The first of our tours in Mauritius was, unfortunately, on the far side of the island. Swimming with dolphins and an island picnic. We relied on our wedding coordinator to book us an appropriate taxi for the trip. We were up so early that we couldn’t even get breakfast on the first morning of our holiday. We had just enough time waiting for the taxi arrived to realise that the large wad of cash we’d obtained from the ATM the day before (and subsequently worried was in denominations too large for a taxi driver to give change for) actually only amounted to a paltry €40 which wasn’t going to cover much of what we had planned for the day.
Brodie raced off to the ATM while I engaged in a lengthy exchange with the bell hop, trying to establish that I simply wanted him to give our wedding coordinator a piece of paper with some information she’d requested. Once the taxi driver arrived and named the fee for his services, we set off for Black River Gorge Not that I didn’t have complete faith in our wedding coordinator *cough*, but I asked the driver how long he estimated the journey would take. “One hour and a half”. Oh. Uh oh. That was going to be a problem. He looked at us in disbelief when I said we needed to be at our destination in one hour, and proceeded to explain repeatedly about how far everything was, and how much traffic there would be. “I drive quickly” he promised… and then pulled in to stop for gas.
The journey passed mostly in silence as Brodie nodded off – apart from the occasional piece of wisdom imparted by the driver. “Hindu temple!”. “University!”. An hour later as we feigned interest in the latest building report, I ventured to inquire as to how far away we still were. “30 minutes”. Right, well we were now officially late. Our driver started the first of many calls to the tour operator with much wringing of hands, and explanations of how this grave transgression was none of his doing. Periodically, we’d get a confusing update which left us unsure as to whether the entire trip was cancelled, postponed, or still going ahead. Whatever was happening, we were still heading towards our original destination, even though our driver had advised us that he would pick us up at 6am the next morning instead.
The ultimate conclusion was that we stopped off on a beach and waited anxiously until a tour representative showed up. After making more apologies about our stupidity in trusting what we’d been told about travel times, we were advised to put on suncream before we burnt (Mauritians are fixated with telling all melanin-challenged foreigners to put on suncream). While we complied with those instructions, our boat took a break from stalking dolphins and came close enough to shore for us to wade out and clamber aboard. It seems that we hadn’t really missed much (maybe a bit of breakfast on the beach). No one had so much as made it into the water yet. The boat went back to join many others that fruitlessly raced about following the nearest sighting of fins in the water. Occasionally one spat out a couple of divers into water, that shortly after, was entirely devoid of any signs of life.
The first couple from our boat spent quite some time floundering about in the water while dolphins frolicked some distance away. The excitable boat driver gesticulated wildly at them – pointing them in the right direction only for them to gaze blankly back and slowly splash the opposite way. The instructor in the water seemed to have given up on getting them to move fast enough to see anything. Meanwhile the rest of us in the boat took footage of nearby pods leaping into the air at a safe distance from our comrades. The mother and children who were up next fared better and were close to dolphin pods a number of times. They were competent enough to be left in the water for a while as we took our turn. Having watched dolphins merrily flee the attentions of others, I was resigned to having a swim and probably never getting near them. However there was much more to be seen under the surface of the water and the trick appeared to be picking one pod to track under water (we’d been told of how they alternate between submerging and coming to the surface). Once you spied a pod of dolphins in the murky depths beneath you, it wasn’t too much effort to follow along behind them until they chose to surface for a couple of salmon leaps (or belly flops) and see the view from underwater instead of the boat. Brodie maintains he was almost within touching distance of one. I was content with watching them from fairly close by. These dolphins weren’t quite as amorous as the ones who had escorted and entertained our ferry in Milford Sound, but we had finally achieved the longtime goal of swimming in the same water as dolphins.
All too soon it was time to leave the water while the first couple had another go… with limited success once again. We sped back to shore at the meeting point we hadn’t managed to make earlier and changed boats for our journey out to Ile aux Benitiers. We were now in the company of mostly English couples, plus one couple who spoke animatedly with the boat crew and silently observed the English conversations, though they obviously fully comprehended everything as they’d laugh if one of us said something amusing. We had been loaded into speedboats, and the crew on each were the kind of people who enjoy making the most of their job. This mainly involved a lot of jeering each other and highspeed races to reach their destinations before anyone else. We flew off across the turquoise ocean water of a large lagoon. 15 minutes later the boat slowed to a stop in a dramatic arc that brought us the whole way around a ‘crystal rock’ jutting out of the water. This marked the start of the shallows. Close to here one of the two crew hopped out and proceeded to collect something for the barbeque while the speed boats crawled slowly in towards the shore of the island.
We all waded the last few feet to shore and set up camp under a canopy. While the crew fired up the bbq and enjoyed themselves, we had some free time to stroll about the island, and be targeted by various beach hawkers One girl after another in the Swedish group next door succumbed to peer pressure and purchased a sarong. Our group being mostly couples, we were targeted by the resident photographer. For fun we took part in a photo shoot where he mimicked a professional and had us take part in random poses until Brodie’s enthusiasm had completely waned. By the time that was done, our group had congregated again under the canopy and were ready to partake of the bbq lunch which was quite tasty. Unsurprisingly, every single person was honeymooning on the island and had their favourite highlights of the trip so far to share with everyone.
Once the lunch was finished there was still plenty of time to relax in the shade. CDs of the photos were produced and were ultimately better than expected. We finished what had been a very relaxing and enjoyable outing with one more race back to the mainland that ensured that everyone would be pulling salty knots out of their hair for quite some time that night. Our trusty taxi-driver was waiting to bring us ‘home’. He employed great restraint and only spent 15 minutes convincing us that we should contact him direct next time we wanted a taxi and he’d give us a good rate. Considering he’d charged quite a high fee anyway, this wasn’t really a selling point. To keep him happy, we took his card and filed it away for possible future use.
We were now ready for our buffet dinner. The sight of the chocolate pastry dessert bonanza was too much for us. I don’t think Brodie missed a single type as he loaded up our plates. With half of every pastry for each of us to eat, it took some time to clear our plates. Newbie error. Sadly for us, the vast majority turned out to be a disappointment. Better luck next time. With groaning stomachs we called it quits for the night.