Diving Mauritius: A Day in Tamarin Bay

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After South Africa, we had five days of smooth sailing across the Indian Ocean with a day in Mauritius as the next destination. In past voyages, Semester at Sea had spent as many as four days on the island, but due to a myriad of reasons, we now only dock there for 12 hours. Let me tell you, there’s little more painful than being presented a platter of cupcakes only to have it snatched away from you before you’ve gotten more than a single bite (metaphorically speaking of course). Such was the case of our fleeting afternoon diving Mauritius.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

Mauritius holidays are popular among European vacationers, but I know very few Americans, aside from Semester at Sea alums, who have been to the little Indian Ocean oasis. I wish we could have stayed longer—two weeks would have been ideal!—but we made the most of our brief time there nevertheless and organized a dive outing. SVV had located an operator in the nearby town of Flic en Flac who offered to pick us up at the ship, drive us the hour to the town, take us out on the boat for a two-tank dive (including all equipment) and drop us off at the ship at the end of the day—all for the steal of $104 a person (which is peanuts compared to most diving costs…seriously, y’all, it’s an expensive sport, the main reason we don’t dive as much as we would like).

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

My fellow staffers (and good pals) Josh and Brian decided to come along, too, as did seven members of the SAS dive club. I didn’t know a single one of them before we all set up to brave the underwater world together, and let’s just say, I continue to be impressed with how awesome the Semester at Sea students are and would like to think I returned to the ship at the end of the day with seven new friends; we had a fantastic time bobbing atop the tepid ocean together.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

The weather was perfect, although our boat driver complained about the “chilly” temps as it’s the beginning of winter on the island. If 85 degrees and a hot, sweating sun constitutes winter, I’ll take it!

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

The water, on the other hand, wasn’t quite bathwater once we reached a depth of more than 20 feet—much to the dismay of a few of the guys in our group who opted not to wear a wetsuit and, consequently, were shivering (but still smiling) for hours afterward.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

As usual, SVV toted the GoPro along for the ride and snapped away at our underwater follies. The visibility wasn’t great—in fact, at times, it was downright awful, to the point that our group got separated at the end of the dive and later during the second.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

On the first dive, our advanced group did a wall dive to 115 feet. While several dolphins and even a few bull sharks live in Tamarin Bay, we didn’t see anything big, mainly a lot of macro life and cool corals and a bevy of lionfish as big as soccer balls.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

We took a nice lengthy surface interval, hanging out on the boat and working on our tans before submerging for a second dive.

Only this time, I didn’t make it down. As I started to descend, a piercing pain shot through my ear canal. I went up and then back down, slowly, three times, but the pain wouldn’t go away. This was the first time I’ve ever experienced any sort of pain while diving, but if there’s anything you learn quickly as a diver, it’s not to tempt ear pain.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

So instead of continuing on with the group, I surfaced, called it a day and spent the next hour working on turning a rich shade of chocolate.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

As Josh said, “an uneventful day diving is still an awesome day,” which couldn’t be more accurate. (I misquoted him on Facebook as saying “a bad day diving is still an awesome day,” and then he pointed out that “a ‘bad’ day diving can be airless and limbless and sharky. But a boring dive is still hella fun.” True dat.)

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

We got back to the MV Explorer just half an hour prior to on-ship time and had to wait in an enormous line before swiping in just three minutes before 6pm. If you’re late, even by a minute, no matter if you’re student, staff or faculty, you get time deducted from your next port in two-hour increments. Meanwhile, everyone already on board congregates on decks five through seven, heckling and watching as the time ticks down to see who was naughty.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

Luckily, none of us had to suffer such a fate as a sacrifice for our fun spent underwater! We even had a spare moment to watch the sun set over Port Louis from the top deck before we set sail.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

And while we only had a brief time to enjoy Mauritius, I’d like to think we took advantage of every last second—both soaking up the island culture and enjoying an afternoon with a collection of new friends.

Mauritius diving holiday | Semester at Sea | Camels & Chocolate

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COMMENTS
  • October 17, 2011

    What a clever idea to dock time from everyone who is late — otherwise your ship would never leave on time!

