Land of the Dodo, Mauritius, April 2019

I have washed up this past week on the Island of Mauritius in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a stone’s throw east of Madagascar.  The nation is a fairly sleepy mix of people of Indian descent, Creole (French black African slave origin) and colonial French living on 2 main islands surrounded by coral reefs. In history it was first visited by Dutch sailors in the early 1800s (more on their eating habits later..) but then settled by the French who brought sugar cane and African slaves. The French were later ousted by the English who imported ‘cheap’ Indian labour for the sugar cane plantations following the abolition of slavery. Nowadays it’s a unique mix of tropical islands, rum distilleries, French creole culture and Hindu temples!

But Mauritius is most famous for its poster-child of wildlife extinction- it was the land of the dodo. Half duck, half supersized pigeon it was the largest non-flying bird to waddle the earth. It was hunted by the Dutch for an easy food source (hunting is probably overstating the stealth required to sneak up on these oversized ducks) down to the last dodo drumstick. Sadly the gentle giant tortoises of Mauritius went the same way – loaded onto colonial sailing ships they were the first ‘takeaway’ food of the 19th century. The docile giant tortoises could be kept on deck, fed very little and slaughtered for fresh meat at a later date.


While I may sound fluent in Mauritian culture my week long visit here has been very one-dimensional. I’ve worn a  bit of a track between my beachside villa and the dive shop, the seafood restaurant on the waterfront and the rum shop. Tropical fever they call it (or maybe it’s just the spiced rum..), overcome by island lassitude I have furled my sails for a week to sit still!

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