While on my cruise in the middle of the Indian Ocean ,I received and invitation from Mauritius Tourism inviting me to join them for the 50 year Independence Day celebrations.I was gob smacked and I have various ties to the island besides family, my brother had his destination wedding in Mauritius.Admist dodgy wifi signal I managed to respond and early Saturday morning I found myself on route to the island for this rather epic celebration.
Travelling with me were members of the media which includes print ,radio ,online and TV.We were the largest media group invited to the celebrations and it us no surprise considering :
1.The short flight under four hours.
2.South Africans do not need a visa.
3.Mauritius and South Africa have very strong ties.
4.South Africans are in the Top 4 of visitors to the island.
Port Louis – Mauritius
Saturday was a long day and I was still floating after my cruise.But the one thing I could not stop seeing was all the Mauritian Flags flying all around.From homes to businesses to cars the Mauritians were ready to celebrate this milestone in the history of the island.The patriotism reminded me of the 2010 World Cup and how we as a nation were so united and excited.We stayed at Le Suffren Hotel which was based in the Waterfront and wait for it ,it had a water taxi to take you across to the Watetfront.Sunday we headed off to the Police Station and then to the Prime ministers office so we could get accredited as Foreign Press (don’t you love the sound of that). Considering it was a Sunday the process was rather quick before we were whisked off to the Regatta.
Connections was the amazing Mauritius tour company who were our transport providers for our stay ,they have the best drivers and tour guides.Our trip to the Regatta took us almost back to the airport and with so much traffic our trip took longer.But the delays did not bother us as we chatted away to the rest of the #SAMediaTeam and snapped away pictures of the amazing places of worship all along the way.
Mauritius Regatta – Mahebourg
The traffic was almost at a standstill as we headed to the waterfront for the Regatta.As we walked around we came across locals all in high spirits and celebrating the Independence of Mauritius.Dotted all over were vendors selling food ,clothing,ice cream and literally everything one could find at a fair.Popular local musicians and dancers belted out songs that had the crowds dancing away.The drumming of the local Sega musicians got one into a festival mood.And then one look at the ocean and I knew this was paradise,the ocean was in literally 50 shades of blue and green with the sky and clouds playing along.Between the gorgeous blue fluttered the colourful sails of the boats which all bore the Mauritian flag that were all part of the Regatta.
Tummies rumbling we went to eat at a local eatery called Chez Patrick.Grateful for the aircon and wifi we looked over the rather large menu and opted to try out the local seafood that Mauritius is famous for.We were not disappointed and after taking pictures of all the food did we tuck in and lets just say for once the entire table was silent savouring the delicious flavours of our food.
We headed back to the Regatta caught a giant float of the extinct Dodo in the streets which our camera man ran after to get some amazing shots.Our tour guide told us that the story behind the Dodo was that it was pigeons on the island who spent all their time eating as they were not hunted or eaten by other animals and eventually they became to heavy to fly.The Portuguese gave them the name Dodo which means lazy in Portugese.
It was a full day of activities at the Regatta which included a vintage car show and an airshow by the Indian Airforce which was amazing.We sneaked in a lil beach time and Salma and I opted to go drink some coconut water which was so refreshing.As the evening approached we went back to the Reggata and headed out on speed boats to watch the Reggata boats do a parade with lanterns.It was rather incredible sitting in the middle of the ocean knowing how shallow the water is with spotlights dotting the night sky along with the stars.The night was still and the slight strains of Sega music filled the air.I was a tad bit paranoid as I had my phone ,chargers and passport with me but I did sit in silence and soak it all in.The Reggata was one part of the Mauritius Independence Day celebrations.
Grand Baie – Mauritius
Having visited Grand Baie during my last trip I knew that the place was well-known for its vibrant nightlife.We set off to discover Grand Baie on Monday morning and discovered even though it was a holiday the locals were still working.I spent some time in a small and very simple church.There was so much peace and calmness in that place of worship.And as always there were stunning beach shots that needed to be taken.
For lunch we headed to the beautiful Chateau Labourdonnais .A place steeped in history and culture with a well-preserved stately home giving one a glimpse of life in the past.The house was designed to keep it cool in the hot summer months.The family who had owned the property had lived there for 150 years and within the house can be found personal artefacts from days gone by.As a huge fan of Downton Abbey I fell in love with this gorgeous colonial property.The Chateau is still a working property and produces rum,fruit juices and jam from whar is grown on the property.We had lunch at the eatery on the estate which like all our meals was three courses.The food was utterly in delicious and beautifully presented.I decided on a popular dish of a Chicken and Prawn curry for my mains with a smoked marlin salad for starters.The eatery is small and bookings are needed.There are indoor and outdoor eating areas which are housed in what was originally a stable for horses.Stuffed and in need of a siesta we headed back to Port Louis for some downtime before the Grand event that evening.
The brief for that evening was formal and not to forget our press passes.I decided on going all traditional and wore a green and black Indian suit.While awaiting to leave to the function ,the #SAMediaTeam met briefly with Economic Development Minister, Ebrahim Patel and South African High Commissioner to Mauritius, Her Royal Highness Princess Zenani Nosizwe Dlamini. Dlamini is the eldest daughter of Nelson Mandela and WinnieMadikizela Mandela,who were also attending the celebrations.
The evening celebrations were held at Champs de Mars Racecourse, which is the oldest horse riding course in the Southern Hemisphere.The streets were lined with people making their way to the function ,there was an air of festivity and patriotism as flags were carried along.The security was very tight as there were several dignitaries from around the world attending the event.We were ushered onto the red carpet and given seats in the VIP section with members of parliament and the armed forces.And yes every side you turned there were men in uniform from both Mauritius and India.The Indian airforce enthralled the crowds with their highly skilled aviation displays and the armed forces showed off their fantastic formation skills on the ground showing off symbols associated with the island.
A cultural show entertained the crowds ,telling the story of Mauritius through music and dance.All ethnic groups showcased their part in the history of Mauritius with traditional dance.For me the highlights was the stunning firework display that seemed to go on forever lighting the night sky.And while the skies were lit ,the very catchy official song for the celebration played with all performers on stage.Check out the video of this song!
The night ended with us all humming along to this song and not forgetting a few selfies with the Indian Navy Commanders.
Thank you Mauritius for giving me the opportunity to share such a historic celebration.I have fallen in love with the island ,her people and the culture.Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more detailed posts on some of the things I got up to on my whirlwind trip to the island.
Au revoir Ile Maurice
Be Inspired !
Ps I was a guest of Mauritius Tourism but as always my opinions and views are my own.