RODRIGUES ISLAND

Sleepy, primitive, dull, yet embodying the true illusion of Indian Ocean travel

 

> Getting lost on an island 600 km east of 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 here, 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.

 

The island looks extraordinarily beautiful. It was hard for us not to suppress an audible "wow!" as we walked around the coastal path to see a string of delicious bays, ringed by white sand. 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.

For more exotic adventures on the varied islands in the vast Indian Ocean check our travels to Mauritius, La Réunion, the Maldives, and the Seychelles.

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Selected pics:

Location of Rodrigues Island
Location of Rodrigues Island
Cotton bay
Cotton bay

Arrival by pickup truck from the small airstrip, a short drive of 45 minutes and then dropped off at Cotton Bay - not a bad place to stay for the next week.

View from bungalow, Cotton Bay
View from bungalow, Cotton Bay

Cotton Bay might be - at least by Rodriguan standards - a long way from anywhere. But is is a good base to place yourself if you fancy beach hiking. There are several good hikes in the area.

View south from Mt. Tapaze in west
View south from Mt. Tapaze in west

Like the other Mascarene Islands (Mauritius, Reunion), Rodrigues is of volcanic origin. Its has a landscapes of steep hills, valleys and scattered rocks. It remineded us of the Transkei in southern Africa. This landscape create the impression that the island is much larger than it acturally is. You can easily ride around the entire island in a pickup during 1.5 hours. At Plaine Corail, the landscape is particularly harsh and barren.

Fresh coconut, Brûlé village
Fresh coconut, Brûlé village

This guy became our favourite "coconut pusher". Life is extremely slow and uncomplicated. After just a few days on the island, you will begin to bump into people whom you have met earlier.

All around the island octupus is dried for own consuption and export. For most Rodriguans fishing proived the main livelihood. Fishing for octopus requires great skill as the octopus are well camouflaged.

View towards Rivière Banane
View towards Rivière Banane

Atucally, Rodrigues is not a tropical paradise, but the enire island is completely sourrounded by reefs - a vast lagoon of 200 km2 offers plenty of underwater reefs and caves.

Cleaning streets before thunderstorm
Cleaning streets before thunderstorm

Grand Baie in the north coast

Francois Leguat tortoise reserve
Francois Leguat tortoise reserve

Come here to walk among the giant Aldabra tortoises

Trou d'Argent in St Francois bay
Trou d'Argent in St Francois bay

Perhaps the most pretty beach on the island, you get here by hiking along the beach. The coastline between Gravisers and St Francois revals many small and hidden beaches.

Trou d'Argent in St Francois bay
Trou d'Argent in St Francois bay

None of the glorious beaches was ever crowded. In fact, this one we had completely to ourselves the entire day. Ideal for those in search of solitude in a secluded setting.

Pretty home in Nassola
Pretty home in Nassola
Handicraft in Port Mathurin
Handicraft in Port Mathurin

A deline in agriculture has resultet in a "small boom" of small handicrat units to cater for the few tourists on the island.

View of Baie du Nord
View of Baie du Nord

From Port Mathurin (the "capital") a picturesque coastal road runs south taking you through villages and small-holdings, where cattle and pigs run around.

Fish and mangroves
Fish and mangroves

In the southern parts mangroves have been replanted to restablish the fragile ecosystem in the vast lagoon.

View from Pointe Roche Noire...
View from Pointe Roche Noire...

...during a beach hike. There are also several trains into the interior, where gorges and deep valleys will meet the keen hikers.

Yummy
Yummy

In Port Mathurin are many small restaurants selling seafood dishes - prawns, crab, oyesters, etc. - and they often also have a well-stocked bar

Brûlé village
Brûlé village
Handicraft in Grande Montagne
Handicraft in Grande Montagne
View of Ile Marianne & Ile aux Cocos
View of Ile Marianne & Ile aux Cocos

Probably the most popular day trip avaliable is to visit tiny Ile aux Cocos, basically a shallow sand bar with coconut palms and casuarina trees.

Ile aux Cocos
Ile aux Cocos

View towards another tiny island: Ile aux Sables.

View from village near La Ferme
View from village near La Ferme

In the late afternoon, fishermen can be seen sailing to shore in their pirogues and brining in their nets.

Late evening delight
Late evening delight
View towards Anse au Anglais
View towards Anse au Anglais
Giant Aldabra tortoises
Giant Aldabra tortoises

...which used to live freely on the island