“You like spicy? You’ll be very happy here,” beams Marie Christine, the owner of Escale Creole restaurant in the central Mauritian village of Moka. I’ve hunted down some local cuisine after salivating through dozens of episodes of MasterChef, whose latest winner was Mauritian Shelina Permalloo.
Escaping the sun’s rays, I settle beneath some shade, the scent of spice hanging heavily in the air, as Marie Christine heaves a potful of rice onto the table. From creole curried chicken and spicy pumpkin to papaya relish, there’s something inherently Caribbean about her food, and as I’m leaving she jogs over with a recipe for her signature coconut cakes. But before I can even think about baking back at home, I’ve one little expedition left to tick off in the western waters of Tamarin…
“Now swim, swim,” my guide shouts urgently. Snorkel and mask attached, I gracelessly throw myself off the edge of the boat and head towards the handful of fins cutting through the water’s surface in my direction. The water’s a little murkier than I’d like and for a few seconds, I’m disorientated, flipping wildly without any sense of direction. I stop and glance all around me. Nothing. I remember our guide’s words: “Yes, we do have sharks. Y’know the tiger shark? And the bull shark?” Hmmm, two of the most aggressive, then — good to know.
And then out of the shadows, far below me, I spot movement. Dozens of dolphins emerge from the deep, swimming smoothly in line. In awe, I follow them, trying to keep up. As they rise to the surface, I watch in wonder as one launches itself from the surface. I pop up to witness its shimmering body spinning in mid-air, and dive down as it splashes back into the ocean. I drift among the dolphins for over an hour, coming as close as a few feet away. I resist the temptation to touch one — they are wild after all.
Pulling ashore, I hop on to the white sands of Ile des Deux Cocos, rubbing the salt out of my eyes. Among a thicket of palms is a makeshift grill, where an intoxicating medley of spicy chicken and fresh barbecued lobster drifts along the breeze. “I love my office,” gushes my guide. “And who wouldn’t?” I smile.
Published in the Indian Ocean 2013 Guide, distributed with the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)