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Old 14th May 2017, 10:20   #1
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Default Vive la Maurice - A week in Mauritius

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How do you start with a travelogue like this? Do you say "We went to Mauritius last week and here are the photos" or do you say "Wow, I'm zapped! Here are the photos" or do you ramble on about your impressions of a beautiful place interspersed with "OMG! This place..." photos or do you provide a fully detailed itinerary with costs, hotels, room rates and flight numbers and describe each and every place with two accompanying photos and an anecdote?

I've decided to ramble with some photos, sometimes with a description of the photo and the place it was taken. I'm not sure how many of you will take the time from your busy schedules to actually read it fully, though! Even if you are here to just look at the photos, I hope they convey the essence of the island. If so, mission accomplished and hope you plan your next holiday there.

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About the photos
Most of these photos were taken with my Nikon D7200 and Tamron 16-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Some, however, were taken with my Google Nexus 5X. The quality of the Nikon is expected, but I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of my phone camera. It seems to capture an amazing amount of detail for a micro sensor 12 MP camera and quite a wide dynamic range. It compares quite favourably with my wife's iPhone 6s, which has an excellent camera.

All of these photos were processed (not "edited") with Photoshop CC to mainly adjust the colour and contrast. I don't usually over process my photos and try to keep them as natural as possible. Some of them are processed with the HDR technique, which tries to emulate the phenomenal dynamic range of the human eye. The colour of the sea is exactly like what you see here. It is not an exaggeration, it is actually like this. It seems to be caused by a variety of factors, the shallowness, the presence of various minerals, seaweeds and almost zero pollution. Most volcanic islands seem to have the same colours.

Why Mauritius?
OK, OK, this was not our first choice. We had our minds set on a holiday in Paris and Nice. We had even decided which hotels to stay in, which places to visit and drawn up a complete hour-by-hour itinerary. The dates were also fixed. Departure on 8th May, returning on 17th May. And then everything had to be changed. My daughter has just finished her 10th Standard and the result dates were announced as 12th May! Even though she is in the CBSE stream and her results won't be out till the end of May, all colleges here start handing out applications the day after the state board results. So there was no way that we could go anywhere in that period or at any time afterwards, what with college applications, admissions, etc. But since we had decided to go, we didn't want to stay at home. You see, the minds were already wandering!

Europe was ruled out since there was no time for visa approval. The only options were places that had visa on arrival. Thailand, been there, done that, got the T shirt. Sri Lanka, ummm, not this time. My travel agent suggested Mauritius and it was quickly decided that we are all OK with a beach holiday in summer. Moreover, it is the beginning of winter there, being in the southern hemisphere. A quick weather check showed a pleasant 25° C and that was that. Of course, Google Images showed some mind blowing photos, which certainly had us excited.

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My trusted travel agent who handles all our holiday bookings quickly checked and came back with several resort options. We decided on the Riu Creole located in the southern most tip of Mauritius mainly because they offered an enticing all inclusive rate (breakfast, lunch, dinner and all you can drink). I must say it was an excellent decision, the resort is very, very good. It is very big (400+ rooms), has a kilometre long private beach and the rooms are superb.

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Some basic stuff about Mauritius
Even though Mauritius was a British colony from 1810 till they attained independence in 1968, it is the French culture that is stamped firmly on the islands. It was a French colony from 1715 to 1810 and they seem to have left a lasting impression on the locals. Almost everyone speaks French, the sign boards are French, the street names are French, the food has a heavy French influence, heck, even their attitude is French, laidback, relaxed and prone to taking siestas in the afternoon. But religion wise they are mostly Hindu, with totally Hindu names, albeit with funny spellings. For example, the receptionist's nameplate at the Riu Creole Resort spelt her name as Lutchmee. Similarly there are Gowree, Nandenee, etc. Somehow the men are not having these spellings, they are the more normal Pravesh, Sooraj, Milesh, etc.

