Island getaways often translate into lying on a sunbed all day, cocktail in hand. The spectacular waters off Mauritius, however, deserve more attention. Even if you aren’t set to scuba dive or snorkel and prefer staying dry, these three fun activities will reveal deep-sea secrets and provide an unbridled rush of adrenaline. These pursuits, from the air, on the surface, and deep below the sea, cater to water babies, marine-life aficionados, and adventure enthusiasts.
The bigness of our blue planet hits me as I soar some hundred feet above the Indian Ocean attached to a rainbow-hued parasail. A cloudless sapphire sky meets the varied blues of Mauritius’ waters on a blurry horizon. Deep indigo waves conceal the mysteries of the ocean, while clear aquamarine patches allow views of the seabed. The entire vista glints madly in the golden sunlight, like a sort of wild van Gogh painting. I’m happy breathing the salty air, legs dangling far above the water. Abruptly, the tension in the towline slackens, the parasail slowly collapses, and I rapidly descend. Before I can process what’s happening, my bottom is gently dunked into the warm ocean.
Île aux Cerfs, where I’m parasailing, is a little speck off the east coast of Mauritius, geared for water sports of all kinds. The languid seven-minute parasail flight reinforces the might and mystery of the ocean from an aerial perspective. While observing reef patterns and the changing hues of the water below me, I can’t help but dwell on how little we know of the ocean, though it covers 71 per cent of Earth’s surface. I long to dive to its depths to learn more.
The following day, I do exactly that. Aboard the BS 1100—a 10-seater submarine operated by Blue Safari from Mon Choisy—I step straight into a Jules Verne novel. An eerie blue glow fills the cramped space, circular port windows line the sides, and the front is a muddle of knobs. We descend into the murky depths, watching shards of sunlight fight to pierce the ocean surface. Captain Oliver, the pilot, announces that we’ll be reaching a depth of 35 metres where the wreck of the Star Hope cruiser lies. “The abandoned ship was scuttled in 1998 to make an artificial reef and a five-star-hotel for the fish,” he says. The sea creatures sure seem to be living in style, darting around the 58-metre-long, coral- and seaweed-covered parts of the sunken ship. A bristly brown fish resembling an overused toothbrush swims past. It’s a lionfish, and its long spines can deliver a venomous sting that can cause extreme pain for days. Curious orange clownfish, pretty but poisonous purple coral, sad-eyed racoon butterflyfish: The ocean is a tangle of creatures in every possible hue and size. At this depth, colour and size are altered considerably. The diminished light and thick glass windows result in everything outside looking 25 per cent smaller. It’s evident that the creation of artificial reefs—a practice used by Japanese fishermen since the 18th century—aids in the formation of a rich marine ecosystem. “In 40-50 years, the entire wreck will be covered in coral”, says Oliver. In that cramped space we sit with noses pressed to the glass, inquisitive fish swarming around us, in a bizarre reversal of roles where we are in an airtight aquarium.
Back on land, I head to Black River by car to explore the placid lagoons of the southwest coast on a nifty little Seakart. With a steering wheel and easy acceleration, the turbine-propelled, four-stroke engine, 110 horsepower vessels look and run exactly like go-karts, except on water. A gentle squeeze on the accelerator and I’m bumping along the surface at close to 40 km/hr, manoeuvring past party yachts and the occasional wave. The two-seater craft is easy to handle, almost like a scooty. There are no seat belts and barely anything to hold on to. It makes for a scary but thrilling ride, and the operators insist that the Seakarts are “unsinkable and unflippable.” Speedboats are so passé. I’m zooming across open water and each little swell knocks me off my seat so I’m constantly hovering mid-air. The salty sea spray whips my face and in no time, I’m drenched.
Blue waves eventually give way to the aquamarine placid lagoon. The thrum of engines falls away and I jump in for a swim. Here at Crystal Rock, I swim around the rocky protrusion that floats on the emerald surface. A solitary shrub grows on it. In the distance, Le Morne Mountain shades the sun from my eyes. I’ve had the extreme thrill of speed and the deliciousness of a slow-paced swim on the same stretch of sea.
Appeared in the January 2016 issue as “Chasing Blue Dreams”.
Parasailing A round-trip boat transfer to Île aux Cerfs from Trou d’Eau Douce Bay and seven minutes of parasailing costs MUR 1,397/₹2,577 per person.(Drive to the boat pick-up point near Le Touessrok resort. Book parasailing and other water sports at booths by the water on arrival at the island.)
Submarine Blue Safari’s submarine experience lasts two hours, including a one-hour dive, and costs MUR 4,400/₹8,119 per person. Mon Choisy on the northwest coast is a 50-min drive from Trou d’Eau Douce Bay (Trou aux Biches; +230-265 7272; www.blue-safari.com).
Seakart An hour-long experience with Fun Adventure Mauritius is MUR 5,300/₹9,779 per Seakart (La Balise, Black River; +230-5499 4929; www.fun-adventure.mu).
is a freelance journalist who writes about travel, culture, and food. She travels for the outdoors: to dive deep in the Indian Ocean, crawl through caves in Meghalaya, and hike through the Norwegian fjords.
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