Mauritius: Island Odyssey
Most film buffs would remember the Mauritius captured in the scene from Agneepath (1990), in which Amitabh Bachchan staggers out of the pristine sea to come face to face with villain Kancha Cheena (Danny Denzongpa) seated on a beach chair sipping a drink. Slurp. This is exactly what one imagines doing in the country that used to be one of the hottest filming locations due to its liberal laws.
The greatest thing about Mauritius is that it seems stuck in a time warp. The sea is just as blue, the beach just as pristine as it used to be. The coast, roads and expansive fields are some of the cleanest in the world, and never will you find too many people crowding any spot.
It’s all about the money
One of the most important aspects to keep in mind about Mauritius is picking the right hotel. The country is packed with massive properties with private beaches; and some offer tours and complimentary meals.
By day two, you begin to understand the country’s strategy: nothing is really free, and there’s a high price to everything. It’s probably why it doesn’t attract too many young people looking for a cheap place to party. But for those who can never have enough of clubbing, Mauritius is heaven. Apart from the clubs and pubs situated right on the beaches and inside the hotels, shopping complexes turn into discotheques every Saturday night.
Space-starved Mumbai could really use an ingenious idea like that. The lobby of a medium-sized partially open complex becomes the dance floor. A bar is set up on one end, and word is spread informally. Usually, it’s some young locals who double up as the bartenders and create obscure cocktails using the local, most-famous brand of white rum: Green Island. It’s a big hit among Indian visitors. Apparently, Sanjay Dutt orders himself a few bottles every time he visits Mauritius.
These mall-disco gigs, which feature a mix of live music and DJs, usually go on through the night. By the time the sun comes up, everyone retires for the day.
Since it’s populated with a mix of Indians, Chinese and Europeans, you’ll never get bored of the sights or sounds. The most common language is Mauritian Creole – best described by the self-deprecating natives as “poor man’s French”.
By day three or four, you’d be dying to take advantage of the water sports. Which is when you should attempt seabed walking, since it isn’t a sport you can indulge in, in India’s muddy waters. In Mauritius, the water is clear right from when you descend into the sea from the boat. Seconds before your head is submerged, a heavy giant glass globe is placed on your head. The air bubble inside the globe helps you breathe once your feet touch the seabed (I’m convinced there is a better ‘un-Neanderthal-like’ way to do this but I haven’t found it yet).
Over the next few minutes as you try and balance yourself against the undercurrents, the fish start nibbling at the tidbits handed to you by your guide. Between trying to stand straight, keeping your globe upright, feeding random fish and posing for pictures, you’ll find yourself having a pretty good time.
Business as usual
I happened to find myself in Mauritius on a chance work trip and I decided to make the most of it. Others plan their trips and pack them with lots to do. My suggestion — don’t. Keep it relaxed. Go for a walk on the beaches, dive into the seafood buffets, drive to the closest forest area and continue walking. You’ll come back having experienced a lot more.
Facts & figures
Visa for up to 60 days on arrival for Indian citizens.
Mauritian Rupee. One Mauritian Rupee is roughly two Indian rupees.
Air Mauritius offers direct flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.
Plan ahead if you hire a car on a vacation
1. Book online and as early as you can. You’ll have the advantage of getting a higher segment car for a cheaper rate.
2. If you pay when you book, you are often guaranteed the model you have chosen, instead of a random car. If you block a BMW 3 series, the firm could give you a similar car (an Audi A4 or a Mercedes-Benz C Class). But if you make full advance payment, you are guaranteed the BMW.
3. A GPS is a definite advantage and you should avail of that option.
4. Holidays offer plenty of opportunities to rent big, like a Porsche or a BMW Z4. However, these require two credit cards as security.
5. Avail of the Zero Liability cover option. So if you total the car, you don’t have to pay a dime.
(All the ‘Travel Smart’ tips have been written by Rishad Saam Mehta, avid traveller, photographer and author of Hot Tea Across India)
From HT Brunch, May 6
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