Almost none of them have visited India inspite of being of Indian origin. I asked our driver why this is so and he came back with "Why should we go anywhere when the world comes here?" Argument closed. It is understandable, this reluctance to leave their lovely home and travel anywhere else. It would be all downhill!

Day 1: Arrival
It was a long May Day weekend before our departure date, so all the last minute shopping was done on these days. We had to travel on Tuesday morning, since Air Mauritius has a direct flight from Bangalore only once a week. This flight is not actually direct but via Chennai where there is an hour's stopover. The flight departs BLR at 0420, which is certainly a very inconvenient time to get any kind of sleep the previous night. There was a huge rush at the emigration desks, with multiple flights departing to various destinations within a very short period. It took nearly one hour for us to get our exit stamped! I don't know why several counters were not manned, inspite of the rush. Needless to say, we had a sleepless night and slept only a bit on the flight. The seats on the Airbus A340-300 are a little cramped and not very comfortable. Anyway, the flight was smooth and boring, which is the best sort. You definitely don't want any kind of excitement or drama in the airplane!

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It was raining a bit when we landed in Mauritius. There is only one airport for the whole country and it is quite a small one. It is still popularly called Plaisance Airport, although it has a much longer official name. The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, named after the father of the nation. There they go with the funny spellings again. His name is Shivsagar Ramgulam, in our spelling. Nothing much to mention in terms of airport wow factor. The immigration queue wasn't too big, given that there were two other flights from Istanbul and somewhere else at the same time. Visa on arrival is a simple matter. Fill in the form they hand out on the plane and just show them your passport. The guy never even asked to see our return tickets or hotel booking vouchers. That took all of 15 minutes from entering the queue to walking out with the visa stamped. :thumbup:

Baggage collected, we headed out to be picked up by our driver who was ready with the car. His name was Pravesh (no funny spelling) and drove us to our resort. The drive from the airport to the Riu Creole is about 60 kms long and goes right across the island. Pravesh said he'll take the scenic coastal route and instead of going inland, which was fine with us. We were very sleepy and tired, but the drive and the sights along the way kept us awake. The route is very reminiscent of Goa, with the same narrow roads, the same style of houses, the sea on your left all the way, etc. But there was hardly any traffic and whatever there was, was very orderly and "give way to others" type. Not like Goa at all! It took about an hour and 15 minutes to reach our resort.

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Check in was quick and we were advised to have lunch immediately since it would be closing in 15 minutes. It was already 2:45 in the afternoon and we were famished. We headed straight to the gigantic restaurant and to the lunch buffet line up. This is where we were brought down to earth with a Thud! We are vegetarians (I can eat omlettes but that's about it) and the only veggie items I could see in the line up were salads! After a bit of searching (and we have to search, the line up is a looong line) we found some remaining pieces of veg pizza, so it was pizza and salad for lunch. Little did we know that this would be the case for the remainder of our trip too.

Warning to veggies: It is not easy to find good veggie food here. Be prepared to eat salad, bread, croissants and such. If you are the bright side type, it is a great place to detox!

After a disappointing lunch, we went to our room which was nicely decorated and had all the amenities that you could ask for.

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This little arrangement on the bed happens every time they make up the room, each time slightly differently.

As I said earlier, there are more than 400 rooms spread out over a very large area, rather than in one large complex. If you get a room on the outer edges, there will be quite a walk to and from the reception. Thankfully, we were in one of the nearer rooms, so the walk wasn't too much. We thought we can catch up on a little bit of sleep, so we showered, changed and got ready to crash. However, I took one look outside on the patio and thoughts of sleep receded into the background!

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I did go up to the beach wanting to take some photos, but sleep was fighting me all the way and showing me enticing images of beds with cool covers. After a few minutes, it was too much to ignore and I had to give in. And overslept. By the time I woke up, it was already 6PM and the sun had set. In any case, it was very cloudy and it wouldn't have been much of a view. At least that's what I said to console myself.

