Europe too expensive for you? Visit the tiny island of Mauritius to live a laid back French lifestyle, without having to shell out much. Enjoy the sea-laden air, local sega dances and interesting water sports.
I landed at Mauritius thinking, how different can be it from Mumbai? After all, majority of their population is Hindu. And then I met Mauritian people – Hindus who conversed in fluent French, and barely managed Hindi! That is because even though the population today is Hindu by birth, Mauritius was a French colony till the 19th century. Other vestiges of this fact are their relaxed lifestyle and a love for dance.
I knew one should not hold our Juhu beach as reference when visiting island nations such as Mauritius, but with just the first glance at their public beach, and I was blown away. An endless stretch of soft sand with clear waters in shades of blue and green lay before me. I was thrilled at the thought of water-sports here, and my excitement took shape in the next couple of days.
A stone belt that weighed 30 kg and a stone-brimmed glass helmet with a pipe for air circulation – this was my gear for a walk in Mauritius. Well, a walk under the sea. I had signed up for ‘Underwater Sea Walking’ and would be taken down to the seabed for a walk. Unlike how it is with diving, we choose a spot that is only 8 to 9 ft deep.
I climbed down a couple of steps into the water and our guide placed the helmet on my head. But hey, wait a minute! This helmet isn’t closed, there’s space at bottom just like in a regular helmet. Water will obviously enter… And I can’t swim! I’ll drown, don’t push me yet…
The guide gave my helmet one strong push, and down I slipped, underwater. My ears shut out and I started frantically waving my hands in an attempt for the underwater guides to save me from drowning. I was gasping for air with my mouth. I tell you, I have never felt such fear in my life before.
The underwater guides had to hold my arms and gesture me to be calm. It is only then I realised that I was alive, and still panting. My guide waved me to look around and it is only then that I saw how beautiful it was. Schools of tiny fish swam by and I stood floored at the sight of the world underwater. My guide handed me some food to attract the fish close to my hands, and promptly took pictures as I secretly panicked. Four other friends soon came underwater, and we formed a little train to walk around on the seabed, feeling mighty cool and a tad foolish, thanks to the helmet.
It is due to a certain law of physics (or something like that), that water couldn’t enter my helmet and the pipe attached at the head of the helmet was the source for normal air. No oxygen tanks needed here. And needless to say, everything else – snorkelling, parasailing and such – paled in comparison.
In following days of my stay at Mauritius, I visited the large Casela National Park. We got to feed deer, ducks, and a few other birds of small flight. I was excited upon spotting emus and wondered how far they could fling a person with one kick. There’s a trivia bit about how an ostrich can kill a man with one sharp kick and that inspired the thought. It was only after I returned to Mumbai and was going through the photographs, I realised that fortunately, I missed getting the answer to my question. Emus were in the same enclosure as the deer we were feeding. Only, yours truly ‘thought’ they were in the adjoining one. While I was blissfully picking up fancy quills shed by the birds, I could have well known how far an emu kicks.
These three-four trips outside the hotel were the only activities I agreed to be a part of in Mauritius. The rest of the week saw me on the hotel’s private beach, with a book in hand and a vodka bottle not too far away.
For more pictures I took, have a look at this earlier post.