Full disclosure: We had never heard of the Republic of Mauritius until the day we bought a ticket to go there.
When we arrived people seemed shocked to meet two people from the United States-hotel clerks, cab drivers, and vendors who’ve worked on the island for years said they never met Americans before. Yet, this is clearly America’s loss because sitting in the middle of the Indian Ocean is one of the most incredible countries we’ve ever visited.
We always try to reduce our carbon footprint by traveling via public buses, but in this case a boat didn’t seem like a good option and flights from Johannesburg were extremely cheap. We resisted the temptation to splurge on an all-inclusive beach holiday and opted for the more budget hostel, pay-as-you-go experience.
“It’s not like most places in Africa,” a cab driver told us. “You can walk anywhere at night. You can leave your stuff unattended. We don’t have much crime here, people will help you-not bother you-and it’s very rare that they will steal anything from you.”
Another person I met, named Marie, said that Mauritius lacked the government corruption of most African countries, citing it as the reason people visit there over nearby islands such as Madagascar and Comoros. “We have a real democracy,” she said.
We drove across the Island learning more about the country’s agriculture, which, next to tourism, is their biggest source of income. Sugar cane is the largest export, and the plots of land growing them stretched for miles. We were told that this crop accounted for a quarter of all exports from the country. We also saw lots of pineapple and coffee being grown.
Yet, an industry that surprised us was the booming hi-tech sector. We certainly didn’t expect coast-to-coast wireless internet (3G) when we arrived (it covers 60 of the island and is affordable and widely assessable).
We also played like tourists and visited Triolet Shivala, the biggest Hindu temple on the island. The temple is dedicated to the Gods Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Muruga, Brahma and Ganesha. This place is also the longest village on the island.
We also saw the “Coloured Earths of Chamarel,” among the oddest sites of the island. There are seven-colored dunes at Chamarel, the result from the weathering of volcanic rocks. And just a short drive away, we relaxed, eating spicy pineapple, by the breathtaking Chamarel waterfalls. And we admit it, we visited the beaches as well.
As we boarded the plane to leave, we looked at each other, and agreed that we both hope to visit this magical island again.
Who we are: BorderJumpers began in October 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — when Bernard Pollack and Danielle Nierenberg began a journey to travel in Africa. At every stop they are meeting with farmers, community organizers, labor activists/leaders, non-governmental organization (NGOs), the funding and donor communities, and local, regional, and international press.
With a Sony handycam, a 8-year old laptop, and sporadic internet connections – their goal is to bring stories of hope from across the region to as large an audience as possible. They will tell the stories that aren’t being told-from oil workers fighting to have a union in Nigeria to innovative ways farmers and pastoralists are coping with climate change.