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There are a lot of entertainment programs at the resort, including dance shows, karaoke centers, live bands, etc. but we were too tired and still sleepy after being mostly awake for over 36 hours, so post a detox dinner we just retired for the night and turned the lights out early.
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Old 14th May 2017, 10:28   #2
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Day 2: At the beach and a spectacular sunset
We had a whole day free, which was the way we had planned it. So we took to the beach after the usual salad and croissants breakfast. There are quite a few water sport activities available from the resort, like snorkelling, scuba diving, speed boating and the super exciting kite surfing. All three of us (me, wife and daughter) don't swim so most of these activities are not available to us :-(. But we enjoyed ourselves at the beach, with a long walk up and down and watching other people trying out the various activities. One thing I observed was that there were not many Indians at this resort. I saw only three or four Indian families during our week long stay. Visitors are mostly from Europe, especially France and Germany, and from South Africa which is a stone's throw away relatively speaking. Which might also explain the lack of proper veggie food.

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This is kite surfing which seems to be pretty popular with both the locals and the visitors. Basically you try to hang on to a parabolic sail that is trying its level best to tear your arms right off your shoulders. Some of these guys make it look easy but I'm sure it is not. I didn't try it as I wanted to my arms to remain attached. I saw several people struggling to stay upright and move along. This place also seems to be the hotspot for kite surfing, as the wind here is very strong and constant. People from other resorts are also brought here for the sport.

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There do seem to be instructors and experienced kite surfers helping L Boards and new applicants. In fact a company called Ion Sports seems to be running things here.

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After a lot of photos (I've excluded all personal photos due to privacy reasons), we retired for lunch and spot of rest. The weather had been good throughout the day and I had a feeling that the sunset would be good too. Boy, was I right! Went back to the beach later in the evening and I will let the sequence of photos speak for themselves. Any words I add would be insufficient to describe what we saw.

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I especially like that last one. For me, it conveys total relaxation while enjoying the best of what nature has to offer. The only thing missing is a blue drink with an umbrella and a lemon slice in it! I don't know who is in the hammock, but I am thankful that he was in the right place at the right time.
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Old 14th May 2017, 10:33   #3
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Day 3: Île aux Cerfs and a thorough drenching
There are basically three tours to be done in Mauritius, the North Tour, the South Tour and the Île aux Cerfs tour. It was this last that was planned for this day. The tour first takes us to Grand Bay, a place where there are a lot of watersports like Undersea Walk (short but good), Paragliding (doubles allowed!), Tube Surfing (fun! look that up) and many more. We were picked up at the hotel by 9:00 AM and driven a distance of about 70 kms. We had a good look at the highways and the traffic which is very sparse, except in and near the cities. Of course, the scenery outside will keep you glued to the window, clicking away.

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Hey, even with the converted value (1 MUR = 1.8 INR) that 49" 4K LED TV still looks pretty cheap, right? Works out to less than 36,000 which is defintely VFM for a well known brand like Philips.

After the watersports of which I have no photos, since we had to store bags and belongings at the ticket counter, we drove on to the speed boat pick up point. If there is any photo of the whole lot that says "Mauritius" to me, it is this one.

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A 45 minute speed boat ride that is great fun because the driver keeps throwing the boat around at high speeds will take you to the Grand River Waterfall. Twin Yamaha 80 HP motors ensure that the boat moves at a very high speed, with the nose lifted right out of the water.

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By the time we reached the waterfall, around 3 pm in the afternoon, it started raining heavily. It gradually increased to a downpour of biblical proportions and we were thoroughly, totally drenched within seconds. I had to stow away the camera and we all huddled in the boat, which had no top. It rained for the rest of the evening, not letting up until we were almost at the resort. I am told that Île aux Cerfs is very beautiful but the only thing we saw was buckets of rain.
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Old 14th May 2017, 10:44   #4
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Day 4: A peaceful sunrise and The North Island Tour
Got up early today. When I say "early" I mean by around 8:00 AM. On a holiday, that is early, right? Walked the 10 steps to the beach to see if there is anything left of the sunrise and I was surprised by this:

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The first one is from my mobile and the second one is from my Nikon. As you can see, the mobile is performing quite well in these conditions. I spotted a cleanup team from the resort, patiently clearing the debris brought in by the sea and any human origin junk. No wonder these beaches are so clean!

