My sister Kari is currently en route from South Africa to Ghana on her four-month round-the-world trip via UVA’s Semester at Sea program. Here, she talks about one of her favorite stops thus far, the African island nation of Mauritius. Hopefully, one of these days, she’ll have time to fill us in on the dozen or so countries visited in between!
Beautiful Mauritius. Oh how I wish we could have spent more time together. Thirty hours is not nearly enough time to have in one of the most enchanting places on this planet. I am going to go ahead and throw Mauritius on my list of places that I must see again one day. Never have I ever seen water so blue, trees so green, or rainbows so bright. Think of the most alluring place you have ever visited and multiply those views a few hundred times, and that maybe will give you Mauritius.
For once, we were able to get off the ship fairly early dominating customs at a warp speed of two hours, so our day began at 10am. When we finally found some rupees to pay our way around the island, my ship BFF Richard and I hopped in a cab and headed over to Avis to rent a car. His name was Nugget, a cute, fire engine red mini-Jeep, and he was the best rental car on the lot. Mauritians drive on the left side of the road and a majority of the cars are stick shift, so the steering wheel was on the right side and stick shift on the left of the driver, which took a little getting used to for a couple of American drivers.
We only stalled coming out of the parking lot three times, but thank goodness Richard is a quick learner because we were weaving in and out of traffic in no time. After we had maneuvered our way out of Port Louis traffic, we pulled over and took the top off of the jeep. That day was by far the most fun I have had in a long time. Apparently Mauritians like old 90’s pop, and they were blaring Spice Girls, Uncle Kracker, Britney Spears and other “old school” American and British acts over the radiowaves. We had a blast driving up and down the northwest coast of Mauritius with the top down and singing at the top of our lungs.
Not to mention the fact that the scenery was incredible! We had no plans and no time limit, so we would just stop wherever we pleased and get out, take pictures, swim in the ocean, play in the sand—whatever we felt like doing at the time. It was the most relaxing day we’ve had since boarding the ship nearly three months ago. At some point, though, we started noticing a little rumbly in our tumbly, so we began the search for a nice restaurant on the beach. We had almost given up hope when I yelled at Richard to turn into this nice little resort area. He kept telling me that there was no way they were going to let us, a couple of lowly student travelers, eat there, but he was a good boy and followed me along just to check.
Not only did they let us in, but they took us out to this small seating area that is literally out in the ocean surrounded by water. The restaurant was called Le Tranquil, and its floor was made of sand; if I walked a foot past our table, I would be in waist-deep ocean water. It was so cute. We had a four-course meal consisting of all types of fancy seafood, a wonderful dessert, and I had a few rum drinks since Richard had to drive and because we were repeatedly told that we HAD to try Mauritian rum (who am I to eschew tradition?). Needless to say my tolerance is quite low these days as our alcohol limit on SAS is monitored, and those three rum drinks about did me in, so we just sat there and chatted and watched people wind surfing, paddle-boating, parasailing and participating in all types of water sports just feet from us out in the water.
After being out there for about three hours we decided it was about time to part our ways. Richard took me to Le Recif, the resort I stayed in with a bunch of girlfriends, and he headed to Grand Baie to stay with our Bucknell pals. I watched the sunset from our beautiful, all-inclusive resort, and then retreated to the little villa that I stayed in with my two friends, Lele and Ryann. After showering and primping, we found our way to a bar called Bananas, where coincidentally we ran into a good majority of the rest of the SAS crew.
The next morning we woke up, headed to our amazing buffet breakfast, and then hit the beach at no later than 9:30 AM. We spent the morning lying out, sipping bloody Mary’s and screwdrivers, and snorkeling in the shallow waters in front of our resort.
As the day progressed, we began to get a little more risky and started taking out the kayaks and paddleboats to brave the rough seas. Richard returned to hang out with us, and somehow Richard talked me and my friend Martha into going wakeboarding out on the water with him. I told them both that I would try my hardest but that I was probably not going to be very good considering I have only been one other time in my life, but they repeatedly told me it was no big deal and that they weren’t good at all either. So, we made Richard go first.
Liar. He jumped right up and started flying across the wake, using one hand, and doing all types of crazy things. Next up was Martha. Again, Liar. She wasn’t nearly as good as Richard (sorry, Martha), but she was doing some little jumpy things and looking all cool out there (sorry for my lack of wakeboarding lingo). Finally, it was my turn. The first time I couldn’t even get up on the board because I got such a bad cramp in my hip and had to let go.
It was embarrassing! But Richard just kept yelling, “Come on Kari! I know you can do it. You are so athletic. You almost had it!” Not one to be shown up by a boy, I HAD to keep going. My second attempt was a success—so much in fact that after about 5 minutes of just going straight I started getting a little cocky. I decided to throw an arm up real quick and wave at Martha who was video taping me. Success. Well then I had to do something so that Richard could see how well I was doing, so I decided to throw up a peace sign and look all cool. Fail. Apparently it was one of the funniest things the two of them and our boat driver have ever seen, but it wasn’t too funny on my end. I face-planted so hard and swallowed so much ocean water that I proceeded to throw up all of my Pizza Hut into the water in front of me. Awesome. (Lucky for me, all the pictures that were snapped make me look more like a pro than an overconfident amateur.)
There was no way I was letting my turn end on that note so I asked to go one more time. This time I got up quickly and decided I was going to come off of the wake and coast around the side of the boat. I got out there before I had my final face-plant into the water. Martha and Richard were so proud of me! They said I am a quick learner. That’s what I like to hear.
We had to return to the shore to let some of the others go water skiing before we had to head back to the boat, so we spent the final hour or so swimming in the pool before we packed up and headed back to return Nugget.
I may not have had the full cultural experience of Mauritius, but it was definitely an incredible, if not short-lived vacation.