Indian Ocean - Winding down in Mauritius

Mauritius was always planned to be a winding-down stop-over on the way home, not a holiday destination in itself. Months before I'd looked at options on the Internet and booked us in to "Mon Choix", an ecolodge in the Upper Valée des Pretres, outside of Port Louis; everything worked out perfectly. We were picked up at the airport and driven over to the lodge, where Joan had us feeling at home immediately.

The house nestles in its own valley, with no other properties visible in the neighbourhood. We took the dogs for a walk in the afternoon (actually, they took us for a walk), and went up the hills past a Hindu shrine and into the sugar cane and vegetable fields out the back of the property.

I had imagined that we would give Port Louis a miss, just never bother to go into town and to spend our days out at the lodge, but as we drove through on the way from the airport it was immediately obvious that this was a city I would probably like, full of Indian and Chinese shops and an interesting waterfront. We arranged transport with Vinod, the taxi driver, and he picked us up in the morning for the fifteen-minute drive into the city. The weather was a bit against us, so we had to dodge between showers, but we still managed to see quire a bit of the place.

It was a Saturday, so we first explored Chinatown, before the shops shut, then went down to the waterfront, where the very up-market shops are located. Joan had referred us to "Lambic", a restaurant that specialised in beers, so we sought it out for lunch. It was an excellent suggestion, relaxed, low-key, with a choice of snacks that we shared over a local beer. They had an extraordinary range of international beers, so we also shared a Belgian cherry beer, something that I remembered fondly from a previous trip to Europe.

After lunch we walked back through a wonderful little park, full of banyan trees, and finished off the afternoon by wandering through the fairly extensive market, which was still going flat out. We often buy material when we travel, since we both sew, but in Mauritius we settled on buying saris, which were available in an astonishing range of colours and designs, and which can be treated as lengths of material once they are home. Vinod picked us up late in the afternoon, as arranged, and we went back to the lodge for another wonderful dinner.

Initially our flights had only allowed two nights for our Mauritian stop-over, but flight changes meant that we ended up with four nights. I had only booked for the original two nights at "Mon Choix", so we bid Joan goodbye, rather sorry that we weren't staying longer, and had Vinod drive us to Blue Bay, where we had reservations at "Chante au Vent". This was a very different place, right on the beach, with a thatched reception and dining area, a private beach with a jetty out into the lagoon, and a reasonable book swap library that included books in English. We had a pleasant unit with kitchen across the road from the reception area, but there were enough restaurants around for us to forget about self-catering.

There is a public shuttle bus between Blue Bay and Mahébourg, so we went over to look at the Monday market, which was quite extensive. We had a bit of a walk around the town and along the waterfront before having an excellent lunch at "Les Copains d'Abord" with a superb view of the bay. Then it was back on the bus to Blue Bay.

This was the best skindiving I'd had on the entire trip. The coral was live and colourful, and there were lots of fish and lots of diversity. The guesthouse is close to the public beach, and the area is part of the Ramsar-listed Blue Bay Marine Park. I went snorkelling every day, and the last day, at low tide, was absolutely fantastic, with even more fish out and around the corals.

We had arranged extended check-out at the guesthouse, so after dinner we were off to the airport and soon flying back to cold Perth.

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