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Indian Ocean Diaries


I awake to the sound of rain. My eyes still closed I hear the curtains softly brushing against each other as a warm breeze enters through the balcony doors. My mind awakens slowly as my senses take in my new surrounds. The ocean air manages to seep its way into everything…

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I awake to the sound of rain. My eyes still closed I hear the curtains softly brushing against each other as a warm breeze enters through the balcony doors. My mind awakens slowly as my senses take in my new surrounds. The ocean air manages to seep its way into everything… infectious almost… the bed sheets, my hair (which has become totally unruly) and my skin feels dewy. I just lay, though distracted by a gorgeous ray of soft morning light which kisses my face. I’m confused… I decide to open my eyes and my initial vision is bleached out by the brightness… and as I stumble out of bed and walk towards the balcony I realize that it’s not raining but it’s the sound of the coconut palms dancing in the wind, their branches crashing against each other as though they celebrate the sunrise. Within minutes I tiptoe my way out of the bungalow without a clue as to what time it is. I’m bare foot, with a pair of espadrilles in one hand and my camera in the other. The tide has already pulled out somewhat and beneath my feet I feel my toes breaking into the damp cold sand as I scurry down the shoreline to get to the other end of the beachcomber resort. I’m so excited finally I’m away. I look back to see my trail of imprinted footprints turn to silver in the morning light… I’ve caught the golden hour, ‘that light’.

It’s not my first time here. I visited back in 2008 and totally fell in love with the island. Back then I visited for just under 24 hours …I was so excited to be here that I remember not sleeping a wink! I did every possible water sport related activity possible, including a boat trip to nearby Nearby Ile aux Cerfs – The paradise island. Upon take off I kept a promise to myself that some day I will be back. There’s something incredibly pure about this island. The location of Shandrani beachcomber resort is located on a private peninsula in the Blue Bay marine reserve. There are 3 beaches and my favourite is the furthest away from the bungalow. The water on this side of the South Eastern coast is unsheltered, beautifully wild. Each morning I’d come here to catch the sunrise … There’s no one here other than myself and the wild merciless waters swirling their way in between the lava rocks and the mangroves which scatter the shore line; and as I sit and stare outwards towards the open ocean I breathe in this purely energizing sense of freedom.

A friend of mine, Richa is from back in high school is from Mauritius and I cannot help but think back to art class back in high school when she painted what each part of the island was well known for…the colorful buildings of the capital’s Port Luis stacked together, plentiful fish inside fishermen’s baskets and suddenly I remember a Hindu temple and giant lily pads. I send her a Facebook message – she’s already at her studio. She tells me to keep to the south, that the weather at the center of the island is bad. Instinctively I look up to check the skies, the moon still high. There’s none of that here yet, although a high haze was starting to creep its way in across the sky…it’s May, winter in Mauritius, admittedly not the ideal time of year to catch the sun but it’s an incredible time of year for taking photos and to enjoy the island in its off peak glory.

Later that morning I decide to take a taxi and visit the southern district of the island, Savanne. Sam my driver asks me if I had something specific in mind … immediately I go back to visualizing Richa’s painting. I tell him I want to see the blue God on a lake and ask him if it’s nearby – I had no more information but he seemed to immediately understand my pitifully vague description as his eyes twinkle continuing to tell me that its about an hours drive north. As we head out of the resort along the driveway lined in plumeria and bougainvillea’s, I roll down the window, the wind gently hits my face and I enjoy the casual conversation with Sam through the rear view mirror. I’m outside and the landscape makes me feel wild and free … as we exit my eyes don’t stop taking everything in. Plantations of sugar cane and tea inundate either side of the road for miles and as we leave the luxuries of 5-star behind, Mauritius captivates me. We’re headed north towards the Black River Gorge national park to the highest peak in Mauritius. We reach a plateau and Sam tells me it’s a very special place – very sacred. The largest statue of the God Shiva sits on top of the mountain protecting the island. As I open the car door, suspended rain engulfs me, its cold, the air lightly scented with incense and I pick up the sound of distant sacred chants… I follow the sound and realize that I am standing on top of the Grand Bassin, the scared temple of the Hindu God Shiva. I meander around the scared temples in awe of the peace and beauty engulfing this space. Garlands of Marigolds drape the necks of the Gods and as the sun starts to break through the clouds I’m suddenly taken out of my element by a mysterious whiff – a warm breeze carries the scent from the flowers and I’m taken back to making crowns of Marigolds as a child.

Grand Bassin, Mauritius

On my way back to the car a young girl calls out to me, hurrying towards me she hands me a half a dozen pieces of fruit she is picking from a tree. I’ve never seen it before, it’s a pale bubble gum pink color; her older brother continuous to throw them down to us and I can’t help but join in their laughter. The little girl, Anu uses the length of my sweater as a basket to lay more and more pieces – these 2 are too cute. I return to the taxi and Sam tells me that this is ‘Zamala’ fruit, local to the island. We follow the road into water-fall country; through the land of the 7-colored earths and I’m thrown back to the days I spent in Kempala, Uganda – the colors of saturated red earth and the banana groves inundate the country side and in the distance the Indian Ocean stretches until the end of the horizon. As we drive by local villages I start to notice that basket weaving is a traditional local craft; those originally used for fishing. I suddenly think of Richa and her brilliant designs under her collection Moris– Mauritius in Mauritian Creole. The inspiration makes so much sense and is so genuine to the spirit of the island. I am suddenly inspired by the use of color-blocking everywhere – from homes, churches to mosques and Hindu temples. That’s another thing about Mauritius that touched me – all different faiths living harmoniously together. In the town of Soulliac places of worship quite literally neighbor each other and this applies island wide. Sam tells me, “…this is Mauritius, we are peaceful people” – I couldn’t agree more. Especially given the chaos happening in todays world there’s a surreal peace about everything here – quite the paradise.

Decielis, A Lotus Whisper, Taormina at Shandrani
The bungalow at Shandrani, Beachcomber Resort

Zoe wears: Pants: Alice & Olivia, Scarf: Decielis, Sunglasses: Dior, Shoes: Celine, Swimwear: Mikoh … see more inside Zoe’s suitcase below

Author: Zoe Hili

Photography: Zoe Hili, Nicholás Jara

Tags: An Aviary Tale, Beachcomber Hotels, Mauritius, Shandrani, Blue Bay, Moris Collection, Venezia, Taormina, Sofia Capri

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