Thursday, August 19, 2010

Enchanting Mauritius

Mauritius trip – Feb 9-15, 2010

This is a long delayed write up on our trip to Mauritius in Feb 2010.

After sifting through a lot of locations, we zeroed in on Mauritius after a few of our friends gave good reviews about the place. We did our research about how to organize the trip and decided to take the 6 nights & 7 days package tour offered by since it looked like a complete package and economical at the same time.

Our flight was at about 0600hrs on Tuesday, Feb 9 from Bangalore. Vikram my friend had advised that liquor was expensive in Mauritius and hence we purchased it from the duty free shop in Bangalore airport. We then boarded the flight and there was a one hour stop over at Chennai for boarding passengers and then it was a non stop 6hr flight till Mauritius. We landed in Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International airport at about 1300hrs local time. The time zone in Mauritius is about 1.5hrs behind India.

As informed to us, we were met by a representative of Seaside Holidays in the airport. Our booking was made in a 4 star resort - Casuarina Resort & Spa, which was about 1.5hrs drive from the airport.

The first things that struck us about Mauritius were the serenity and greenery around and also the unending sugarcane plantations. We reached the resort and were met by the staff who were quite hospitable. We had a quick chat with them about the facilities available in the resort and then retired to our rooms to refresh ourselves. The resort was very well maintained with excellent landscaping and individual cottages. We were famished by then after the long flight and went to have lunch. Unfortunately the lunch buffet was closed by then and we helped ourselves with some awesome chicken and tuna sandwiches. It was then that we learnt that no water will be supplied for free anywhere in Mauritius and we had to buy a bottle for MUR70 (= Rs 100)…..!!! After the lunch we relaxed for the rest of that day and then we were informed that next day would be a rest day as well as our tour would start only from the day after.

On day 2, after breakfast we met Saif, the representative from Seaside Holidays. He briefed us about the agenda for the 3 day sight seeing tour and gave us the list of options we could try on the remaining two days. The options included submarine, lion safari, cruise to a nearby island and quad biking. We finally decided to go for quad biking on one day since it sounded quite new and adventurous . We made all the payments regarding the rides for the 3 day tour and quad biking to Saif to avoid last minute hassles. He also gave us some helpful info about where to get water cheap and some good restaurants nearby.

The rest of the day was left to us and we relaxed ourselves enjoying the greenery of the nature and blueness of the beach. The resort had a private beach and we could use their rides like peddle boat, kayaking, glass bottom boat etc at anytime during the day. We took the peddle boat and went around the beach sometime and had an excellent Indian lunch at “Tandoor”. We also had some excellent fruit wine which was a complementary gift for honeymooners….and then relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the day.

Day 3 was our start of Mauritius tour and this day we were to go around the city and heritage sites. We started at 0800hrs and our first stop was at “Aapravasi Ghat”. This is one of the world heritage sites and this was where indentured labourers from India had first set foot in Mauritius. This site is a souvenir to those labourers. From there we went to “Fort Adelaide” and “Citadel”, both of which were heritage sites again. It was almost 1300hrs by then and we went to “Caudan Waterfront”. It was a huge mall with a number of eat outs, shopping stuff and a good view of the harbour. This was actually the most boring part of the whole trip since we didn’t find anything great to shop and were just trying to kill time. We spent about 3 hrs in the mall and then proceeded back to the hotel….end of day 3…well…..not so exciting…:(

Day 4 - This was our most awaited day of the tour - the trip to an island “Ile Aux Cerfs”. This place was about an hours drive from our hotel. The first event of the day was undersea walk. This was perhaps the best event of the day. It was an amazing experience wearing a 22kg helmet and getting into the water…! We spent about 15min walking inside the 10ft water, viewing the corals, plants and fishes. It was a wonderful experience and the last thing we wanted to do was to get out of the water…!!

After the undersea walk experience we were taken to the island in a boat. The guy riding our boat was a cool chap and played some Carribean music and gave us a really enjoyable and adventurous boat ride. Our next event was para sailing. This again was really exciting and along with our ride, it was really funny to see how the other people landed….it felt serene being on the air in the parachute and see the blue sea from the top.

That was the end of rides for the day and then we had a relaxing lunch in the beach, had some fun in the water and took some snaps. It was evening by then and we headed back to the hotel….end of day 4….awesome fun…!!

Day 5 - Today was the final day of our tour and we went to the Southern part of Mauritius. We went to a dead volcanic crater first. It was raining by then and it was quite a romantic place to be in. We enjoyed the greenery there for sometime and then moved on to “Ganga talao”. This is a religious place for Hindus and there had been a big Mahashivarathri festival just the day before. We then proceeded to “Chamarel” – the place with the seven coloured sands. It was an amazing sight to see the sands in such varied colours and they had done a great job in maintaining the site. Luckily a rainbow also had formed on the sky by then and it was a once in a life time sight of seeing the seven colours on the earth and sky at the same time…! We then went to a small waterfall and that was the end of day 5 of sight seeing…….a great day again enjoying the beauty of Mauritius.