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After the usual forcibly healthy breakfast, we were picked up at the resort by around 9AM and got settled in the van for the long drive to Port Louis, the only "tour spot" for the day. It takes about 2 hours to get there and the scenery along the way is pretty much the same as before. Spectacular. Port Louis is the capital of Mauritius and the center of everything. It is not a big, bustling, crowded city, more like a peaceful, reasonable large town. The architecture is a mix of ethnic Indian, French colonial and modern glass and steel. This one is on the outskirts of the city:

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We were taken up a hill to the Citadelle Fort, originally built in the 16th century by invading Spaniards and later occupied by the French. This is the view of Port Louis, from near the entrance to the fort:

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The race course here is claimed to be the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere, inaugurated in 1812. Our driver says that races happen on on weekends and on other days it is used as a car park! You can see that in the photo, there are so many cars parked inside the course.

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This is from inside the fort. There is nothing here, except a walkway all around that offers great views of the city and the harbour.

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Talk about simplicity, this is the Prime Minister's Office! No special building, no special security, no special car park, in fact if our driver had not pointed out the small name plate to us, we'd have missed it altogether. It is simply just another building along a row of similar buildings. Now that's what I call a peaceful and secure nation. Can you imagine anything like this anywhere else in the world?

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We were then dropped off at the Le Caudan Waterfront. This place seems to be the heart of the city, a large mall like area with many shops, eateries, bars, sit outs, etc. It even has a casino. Gambling is legal here. One gets the feeling that if you sit outside for a few hours on one of the steps, you're likely to see the entire town population walk by. It is that busy and there are quite a number of locals going from one side to another. Tourists too.

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There is a very unique arrangement of umbrellas on the main concourse of the area. It looks great when the sun is directly overhead, like it was when we were there around 1:30 PM.

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There is some Indian food too, if you can manage to convert the spellings!

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We finally found a restaurant called Namaste that serves decent vegetarian food, although the veg menu is limited. Had our fill of butter rotis and mixed veg curry and veg biriyani (or briani, as they spell it) like we hadn't eaten in days. Which we hadn't, of course. Not cheap, but hey it is good veg food!

We headed back to the resort by 4 PM and the 2 hour drive netted me these images on the way

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Old 14th May 2017, 10:49   #5
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Day 5: The South Island Tour
Tried to wake up early, but couldn't. So no sunrise pictures for the day. Anyway, the South Island tour seems to be the most interesting one and covers four places, the Crater Lake, the Shiva Temple complex, the Chamarel waterfalls and the Seven Coloured Earth. We first visited the crater lake, which is simply a lake in the original volcanic crater. When we got there it wsa pouring so much that we didn't get out of the car at all. We waited for a few minutes to see if the rain would lessen and decided to move on when it didn't. Even when we reached the Shiva Temple, it was drizzling mildly but thankfully stopped soon. It was still very misty and ethereal though.

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Moreover, the water from the lake had overflowed heavily due to the rains, covering the access to the temple itself. You could still walk across in knee deep water, but we had had enough of getting wet. So we performed our namastes from a distance and moved on to Chamarel. The rains had ensured a full flow of water in the falls and it looked really spectacular. I'm using that word too often I think.

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Although I was not carrying a tripod, I rested the camera on a small ledge thing and took a long exposure of the falls. This one was about 2 seconds long and resulted in a silky looking waterfall.

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We spent quite some time here, as the beauty held us spell bound. Of course, many selfies and photos resulted. We then moved on the Seven Coloured Earth site, where one particular patch of earth is saturated with several different metal oxides that resulted from ancient volcanic activity. The Iron oxides impart red and orange shades, while the Aluminium imparts blue and violet shades. The browns are the natural soil colour. Because of the presence of these heavy metals, no plant ever grows on this small patch of land even though it grows in full abundance all around. Strange, isn't it, the ways of nature?

