When they do those surveys of happiest places on the planet, I wonder why Rodrigues Island is not on their radar. Everyone has a ready smile, the weather is terrific, the air is clean, there is hardly any crime and there is a sense of serenity here. It might not be a country in its own right, (it’s an autonomous outer island of Mauritius) and the GDP might not be very high, but it seems to be that this a really happy place.
This tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean that hardly anyone knows about is the ideal place to visit if you are looking to get away from it all.
Who discovered Rodrigues Island?
Rodrigues Island is the smallest of the Mascarene Islands (which includes Mauritius and Reunion). Only 18km in length and 8km wide, it has a population of just 40,000. Rodrigues was discovered by the Portuguese navigator, Don Diégo Rodriguez in 1528.
It’s a volcanic island with tall mountains, endless sandy beaches and surrounded by crystal clear seas and a coral reef that is twice the land mass of the island.
Secret Rodrigues seems to be just that, a secret from most of the world. There are not many visitors to the island. Most of the tourists are from Mauritius and Reunion Island with a small number of French. It is not one of those islands ruined by tourism.
There aren’t any large resort hotels on the island and there are no large construction projects. They are very protective of their environment, especially the sea as most of the population is dependent on it. Signs at the airport reminds you that plastic bags are banned. Soon, plastic bottle and straws will be banned too.
I arrived knowing very little and with no expectations. In just a few short days, I fell in love with Rodrigues and the people.
It’s the combination of the slow island lifestyle, the friendly people, the lack of traffic lights and traffic jams, lovely weather tropical and sunshine, miles of crowdless sandy beaches, clean clear seas to swim in, super fresh fish caught in the lagoon daily and so many fun things to do.
Within a couple of days, I had shed my London skin and relaxed into the rhythm of island life. (I should have packed more sarongs). On Rodrigues, I made a few new friends, learnt a bit of creole, spoke in broken French to the locals, had a few adventures and indulged in the fabulous local foods.
Let me introduce you to this little slice of paradise and hopefully, it will intrigue you enough to visit.
History of Rodrigues
At one point in history, it was a French island, which is still the commonly used by the locals. Even though the British were in charge for 150 years after the French, there is little evidence of any cultural transfer, except for the road signs which look distinctly British. (driving on the left)
To really explore what this island has to offer, you will really need more than a couple of days. Rodrigues Island is surrounded by a shallow coral reef filled lagoon. Around the main island are other small uninhabited islands, some of which are restricted animal sanctuaries.
Beautiful vistas at every turn. From the top of the mountains, you can see all the shades of blue of the lagoon. Dramatic cliffs overlooking villages and farms.
Great outdoors to explore on Rodrigues
This volcanic island may be small but there is so much to discover. The Islanders divide themselves into 2 groups, coast and mountains. The hilly terrain around the island is covered by newly replanted forests.
Adventures in the sea include snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing and kite surfing. With so many beaches and such calm seas, it makes an ideal place for amateur divers.
On land adventures include zip-lining at Tyradig, a 130m high wire over a canyon looking out to the sea. It’s scary but exhilarating.
There are lots of hiking trails taking you through nature reserves and routes to explore the hidden
“crics” and secluded beaches on the Southern Shore. We did a short hike from Pointe Cotton to Trou
d’argent a private cove with a stunning beach. The only life around were some goats grazing on the
Places like the Francois Leguat Giant Tortoise Reserve and the Five Senses Botanical Gardens are interesting places to visit.
The former is home to over 3000 Giant Tortoises who roam freely at the bottom of the valley. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the friendly tortoises and to cuddle them by stroking them on their necks. Rodrigues used to be over run by giant tortoises but the arrival of the British Navy in the 19th C resulted tin them being a good food source and were eaten into exctintion. A very similar species of the Aldabra Tortoise was reintroduced from the Seychelles.
A day trip to Ile aux Cocos will take you to an uninhabited island turned into a Nature Reserve and bird sanctuary. The trip includes a guided tour and lunch on the beach. We shared the whole beach with just the 8 people on our boat while the sea birds swooped overhead.
The Friendly People of Rodrigues
Schoolgirls at the Fete du Poisson
Everyone we met had a ready smile and a friendly “Bonjour”, from little boys playing on the street to the market stall holders. You can meet more of them here. XXX
Delicious fresh local food
Rows of octopus drying in the sun is a regular sight along the coast of @rodriguesisland We scoured the island for the last remaining ones as we were a couple of days after the season ended. Traditionally, women would wade into the lagoon with long sharp sticks to hunt for these creatures. They are one of the staples in their cuisine. You’ll find octopus in salads a@Bx curries and many other variations across the island. #rodriguesisland #rodriguestourism #secretrodrigues
Rodrigues Island has its own unique Creole cuisine, using all their local products like lagoon fish, octopus, local meat, fruit and vegetables.
My favourite was the Rodrigues lemon, which is small and green and looks like a lime. It is used to make the very popular drink, simply called lemon juice and is the main ingredient in the favourite local cocktail, the Ti Punch. Something not to miss is the local Rodrigues Lemon jams by the astonishing Valerie, a blind patissier and proprietor of Valerie’s in Citronelle.
