Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ile aux Cocos with Captain Christophe

A wooden sail boat awaits me across the beach on the turquoise Indian Ocean lagoon. It is as though I wade through the warm tropical sea right into a film set. To my right a small Rodriguan boat is painted with cartoony pirate signs. Ahead of me Captain Christophe holds out a gentlemanly hand to help me onto his wooden sail boat bound for Ile aux Cocos, a small island reserve in the large lagoon surrounding Rodrigues island in Mauritius.

The captain takes out his French island charm to tell me that I am ‘tres jolie,’ very beautiful, before we set off on our sailing excursion. I tell him that he has a beautiful boat and soon the story behind his Ile aux Cocos island tours unfolds. Rodrigues island has its own special way of building fishing boats that are perfectly symmetrical. However, Christophe went to work in France for a while and met someone there who lived inside the belly of a boat. This encounter changed his life in that Christophe learned the art of building traditional wooden sail boats and brought the skill and the romance of it all back to Rodrigues with him.

Today Christophe has the most beautiful boat in all of Rodrigues. He built his own wooden sail boat which is now the love of his life and also his bread and butter. He would like to find true love with a real live girl, he says, but so far his boat has been his only faithful companion. And so he takes good care of her and makes day trips to the protected bird sanctuary of Ile aux Cocos, entertaining guests and tourists with his own special flavoured rum. His boat is always equipped with a bottle of rum infused with fresh limes, local honey and Madagascan vanilla. I must be turning into a pirate princess as it is a surprise for me to find the sweet rum so delightful, aye cap'n!

I am not quite sure if it’s the rum, the pure oxygen or the tranquil lagoon blues, but by the time we reach Ile Aux Cocos I feel like someone waved a magic wand all over me. It is as though I am enchanted as I step onto the soft beach scattered with sea shells and walk into a paradise of tropical birds. The island is named after the birds' eggs or 'cocos' originally found on the island, rather than the coconut trees, says our guide. He introduces me to the birds: mostly noddies, lesser noddies and fairy terns. The latter is my favourite, pure white birds that hover in one place and flutter their wings, creating a Tinkerbell effect. We also see a tiny red cardinal, a scarlet bird native to Madagascar and commonly found in forest areas all around the Indian Ocean islands.

Our lunch is a spread of cold grilled fish, mixed salad, potato salad, octopus salad and chili paste. No fires are allowed on Ile Aux Cocos so lunch was prepared early in the morning by Christophe’s mom. She is clearly an exceptional cook and I can taste the love and care that went into the preparations. We wash all the deliciousness down with a bit of South African rosé wine and then move back onto the rum after a dessert of coconut cake and sugared peanut sweets.

Back on the boat there is not a trace of the real world left in me and laughter is flowing freely while we sail along this large lagoon around Rodrigues for a few hours, taking in one breathtaking view after the other. By the time Christophe drops the anchor for a bit of snorkeling just off the shore at Anse Aux Anglais, I am the little mermaid that finally finds Nemo in her fantasy garden of corals and dreams unda da sea.

1 comment:

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