Saturday, April 01, 2017

A is for Africa

So our first vacation this year was in... Africaaaaaa!

Okay fine, the truth is less exotic than it sounds.

We went to Mauritius for our 10th wedding anniversary, and to be honest, until I started planning the details of the vacation, I didn't even know that Mauritius was geographically considered to be a part of Africa. I always thought of it as something similar to the Maldives -- an exotic island in the Indian Ocean. Probably a part of Asia. So when I found out that it was "in Africa", I got really excited.

Even more excited was my mom because she'd never even dreamt that she'd have a chance to go to Africa one day. Instead of saying that she was going to Mauritius, she told her friends, relatives, neighbours and anyone who cared (or didn't) that she was going to Africa. (In my head, I could imagine her saying casually, "Haan, main woh zara Africa hokar abhi aayi.")

Oh, did I mention we planned the vacation as a full family affair? Parents, in-laws, sister-in-law, all inclusive! Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, the in-laws had to cancel their tickets at the last minute, but the rest of us made it. (Not my sister, of course, because Trump is now President and she should not leave that country until he's impeached and casually tossed in the general direction of Mexico.)

Mauritius was beautiful and relaxing. Travelling with the full junta party was, as expected, a mixed bag, but overall, we did okay. I think. Well, the fact that I'm already dreaming about the next full-clan holiday is a good sign, isn't it? It just shows that in spite of the insanity, it's worth it.

Here are five unique things I experienced when we were in Africaaaaa, okay fine, Mauritius!

The Air Mauritius inflight safety video
I loved Air Mauritius. Their flight attendants were inherently 'smiley' and I felt that their service was even better than Singapore Airlines (and that's saying something). However, their inflight safety video was, for lack of a better term, very odd. Kinda alarming AND hilarious at the same time.

So they show a family vacationing in Mauritius and simultaneously going through the motions of inflight safety. For example, they are shown donning their life vests, jumping off a cliff, and frolicking in the water in their life vests and blowing the rescue whistles with huge grins. Then, they are sitting under palm trees in their beachwear watching their kid make a sand castle, and suddenly oxygen masks drop from above, and they put them on. Seriously. I kid you not.

I guess you can say they are trying to make the safety video more 'watchable' by doing things a little differently? Injection of (questionable) humour? I really couldn't make up my mind about how I felt about it. Check out the full video below!

La Vanille Nature Park
Mauritius has tons of places where you can see animals, but I picked La Vanille for its giant Aldabra tortoises. Spanning 35 hectares, La Vanille is not what you'd call a 'zoo'. It felt more like a forest safari. There were tons and tons of animals, but the huge tortoises were the superstars. Just as spectacular as I'd imagined them to be!

We saw many, many tortoises from really close quarters. Many were older than 100 years and weighed about 200 kg on an average! The guide told us that they were very used to the human touch, and showed us how to touch them without losing an arm.

Dad's delight at the Mauritian flora 
Mauritius has a huge variety of plants, trees and flowers. HUGE. Everywhere around us were trees full of colourful blossoms. And though my dad is a retired banker, in his heart of hearts, he's a simple organic gardener, who is enamoured by anything that posseses chlorophyll. Oh, the number of times I lost it because he wandered off in the opposite direction, mesmerised by some unique-looking plant or flower or fruit! But in a way, it was heartening to see him so delighted at all the flora around him.

Contrary to what it looks, he's not harvesting cauliflowers in some random farm. He's giving Xena an impromptu lesson on cauliflower farming! 

Catamaran sunset cruise
On the actual day of our anniversary, I'd booked a sunset cruise with Catamaran, and it was surely the highlight of the holiday. Picture this -- we are on a boat without any life jackets, drinking wine, and the captain casually tells us to go sit/stand/lie down on the net fastened to the front portion of the boat. Directly above the water! At first, I was a little apprehensive (I'm a terrible swimmer), but my brave little sis-in-law took the first step and I just couldn't resist. Mom was flipping out. In fact, she was the only person who stayed in the covered part of the boat. Even my Dad succumbed to the pull of the net!

One of my favourite moments from the holiday

Of course, how could my mini-me be far behind? At one point, she lay face down on the net, peering through the gaps and excitedly yelling, "MAMA, I SEE FLOWERS IN THE WATER!" Umm.. corals. 

Xena's birds
Air Mauritius had given Xena a gift pack, containing a crossbody bag, a pack of flashcards featuring the unique birds of Mauritius, a cap and a set of colour pencils. (Take that, Singapore Airlines!) In no time, Xena had learnt all about the birds and was even quizzing my hapless parents on them!

There she is, giving Grandpa and Grandma a mini tutorial on Mauritian birds.

Her favourite bird was the Mauritian fody, and at one point she demanded that all of us start addressing her as Fody. She also gave Viv a nickname -- Dody (after the extinct Mauritian dodo, but modified to rhyme with Fody).

Even days after the holiday had ended, she was drawing and colouring pictures of Dody and Fody. It was so heartwarming.

If you're keen on more details about the vacation, I've finally finished the day-by-day account of our trip on my travelogue -- Hopscotch.


Charan Deep Singh said...

My first abroad trip was to Mauritius with my friends. It was a memorable experience.

My challenge starts today too, with the kind of post I never write. May be the challenge forced me to. So that's a benefit. Right?

Arun said...

Unless you went to Europe (or Oceania?) for vacation, you'd have an "A for" Asia, Antarctica, Americas, Africa :D

Subhash Chandra said...

I'm heading to Mauritius on Monday for my daughter's third birthday. Where did you book catamaran cruise?

Any other tips?

Sayesha said...

Congrats on starting the challenge! I just read your post about home. Great stuff! :)

Grrrr, wet blanket! :P

Oooh, hope you enjoy Mauritius! Your daughter will love La Vanille. :)
We booked directly with Cataman Cruises:
You can check my travelogue for our full itinerary and tips. :)

Arun said...

B is for blanket (wet) :)

Sayesha said...