Here I am, all packed up and ready to go! I was so restless that I woke up a little earlier today. One last look at my beach hamper (the woven one I bought at Goodlands’ market) and everything seems in place: sunscreen, sarong, beach towel, camera… and my sunglasses are over my head! A quick glance through my bedroom window: light rain is pouring over the horizon, but nothing to worry about. I can see the catamaran mooring in the lagoon on the hotel front, its shiny white hull and bright orange patches contrasting with the turquoise shades of the sea.
It’s 9.55 am, I’ve got five minutes left to pick up my things, lock the room and meet with the other guests on the hotel beach. It’s the pick-up point. How convenient! From what I have read on the brochure, the boat can accommodate up to 20 people, but at first glance, I can say there will only be about ten of us on today’s trip. Whatever… This means more space and more comfort for us! Since the catamaran is anchored at a few meters from the beach, a motor boat shuttle takes us to the catamaran, which bears the beautiful name of Deep into the Blue, within five minutes. Another round trip for the shuttle to bring over the rest of the passengers, and we’re ready to weigh the anchor.
I am always very sensitive to first impressions. As noticed from my room, the catamaran is spotless white, very clean and, to my great amazement, part of the boat is covered, providing shelter during the trip. Fortunately, I won’t have to apply sunscreen all day long. And this prevents us, both children and adults, from catching sunburns. Once every one is on board and nicely stretching on the comfortable seats, Olivier, a crew member, tells us about the safety guidelines and the itinerary. I’m starting to be really excited.
Here we go!
And off we go! The morning light rain has turned into a gorgeous sun, which brightens up the colours of the lagoon. Yet the wind saves us from the scorching heat. We are heading towards the “fish box”, as José, the older member of the crew, names it, for a diving session: the snorkelling equipment is provided by the hotel. This diving spot is located just opposite Veranda Paul et Virginie, deeper into the lagoon. I put on my shoes and mask and splash into the water without any fuss. Underwater, I come across a hoard of lovely little fishes and take great pleasure in swimming freely in such a big and beautiful natural environment. After twenty minutes, we get out of the water, take off our “palm shoes” and get back into the boat to resume the trip.
We are now sailing towards the mangrove. I make my way forward to the front of the boat, as in the movie Titanic but in a sitting position, to feel the wind gently whipping my face, while my feet are hanging from the edge of the boat. Right beneath, the splendid colours of the lagoon swiftly roll away. The boat slows down and we enter a laguna as calm and flat as a natural pool. The change of scene is breath-taking. Olivier offers us some snacks and drinks while José is busy preparing the barbecue. I choose a colourful mocktail while my fellow cruisers go for exotic mixtures with rum, of course! That’s the ideal time to chat with other hotel guests in a convivial and relaxed atmosphere.
Glasses are empty and it’s time to raise the anchor to sail towards our final destination: Ilot Bernache. A few minutes from here, a sandbank covered with filao trees and surrounded with volcanic stones awaits us. José is done with the barbecue; Olivier sets the buffet table and invites us to help ourselves. Diving and snacking have whetted our appetite and every one is now hungry. It’s a feast for both my eyes and my tastebuds: grilled fish and meat served with rice, pasta and vegetable salads. A simple, healthy, tasty and fulfilling meal! While some decide to explore the island after lunch, others would rather stay on the boat… including myself. I take this opportunity to talk with José, whose contagious cheerfulness has aroused my interest.
At nearly 50, José is a real sea dog, who grew up by the ocean. He used to go fishing with his dad when he was little and has worked on catamarans for nearly two decades. On the Deep into the Blue, he is a real live wire, never missing any occasion to throw a few dance steps and inviting passengers to dance along. José has a laugh, a smile and a whole personality that make this excursion really special. Someone worth meeting!
Time’s up: José and his crew have to weigh the anchor again to set for the return trip. Not even exhausted by this day out in the sun, guests help themselves another drink, turn up the music and start dancing, under José’s delighted eyes. As popular Mauritian hits are played, each guest tries a little sega (Mauritius’ traditional dance). I venture a few timid steps but would rather stand aside to observe and appreciate the friendly atmosphere, while keeping an eye on the horizon.
In no time, we reach the hotel beach. Every one joyfully says thanks and goodbye to the crew before getting back to their room. As for me, I keep a wonderful memory of this day where I soaked up the sun, the sea and the sea breeze. I can now leave with a peaceful mind and totally refreshed!