Places to Eat on Rodrigues Island
One of the more popular restaurants along the touristy Anse Aux Anglais (where Prince William stayed on his gap year). They serve local fish dishes including the fab sounding Wahoo Fish and seem to be doing a booming trade in takeaway pizzas.
Mengoz Snack, Mont Lubin bus station
A local favourite for lunch, serving Mauritian Chinese food. The island’s favourite dish is the Red Pork which seems to be a variation on a very popular Hakka dish. Fried noodles are very good. Very casual but good food.
Villa Mon Tresor table d’hote
A very popular guest house and place to eat in Rodrigues. Marie has been hosting for over 20 years. She serves big groups on her front terrace with the local Rodriguan Creole food with a glass of the local favourite cocktail, Ti Punch. Lovely hospitality and fabulous food. Make sure you ask about the buried pirate’s treasure when you visit.
This delightfully humble place is a table d’hote, hosted by Christian and his family who catch the fish daily and serve it up fresh and delicious. It’s worth a visit.
Lunch on their breezy terrace is a treat. Their chef is well travelled and brought back his skills to deliver Island food with a flair. Try the pork curry and octopus salad.
A slightly posher place in Port Marthurin, serving a continental and local menu.
Chez Jeannette, Montagne Bois Noir: this place was highly recommended but we didn’t have time to fit it into our itinerary. It is where the minister eat when they visit the island.
@RodriguesIsland is not just about beaches. There are some great #hiking trails through casuarina trees and carpets of purple and white flowers. This hike leads to a secret cove and a private beach at Trou d’argent. No soul around except for a few goats on the rocks. The locals call them crics, a new thing we learnt. So many fabulous things to see and do on #secretrodrigues Here is our fabulous hiking guide Doris, a local expert who knows all the best places to hike and secret spots on the Island #rodriguesisland #rodriguestourism
One of the 3000+ giant tortoises at the Francois Leguat Tortoise Reserve on @rodriguesisland The Aldabra tortoises were brought in from Seychelles as the endemic saddleback tortoises were eaten into extinction by the British navy in the late 1700s. Up to 300,000 giant tortoises used to roam freely around this island before man came. This little guy is a youngster at about 50 years old. They are all very friendly and will come up to you for a cuddle, which in turtle terms is a scratch on the neck/throat. They can live up to 350 years and can grow quite a bit more. This reserve was one of the highlights on #secretrodrigues Make sure you visit the nursery when there as you’ll see hundreds of baby turtles in their pens. #rodriguesisland
Market in Port Marthurin
Vibrant culture, local festivals
The island’s dance, Sega Tambour, has been by Unesco as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It’s music, song and dance with deep historical roots.
While we were there, we had the chance to join in the celebrations of the Fete du Poisson on 1 March. This was to celebrate the first day of the Seine Fishing season.
The licensed net fishing fisherman were out in force in the lagoon. It is a wonder to watch all the fishing dhows working in formation to drive the fish into the nets set in the sea. That day’s catch is then taken back to the Fete to be shared with the cooperative.
This year’s Fete was held at Baie du Nord where an enormous crowd had gathered to greet the returning fishermen. A stage with live music and dancing was set up at one end and numerous food stalls were dotted along the beach. It was such a great event to witness.
The Golden Bat Night Trail, a road race up the mountain, was held on 3 March in Port Marthurin. This race was to celebrate 50th anniversary of Mauritius independence. There was a carnival atmosphere in town. Roads were closed, stages were set up with live music and dancing. On another street, food vendors were selling barbequed meats and children were getting their face painted.
How do you get to Rodrigues Island?
There are 2 flights daily from Mauritius. We flew from Heathrow to Rodrigues via Mauritius on Air Mauritius (Lovely lounge in Mauritius Airport). From Mauritius, we took a smaller propeller plane to the Plane Coral Airport on Rodrigues. Be aware that the luggage allowance on the second flight was a lot less but since we were transiting, we got away with it.
A lot of visitiors from Reunion Island used to fly direct to Rodrigues but those flights have been discontinued and they have to go through Mauritius too.
Where to stay on Rodrigues Island?
There aren’t any 5 star hotel resorts on Rodrigues but there are many lovely beach hotels, B&B’s and Villas to rent. I stayed at the Mourok Ebony Hotel, tres chic B&B at Domaine de la Paix and Villa Evasion. You could even stay with the last Prime Minister, Benoit at his farm, Residence Foulsofat, where they also serve a farm to table menu.
An awesome Indian Ocean #sunset #nofilter over the pool at Domaine de la paix on @rodriguesisland A very stylish boutique b&b run by a French family from Reunion. Each room is unique and mine was the “Harmony”, a luxury suite in a stand alone round house with a very well equipped kitchen. Fab designs throughout, using sustainable local wood, driftwood, coconut shells for some island chic. Lots of attention to detail with a different towel for room, pool or beach. A great place to stay for an island getaway. Breakfast’s a feast of homemade breads, cakes, yoghurt and Valerie’s artisanal jams made with Rodriguan lemons. One of the many delights found on #secretrodrigues
To plan your itinerary and get more information, visit http://www.tourism-rodrigues.mu/
Our trip was hosted by Rodrigues Tourism.