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On the way back to the resort, we stopped over at a view point that offered spectacular (there I go again) views of the bay

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That mountain on the right is Le Morne Brabant, below which the Riu Creole resort is located. There is an access pathway to the top of the mountain and you can hire a guide at the resort to do the trek to the top. The trek was closed due to the heavy rains which had made the paths slippery and dangerous. I wish it were open, we would have had views to die for from up there.
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Old 14th May 2017, 10:52   #6
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Day 6: The long journey home
Five days had gone by in a flash, leaving us with a holiday to remember. I couldn't resist another quick trip to the beach in the morning, just to say goodbye and thanks for the amazing holiday.

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Since we didn't want to spend another couple days at the resort for the direct flight to BLR, we had booked return via Dubai. The Emirates Airbus A380-800 was waiting for us at Plaisance Airport. It was my first flight on board this humongous aircraft. You can look up stats for this one online, but this photo says it all (not mine, not from this trip, just shown here for comparison purposes)

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This is our flight at the airport and some shots from inside.

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The seats are wide and comfortable even in cattle class. Emirates food is good as always and is probably the best airline food I've eaten. The entertainment menu has over 2000 movies and TV shows including Indian regional language movies! I ended up watching three of them, a Kannada movie (U Turn) an English one (xXx Return of Xander Cage) and a Hindi one (Pink) on the long flight to Dubai and from there to Bangalore.

We had a few hours stopover in Dubai between flights, so we got some quick shopping done at the duty free as well. Thus ended a relaxing week.

Hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I did going there and taking them. As ever, comments are always welcome. Until next time then, ciao and drive safe!
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Old 15th May 2017, 10:10   #7
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Mod's note: Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!

Last edited by GTO : 15th May 2017 at 10:10. Reason: Bump
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Old 15th May 2017, 11:00   #8
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Hey! looks that you guys had a great holiday. Good photographs and crisp narration. We too are vegetarians and while we have got vegetarian food in most of our trips, where ever we found none in the buffet, the cooks were good enough to make something for us like fried rice or sauteed veggies and stuff like that. Did you try that?

The Indians came as workers (slaves) to the rich sugar cane plantation owners, and mainly from Bihar and UP. They were mostly illiterate and hence you have those funny spellings made up by the white overseers based on phonetics. They were an exploited lot, as most slaves were, and had in time managed to gang up together and try and fight for their rights. Thus today, politics is in the hands of the Indian descendants, whereas the money is still in the hands of the whites who still control most of the sugarcane produce.

Had been to Mauritius on work a couple of times. After seeing your report think i shall go there on a relaxing trip.

Thank you for sharing your experiences.
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Old 15th May 2017, 11:15   #9
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Beautiful pictures and good to see you had a memorable trip

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stryker View Post
Warning to veggies: It is not easy to find good veggie food here. Be prepared to eat salad, bread, croissants and such. If you are the bright side type, it is a great place to detox!
We were very lucky in this aspect. I had communicated our property (Beachcomber on North Island) that we are vegetarians. Upon arrival, their headchef of Indian origin met us at the restaurant. He was a very jolly fellow, singing Rafi songs out aloud and quoting old Bollywood dialogs between conversations. From that day on, our table would be full of bowls of Indian cuisine. The entire restaurant used to stare at the special treatment we got.

We had so much food we had to detox back in India
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Old 15th May 2017, 14:37   #10
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Whoa. You definitely had a "spectacular" time. I think my plans for Europe are going to be messed up, after seeing these photos. Talking of which, are you sure you did not edit those sunset photos. They look surreal. Will March be a good time to visit? I visited Thailand this march and it was unusually hot and i don't want to get burnt by the sun again. 25 degree Celsius sounds mild but my guess is that the temperatures might be higher in March.
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Old 15th May 2017, 16:58   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by earthian View Post
Hey! looks that you guys had a great holiday.
...
Did you try that?
Thanks, earthian. Actually, there is an Indian themed restaurant called Bangalore (really) at the resort. There too the fare was mainly non veg, although the chef did cook up some rice and dal for us when we mentioned the lack of veg items, just like you mentioned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nonstop-driver View Post
Beautiful pictures and good to see you had a memorable trip
...
We had so much food we had to detox back in India
Thanks Nonstop-driver, Yeah, I understand about coming back to detox. That has happened to us a couple of times at other places.

