Visit to Rodrigues Island  
Rodrigues island is part of Mauritius and situated 650 Kilometres to the North-East. It is 18.3 Kilometres long and 8 Kilometres wide, that is an area of 108 square Kilometres, and the population is about 37,000.
Port Mathurin is the capital and only port of the island. The place owes its name to a French settler, Mathurin Bréhinier, who was one of the first inhabitants of the region. Its brightly coloured old shops are traditional ones which sell various types of goods. Port Mathurin has a very unique charm with its old colonial buildings and Creole houses, including the former residence of British governors called La Résidence, where the executive council of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly holds its sessions.
The trip to Rodrigues is for relaxing, sight-seeing and shopping, because Rodrigues is a duty-free island and many items are much cheaper there than in Mauritius.
 

Map of Rodrigues Island

Location of Rodrigues Island
The main aircraft serving the island is the ATR72 of Air Mauritius. There are daily flights to Rodrigues Island.
The journey lasts for one and a half hour and the plane leaves the island only forty-five minutes later after having landed. There is no refuelling and you can watch your luggage being loaded as you move to board the aircraft.
The MV Mauritius Pride and Mauritius Trochetia ships also make regular voyages to the island and can carry cargo as well as passengers. They dock at the harbour in Port Mathurin.

The airport terminal building

Entrance to the airport

The ATR72 at Plaine Corail

The Mauritius Pride at Port Mathurin
Rodrigues is an autonomous island with a Chief Commissioner at its head, and bears allegiance to Mauritius. It has its own regional assembly, Commissioners, Minority Leader and Members of the Assembly. Local elections are held on a regular basis. There is also a resident Island Commissioner.
The island has its own court house and prison and one main hospital, but serious cases are referred to Mauritius. Education is up to secondary level and higher studies at university level is completed in Mauritius.

The Rodrigues Regional Assembly building

La Résidence, seat of the executive council of the assembly

Office of the Chief Commissioner

The court house in Port Mathurin
The people in Rodrigues are mostly Roman Catholics but a minority from other religions cohabitate peacefully on the island. The largest church in the Indian Ocean is found in the village of St-Gabriel and was built from 1936 to 1939 by the people themselves who carried rocks and other building materials on their backs.

The St-Gabriel church

A Sunnee Muslim mosque in Port Mathurin
The local transport facilities include buses and pick-up vans. There is only one filling station on the island and long queues of vehicles are often seen waiting to be refuelled.
Rodriguans do not hesitate to walk long distances to go to places. To protect themselves from the sun, they wear straw hats which give them their distinctive look. The island is made up of mountains and valleys and the people would carry their goods, or even building materials, down the deep valleys or up the steep mountains using the narrow foot tracks.

The filling station

Queueing up for refuelling under police supervision

Virgin Mary watching over Port Mathurin

The Solitaire, an extinct bird from Rodrigues

The main road in Port Mathurin

The jetty near the harbour, a popular meeting point

Cattle feeding on the green pasture

Fishing boats are almost everywhere in Rodrigues

The meteorological station

In memory of World Wars soldiers from Rodrigues

Main bus terminal in Port Mathurin

A well-equipped street food seller
The main activities on the island are agriculture, fishing and tourism. Limes, chillies, honey, fish and octopus (fresh or dried) and other sea foods are particularly appreciated by visitors. Handicraft products are mostly made of the dried stalks of the Vacoas tree and include hats, baskets, trays, and other souvenirs. Now there are many hotels to welcome tourists, specially eco-tourists.
Rodrigues is well known for its pickles and sea food and many Mauritians returning from the island, or Rodriguans going to Mauritius to visit relatives, make it a must to take along with them fresh fish, shrimp, octopus and so on. Although it is forbidden to carry these products on board the aircraft, the passengers manage to slip these delicacies in their luggage, undetected by the airport luggage-scanning devices.

Saturday is market-day in Port Mathurin

Handicraft products on market day

Dried octopus, Rodrigues' famous delicacy

A roadside tuckshop selling typical Rodriguan products
Rodrigues offers breath-taking sceneries all over the island. But two main tourist attraction places are Ile aux Cocos and Caverne Patate.
Ile aux Cocos (Coconuts Island), four Kilometres off-coast in the western lagoon, is a natural bird sanctuary accessible by canoe only to visitors with due permits delivered by the Tourism Commission. This strip of sand is home to thousands of birds from four species. Daily excursions with lunch are organized, during the day only, by tour operators. Visitors can indulge in bird watching and swimming, but no camp-fires are allowed.The English name for the island is Cocoa Island but this is a misnomer as their is no cocoa plantation there.
Caverne Patate (Patate Cave) is an underground tunnel at eighteen metres below sea level and stretches over one Kilometre under a coral belt in the south-west region. Guided visits are organised several times a day. For a nominal fee you are rented a helmet and a battery-operated electric lantern to help you move underground. You are advised to wear solid walking shoes as the cave floor is slippery in some places. An experienced guide will walk you through a gallery of stalagmites and stalactites of all sizes and shapes. The shapes vary according to your imagination. Our guide attracted our attention to shapes such as a cobra, King Kong, a totem-pole and maps of several countries (including that of Rodrigues itself!).

Ile aux Cocos seen from far

Equipped to go underground at Caverne Patate

Limestone deposits in the cave forming suggestive shapes

146 steps to climb out of the cave
August 2014

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