We visited Flic-en-Flac for the second time this weekend. We like it there, it has a nice, laid-back holiday feel, about it and a very long sandy beach – 5km they say.
The town’s laid out a bit like a strip, with bars, shops, restaurants and street food stalls and between the “strip” and the beach is a thin band of trees – so there’s always plenty of shade. It also has the advantage of being on the lee-shore of the island, sheltered from the SE trade winds that continually buffet us here in Blue Bay by the highlands in the middle of the island. (Although to be fair, the winds do keep us cool on a hot day.) These same SE trade winds drop all of their rain on the highlands so Flic-en-Flac is also one of the driest places on Mauritius. All in all it’s got a lot going for it!
Getting there from Blue Bay involves a long climb up to Curepipe, where they say it rains every single day of the year, then a left turn at Phoenix where the island’s beer is made and
then west through Quatre Bornes to the coast. We treated ourselves and hired a car for two days, so no buses this time! The approach road to Flic-en-Flac crosses a caldera and the town itself is sandwiched between the jagged remains of the mountain that was blown apart in prehistoric times and the sea. The most famous of the jagged remains is called le Montagne de Rempart, 777 metres high and also known as the Matterhorn of Mauritius. To the south, at the far end of the bay lies Le Morne Brabant, a World Heritage site with a tragic history.
In days gone by a number of slaves escaped and hid-out on the mountain. When the slave trade ended on Mauritius in the 19th century, a group of local policeman climbed the mountain to give the good news to the fugitives. Unfortunately the slaves thought they were about to be taken back into captivity and so, in a spontaneous suicide pact, leapt to their deaths.
The reason for our visit this time was to use the Whale-watching voucher that Natalie had given Jan as a birthday present back in September; the boats leave from Tamarin just a few miles down the coast so we decided to make a weekend of it. Also, another one of Flic-en-Flac’s advantages, at least as far as Ian is concerned, is that it has a number of dive shops which are much cheaper than the local one in Blue Bay and some good dive sites too. So the plan was to arrive early on the Saturday in time for the 0900 dive-boat and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the beach, with the Whale watching booked for Sunday morning. We’d left Blue Bay as the news about the atrocities in Paris was breaking and so that was the main topic of conversation with the café owner where we stopped for a second breakfast. The conversation inevitably concluded that no European city was safe and her advice to us was to retire to Mauritius! (She then spent the next 15 minutes explaining how to get around the Mauritian government’s immigration laws.) We eventually excused ourselves, paid the bill and then Ian went diving whilst Jan went for a sleep on the beach.
The dive site that Ian visited was one of the best he’s been on, in terms of marine life but unfortunately he’d messed up his camera settings which he couldn’t do anything about whilst underwater and so wasn’t able to bring back many photos. He did get a short video clip of a turtle which they saw at the end of the dive on the way to the surface; that video clip almost caused him to run out of air, but that’s another story!
By midday we’d sought out our accommodation, again booked courtesy of the Booking.com website. It was quite different from our luxury hotel of the other weekend, a small self-catering studio in a complex built around a swimming pool. It was modern, cheap and would have been OK but for the fact that there was lots of cockroach poo in the bathroom – all over the floor and in the shower tray too. But after our experiences moving into our apartment in Blue Bay that sort of thing doesn’t faze us anymore so we, or rather Jan, got busy with the dustpan and brush and we never saw any sign of the little critters for the rest of the weekend. There were also a number of cockerels pecking around in the street outside which promised an early morning wake-up call the next morning. They didn’t disappoint and ensured that Ian had time for his jog along the beach and we still got to the whale watching boat 45 minutes early. (A 4am wake-up call will do that!). Actually we weren’t alone in being early risers; as he hit the beach at 06:15 Ian was surprised by the level of activity – walkers, swimmers, joggers, 4 separate games of beach football and half-a-dozen extended families cooking breakfast underneath the canopies where they’d obviously spent the night. The beach must have been a hive of activity the previous evening.
At the departure point in Grande Riviere Noire, just to the south of Tamarin, our whale-watching guide for the morning carefully managed our expectations by advising that there was only a 60% chance of us actually seeing a whale, after all “they’re wild animals and it’s a big sea out there”. So we boarded the speedboat with our 11 fellow watchers, (6 Germans, 3 Frenchmen and an American couple) full of hope but asking ourselves how lucky we felt. It turned out that one of the French guys turned out to have a very keen whale-watching eye, if he hadn’t been on the boat we may well not have seen any. Our, or rather his, first sighting came within within 15 minutes of leaving the shore, a small Pod of beaked whales, very rare according to the guide. Within another 30 minutes
we came across a large pod of pilot whales, somewhere around 40, many of them mothers with calves, all at the surface. It was quite difficult to film them from the bobbing boat and also given the fact that every time the camera focussed on one it dived under! Anyway that was all of our excitement for the day within the first hour of the trip; the next 2 hours or so consisted of a nice boat trip far out to sea, during which we came across a few flying fish and a small school of dolphins. At this point the water depth was more than 1000m and there was something mesmerising about looking from the boat into this blue water with shafts of light disappearing downwards into the deep. A bit further out and we were out of the lee of the island and the sea became a bit rougher, with these old Trade Winds hitting us again. The front of the boat was regularly rising up and slapping down again and we’re all getting regular soakings. We chose that time to try to eat the sandwiches provided to us – more of Ian’s ended up on his tee-shirt than in his stomach! So all and all a very enjoyable weekend which did nothing to change the good feelings we have about Flic-en-Flac and its surroundings; not even when we got home to discover that Ian had left his dive pouches behind, adding to the long list of places at which Ian has left dive gear behind. Ah well we’ll just have to go back again before we leave Mauritius!