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The beautiful and exotic

Across the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues and La Réunion, demonstrating an exotic and culturally explosive encounter between Africa, India and the warm ocean.

When not traveling overland, we’ve gotten used to spending time in airports; then why not also spend time gazing into flight departure screens to unravel where you could potentially go, and how different regions are connected by air transport?


On our first trips to India there was one far-flung destination, which always seemed to be directly connected to the major Indian hubs, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and so on: the island of Mauritius. The largest island in the Mascarene Archipelago, also comprising Rodrigues and La Réunion. All three islands are remotely positioned off the Southern part of Africa, but more connected in many other aspects to the Indian “motherland” and France, respectively.

In our early twenties we were lucky to feel the bite of the travel bug from India, and getting hooked we wanted to experience India’s alluring and many different cultures outside the subcontinent. There were indeed many cheap flights from India to Mauritius, but anyway we ended up coming to these paradisiacal island all the way from Europe.


Location: Mauritius, Rodrigues and La Réunion in the Indian Ocean, during 2 months


Mauritius is a beautiful island cast is vivid natural colors. Picture-perfect beaches and coral reefs virtually surround the small-sized island, and it has a varied interior topography made of small mountains spread in between the pastoral landscapes of crops and small villages. Our travels in Mauritius essentially covered the entire island, from the swanky South coast, over the diving and sailing mecca of the East, to the more rural and relaxed North. It was a real treat and overall a great stay for slow beach days, easy traveling, and many different water activities. 

Besides a multifaceted connection to India, Mauritian culture is actually defined as being Creole: A unique blend of African and Hindi culture along with the historical influence from merchants and sea traders since the island was a key stopover on the trade routes between Europe and the Orient. This maybe explains why the islanders are so welcoming and appear with open attitudes. Or maybe the friendliness that we felt was partly explained by our newborn babies that we took along our travels. By coincidence, we actually got each of our first-born child within a few weeks time, and by another coincidence both of us ended up spending our separate paternity leaves on Mauritius.

Have you already been around the islands of the Indian Ocean? Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Comoros...? Well, go back to your atlas and take an extra look. Do you see it, 600 km east of Mauritius? There aren't many places left in the world that not even your best-travelled mate has heard of, but Rodrigues may be one of them. This island is so very remote and so little known, only the poshest of atlases reveal its existence. When we first heard the name, we assumed it must be one of those windswept uninhabited rocks somewhere in the South Seas, maybe a military base, or some tiny Polynesian atoll where the population subsists mainly on junk. Then we Googled it, and sure enough, there it was: an island in the Indian Ocean… the last scrap of Africa before you reach Australia! Rodrigues is very different from Mauritius, Seychelles and the Comoros. Rodrigues is drier, rockier and more sparsely wooded. It’s actually quite hard to define what it all reminded us of. The Caribbean? The South Pacific? West Africa? Or all of them? We spent one week on Rodrigues, and what an experience! It's an all-blue world: powder-blue sky, dark blue sea to the horizon, and a big splotch of dazzling turquoise. The wide lagoon surrounding the island is twice the size of the island. That is perhaps Rodrigues's greatest natural asset, and we loved exploring the many tiny islands offshore. Or perhaps the biggest draw is that nothing happens in Rodrigues. No industry, no commercial fishing to speak of, and lack of tourists and glossy hotels. Every family has its vegetable plot, its fruit trees, its pigs and goats. Some of the men have small fishing boats, and the women go out to hunt for octopus in the lagoon. Giant tortoises roams the island in huge numbers. At Trou d'Argent, the island's most “popular” stretch of sand, the only signs of life was a cow lying on the grass behind the beach, and a hen with her chicks, clucking and pecking among the rock pools. Some will think of Rodrigues as insignificant, sleepy, primitive, even dull. To us it's precisely what the illusion of the Indian Ocean is all about.

Finally, we visited Réunion. Among the many isles and islands in the Indian Ocean, Réunion Island is really different. It’s not a typical white-sand beach island with swaying palms and a flat landscape or with soft rolling hills; it’s a wildly mountainous, black-beach island with craggy, high peaks, small white villages build Mediterranean-style, and a big active volcano with a Moon-like desert. And then there’s the so-called cirques: Large mountain valleys enclosed by impossibly steep peaks and penetrated with darkish-green deep gorges and hundreds of waterfalls. They are actually the remaining calderas of once collapsed volcanoes. The only way to visit the cirques are by a few winding roads or by trekking on foot.   


As we arrived, we did, as every other French visitor seemed to do: Rented a car and drove around the island, from coast to coast and from valley to valley, and enjoyed the thrilling nature and great Creole cuisine. Sunbathing would be a long way down the to-do-list: It’s one of the rainiest places in the southern hemisphere, but that should be appreciated as the aorta which keeps the otherworldly green valleys and many waterfalls nourished all year round. 

For more exotic adventures in the Indian Ocean islands check our travels to the Seychelles, and the Maldives. If that isn't remote enough for you, check our Soqutra island off mainland Yemen or Mozambique's islands.


Selected pics from our island hopping adventure in this region:


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