Ro­drigues

Travel Bulletin - - CRUISE REPORT -

Its lo­ca­tion will chal­lenge even the most ded­i­cated ge­og­ra­phy nut, but this tiny isle in the In­dian Ocean is worth hunt­ing for.

When Prince Wil­liam first set foot on Ro­drigues for his gap-year visit in 2000, he sent Pa­parazzi scram­bling for their at­lases. Far across the In­dian Ocean al­most 600km from Mau­ri­tius, Ro­drigues is a chal­lenge to spot on the map and the clos­est African ter­rain to Aus­tralia. Wil­liam first landed here while work­ing on a con­ser­va­tion pro­ject for the Royal Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety, then re­turned four years later with friends for a hol­i­day. Yet de­spite its brush with roy­alty, Ro­drigues still flies un­der the radar com­pared to bet­ter-known In­dian Ocean des­ti­na­tions, and its sleepy iso­la­tion is world away from the up­mar­ket re­sorts of the Mal­dives or Sey­chelles. An au­ton­o­mous ter­ri­tory of Mau­ri­tius, the is­land is just 18km long and home to about 40,000 peo­ple with a mix of African and French de­cent. Its food, tra­di­tions and mu­sic all re­flect a cen­turies-old blend of African and Euro­pean traits, and its peo­ple main­tain a proudly in­de­pen­dent mind­set with a de­ter­mi­na­tion to up­hold the is­land’s easy-paced life­style. Among its high­lights are white beaches and se­cluded bays, mostly free of the beach clubs, hawk­ers and sun lounges of other is­land des­ti­na­tions. Its la­goon shel­ters some 20 co­ral islets with evoca­tive names like Gom­brani, L’her­mitage and Ile aux Chats. Some, like Ile aux Co­cos, are sanc­tu­ar­ies for thou­sands of seabirds and make pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for boat ex­cur­sions. In­land, the trop­i­cal Ro­driguan land­scape is home to sev­eral con­ser­va­tion parks and re­for­esta­tion pro­jects, in­clud­ing the François Leguat Re­serve where more than 1000 gi­ant tor­toises roam freely un­der a cap­tive breed­ing pro­gram aim­ing to re­place rep­tiles wiped out in the 1700s. Other nat­u­ral at­trac­tions in­clude the is­land’s colonies of bats, net­works of caves dec­o­rated with sta­lac­tites and sta­lag­mites, and ex­ten­sive ar­eas of co­ral reef ideal for div­ing and snorkelling.

Patag­o­nia

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