from East Africa.

Within Mauritius
Being a tourist friendly place, a variety of transport facilities are available. Taxicabs are very comfortable but expensive. Though Creole is the official language, most transport personnel are quite in English and French.

Buses are a good travel option as one gets to see the island the local way.

When to visit
The best time to visit Mauritius is between July to September. January and April should be avoided as it may rain most of the time in these months.
Written for www.domain-b.com



Blogger KParthasarathi said...

You seem to be peripatetic travelling to many wonderful places near and far.Your narratin brings before us vividly what the places would look like.Great writing with an eye for details.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Ayesha Parveen said...

Nice to know you had a great time, Swetha. Thanks for sharing. Best wishes.

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great writing and very insightful excerpt

10:11 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

@KP:Thanks a lot. I do love travelling as it enables me to learn about the intricacies and uniqueness of each place and its intriguing experience that it has to offer.:-)

10:32 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

@Ayesha:Thanks for your encouraging words which propels me to write more and do my best.:-)

10:32 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

@Anon:Thanks.:-) Do I know you from somewhere?

10:33 AM  

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