Saturday, October 12, 2013

Easy does it in Mauritius

Sugar Beach Resort, Mauritius

 Article By: Gillian McLaren
Wed, 09 Oct 2013 9:45 PM

Nobody is averse to being based on an island with the proverbial powder-white beaches, palm tree fronds swaying in a gentle wind, azure lagoons and balmy tropical nights. Certainly this was my fantasy, as I was relaxing on the Air Mauritius flight and anticipating my first resort stay on this island that’s much- loved by South Africans.

Based at Sugar Beach Resort, I was immediately embraced by the warmth of the islanders who could not do enough for me to make me feel welcome. My spacious, airy suite was a few paces from the beach, so sported a view of the aquamarine lagoon and dazzlingly white beach. My daydreams fulfilled and my holiday had just begun.

I had not heard too much detail about the diving in Mauritius, so was eager to explore some of dive sites. A short stroll from my suite and I was at the Dive Centre - set in the adjacent La Pirogue Resort - kitting up for my nitrox dive.

The centre is highly organised and has stringent safety standards, including the need for a current medical certificate. A site named Aquarium can only be beautiful and this 15m dive was leisurely, with perfect visibility and a pleasing range of reef fishes including a yellow leaf fish, yellow boxfish, large scorpion fish, many trumpet fishes and more.

As I was finning past a Titan Trigger Fish it darted out and bit me on my calf, right through my 5mm wetsuit!  It was a sharp, painful nip, but did not faze me  as I had read somewhere that male Trigger Fish could become aggressive when they are guarding eggs.

My dive guide, Linley, had spotted the fish and quickly ushered me away from the area. I considered it an adventure and sent a photo of the bite and resultant bruise home to my family.  As we did our five-meter safety stop, a porcupine fish watched us with detached gaze.

Set on the western side of the island, Sugar Beach, La Pirogue and other resorts experience very little wind. This means that the diving conditions are usually calm and easy. One evening when I was taking a leisurely walk along the beach, I saw a group of six people in the pond-like lagoon, sitting with elegant glasses and a bottle of wine, chatting and enjoying the splendid sunset.  The water was so clear and still, that I could see many small fish and clusters of coral simply by looking into the water.

One of the most impressive dives I experienced on the western side of Mauritius was Cathedral, which has huge rocks where schools of Blotcheye Soldier fish hang out. One has to fin through overhanging areas where Lionfish lurk and one may peep into chimneys where large lobsters dwell.