Waking in a panic, my heart raced as nervous energy rushed through my body and mind. I told myself to calm down as I looked out the plane window. Deep blue tones blurred the ocean below, and at that moment high above the Indian Ocean I realized that in two short hours I’d land on an island I hardly knew existed, Mauritius.
I'd travelled alone before, but always ended up with like-minded people following the same backpacker-ridden path through some new and intriguing country. This time was different. No hostels, no backpackers, no one with me to keep my reckless, anxious mind at bay. Just myself and an adventure in front of me.
A five hour delay due to a cyclone left me late upon arrival. Clearing customs was far from smooth as the flight agent refused to believe I had rented a room through Airbnb and that my host was waiting at the exit. After a few minutes of light persuasion I passed through and was soon on my way.
I'd heard tales of the beauty of Mauritius, seen photos, but pictures never do a place justice until you experience it for yourself. First impression was utter bewilderment of the region I had just landed in. Mountains were shrouded in a light dreary mist, ones you only see in magazines. Flowing rivers created a green landscape so lush you thought you’d stepped back in time to the Jurassic Age. Roads were empty. Garbage didn’t litter the country’s infrastructure and life seemed simple. We continued to drive through the mysterious land, towering jagged peaks giving protection to the fields of blowing sugar cane. All was calm.
My idea was to shoot surfing in a place less visited. I picked Mauritius on a whim, as I knew very little about this strange island. Upon arrival I found the waves here aren’t as they used to be, and you need reliable transportation to get to them. I spent three days riding around on public busses trying to get to well-known spots. The bus system here is incredibly convenient if you can’t afford a car, but not for the faint of heart.
Early one morning I left hoping to get to a spot with plenty of daytime to shoot, but I was wrong. Four busses and five hours later I made it. The distance of travel? Less than 30 kilometers. The ride was tiring and mentally draining, a sweat lodge rolling on wheels, stopping every 10 seconds to load up weary and exhausted faces. Within minutes of my first bus ride I was stained and dripping with sweat. I arrived at Tamarin Bay at half past two, but with the last bus leaving at 6pm, there was very little time before I had to load onto the bus again or else be stranded.
Mention Mauritius to someone and you’ll find either they haven’t heard of it or know that it’s a luxury destination. The coast is lined with immaculate all inclusives where you will find happy newlyweds baking in the scorching sunshine. Most don’t leave the comfort of the hotels. I wanted to see if I could travel on a budget on my own. Yes, it can be more expensive if you are used to southeast Asian prices. There is a plethora of wealth dispersed amongst the island’s vibrant landscape. However, if you dig deeper into a more local side of life you will find a vibrant culture of mixed religions and nationalities.
Street food is in abundance where you’ll find a mixture of French cuisine, Creole, and Asian dishes with spices that will leave your taste buds craving more. Hindus, Muslims, Catholics and Christians seem to flow and accept each other as they are. It was a breath of fresh air. The island also has many different microclimates, towering mountains with foggy cloud caps, oceans so blue you’d believe it was painted by the heavens. Reefs undamaged by bombing or overfishing and buildings centuries old still left standing from colonization. If it was raining, I’d take a bus closer to the sea and the sun would be shining.
I came with the intention of a surf trip, but left with a travel experience of a different kind. I was completely alone and a minority in a place far from home. I walked down streets looking into faces I’d never see again, taking in the moment as I knew it would soon be over. Pictures filled my hard drive at night as my camera was my comfort. I’d never been as far out of my comfort zone as I was in Mauritius. One minute, dreary eyes would gaze at me as if I was an intruder in a foreign land, then the next, a simple smile and I would feel welcome again. I would walk for hours on end seeing the vast array of life in the small but brilliant country. The ever changing landscapes seen from the long exhausting bus rides are forever etched upon my mind. Mauritius is an island lost at sea, as if time placed a hold upon it. My hope is that it will continue to be protected as tourism begins to drive its annihilating hammer into this island of pure mystery.
Have you ever explored Mauritius or any part of Eastern Africa? How was your experience? Did it teach you things you weren't expecting at first? Comment below!
Up next: The Skunk: An Ode to Disappointment