Mauritius – kayaking in the Indian Ocean

2017 has seen us undertake some significant warm weather kayaking but perhaps none as unusual as Mauritius.   A winter holiday evolved into some great sea kayaking as well as running some British Canoeing courses.
A quick e mail to Patrick Haberland at Yemaya Adventures to try and arrange a day’s paddling, gradually evolved into something else.  The initial offering of a sit on top tour through mangrove swamps was replaced by the opportunity to paddle in sea kayaks out to Ile de la Passe, off the east coast of Mauritius, in exchange for some days of training.
This was a perfect combination and allowed us to see some areas of Mauritius, which we might have missed if we hadn’t managed to get out on the water.
Our first experience of paddling in Mauritius was when we headed out from near Preskil Beach Resort on the east coast of the island.  We passed close to Ile aux Aigrettes.  This is a stunning nature reserve with close links to Jersey Zoo, so we had more than a passing interest in the island.  Some of the species on the island have been part of a captive breeding programme so it felt a real privilege to see a Pink Pigeon in the wild as opposed to in Jersey.

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Pink Pigeon on Ile aux Aigrettes, off Mauritius.
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Crossing Mahebourg Bay on the east coast of Mauritius, on the way to the island of Ile de la Passe.

We paddled across Mahebourg Bay towards Ile de la Passe.  This was an area, which originally had been settled by the Dutch but was settled by the French in the early 18th century.  We were headed towards Ile de la Passe, with its military fortifications dating from the 18th century onwards.
On the 20th August 1810, at the Battle of Grand Port, the French inflicted their greatest naval defeat on the British, a victory which is commemorated on the Arc de Triumph.  The fortifications on Ile de la Passe were enlarged by the British during the 19th century and again during the Second World War, when Mauritius, despite its isolation was dragged into the conflict.
Against this rich historical background was some delightful sea kayaking.  To the east the the southern Indian Ocean was releasing its energy on the reef, which fringes the east coast of Mauritius.  Within the reef the water was relatively calm and in areas very shallow.  We landed on Ile de la Passe before heading north to Ile aux Fouquets or ile au Phare, with its British built lighthouse, which has sadly fallen into disrepair.  This was a completely different marine environment, to which we were used to paddling in but it was really memorable.

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Landing on the western side of Ile de la Passe provides shelter from the swell.
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Initials and date carved on one of the buildings in 1752. Most of the graffiti carved on the buildings is from much later.
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Navigating on the outside of the swell, this small craft was entering the sheltered waters of Mahebourg Bay, through the narrow channel to the south of the island
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Looking north from Ile de la Passe towards Ile aux Vacoas and Ile aux Fouquets with its ruined lighthouse.
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Ile aux Fouquets’ also known as Ile au Phare. The lighthouse was built by the British in 1864. It has now fallen into disuse.