    I’ve always been so interested in diving, but I worry that my head would explode because my sinuses are all effed up. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy it vicariously through you. 🙂

    • October 17, 2011
      Kristin

      Well, actually, we usually have on-ship time at 1800 and departure time at 2000, and those who aren’t there by departure time are left behind and have to make their way to the next stop (sometimes sans passport) alone! Due to ridiculously exorbitant docking fees (in some countries, you pay thousands by the hour for a berth fee), they literally can’t afford to wait for tardy passengers.

      I’ve always had allergies and sinus problems, but oddly enough it’s never affected me diving before. I’d still suggest giving diving a try at some point just to see if you can handle it before ruling it out entirely!

  • October 17, 2011

    Looks amazing. I’ve heard great things. Nice recap.

  • October 17, 2011

    My favorite thing about this post isn’t hearing about a fun day or seeing the photos, although those are both great. But no, the best part is that there is actually a town somewhere in the world called Flic en Flac – I love it!

    • October 17, 2011
      Kristin

      Saying the name over and over never gets old either!

  • October 17, 2011

    I love the part about how they dock time if you’re late and everyone watches to see who was naughty! It’s like America’s Next Top Model, when they go to the go-sees and have to be back by a certain time and everyone loves watching the clock to see who’d going to show up late and be disqualified.

    Also, bummer about the ear pain while diving! I’m so sorry — that must have been so disappointing. But at least you got a bit more tanning time in!

    • October 17, 2011
      Kristin

      Oh my gosh, it is TOTALLY like ANTM. And just like that you have me nostalgic for terrible/awesome American reality TV.

  • October 17, 2011

    Great way to spend the day. Too bad about your ear, sure hope that goes away for future dives as I’m not a diver myself and truly enjoy it through you. Like the idea of docking folks for being late on return. A good way to keep things moving along in a timely manner.

    • October 19, 2011
      Kristin

      I just love the heckling the takes place at dock-time time. It’s too funny (and a bit mean, but at least it discourages tardiness)!

  • October 17, 2011

    Mauritius in 12 hours sounds like a cruel joke. Thankfully you swiped in on time 🙂

    • October 17, 2011
      Kristin

      THREE MINUTES BEFORE THE BELL. Talk about stressful! That would have looked a wee bit unprofessional, methinks. =)

  • October 17, 2011

    I love that everyone heckles the latecomers – that seems a fun way to pass the last few bits of time in a beautiful faraway land.

  • October 18, 2011

    I think I actually like these dive pictures with the low visibility better than some of your clearer ones. It makes it look more mysterious, almost enchanted. Looks like you guys had a blast!

    • October 24, 2011
      SVV

      Thanks! I totally agree.

  • October 18, 2011

    Yay for a diving post 🙂 I hope you get a few more dives in on this trip (especially in Malaysia, where you’ll pay about $100 for both of you!)

    And sorry to hear about your ear troubles. It hasn’t happened to me on a dive yet, (though I’m sure my time will come) but I did have a pretty brutal experience on an air plane that basically left me convulsing in the aisle floors. Silly ears!

    • October 19, 2011
      Kristin

      Sadly, I’m actually skipping out on Malaysia (where we are now)–we spent three weeks in Malaysian Borneo last year on our honeymoon, so I don’t think the diving in Penang is going to compare (plus, I have to work this port anyway)!

      And the ears-on-the-airplane pain is THE WORST. I live in fear on many a flight that’s going to hit me on the landing!

  • October 18, 2011

    Awww… I want your life!

  • October 21, 2011

    How beyond awesome that you got to dive in Mauritius!

  • October 24, 2011

    First of all, Flic en Flac is a real place? Sounds like a joke.

    Secondly, the halo on that head in your last photo is truly funky.

  • October 19, 2012
    Ben

     
    Hi,

    I’m trying to arrange link exchanges to promote two new sites that I’m running with a friend:

    http://earthtorch.com/
    http://bestfamilytraveladvise.com

    If you would be interested in doing a link exchange with these two sites and want your link put up on either of these, or a pr5 site that my friend who I’m partnering with runs, then let me know.

    All the best,

    Ben

  • April 22, 2013

    What a great quote, nobody likes a ‘sharky’ dive 🙂

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