I woke up bright and early and waited at the gangway at around 5:30, 30 minutes before the let out time of 6AM. My friend and I were going to head into town and just wander about Port Louis for a couple of hours before I had to return to the ship to head out on my trip.
When we got out, the water taxis were nowhere to be seen as it was still early and no one had taken them out to our dock yet. We ended up walking from our dock to the city, this took around 20 minutes and there were no sidewalks from the dock to the inner city. It was still early and thus the city was just waking up. People were hustling to get to work, most shops were not open or just opening, buses were packed and taxis were honking and zooming everywhere. There was a light breezy coastal wind in the early hours which made the walk pleasant. We were going to go to the central market but when we looked we saw only fresh produce, so we didn’t venture in. My friend went back later and said it had both fresh produce and souvenirs, oh well I was only there for one day and I made the most of it instead of shopping for souvenirs. Port Louis is interesting in that it really has a mix of everything. Mauritius in general is such a diverse and tolerant place it seems. Walking on the streets we saw people of Indian descent, Chinese descent, and African descent. The architecture was mostly very colonial looking which is nice because it was the colonists who inhabited this formerly uninhabited island and drove the dodo bird to extinction. We basically walked around the entirety of the city so we decided to go ahead and head back to the ship by walking along to waterfront and possibly finding the water taxi. The waterfront consisted of many hotels, a casino, storefronts and restaurants. There was also the old post office and post office museum as well as a small playground for kids. As we walked around we first asked a police officer where the water taxi was and he pointed it out for us so we took the under-passage to the waterfront area and continued our search. We then asked a hotel bell boy where it was and he pointed us to the location. Well we got there and it said water taxi but for a hotel, we walked around a bit more and saw the water taxi parked in front of a luxury hotel across the water. The taxi came to our side and we asked if it was only for the hotel guests, sure enough it was. We were beginning to wonder if these water taxis were just a myth. Then we were pointed to the police and security office of the waterfront. There we found a nice security personal who pointed us to the place where we could get the actual public water taxi. Turns out it was on the other side of the waterfront, near the customs office. The walk was not too bad, I did get a bit nervous as this was around 7:20AM and I needed to meet my bus at 7:45AM. We got there, and it was a bit ghetto, the men sitting there smoking and the boats just docked on the steps leading into the water. We asked if it was the water taxi service and indeed it was, it cost USD$2 per person. We got in the boat with the driver and two Filipino sailors. Around ¾ of the way to the ship, our taxi approached a series of Taiwanese (yes Taiwanese! I was so excited!) fishing vessels that were anchored in the port waters. We came alongside one of the ships where the two sailors climbed up a ladder and into the boat. I was so excited to see Taiwanese flags flying on these ships and I couldn’t help but say I was from Taiwan! We docked at the water taxi stop at the cruise dock and got off and then I headed to my cabin to grab some things and got on to my bus!
The bus ride was around 1 hour 15 minutes from the ship to Tamarin Bay where we would board our catamaran. Along the way we saw lots of construction of roadways, a mall, hotels and buildings in general. I also saw mosques, Hindu temples, Buddhist temples and churches all alongside each other which once again reflects the diversity and tolerance of the Mauritian culture. We also passed the salt works of Mauritius where large square ponds of salt water were being dried for salt (takes around 607 days). The Mauritian sea salt is mainly used in textiles and not for food. The scenery was also constantly changing, it went from Mountains to fields of maize then more mountains, and most of these mountains are volcanoes. The mountains in Mauritius is what I think make the landscape so unique, there are rounded tops, collapsed tops, and pointy tops to these volcanoes.
We arrived at the small dock where we boarded our catamaran. There were two catamarans one was for the group which focused on their FDP on oceanography, while the other one was the one that I was on, the one that focused on relaxing. It was a very nice catamaran, the inside had a large dining table, and well-equipped kitchen, 2-3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, stereo system and a grill on the aft of the boat. At the front were two nets over the water for people to lie in and two sets of comfy cushions also for tanning and relaxing purposes. At the very front of were two observation seats. The journey began with our catamaran joining other boats and catamarans on a dolphin chase. It was still considered early morning hours when we sailed at 9:30AM so they wanted to chase the dolphins and allow us to see the Bottlenose Dolphins before it got too late. We did get to see the dolphins. They would jump out and then disappear for a while and they would chase the bow and wake of the various boats in the water. We stayed there for 30 minutes, in the beginning the dolphins were mostly quite far away from out catamaran, then they came closer and as we began our course to the snorkeling site the dolphins suddenly popped out in front of our catamaran! It was so spontaneous and surprising that we were all so excited and speechless. Then we were off to the coral reefs.
