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Friday, 25 January 2013 12:00

L’Ile d’Ambre – A jewel in the green blue sea Featured

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It is a small island lying off the coast between Grand Gaube and Poudre d’Or in the north-east of Mauritius. There are several islands in this part of the ocean namely Flat Island, Round Island and Serpent Island.
They are different from each other in many respects. However Ambre Island as the name implies has something special that pulls visitors and holidaymakers towards it. It is a five – minute boat ride from the shore. It appears quite far away, as far as the horizon when looking from the coast. It looks like a green mass poised on the dark green sea lit in the afternoon by the setting sun displaying a seascape bathed in a riot of colours.

The island has its own short history. There was a sugar mill operated by oxen and exploited by St Antoine sugar estate. Lemon plantation, stags breeding and hunting, coconut plantation and even vegetables were cultivated on a small scale. The administrators had had constructed a bungalow and a servants’ quarter. They called there for hunting and in the evening they feasted the game and made merry with friends and guests. Vestiges still exist in the form of water canals and a few artifacts.

There is also a mysterious marshy spot that scares people out of their wits and many try to solve that mystery. It is told by the relative of a servant that once her brother in law was on his way to the island with food, cakes, biscuits and beer and soft drinks and other things for his children living with her. It happened that he reached the shore very late when the taxi boats had ceased operation; the only option was to wade in the water which he did and that took him almost an hour.

It can be reached from Poudre d’Or by boat or even by wading in neck deep water despite the risks that such an intrepid action contains. A boat-ride from Grand Baie along the coast line is equally exciting and enjoyable. It exposes the participant to the real sea delights that the modern Robinson Crusoes dream of. The inhabitants living along the coastline are not so unlucky or miserable as it is thought. Many have made fortune and live in comfortable bungalows and houses standing in water. There is also the opportunity to watch a wide array of sceneries one more picturesque than the other before reaching Ambre island.

There are tables d’hôte all along the coast where coffee, light lunch and eatables are available. Some tourist boutiques, too, indulge in gifts and rare handicraft materials.

Early morning visits to the island are recommended for it is not as hospitable as its counterparts or can lodge visitors for the nights for transport becomes rare after a certain time. They will have to spend the night in the open, exposed to the violent wind and lashing rain not good for the health. Kayaks are available at the coast.

They are one- seater or two-seater and help tremendously in facilitating the visit to the island. They are light and slim especially designed to stay buoyant.  It can take the visitors round the island, passing through the mangroves, and excitingly avoiding the roots and the risky parts. The forests are full of trees. It is like setting foot in a totally different world, peaceful and silent. The eyes must be alert for the proper enjoyment of the visit. The lush green vegetation opens at times on pools of still water that keeps on displaying magnificent hues of blue and green in the part of the lagoon the land mass shelters from the strong wind.

The grove is a breeding ground for a variety of fish and sea turtles that swim around the man groves, tree roots and are thus protected from predators. The place gives the impression that a tropical forest is being entered along a hidden river, rowing through the green tunnels the roots form. Branches and leaves canopy the waters.  A little further away a slight sea breeze greets the visitor. There is the opportunity to paddle along the island’s coastline for almost a kilometre, admiring the lagoon itself, which stretches as far as the coral reef giving glimpses of other islands that loom in the distance.  A small jetty away from the mangrove is reached.

It enables the exploration of part of the island where there is fresh water or brackish craters, with a wide variety of plants both endemic and invasive.  Surprisingly enough there are immense conifers visible from the shores. The highest point of the island thirty feet above sea level has some stone walls and foundations .They are said to be the ruins of a human settlement dating back to the eighteenth century when the island had orchards and sugar cane fields.

It is also alleged that the island once belonged to a certain Mr Prayag a planter living at Rivière du Rempart and later at Quatre Bornes, the benefactor and sponsor of SAJ who encouraged him to challenge Aunath Beejadhur in the 1963 General Elections. Since then the latter’s star started shining and propelling him to the supreme post of President of the Republic after making his marks as one of the country’s best prime minister . The stay on the island may be prolonged with plenty of activities indulging in plucking red flowers, cactus collection hunting crabs and enjoying the romantic atmosphere spread by the moonlit night.

Lunch may be enjoyed to the rhythm of ségatiers who ensure a really pleasant and soothing or sometimes riotous evening or afternoon with their group that the operators provide. The pleasure and the delight race up the adrenaline when the sun is at its zenith. A few seabirds skim over the mangrove .The return is a straight journey to the shore. A glass bottomed boat is recommended for a better appreciation of the lagoon and the small fish and other beautiful flowers and crabs that lie on its floor. A visit to the island is no doubt an enjoyable and enriching experience to be undertaken in a group.

In the previous issue please read that the temple in question was constructed by Hurryduth’s late father and not by him as mentioned.



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