Rodrigues is the place to go if you are looking for somewhere quiet in the Indian Ocean with lovely people, fabulous food and amazing diving. It is actually a province of Mauritius but has it’s own unique identity and although only about an hour in the air, is a complete world away! Forget everything you ever imagined about Indian Ocean tropical islands for Rodrigues offers something completely different – you won’t find five star luxury hotels and spas and endless sandy beaches surrounded by palm trees here! This is the perfect place for the adventure traveller – miles of coastal paths and walking trails lead you to sheltered, beautiful coves and bays, even on public holidays here you can find yourselves the only ones on the isolated beaches! Take boat trips out to the reefs and smaller islands for fabulous snorkelling or to Bird Island where you will find huge numbers of terns and other water birds.
Named after the Portuguese explorer, Diogo Rodrigues, this is the smallest of the group of Mascerenes Islands and is fairly flat with a peak elavation of about 355m. It sits east of mainland Africa 560km south east of Mauritius. Rodrigues is surrounded by a huge coral reef and the encircled lagoon provides the livelihoods for many inhabitants of the island with octopus farming being one of the main productions here. The capital is Port Mathurin, which itself is pretty small – the only fuel station on the island is situated here and is one of the most ingenious methods of transport I’ve ever seen with an old fashioned petrol pump sitting in the side of a truck! There is a large port here and container ships (some of which do take passengers) cross between the island and Mauritius, where most supplies arrive from. Whereas Mauritius has a melting pot of culture and a mainly Hindu religion, Rodrigues is distinctly African with the original inhabitants coming from Mozambique and Madagascar, to this day a trip to Rodrigues is like stepping back in time fifty years!
There are one or two tourist hotels around Port Mathurin and the beaches of the island, but they cater mainly for Mauritians who pop over on holiday. For me the best way to experience Rodrigues is to stay in the many small guesthouses, which are really homestays. Take a room in these family homes, eat with your hosts and enjoy their hospitality. If you want to explore you should hire a car (4×4 is often needed to get down the rocky dirt roads to some of the coastal areas), or motorbike, but there are buses and taxis too. As you travel around the island, stop in local cafes and sample the home made food – we had a fabulous lunch in the hills, hosted by a larger than life lady who served us some kind of home made potent punch with huge plates of cornmeal, sausage stew and beans – many people have pigs and make their own sausages here, look out for them hanging up to dry with octopus along the roof tops!
The wildlife of Rodrigues sadly died out many years back with much of the island being quite barren today (due to habitat destruction and introduction of species such as rats), although in the centre of the island are fairly fertile farmlands growing vegetables, salads, rice and corn. The natural forests went the way of the Dodo long ago and one of the few endangered mammals that have been reintroduced that you can see amongst the trees near Port Mathurin are the Rodrigues Flying Fox (Fruit Bats). There is an excellent natural history museum at the Francois Leguat Centre, which also breeds the endangered (and formerly extinct from the islands) giant tortoises and is home to a massive underground cave system. The reserves here are working with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to preserve and re-introduce endangered flora and fauna. There is another location nearby at Caverne Patate which offers the chance to take a guided walk deep underground through the strange rock formations and stalagtites of the underground world of Rodrigues, 18m down and over 1000m in length.
There are a few PADI Scuba centres around Rodrigues and this is one of the best locations in the Indian Ocean for diving. I would recommend this mainly to experienced divers though as some of the currents are amazingly strong and novices should stick to the shallows of the lagoon.
Jules has been to Rodrigues, so give us a call and chat through your requirements for a holiday or honeymoon to this fabulous Indian Ocean island.