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Originally Posted by ReluctantRebel View Post
Whoa. You definitely had a "spectacular" time. I think my plans for Europe are going to be messed up, after seeing these photos. Talking of which, are you sure you did not edit those sunset photos. They look surreal. Will March be a good time to visit? I visited Thailand this march and it was unusually hot and i don't want to get burnt by the sun again. 25 degree Celsius sounds mild but my guess is that the temperatures might be higher in March.
Thanks, ReluctantRebel. Yes, I'm pretty sure I didn't "edit" the sunset photos. As I mentioned earlier, it was mainly adjusting the colour and contrast. The colours were actually the way you are seeing it here. It was, well, spectacular.

Remember that Mauritius is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the seasons are reversed. March should be the tail end of summer there, so you could expect some heat.
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Old 16th May 2017, 01:47   #12
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Default Re: Vive la Maurice - A week in Mauritius

Thanks Stryker !!!

You just made me relive my honeymoon - Jan 2017. When we were there, it was bright how, and the sun was extremely piercing. Leaving that aside, Ile Aux Cerf's beauty is the only thing that you have missed, however, there's a catch, it's white sands are blinding in January Sun and hot enough to roast you black.

The resort that we stayed in - Calodyne Sur Mei, in the north corner of the country was also devoid of vegetarian cuisine. However, my wife had already carried a bag full of ready to eat cup noodles/poha etc. so she was happy. I had a gala time enjoying the seafood, a blend of french and Indian cuisine.

Oh, I want to go on Honeymoon again!!!
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Old 16th May 2017, 22:42   #13
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Amazing photography, must compliment you for that. The lense Tamron 16 - 300 mm is phenomenal, on a holiday it has become my prime lens. writing a travelogue is always tricky one is caught in the dilemma of making it pictorial or informative and if informative how much information one gives. You did a fine job.
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Old 17th May 2017, 09:16   #14
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Default Re: Vive la Maurice - A week in Mauritius

Lovely pictures indeed.Thank you for sharing

I was browsing a travel portal the other day and its day wise excursion details shows the exact places you have covered

If you don't mind me asking what was the travel (Air) cost for you/family.A random search shows the air fares to be equal to maybe the 5 day holiday cost (for 3)

Did you use the local currency to spend or was it usd?

Cheers..
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Old 17th May 2017, 09:28   #15
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Default Re: Vive la Maurice - A week in Mauritius

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Originally Posted by BB311 View Post
Oh, I want to go on Honeymoon again!!!
Thanks, BB311. Why don't you plan a second honeymoon soon? No matter you just returned from your first!

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Originally Posted by Ramanjit View Post
Amazing photography, must compliment you for that.
Thanks, Ramanjit. Yes I understand the dilemma of deciding how to write a travelogue. Depending on what you have to say or show, you take different routes.

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Originally Posted by Rajesh Rawal View Post
Lovely pictures indeed.Thank you for sharing

I was browsing a travel portal the other day and its day wise excursion details shows the exact places you have covered

If you don't mind me asking what was the travel (Air) cost for you/family.A random search shows the air fares to be equal to maybe the 5 day holiday cost (for 3)

Did you use the local currency to spend or was it usd?

Cheers..
Thanks Rajesh Rawal. The return airfare worked out to approx. 40,000/- per person. This is BLR-MRU, MRU-DXB and DXB-BLR. The onward flight was on Air Mauritius and the return (via Dubai) was on Emirates. But this was mainly because we decided and booked only about a week in advance. Booking a couple of months in advance will certainly get you better fares, especially on Emirates. You can fly back on Air Mauritius instead of using the Dubai route.
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