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Daredevil s paradise
Beatrice Thomas Beatrice Thomas is ready for a jungle adventure.

"Sit down. Knees up. Lean forward. Arms straight. Now sit up. Let the rope pull you forward, so you squat. Squat more. Comfortable? Hold this position for six seconds and then slowly stand.

"Now relax. And smile."

I'm in the throes of my first foray into waterskiing and my instructor, Jojo, is going through a land-based induction. Minutes later I'm bobbing in the water like a cork with two giant wooden planks attached to my feet. As the speedboat takes off I'm replaying Jojo's instructions in my head.

The rope pulls me on top of the water. A few speed wobbles and then I'm gliding over the blue-green waters of a sheltered lagoon within the Le Saint Geran resort, on the north-east coast of Mauritius. With the wind rushing past my face, I hold on for dear life, while trying to take in the beautiful surroundings.

On my second go, I dare to guide my skis from left to right, zigzagging behind the boat. It's thrilling. I'm instantly hooked.

Think of Mauritius and thoughts of honeymooners, luxury resorts and white, sandy beaches spring to mind.

And so they should. The island is a magical getaway spot if all you want to do is laze away perfect sunny days under a palm tree while someone tends to your every whim.

But if you dare to leave the comfort of your resort for half a day or more - and I strongly urge you to do so - then there is an adventure playground waiting to be explored.

This 1872sqkm island nation, 860km east of Madagascar and eight hours west by plane from Perth, is a daredevil's paradise with enough water and land- based activities (all without a cocktail in sight) to make New Zealand adventure mecca Queenstown just a little jealous.

Channelling my inner GI Jane, I threw myself into new and exciting experiences, risking death and conquering fears all in the name of this travel story.

Oh, and I had some serious fun.

Waterskiing conquered - well, I didn't fall over and Jojo said I had good technique - a ride on a sub-scooter was next on my Mauritius adventure list.

Run by Blue Safari Submarine from a platform 10 minutes by boat from Mont Choisy, in the island's north-west, this wacky concept plays out exactly as it sounds. A propeller-driven scooter, with room for one or two, whizzes you around the ocean floor 3m below the surface as the airtight, transparent dome over your head allows you to keep breathing normally. For about MUR3900 ($130) an adult, the two-hour excursion, including 35 minutes under the sea accompanied by trained divers, is most definitely an up-close and different way to explore the island's magnificent marine life.

But a word of warning: it's not for everyone. If you struggle with the idea of piloting this machine while dealing with air pressure on your ears or claustrophobia, or both, then a better option may be the alternative Blue Water five or 10-seater submarine. The submarine takes you up to 35m below the surface as it explores relics such as the Star Hope shipwreck, while you gaze out from individual windows or watch it live on a television set inside the cabin.

Several companies also offer underwater ocean walks while wearing a pressurised helmet reminiscent of the early model diving suits used by pearlers.

There are water activities at almost every hotel and resort along the 330km coastline - from kitesurfing to catamarans, canoeing, sailing, snorkelling, diving and jetskiing. Generally free as part of the accommodation package, the choice is limited only by how far you're prepared to push yourself.

But then you could just push yourself off a cliff as I did . . . three times.

Wearing a safety harness attached to a rope and climbing clip, the death-defying feat of madness called zip-lining is actually a whole lot of fun.

But before putting your life in the hands of a pulley, mounted on a stainless-steel cable connected to two concrete bases on either side of a 130m-deep canyon, the team running Rando Fun at the Casela Nature and Leisure Park, midway up the west coast, will make you walk the plank. Or, more accurately, a series of planks connected to form a wobbly bridge suspended by more cables in mid-air.

Once across, you're clipped on to the longest zip-line in the Indian Ocean and literally thrown over the edge with gravity, and some enthusiastic cable bouncing, used to get you to the other side.

Exhilarating and petrifying all at once, the trip over and view down (if you dare to look) is breathtaking.

And even when things don't go perfectly the team is professional. On my first run, my momentum fell slightly near the landing point and I found myself promptly zipping back towards the other side only to stop about halfway.

Picture one of the Rando Fun team members executing a Bruce Willis Cliffhanger-style rescue as I hung there like a piece of washing flapping in the breeze, much to the amusement of my fellow tour group members, and you get the idea.

But, on my second zip-line across, in a tandem run I made a perfect landing.

Casela is an adventure world in its own right. There are quad-bikes and buggies or, as my group used, the innovative mode of transport known as Segway, to discover the African reserve.

The Segway, a kind of two- wheeled motorised scooter, is quiet enough not to scare off zebras, which will even come in close for a pat, but zippy enough (maximum speed 20km/h) to take you around the expansive park as you spot deer, ostriches and African antelopes. To be that close to those animals was amazing and was followed up by a chance to meet four to six-month-old lion cubs for a photograph. Entry to Casela, which also has a petting farm and fishing, starts from MUR300 ($10) per adult for basic entry with activities such as a one-hour zip-line (MUR1520, $52) or one-hour single quad ride (MUR2240, $76) all extra.

Mauritius, which has a central plateau about 600m above sea level, was formed 10 million years ago during a series of undersea volcanic eruptions and as such has an expansive mountain range. The crater of a dormant volcano near Curepipe has a panoramic view of the west of the island.

The Black River Gorges National Park, in the south of the island, is worth a visit, not only for the view and delicious guavas that can be picked from the side of the road but also for the markets at the entry to the park's lookout at the highest point of the island.

Here, you will find some of the best-priced souvenirs. Park entry is free.

The 100m-high spectacular Chamarel waterfall rivals the Black River Gorge lookout as a must-see natural feature.

Ten minutes by car from the Chamarel townsite and its nearby rum factory, it too can be admired from lookouts, with the higher of two options providing a view over the waterfall pool. Swimming is not allowed in the waterfall pool. You must travel further south to the Rochester Falls to enjoy that experience.

Within the same Chamarel park area, which costs MUR125 ($4) entry, a short bus or car ride takes you to the seven-coloured sands - another natural phenomenon in which volcanic eruptions stained the earth in seven distinct colours. From the cafe or nearby viewing platform visiting this rolling rock formation is a more passive outing but equally exciting.

On this island there is no end of adventure in every activity.

The key is whether you're up for the challenge.

Beatrice Thomas travelled to Mauritius courtesy of Air Mauritius and the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority.