Experiencing the Colors of Mauritius

Day 58, Grand World Voyage

Thursday, March 2, 2023; Port Louis, Mauritius.

Today we visited Mauritius — one of the small island countries scattered around the Indian Ocean on the eastern side of Africa. I didn’t know much about this island or the nearby La Réunion, which we will visit tomorrow. Despite the various descriptions I found in my research, I had no idea what to expect. So, I booked ship excursions on each one.

In Port Louis I discovered a good-sized city with modern roads and buildings, a robust university section and a thriving cybercity. It also has old buildings, cinder-block huts surrounded by wild vegetation and everything in between. Most vehicles are small Kias and similar, all with right-side steering as you would expect in an independent country that is part of the British Commonwealth. But we did pass modern dealerships selling BMWs and Porsches.

The signs of the island’s volcanic history are everywhere. We looked into the crater of an extinct volcano and drove the tight switchbacks of steep mountainsides.

Most interesting was the Chamarel 7 Colored Earth. Here the basalt rock, created during millions of years of volcanic activity, has been stripped of nutrients. It left behind deposits of iron and aluminum oxide, producing red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow colors in the earth.

Our tour took us through the center of the island to a national park, waterfalls and a protected giant turtle reserve.

We also visited a Hindu sacred lake and temple and giant statues of the Hindu god Shiva and his wife and goddess Durga.

When the Dutch first visited Mauritius centuries ago, there were no inhabitants on the island. Since then, the French and then the British ruled, bringing initially African slaves and then later Indians to work the sugar cane plantations. The island won its independence in 1968.  

We didn’t see the deer the Dutch brought here, but the local monkeys were happy to pose and perform for the tourists.

Over the next few days, we will continue to make our way west toward Africa, stopping in La Réunion and – we hope – Tolanaro, Madagascar. The latter remains uncertain. At first the port authority balked, saying their pier wasn’t sufficient and we would need to pony up some big money to make it work. Without mentioning the word “bribery,” our captain told us that while some parts of the world do business that way, this company doesn’t. Besides, we don’t have that much in petty cash on board!

Now the bigger concern may be the weather. Storm Freddy is still hanging around, and the waves and swell may be unfavorable. I’m hoping we get to land – I have a tour to see the lemurs.

After that is Mozambique on the African continent. My sisters and I will leave the ship in Maputo for a three-day safari in Kruger National Park. Our Cruise Specialists tour group already has met for a cocktail party and a planning meeting with cocktails. It should be a fun trip! I’ll write more about our safari plans later.