Anakao was the furthest point we reached on our Madagascar tour. From there we began the journey homewards – in several different stages.
On Wednesday 9th October we set off from Anakao very early, as we had to get back to Toliara in time to catch the morning plane to Tana. That afternoon, we visited Lemurs’ Park, an attractively landscaped area where several species of lemurs live in more or les natural surroundings.
That was the end of our tour. We stayed overnight in a hotel close to the airport, and next morning our companions departed for their various flights. Ours was not until late afternoon, when we flew to Mauritius.
Mauritius never made our list of ‘must visit’ places. But when we were searching for flights back to the UK from Madagascar, the cheapest was via Mauritius, and it seemed a shame to stop there and not see the island. So we had a three-day stopover, hired a car and tried to see as much as possible while we were there.
Mauritius is tiny compared with Madagascar, but we still managed to clock up 460 km driving round to various points of interest. On arrival, we were struck by the cultural differences between the two islands, even though they are not really very far apart. To get from the airport to our accommodation, we had to drive across the island by what locals refer to as the ‘motorway’: the M1 it isn’t, but it is a decent road, and very well lit. What amazed us most were the flash, modernistic buildings we passed on the way. It was as if we’d left Africa and found ourselves in a European city.
Of course, the island is not all like that. Over the course of the next three days we drove on narrow winding roads through towns and villages that were not particularly modern, and sometimes rather scruffy – but still nothing like Africa. The population of Mauritius includes people of African and Asian heritage, but the latter appeared to predominate, judging by the number of saris we saw! The Hindu temples probably outnumber the churches and mosques. There are fields of sugar cane everywhere, and beautiful beaches on the coast.
Around the island
On our first day we looked around Grand Baie (the resort where we were based), went up to Cap Malheueux (the most northerly point of the island), saw the island’s largest Hindu shrine at Triolet, and spent some time lounging on the beach at Trou aux Biches. We even had a dip in the Indian Ocean!
On the second day we focused on the south-west corner of the island, probably the most picturesque. First stop was the Grand Bassin, a water-filled volcanic crater with Hindu temples clustered around, and an enormous statue of Shiva nearby. From there it was not far to the Black River Gorges National Park. We did a walk (4 km each way) to one viewpoint, and drove to a couple of others.
Our next stop was Chamarel, a commercial park which includes a waterfall and the so-called ‘Coloured Earths’, which we found rather disappointing. After that we reached the south coast and turned west, getting different views of Le Morne Brabant, a dramatic headland which was once the hideout of runaway slaves.
On our third and final day in Mauritius we visited the Botanical Gardens at Pamplemousses, and then did a walking tour of Port Louis, the capital. Port Louis is not the most exciting city in the world, but there are a number of interesting buildings in the old town, including Government House, two cathedrals and a mosque. It is also surrounded by dramatically shaped hills. We climbed to the Citadel for great views over the city, and walked through the attractively themed Company Gardens.
We had lunch on the Caudan Waterfront, a modern development of shops and hotels, and then went on to visit a colonial mansion and estate known as Eureka, situated just south of the city. Again, we reached the south coast, this time further east, at Le Gris Gris, the most southerly point of Mauritius, where you can see waves crashing against the rocks. Our final stop was the airport: we returned our hire car and flew to Dubai, and from there to London, thus completing the large ‘circle’ we had begun when we flew to Windhoek on 20th August.