15 Dec Explore Rodrigues Island
Or The Satisfaction of Taking it Slow
Rodrigues is a delightful little island 560 km east of Mauritius in the middle of the Indian Ocean, measuring only 18 km in length and 8 km wide. The Island, named after the Portuguese explorer Diogo Rodrigues, is the smallest of the Mascarene Islands and a dependency of Mauritius. Rodrigues has little resemblance to it’s bigger brother Mauritius, beyond the white beaches of the east coast.
The tiny island is a stunning mountainous gem, that is barely connected to the outside world and is sometimes called the “Mauritius of 30 years ago”. The Island is entirely surrounded by coral reefs offering beautiful scenery, world-class diving and snorkeling. Do not miss during your stay in Rodrigues to stroll along the most beautiful beaches along the coast on foot, from one circus to another, from Pointe Coton to Graviers. A crossing which will make you discover the deserted beaches of Anse Ally and the wild beaches of Anse Fumier while continuing towards the beach of Saint François or that of Anse Bouteille which, embedded in the middle of the rocks, offers marvelous spots of Snorkeling.
The gentleness of Rodrigues life is perhaps best felt through the treasures of its seas and lands. Fishing and agriculture are the main resources bringing this tiny peaceful island, lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, its unique, authentic charm. The island’s population of around 40,000 is predominantly African and Creole. The pace of life is undeniably slow, which gives the island a time-warped vibe.
Rodrigues island is also renowned for its authenticity- which makes the uniqueness of its anti-stress island. Authentically Creole the Rodriguan culture culture is vibrant through the music, dances and cuisine of its people. The music is a sweet blend of European melodies and African rhythms; the “sega tambour” is the folk dance of Rodrigues. The population lives mainly off fishing, farm produce hancraft and more recently, tourism. Women play an active part in the economic life of the island.
Little huts with octopus drying are part of the daily décor. In Rodrigues, women are mostly known for fishing the octopus. A straw hat on their heads, a spear in hand they walked up and down the lagoon to the corals to get the mighty octopus. All along the roads or in the middle of nowhere, octopus drying are a common scene and represent Rodrigues typical image.
The Rodriguan gastronomy (enriched by Chinese, Indian and European influence) is made up of local produce that is naturally available in abundance. Dishes made with fish, octopus, pork and chicken are of incomparable flavor. The cuisine consist of simple but tasty dishes that bring out the natural good taste of the produce. A typical Rodriguan meal is served with rice or maize and red beans, and is accented with chili or chutneys.
The traditional Tourte of the island Rodrigues is a variation of the Breton salt pie brought to Baie aux Huîtres by the first marine expatriates in the XIXth century. The meat is rare and it has been adapted with what nature gives most generously on the island: coconuts and papaya. The coco-papaya pie was thus born. Generations later, it became one of the traditional pastries of Rodrigues island
The exploration of Rodrigues island is perhaps best done hiking or four wheel driving through the treasures of its mountainous landscapes. Whether hiking of 4×4 driving, there is always something to discover, a route to explore and unbeaten track to get lost. Although roads are not in good conditions or just non-existent, four wheel driving is highly recommended. Since 2016, new roads were built or old ones repaired, making remote villages accessible now. However most of the villages are only accessible by motorbike or by foot. It is not uncommon to come across herds of cows and goats during the trip
The coastal paths are full of surprises. They lead to wild coves like Anse Bouteille, where you can stop for a swim.
In Port Mathurin, the island’s capital city, the shops are colourful and is the “buzzing” business bib of the island. The old colonial houses, like La Residence, built in 1897, make up most of Port Mathurin , rendering a warm and festive ambiance in the capital. The building is closed to the public, although it is possible to get an idea of the structure from the veranda of the tourist office across the road.
Apart from its banks, supermarket and handful of restaurants, there’s not much to do here after a day’s visit. However the street food will please more than a few. The market is Port Mathurin is a key moment of the island life, especially on Saturday mornings. Vegetables, fruits, but most importantly, your traditional food and straw hats or hand crafted vacaos basket are on sale. This activity is one of the island’s specialities. It is a friendly gathering for which everyone prepares and no one can miss.
From Port Mathurin to Mourouk, going through Port Sud Est, or by the paths, the scenes of Rodriguan life follow each other in such simplicity and such authenticity that one feels compelled to keep returning.