The lovely people are the heart and soul of Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean.
One of my most endearing memories of Rodrigues Island is the people I met there. In the short few days that we were there, we encountered a whole host of friendly faces. Talking to them, sharing meals and getting a glimpse of their lives helps us to understand them and know them and their lives a bit better.
A few quirky facts that we learned about Rodiegues :
- There is a ratio of 5:1, Women to Men on the island and no one knows why
- School is free and if you do really well, the government will send you to University overseas to somewhere of your choice
- Every child was given an iPad in school which put a strain onthe Island’s satellite internet bandwidth
- If you want to build a house, you get given a grant by way of building materials
- If you are a fisherman or Octopus fisher, during the closed season, they have alternative jobs and free training to learn a new skill.
- Most the islanders don’t know how to swim. I know right? They are surrounded by this beautiful sea but they don’t like to swim.
- The official language is English but everyone speaks Creole or French
The Lagoon and The Sea
The sea is more a means for making a living or providing food than for recreation on Rodrigues. Fishing is one of the main occupations on the island.
On 1 March, the Seine (Net) fishing season began. We spent a morning watching the fishermen in the lagoon. Read the other post for more details and lots more photos of this special day.
At the Fete du Poisson at Baie du Nord on the shore, families from all over the island were gathered to celebrate this day. All the kids came after school, still in their school uniforms. The carnival atmosphere was in full force and everyone was in a happy mode. Here are some cheeky faces.
We met this lady on her way home from her farm up the road. She stopped and smiled for us.
We spent some time with Delly Manan who runs a very popular bakery business with some other women from her home. She makes a prize winning Pain d’epices, their local gingerbread. With her cute little grand daughter, she showed us around her abundant garden, filled with vegetables and medicinal plants.
Most the islanders grow their own vegetables. There are no big supermarkets on the island and a lot of coastal folk catch their own fish. Some enterprising middlemen will buy fish from the fishermen and sell it to people up the mountain.
Another amazing lady is Valerie who runs an artisan jam company using the very special Rodrigues lemon. She is also and amazing baker, serving up her cakes and breads at her tea room. Amazingly, she is blind but she is a whizz around her kitchen. To see her bake is a something else. Her jams are a must buy when on the island.
A stop at the Cycangue Coffee Farm up the mountain was quite enlightening. Run by this couple who started this farm when someone mentioned that coffee would grow well there. The husband keeps a few bees too and they sell a lovely dark raw honey.
On Rodriques Island, the best food you can find is at someone’s home which they call table d’hote. We had the pleasure to meet Marie Louise at the Villa Mon Tresor guest house, who welcomed us into her home and shared dinner. Her Creole cooking is just superb and she makes a mean Ti Punch (the favourite local cocktail.).
At this other Table d’hote, Grand Lagon, Anse Quitor, this chappie is both the fisherman and the chef. He made us a spectacular fish curry with Carrangue fish caught in the lagoon that morning.
Water is a really scarce resource on the island as they rely on a couple of desalination plants. The local authorities supply water via water trucks to homes and businesses. At hotels (some have their own desalination plants), you will see signs that water will only be available between certain times and it is not for drinking.
If you live somewhere where the water trucks don’t /won’t go there are private water from companies that will deliver water, at a price.
Near San Gabriel, we visited this spring that miraculously never dries out. As water is a precious resource on this island, this is quite a special place. It is both a Roman Catholic and a sacred Hindu space now. We saw this girl using one of the washing basins, cleaning her clothes.
Our guides while we were there were so much fun, super helpful and informative. Doris took us for a hike fromPointe Cotton to discover the “crics”, hidden coves and private beaches of Trou d’Argent. Doris is an official hiking guide and knows all the best trails around the island. She can be found taking groups around Caverne Patate too. You can find her via the Tourism office in Port Marthurin.
On our visit to the Isle de Chat, we encountered this boat of fishermen. They had a haul of Unicorn fish, which we later found out that might have been caught illegally.
We saw them punting onto the beach and bought an enormous fish for Rup 150 (about £3).
Most of the fishermen on the island also work in tourism, taking visitors on fishing trips or to snorkel around the lagoon. A great day trip is the boat ride to the Southern Islets. It’s half a day and takes in a couple of islands, a BBQ lunch on the beach and a bit of snorkelling.
On Saturdays, most of the Island congregates at the Saturday Market at Port Marthurin. It’s positioned next to the main port to faciliate farmers who brought their livestock to the market by boat. It’s a riot of colour, sounds and smells.
Today, it is full of vegetable sellers, some fish and meat sellers, lots of artisan jams, chutneys and local honey. Scattered among the stalls are some local crafts, like the pandanus woven hats.
We met this local artist who has a stall at the market. You can see his distinctive style in restaurants around town, like at the Blue Marlin.
Rodriguans in their Sunday best