Words and Pics by Rory Pennefather (Springbok Paddler) & Les Willows
I joined Les as his 'helper' when he took 19 Epworth schoolgirls and four adults on a paddling tour around Mauritius. This two week trip consisted of 11 days of paddling and two of sight-seeing, parasailing and shopping, the latter being big in the life of girls!
Most of the paddling was done inside the coral reef through calm turquoise seas, past sandy islands and white beaches, while the girls repeatedly leapt overboard to snorkel or swim. Four of the days saw us paddling on big seas beyond the shelter of the reefs, and here the girls braved huge swells as we cruised along the south coast with the most helpful following wind. Pods of dolphins put on great circus shows, leaping and spinning, while massive turtles slid shyly away and flying fish sped across the bows of the boats as they did their best to avoid predators. We crept slowly past the mouth of Port Louise, but the shipping lane presented no problem to the girls who were more concerned with a fish they had caught on a trailing line than the ship bearing down on us at 30 km/h!
Getting through the coral reefs is a necessity to circumnavigate the island, and narrow passes of deep water provide a relatively surf-free route through the sharp and shallow coral. A meticulous knowledge of the coast is needed to get this right, and Les has exactly that. From our view point out at sea, all we could see was a mass of pounding surf with Les venturing forth, his 15-year-old partner holding her paddle upright, signalling, “This is right, follow me.” And like obedient little ducklings the rest of us followed faithfully. The rip flowing out does about four kilometres per hour and the heavily laden c-kayaks can do about five kilometres per hour so it was touch and go at times as to whether we were going in or out! Fortunately no capsizes happened here, for this would have meant an immediate swim out to sea and a second attempt at making it through the pass by a tiring team.
Mauritius's coastline is unbelievably beautiful and by paddling around it, you see it all. We paddled in a clockwise direction, which means you get a following wind along the south coast and this makes the full trip more possible. Wind and rain pummels one a bit on the east coast, but the temperature never drops below 27°C and the rain lasts less than half an hour, so drying out after a shower is never a problem.
But perhaps the highlight of the trip is the people. All Mauritians are gentle, friendly and helpful. We slept on beaches at picnic sites, and never once did the locals harass us. We experienced no begging, no pilfering and no inquisitive crowds. The police would come around to help and leave a phone number in case we needed them, and the teenage girls could wander freely about the markets and catch buses into town in utmost safety. I would rate Mauritius tops as a sea kayaking destination, but the trip offers more than just the paddling. Les is the ideal tour guide and an experienced paddler who knows the Mauritian coastline intimately. His organisational skills are superb and we all experienced an amazing value-for-money holiday adventure. I have been paddling for over 40 years and I would highly recommend this trip.
Just a four-hour flight from Johannesburg lies a stunningly beautiful coastline that is regarded as one of the best paddling destinations for both beginner and experienced paddlers, and a must for any adventure seeker to head to. Welcome to the island of Mauritius; referred to by Mark Twain as 'the garden in the ocean'.
Willows Adventure Sports has been arranging memorable outdoor sea-kayaking experiences around the island since 2008, and although the complete circumnavigation of the island takes 11 days, clients can join or leave the group at any stage.
But what makes this sea-kayaking tour so special is that because it's self-supported, and you carry all your food and equipment in the kayaks, you get to experience Mauritius from a different view point; one that not many tourists get to see when they visit the island. Being on the water gives you the opportunity to be a part of the beautiful tropical surrounds as you paddle along the scenic coastline and past small deserted islands, while the evenings are spent camping on different beaches and some remote islands. You also get to meet the friendly locals, sample the local fare, visit the quaint markets and discover more about this little slice of paradise.
To get the maximum enjoyment out of an adventure holiday like this, you do need to have some paddling experience, but beginners can request a training programme that will have them ready by the time they hit the big blue. All the equipment you will need is provided, so you need only concern yourself with making sure your passport is in order. Having a good time is pretty much guaranteed as each day's itinerary is carefully planned to ensure that there's a good balance of paddling and sightseeing.
So if you are still thinking about how where to go for your next adventure holiday, why not try a sea-kayaking holiday in paradise?
Next tour date: The next trip departs from Durban in December.
For more info, go to www.willowsadventuresports.yolasite.com
Source: DO IT NOW