Readers' Rambles

Want even more chill than Mauritius? Check out Rodrigues island

Part of the larger territory of the Republic of Mauritius, the laid-back, lovely and crowd-free island of Rodrigues is for true seekers of the road less travelled

07 November 2023 - 13:37
By Neville Green
Trou d'Argent beach on Rodrigues Island.
Image: Neville Green Trou d'Argent beach on Rodrigues Island.

South African tourists love Mauritius but how many get to experience the beauty of its northeastern splinter isle Rodrigues, just a short flight from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport?

I boarded an Air Mauritius plane which, just over 90 minutes later, landed at the quaint Sir Gaetan Duval Airport. Rodrigues is a fish-shaped island just 18km x 6.5km. We booked into Le Manoir, a guest house metres from the beach near the capital, a village really, Port Mathurin.

With a hired car, we were soon exploring this fascinating place where 4x4s, bikes and busses are the main modes of transport. Cattle, dogs, goats and pigs rule the roads. The colour of the sea is hard to describe — blue tinged with turquoise?

Having heard of a trio of pristine beaches, we were told that after a short walk through casuarina trees we should enjoy the first beautiful beach but we should keep going to the next one, which is spectacular. But Trou d’ Argent (Silver Beach) still had to be discovered. Here we found stunning silver-white powdered sand that caressed our feet as we slipped into the gentle waves, with the warm sun on our backs.

The fish-shaped Rodrigues island is about 18km x 6.5km.
Image: lesniewski / 123rf.com The fish-shaped Rodrigues island is about 18km x 6.5km.
At the François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve.
Image: Neville Green At the François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve.

There is, however, much more to Rodrigues than beaches. We visited the François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve, where we had the opportunity to stroke and feed these amazing reptiles, including 90-year-old Lucas. Hundreds of tortoises roam here, flanked by impressive rock formations. An hour-long walk through the bowels of the limestone cave was outstanding.

At the summit of this hilly island is the small village of Mont Lubin. The roads, mostly in immaculate condition, are dominated by hairpin bends and steep climbs.

Port Mathurin is a hubbub of traffic and smiling people and the Saturday market attracts locals and visitors alike. We still had to experience Ile aux Chats (Cat island). But how to get there? No problem for our smiling guest house owner. We merely had to go to Mourouk beach the next morning and Hedley would be there. How would we find him? No problem.

The dawn heralded blue skies with warm winter sunshine. We left for another island adventure and were soon nearing our rendezvous point. Suddenly we saw a man waving frantically. Handshakes and introductions followed. Soon we were wading through knee-deep, crystal clear ocean to his boat Orca 2 in the distance.

Orca 2 is a fine steed for a day's island hopping.
Image: Neville Green Orca 2 is a fine steed for a day's island hopping.

We climbed aboard and the motor gurgled to life with a flick of this veteran fisherman’s hand. Surrounded by the amazing ocean expanse, we were handed snorkelling gear with which to explore the beauty of the deep. The pure visibility made it an unforgettable experience and certainly one of the best dive sites in Mauritius.

We then powered up Orca 2 again and soon Île aux Chats beckoned. We beached on this idyllic islet not quite believing our eyes. We walked through the forest while our hosts prepared a Rodriguean braai of grilled marlin and honey-basted chicken. After three hours, Hedley hoisted the sail and we savoured the silence, except for the lapping of wafting waves.

Next stop was Île Hermitage, where we climbed a rocky outcrop to view the beauty below. We relaxed on our own private beach, then back to Mourouk Beach where we anchored and waded through the rising tide. We bade Hedley farewell and continued our exploring, climbing Mont Limon, the island's highest point at 393m, for a panoramic view.

Octopus hanging out to dry is a common sight and around every corner a kot (kiosk) can be seen. We discovered a popular bakery in Port Mathurin called Loul & Co, where we savoured delicious pastries and freshly baked bread. We sought the local sea food and Chez Madame La Rose is perfect. A typical Rodriguean restaurant near Pointe Coton, its menu includes cari ourite (octopus curry) and crabe sauce rouge (crab in a red sauce).

We stopped outside Rodrigues Prison, which has no prisoners. Crime is unheard of here and the walls are painted with brightly coloured murals.

Rodrigues Prison, which has no prisoners. Crime is unheard of here.
Image: Neville Green Rodrigues Prison, which has no prisoners. Crime is unheard of here.

Rodrigues is a slice of Mauritius magic that slipped silently away from the mainland under a sensuous sunset many years ago and still escapes hordes of tourists, retaining its natural beauty on a road less travelled.

TRAVEL TIPS

Best time to go: May or October. Summer can be hot but if heat is your thing then do it before the cyclone season, usually in January.

Getting there: Air Mauritius and Air Austral fly to Rodrigues. 

Visas: South Africans do not need a visa for Mauritius or Rodrigues.

Getting around: Hire a 4x4.

Currency: Mauritian rupee. The exchange rate in November 2023 is R1 = 2.41 rupees

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