Mauritius is not simply an exotic Indian Ocean island. Patrick Cavalot, the former High Commissioner of
the Mauritian High Commission in Canberra, tells us what he loves about his country.
MUST READ BOOK
For a person going to Mauritius for the first time I would recommend one that covers an aspect of our history and nation building; from slavery, French occupation, British rule and through independence in 1968. Mauritius is a cocktail of people from around the world, which makes it a multicultural melting pot so there are many interesting books but I would recommend a book by the Mauritian historian, Benjamin Moutou, entitled De l’esclavage au marronnage raconté à mon fils et à ma fille (From slavery to marooning, as told to my son and my daughter, written in French) and launched on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of the abolition of slavery earlier in 2015.
MUST LISTEN MUSIC
Everyone dances the Sega, a dance which originated from the African slaves who would rejoice around a fire at night. The accompanying music is played from a ravanne, which is a goatskin drum, a maravanne (a rattle) and a simple metal triangle. I would recommend listening to music by Jean Alphonse Ravaton, known as Ti Frère, which means “little brother” in Creole. He is known as the king of the Mauritian sega as he made it widely popular. There are now more contemporary, lighter versions.
MUST VISIT TOURIST SITE
Mauritius is famous for its sunny weather, white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons. But we also have wonderful nature parks and the Seven Coloured Earths at Chamarel are amazing to see. It’s now a protected area but when I was young you could go and collect the different coloured soil. It’s surrounded by scenic waterfalls and green forest.
MUST DO EXPERIENCE
Most of the island is surrounded by reefs, which makes it splendid for swimming in the lagoons with no danger from sharks. One of the most unusual things visitors can do is actually walk under water which is easy for anyone. The undersea experience means you can literally walk on the seabed wearing a diving helmet and enjoy the amazing variety of fish.
I would suggest a visit to Gris-Gris in the south of the island. Due to a break in the otherwise perfect coral reef belt, big waves crash directly on the cliffs, giving rise to particular sounds known as the Roche Qui Pleure, the weeping rock, and the Souffleur, the Blowhole.
MUST EAT FOOD
Mauritian food blends Indian, Chinese, French and African cuisine and it’s amazing to see Indian hawkers selling Chinese noodles to African businessmen. Roti is a popular, thin, unleavened bread and it’s found everywhere. My personal favourite is roti with a vegetable curry of butter beans and potatoes, served with tomato chutney and pickles, eaten the traditional way. TTW
Photographs courtesy of the Mauritian High Commission.