“Nature is our eldest mother; she will do no harm.” - Emily Dickinson
After many days of classes and ship activities, our Semester at Sea family docked in Mauritius. This gorgeous African nation is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 1000 miles off the continent’s coast and east of Madagascar. It is actually a republic of several islands. Tropics! Beaches! Lagoons! Coral! Dodos! No, not really, since these little guys are extinct, but there are tributes to dodo birds everywhere.
Mauritius is multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic, and the United Nations has cited it as an outstanding example of how to handle diversity. We were here the day before Independence Day (they won freedom from the UK in 1968), and were lucky to observe colorful decorations and pre-festivities.
We ate lunch at a restaurant full of locals (always a good sign) and experienced a blend of Indian, Chinese and French cuisine. Chicken and pepper kabobs, Mauritian chicken stew, fried rice, paratha, pickled vegetables, and guava and mango juices, followed by tapioca and pistachio ice cream.
We spent the afternoon at the Vanille Reserve des Mascareignes, a former vanilla plantation that is now a nature preserve. It’s a tropical rain forest and home to giant tortoises, monkeys, lemurs, deer, bats, wild pigs, crocodiles and more. We were able to talk to the workers about conservation efforts, climate change, and the importance of biodiversity.
It was just one day, but a lovely one I will not forget!
Next stop: South Africa