Along the way we just lay there soaking in the Mauritian sun, something I did too much of because as I am typing this my right shoulder and forehead is peeling from the sunburn (I did put sunscreen, and most of my other burned parts are now tanned, I suppose I just didn’t apply the protection very evenly). There was an unlimited supply of juice and soft drinks that was served to us. The weather was perfect, sunny, partly cloudy but mostly clear skies, clear and clean blue and turquoise waters, friendly people on the trip, what could be a better day? It was just how I wanted to spend my day in Mauritius, an island I have always wanted to go to for vacation. Along the way the sails of the catamaran went up to help us get to our snorkeling spot faster. After around an hour of sailing and relaxing we arrived at the spot. I put on the gear and dived right into the cool Indian Ocean. At first I was a little disappointed in the coral reef as most of the coral near the ship were white and dead looking, but I swam and let the currents take me further away and closer to the coast where the coral got brighter and more colorful. I saw lots of small fish, and two very pretty turquoise colored fish. There were plenty of sea urchins hiding in the coral as well. Sadly no sea turtles or other bigger sea animals were sighted. But I enjoyed the swim in the nice waters of the Indian Ocean. After the snorkeling I got back on the catamaran where the grill was in full swing. For lunch we had BBQ fish, chicken and sausage along with potatoes, rice, pasta, salad, bread and a sweet tomato sauce and of course our unlimited supply of drinks. After our bellies were filled we set sail for a lagoon where we could dive in and take a cool swim. Again along the way we just relaxed and listened to music. The music went from nice Caribbean reggae to clubbing style pop throughout the day, which was interesting as it was as if we went from super relaxed state to super excited state as the day progressed. I preferred the reggae style as the party catamaran trip was somewhere else (a trip organized by an outside tour company owned by an SAS alumni). Soon we spotted the lagoon, it was crystal clear turquoise water unlike any I have seen before. It was so picturesque! We anchored and I dived right in, the water was a bit colder but a lot shallower I could easily dive just a bit under the surface and touch the soft sandy floor below. I mainly just swam about, I also swam under the catamaran which was quite cool, it’s not every day you get to sail under a boat and still have your head above water! We also dived off the front of the catamaran into the water, and some people attempted to climb back on from the front which proved to be very challenging. Sadly it was soon time for us to sail back to shore. It was another 1.5 hours though so we all got more time to lay there and take in the last rays of the Mauritian sun. The day was not spent simply laying there and doing nothing, we laid there and had conversations, I got to some people a lot better, and it was just a day with good food, good weather, and good company. Once we docked we grabbed out shoes, got on to the dock and put them on and walked to the building of Le Morne Angeler’s Club, the club house which owned the dock and I believe also the catamarans. Inside the club house were trophies and displays of various swordfish that members of the club have caught in the past, there was also a pool table and a bar. I suppose this was part of the Mauritian elite’s lifestyle. And so we boarded the bus for the return journey back to the ship. I had a chance to go back into the city to get souvenirs or groceries but I decided against it as it was already 4:30PM and on ship time was 6PM.
It turns out I made the right choice. At 5:15PM I headed to a side deck to view the snaking line of people returning to the ship. And at 6PM the line was still quite long, and many of the people on my trip who went to town were in that portion of the line and received dock time. My main purpose was to spot drunk people, as many students went on a catamaran trip with unlimited alcohol. Sure enough there were some pretty obvious drunk people who approached the line, many got called out and sent in for sobriety tests. Some drunks were really obvious while some, like my friends, hid their intoxication really really well and did not get caught. Many of the intoxicated people got put in the drunk tank and received disciplinary points afterwards. My friends who went on this catamaran trip had some pretty entertaining stories, and the entertainment continued on through the night. One of my friends could not recollect the majority of his day and when told of what exactly happened he had a hard time believing it and went around trying to piece together his day, there were some pretty funny video and photographic evidence of some the things that happened. People did indeed try to make the most of their 12 hours in Mauritius, I chose to relax on a sober catamaran and remember my day, whereas my friends decided to party it up on the island, which is fine because I was so entertained that night by their stories and by their comments/ actions. Lucky for me none of my friends got kicked off and none of them received any disciplinary points (10 points mean expulsion, drunk tank is around 2-3, so if they got points it would be very risky for them in other ports).
Mauritius was a very culturally diverse and picturesque island and I really wish I was there for longer but sadly previous voyagers just had to trash the place and make us pay for their poor choices. It did do damage to a lot of people though, many like me got sick after Mauritius, others like me got sunburned, and some got drunk and faced disciplinary consequences (in some cases even phone calls from parents).
That aside, I would recommend Mauritius as a vacation spot, though I was there for only a short day, I could tell that it is really a place where you can go experience a culture that is truly diverse and tolerant whilst relaxing and laying back.