Day 6 – Another day of adventure…today was the day for quad biking..! We had another couple, Yogesh and Harshali whom we had befriended during the tour with us. The place was about 2.5 hrs of drive and we had to start early.
We reached the place by about 1200hrs and had some good Mauritian lunch. It was a beautiful location full of greenery and a stream. We then wandered around the property for sometime enjoying the nature and having some fun with the horses there. Then the adventure started. Each couple had a “bike” to ride. It was really hard trying to control the bike as it was very heavy and we were driving through rough roads….but it was good fun. It felt like we indeed were in paradise. The view from the hill was breathtaking …Mauritius at its best…! After more than a couple of hours our biking we ended the ride. It was an amazing experience and were glad we chose to go for this adventure….headed back to hotel….end of day 6…adventurous and rejuvenating

Day 7 – This was the saddest day of the tour since it was returning time…our flight was at 5 pm in the evening. We didn’t plan any outing and relaxed by the beach. We also went for the glass bottom boat ride on the private beach. It was a great experience too as we got a closer view of the life under sea, the corals and colourful fishes…

Finally, a few more words about the resort and the trip. First of all, thanks to & Seaside Holidays for organising the tour so well. We were never in doubt of anything at any point of time and help was always available. The resort was also nice with good facilities, food and rooms. Apart from the tours our best times were spent in the swimming pool in the evenings. The resort also organised some good dance and singing programs in the evening for entertaining the guests.

We were back in Bangalore on Feb 15 early morning. It was a very good break from the hectic schedules of work…looking forward to a trip like this again..!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Masinagudi - The Untouched Valley

Masinagudi is a small town situated 29km from Ooty at an altitude of 1000-1200mts from MSL. Its one among the five ranges of Mudumala ( 'first hills’)-one of the first wildlife sanctuaries established in India. The sanctuary is divided into 5 ranges - Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. It was a casual conversation with Dheeraj and Suhas which led to the plan of going to Masinagudi. It was long time we had been to a hill station. The team consisted five of us - Suhas, Dheeraj, Bhavya, Meera and myself. However, fortunately or unfortunately Dheeraj fell ill just before the trip and could not join us ;-) . The plan was to start by friday afternoon so that we can reach Masinagudi by 9pm, after which the forest road is closed for vehicle movement.

Though Masinagudi can't be called a typical hill station, its nearness to Ooty, awesome weather and a gorgeous view of the Nilgiris gives it a feel of being close to nature..

The drive:
July30,2010: As planned Bhavya and Suhas reached our place by 1515hrs and we started our journey by 1530Hrs. Masinagudi is about 250kms from Bangalore. The route was,
NICE road towards Mysore road - Mysore - Gundalpet - Nanjangode - Bandipur - Mudumalai - Masinagudi.

It was a nice drive in the evening and weather was cold and breezy.It was a 6 hr drive with no breaks in between since we wanted to make sure we don't miss the 9pm deadline...!! By the time we crossed Bandipur it started raining and that slowed our drive a bit. We then crossed the Karnataka and Tamilnadu checkpost by 8 30pm. Its worth mentioning here that we had to pay an "entry tax" to enter Tamilnadu although we were there well within the time. The amount of entry tax...well...the police told us whatever suits you...!!...So we paid a Rs.10 "entry tax" and proceeded.

The stay:
We reached our destination by 2100hrs. Dheeraj had already booked our stay in "Chalets farm & GuestHouse". The place was good with 5 cottages. Although the landscaping is not great, the rooms were very clean and the staff were hospitable especially Mr Senthil who was the care taker of the property.

Chalets Farm & Guest House, Achakkarai, Masinagudi, The Nilgiris. Cell 09486956551,09486189899,09486189996.
The food was also very good...especially the chicken fry...mouth watering...:)..It was almost 2230hrs by the time we finished our dinner and retired early to bed after the long drive...The weather was very cold and windy and it was really nice and relaxing being there..

July 31,2010...
We woke up by around 830hrs and it was a lovely morning. The view of Nilgiris was breathtaking from the cottage. We enjoyed the weather and view for sometime and had breakfast. We then went to a stream nearby and spent some time there.

It seems wild animals came to the stream to drink water and it was quite apparent when we saw the dead remains of a cow attacked by a leopard there....The next getaway was for an evening safari...

Before starting the safari we went to a nearby hill to enjoy a panaromic view of Nilgiris. With such an amazing weather it was just the place to be.....cold and breezy.....

The safari was nice and adventurous. Our guide Mr Pramod, was a friendly guy and very familiar with the forest and the wild animal behaviours.

We saw a group of elephants first and when we went nearer to see them, one of the elephants came charging at us.....that was scary..!!...Pramod dealt with the situation quite well and soon after we realised the elephant was being protective of its kid.....well after a while the family posed for a few snaps as well ..:)..We then spotted a lot of deers, monkeys, bisons, peacocks and more elephants. Although the safari was enjoyable, we were a bit disappointed that we could not spot any wild cats and that too when a gang that went on a safari the previous night spotted a leopard....anyway the heroes don't show their face often...!!
Well that was the end of the first day...adventurous and relaxing...
Aug 1,2010 ......
The second day was unfortunately the returning day and we decided to head back after breakfast...we started back to bangalore by 1100hrs. We halted for lunch after Mandya and were back home by 1725hrs.

Masinagudi is a great weekend getaway and you can thoroughly relax and enjoy your stay....looking forward to our trip there again....

Please make sure you are carrying enough cash with you as Masinagudi town doesn't have an ATM.
Sharing some captured moments of our trip......
Please Click here .