As I was thinking about a topic to share this week, past travels came to mind, and I thought I would share a glimpse into one of our own adventures throughout this wondrous world. A few years ago, upon setting foot on our 100th country, Lana and I attained an unusual status as members in the eclectic Travelers Century Club. We have been blessed to travel extensively throughout this incredible world with a voracious appetite to continue our search in pursuit of the unusual or lesser known destinations.
With so many places to talk about, where do we begin? How do any of us begin to map out our strategy for sharing the experiences that tap into our own thirst to plan for the next trip? Do we trace our way through each continent or do we follow a chronological order? The answer is… There is no right way. Basically, our personal compass has pointed us in a direction of getting others excited about the destinations that have made a lifetime impression upon our soul. We aim to highlight the character of the people, the beauty of the land and try to showcase any diversity underwater.
Four years ago, guided by the mention of unique islands on the Traveler’s Century Club’s website, we made the journey to Mauritius, and traveled even further to the tiny island dependant, Rodrigues. Located smack dab in the middle of the Indian Ocean as you draw your eye away from Island nation of Madagascar, Rodrigues appears to be completely isolated. You may ask, “What brought you here?” Good question. As Lana and I reside in Calgary, we have always aimed to travel to the furthest places away from our home base and it seemed to be an interesting and inaccessible location in the world to explore. Let’s face it, few Canadians ever make it to Mauritius and looking at most travelers who arrive in Mauritius, few seldom consider the extra 1.5 hour flight to Rodrigues.
Our flying journey is not easy, as we must connect through Frankfurt, Kuwait, Dubai and Mauritius to get to Rodrigues. But arrival in this tiny Creole island takes you back to an era of travel most of us yearn for and the exhaustion from 26 hours of pure flying time is completely forgotten as the island’s warmth envelopes you in their own unique hospitality.
When we travel as a couple, Lana and I will quite often fly to a destination without a reservation. Sometimes, our version of “pre-planning” will involve us phoning ahead from the airport we are departing from to tee up some sort of reservation. We know this may be too whimsical for most, but we enjoy the challenges this strategy presents. We like to think it keeps our minds fresh and it is part of how we manufacture some of our adventures. We eventually settled on the Cotton Bay Resort.
Upon arrival at the airport in the SW corner of Rodrigues, it was easy to gain our bearings on the island. We realized most roads filter through a network of three tiny towns at the top of the mountain and they spider off in a structured NW, NE, S, E & W direction. To give you a sense of the island’s size and remoteness, one of those tiny towns held the island’s lone ATM bank machine and the only gas station was located at the end of the NW road in Port Mathurin. Something you would need to pre-plan if you have a rental car to drop off at the airport. Unusual? Certainly! That is part of the appeal to this fantastic place.
The Cotton Bay Resort seems isolated from the rest of the island with few services around the hotel area. While it is only a two-story low-rise, the hotels’ green-hued, corrugated iron roof punctuates the skyline and it follows the perimeter of the bay for which it is aptly named. Arriving at this hotel, the staff is warm and welcoming. Guests are familiarized with the hotel services and amenities and the free appetizers at happy hour was the one feature that seemed to resonate with us and the hotel includes a half-board option (breakfast and dinner) which simplifies your food options. The rooms are well-appointed and divers will definitely benefit from a room on the floor level, especially if you will be moving your equipment back and forth from the on site dive shop or your vehicle. While diving is offered, the resort only offers that as a component of many other outdoor pursuits.
It appears the three dive operators on the island have divided up the various dive zones (north, south and east parts of the island) due to access and convenience. During our first couple days on the island, we explored the dive sites along the channel to the south that empties the lagoon into the Indian Ocean. So we paid a visit to Bouba’s Dive Centre. The owner was distinctly French and had us laughing non-stop for two days of diving. Benoit’s rental gear was in great condition as he used a European favorite, Beuchat. Our favorite dive on the south side of the island was the “Canyon” dive site. The topography was unbelievable as we literally swam through vibrant canyons and in the words of our fearless divemaster, Benoit. “Bwahhhh” (We think it is French for something really awesome). Keep in mind that diving times may be adjusted by Benoit based on the tides. Definitely check out Benoit and Bouba’s Dive Centre.
The Cotton Bay Dive Centre serves the East side of the island. Fantastic in their own right, they are set up with good equipment to rent and storage facilities for those with their own equipment. Most of the incredible dive sites we read about “La Passe St. Francois” and “Le Canyon” were located on this side of the island and they were absolutely stunning. Diving on this side is not for the beginner (as we were at the time), but we were so excited to dive these sites that my enthusiasm got the better of me and had me running from our room one day with Lana’s wetsuit (Lana sat out due to a cold) and my determination together with Fabio, our divemaster, and two other “buddies” helped me squeeze into her 3mm. And for all you girls out there, Fabio, is still the prettiest divemaster Lana has ever seen during our diving escapades. I can still hear Lana to this day, “It’s his eyes.” Definitely check out the diving on this side of the island.
The day before we departed, we kept this as a non-dive day and explored the topside of the island. We went for numerous hikes and found some completely untouched, white sand beaches. There were spectacular views at every turn. The island’s land based activities equally matched the wondrous diversity we had read about below the surface in the surrounding lagoon. The Francois Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve is a place to see the tortoises from the hatchery up until the one hundred year old big guys. This place was absolutely fascinating and the combined tour with the cave system was a well-spent half day of activities.
Rodrigues is blessed with wondrous diversity at every turn. We had only planned to stay for three days as a notch in our travel stick, but we enjoyed it so much that we sacrificed the island of Reunion from our trip to stay on Rodrigues for two more days. Borrowed from their website, the Mauritius Tourism and Promotion Authority sums up the island of Rodrigues the best: “The secure waters of the lagoon and the trade winds that gently buffer the island provide many opportunities for the adventurous. Rodrigues is a wonderful playground for scuba divers who quickly fall in love with the diverse coral reef eco-system and its colourful assortment of sub-aquatic flora and fauna.”
Happy Diving! –Tim