Mauritius island is being very popular in 2018. Tropical paradise, green country and good food. Is that really what you'll find on Mauritius? Or is it another tourist catch?
Mauritius Island and I have a special history. My father was born in Curepipe and my parents got married on Mauritius Island. My father has lived there his whole life together with my younger brothers. So it was with a sizable amount of curiosity and excitement that Denis and I went there this past April for the first time ever. I was expecting a tropical paradise like in the French Polynesia where I grew up, combined with an explosion of colors like in Madagascar or Sri Lanka and multicultural flavors due to its history.
In reality things turned out to be quite different from our expectations. On a cultural level, we discovered that it was only the cuisine that truly reflected the multicultural aspect of the island. It’s a rich kitchen with European, Chinese, Indian, South-African and Madagascar influences. But for the rest, we found everything to be extremely westernized, quite expensive and filled with big malls. We weren’t particularly impressed by the cultural and historical aspects especially the ones in the Western part of the island towards Port Louis and Grand Bay. In order to encounter more authentic things you need to travel towards the East where you will still get the chance to see houses on stilts and old harbors, symbols of a colonial era. My grandfather was telling me about a time when frigate races didn’t start far from the old harbor – I do not know if today that is still the case. One thing is for sure: I did not feel I missed out on something cultural in Mauritius.
What about its environmental situation? Well, the island produces a huge amount of sugar cane, its main source of revenue. 90% of local forests have been destroyed in order to make room for planting sugar cane. The production is obviously non-ecological and you will be able to notice locals spraying chemicals in the fields. Denis and I have unsuccessfully looked for biological fields that would eventually produce biological rum. There is no biological agriculture, almost no bio products in supermarkets (you can still find European bio brands and even vegetable drinks and gluten-free products but nothing local) and a fairly high plastic pollution (even though plastic bags have been banned in supermarkets).
Mauritius Island is lagging behind with regards to sustainable development. Responsible tourism is also lagging behind. There are almost no tourist agencies offering eco-touristic or eco-responsible solutions, there are very few NGOs set up for the protection of local species and little areas protected at the expense of corruption.
Mauritius Island is definitely not a green or eco-responsible destination.
Please see below a list of things that amongst many others shocked us:
Hunting parties in the Hunting reserve of Mauritius
Yes, it is still possible to hunt deer, a habit introduced by British colonialists in their hunting parties back in the day. I am not against the concept of hunting but honestly where is the pleasure in killing when there is no stringent need for it?
Operation “Grab & kill” of all stray dogs
The Grab & Kill operations organized by the Mauritian government are in fact massive gatherings of stray dogs that happen twice per year in which the dogs are sent away to be brutally killed with sticks, rocks, rifles – anything that can be used for that purpose as euthanasia is expensive and they have over 180,000 stray dogs. Government claims they are doing their best, but talking to locals, this problem has been lagging for years and no real actions has been taken. These operations are quite discreet and the government swears that they do not include inhuman killing (and use electrocution) but that is not true, some videos prove this wrong. The situation of stray dogs in Mauritius is something that the government has not been able to address properly in a decent manner.
Fiscal paradise that puts pressure on protected natural areas
1,263 million people on an island as big as Corsica is a lot, especially if we take into account that the majority of the population is rural, agricultural or works in tourism. In the past 10 years, in order to attract foreign investment, Mauritius has begun to offer Mauritian nationality for real-estate investments above 500.000 euros. So you can imagine that there are now many luxury compounds, secondary homes and resorts popping up everywhere, even in areas that are supposedly protected. This Beau Vallon project for example has been criticized by locals, while the Minister of Environment turns a blind eye to it.
Mauritius Island is a country with a high number of deaths on the road compared to its population. It has a road mortality rate of 12% (it’s 5% in Europe), so be careful! When you see a driver backtracking in a round-about it gives you goose bumps. A Mauritian with whom I could talk has himself called the driver’s license an “endemic” license. Pretty much everybody does what he/she wants on the road. We therefore recommend the utmost caution especially if you are not used to driving on the left side or without lights alongside the road or with pedestrians that do not seem to care about the statistics working against them!
Wild fishing in protected areas
There are marine “protected” areas in Mauritius. I use quotation marks since with the exception of 2 or 3 panels we have not seen anything indicating the rules of sustainability like for example in Blue Bay which is an important marine reserve for the island. Many fishing boats are there and the fishermen are usually present during nighttime. Moreover, in order to allow the A380 of the Emirates to land, the airport has had to enlarge its landing strips which has impacted the lagoon. Obviously the part of the lagoon used to enlarge the landing area wasn’t protected but this lengthening has resulted in a variation of currents and a strong impact on Blue Ray. While talking with the locals I have realized to which point sustainable development in Mauritius doesn’t actually exist. It’s definitely not a green destination.
Plastic pollution: although present across the world, plastic pollution in Mauritius is very prominent
Who isn’t aware that our oceans are polluted by plastic and that beaches are becoming dumping grounds? If you are thinking about escaping to Mauritius you are really turning a blind eye. Nobody is cleaning up the beaches except for the areas that are super touristic such as the Grand Bay. The only things that are removed from the beaches are stray dogs. Anyways, enough sarcasm, but seriously Mr. Minster of the Environment if you think that tourists are not going to notice, you are severely mistaken! Locals themselves do not bathe in certain areas since the water is filthy. With all the pesticides pouring directly into the sea and the plastic, we are far from heavenly beaches.
The majority of local species has disappeared
You were counting on seeing wild life in Mauritius? Well, besides the Bulbuls (small birds imported by Asian people considered thieves and plague by most locals), swallows and mosquitoes, the wild life is not exactly extreme. In the seabed you can find some fish and some corals in poor conditions though. I was disappointed after Sri Lanka – I was expecting a rich fauna and only a pale reflection of what wildlife used to be remained. Lastly, the Vanilla Park – I advise against going there as it a reflection of a flagrant speciesism. On the one side we protect magnificent turtles from Seychelles and on the other we make a farm with crocodiles destined to become bags and meat. This is a completely incoherent message in my opinion, especially since you can see these turtles in the Park of 7 colors in Chamarel. Otherwise if you want to see local species reintroduced by an association (unique or almost), visit the Ile aux Aigrettes! You definitely need to go through the association in order to visit the island.
With the number of tourists on the island, and cultural diversity, we might think that Mauritians are open-minded and in quest for peace looking at their multicultural heritage, but in recent years there has been a rise in homophobia that has led local authorities to cancel gay local pride. Threats and insults that have forced politicians to take drastic measures without trying to punish the guilty ones. Just as a reminder, in Mauritius, there are still some strong anti gays laws.
Microclimate and climate change
I don’t know if it was because of climate change but when we were there, we got wind and rain most of the time. My father told me that from January till April (when we were in Mauritius) it didn’t stop pouring rain. The climate on the island is strange I must say. On the East, the sun can be as strong as the rain can be on the West side at the same moment, even though they are only 70km apart. We heard that on one side of the island you could have +45C (not far from Grand Baie) while in Curepipe,it could be +25C. A huge different between cities and places. I was used to tropical weather but there, it’s pretty extreme. And in August, in can go as low as +9C in some part of the country! Some houses in Curepipe have built-in fireplace. Not so much for the cold as for the humidity. Were heavy weather.
In conclusion, if you have to choose a destination, do not choose Mauritius. It’s expensive, not at all exotic and definitely not oriented towards sustainable development. Choose Sri Lanka or better yet Seychelles instead.
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu