Our most recent port was to the island of Mauritius, off the coast of East Africa. Although the original itinerary had the ship staying for just one day, with the recent changes of the Coronavirus we stayed for 6 days. With the original itinerary, the one day stop meant that each student had a mandatory field program assignment, and would partake in that for the day. As a result, I did minimal research on the island prior to reaching port. I had no idea what to expect. Once on the ship I read books in the library of the wonderful wildlife and nature that the island had to offer, and the unique types of food that filled the stomachs of hardworking islanders. The days leading up to stepping on land were so nerve racking because of the recent itinerary changes we have faced on the way here, but also full of excitement. To say the least, Mauritius was a dream. My friends and I had so many opportunities to be connected to nature and wildlife like I had never been before.
The island is relatively small, and comprised of beautiful, lush mountains and crystal clear waters. Aside from the many animals such as monkeys, sea turtles, tropical fish that roam the island, the people who live here are so unique. The island has influence from multiple parts of the world. People of mixed backgrounds coming from India, China, Africa, Creole and more create a very special community. This is also greatly reflected in the cuisine of the Island. While the geographical location of Mauritius lends itself to seafood based diet, there are many different options. Most commonly found are seafood and meat curry, naan bread with curry peas, an array of seafood, fresh fruit and veggies, and my favorite, Samosas. It was a great way to try a mix of cuisines and new foods that I had never had before. We even went to a local food market that was full of vibrant, fresh produce as far as the eyes can see. It was interesting to see the locals at work bringing in their fresh produce to sell. I bought a fresh coconut from a vendor, which was then cut with a machete right in front of me until the water was able to be served to drink.
Aside from the food, my favorite memory of Mauritius was swimming along side the sea turtles. The water is a crystal clear turquoise hue with an abundance of wildlife throughout. My friends and I arrived at a beach on the northern side of the island, and for just 10 dollars, took a boat out into the turtle spotting spot. We jumped into the water with goggles on, and waited to see the turtles. In a matter of seconds, six turtles were swimming along side us so closely it was hard to believe. The turtles were larger than I had imagined, and had shiny brown shells with intricate designs. They swam slow and gracefully, seeming not phased by the amount of humans so close. I felt more connected to nature than ever before and will have this as one of my most treasured experiences. I loved my special time in Mauritius and will be counting down the days until I can return.