Have you heard of Rodrigues Island? I hadn’t until my recent visit when I was absolutely blown away by its endless beauty, the friendliness of the people and its authenticity. Rodrigues is one the most remarkable places I’ve visited. Every day brought a new wonder, a surprise, an incredible encounter. Let me introduce you to the beautiful Indian Ocean island that you’ve probably never heard of. Reader, meet Rodrigues.
After a short flight from Mauritius to Rodrigues I was met at Plaine Corail airport by my guide, Stephanie, and driver. As we drove through small villages people smiled and waved. Some of them Stephanie knew some she didn’t. It didn’t matter; everyone smiles at everyone in Rodrigues. It’s a happy island with a small population of around 42,000 and the smallest of the Mascarene archipelago. Mauritius island and Réunion make up the trio.
Rodrigues, Indian Ocean Island
Rodrigues is a remote Indian Ocean island. It sits 650 km to the east of Mauritius and it’s the last piece of land between Africa and Western Australia. Tiny at 18km long and 8km wide a scattering of 18 coral islets lie around its shores. Verdant hills roll down to powdery white sand beaches and tree-fringed coves. 80 km of coastline are lapped by pristine turquoise waters.
Captivated by the views I couldn’t tear my eyes away as we wound our way up lush green hills and down again past deep ravines. Surprise glimpses of the stunning blue and green lagoon would emerge sparkling in the sunshine as we rounded a bend. A landscape punctuated by lone palm trees and brightly coloured chattel houses passed us by. Fields were heavy with produce as people worked the land. Exotic trees lined winding roads brightened with pops of colour from tropical flowers. Rodrigues was like nowhere I’d been before.
The island is volcanic and the view from Mont Limon, the highest point, out to the protected lagoon is dazzling. A recent spell of rain had created an abundance of lush vegetation. Most produce is home-grown so the islanders welcomed the extra rainfall which can be scarce. Farming and fishing are the main sources of income along with a small but growing tourist industry.
My Guesthouse, Rodrigues
After a warm welcome at my guesthouse, La Belle Rodriguaise at Graviers, I wandered down to the beach, just a minute’s walk from my room. Some goats greeted me at the guesthouse gate but scampered away bleating in panic as soon as I got close. On the beach I sat on a rock worn smooth by the ocean and soaked up the beauty of the clear turquoise waters of the lagoon. Just me, the sea and a lone cow out for a stroll on the pale sand. It didn’t take long for me to realise that Rodrigues is somewhere very special. A small slice of paradise.
A coral reef fringes the island. White foaming waves from the ocean roll over it into the shallow lagoon. A constant movement on the horizon. The lagoon is twice the size of the island and flourishes with fish, sea-life and corals, many only found around Rodrigues.
Discovering Rodrigues Island
We explored underground caves and caverns filled with stalagmites, stalactites and eerie rock formations. At Francois Leguat reserve we encountered some of the islands unusual wildlife as giant tortoises ambled towards us to be petted.
Secluded coves and tiny beaches were discovered as we hiked through pine forests filled with flowers and climbed rocky outcrops to the coast. Deliciously warm waters made it hard to leave the sea.
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Under dramatic skies we crossed the lagoon through a network of coral to Ile aux Cocos where the sun and the birds came out to greet us. The tiny island is a nature reserve inhabited by thousands of birds and protected by three human guardians. Snorkelling in the warm waters brought an underwater world of corals and fish painted in the brightest of colours.
We followed the local fishermen out to the lagoon as they cast their nets on the first day of the new net fishing season. Fascinated, we watched the men use age old traditions to draw the leaping, silver fish into the nets before hauling them into their boats and back to shore. Back on dry land we celebrated with the islanders at La Fete du Poisson as the fish was cooked, shared and enjoyed with a backdrop of music, chat and laughter.
Food in Rodrigues
Meals of fresh fish, seafood and octopus straight from the ocean were accompanied by crisp home-grown salads, herbs and glasses of freshly squeezed lemon juice sweetened with just the right amount of sugar. We laughed with island women as we invaded their kitchens and they taught us how to make Rodrigues cake, marmalades, jams and pies. We tasted coffee from beans grown, picked, roasted and ground by an elderly couple. I practised my rusty French. I got by.
Why is Rodrigues Different
Rodrigues is like nowhere else. You won’t find Michelin starred restaurants, five star hotels or bars packed with night time revellers partying to the early hours. At best wifi is flaky. You’ll find deserted beaches of white sand and tranquil waters. The blackest of skies with the brightest of stars. Smiling, waving children and friendly locals. Rodrigues is an authentic island that protects its wildlife, its traditions, its waters and its landscapes. This is an island to get off-grid and be at one with nature. It’s an island for outdoor-lovers, a place to explore the land and the sea. It’s an island that’ll ground you and remind you what’s important in life. It’s an island with soul.
This post is just a brief introduction and my initial feelings about this remarkable place. Coming up I’ll be revealing more about the island. Places to visit on Rodrigues, culinary encounters, what to see and do. I’ll show you how to get there and where to stay. There’ll be a guide outlining everything you need to know so you can plan your own visit. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d like to know.
My thanks to Tourism Rodrigues who kindly hosted me on this trip. I flew to Rodrigues Island via Mauritius with Air Mauritius. I stayed at La Belle Rodriguaise and at Villa Evasion. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.