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Discover Rodrigues Island

June 15 2018

If you are in the throes of planning a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Mauritius but are worried about what there is to do there, fear not! The dramatic island of Mauritius is not only a tropical idyll, it’s a veritable playground for those who love adventure, water sports, food, culture and history. It’s an absolutely fascinating destination filled with colourful festivals, incredible local cuisine, wonderful national parks, sugar cane plantations and more. One of the best parts about enjoying a trip to this paradise is that you are not even limited to the island itself! Mauritius has a host of stunning islets and islands nearby that you can spend the day exploring and, in some, cases even stay a night (or two!). One of our favourite neighbouring islands is definitely the gorgeous Rodrigues Island, also affectionately known as Mauritius’ “little sister”. 

Here’s what you need to know about this hidden gem: 

It’s a mere 90-minute trip from Mauritius

If you are looking to explore the wonderful island of Rodrigues the good news is that it’s a fairly quick hop, skip and a jump away from Mauritius. A mere 90-minute flight will take you from Mauritius to this beautiful oasis (there are no direct international flights to Rodrigues). This island, stretching just under 18km long and approximately 8km wide, is the smallest (and oldest) of the Mascarene Islands (the others being Reunion and Mauritius) and it’s the closest African island to Australia (although, it’s still a very long way off!). 

Because of its convenient proximity to Mauritius, it makes for the perfect place to visit for a day or two, and the scenic flight from Mauritius allows you to take in the gorgeous tropical islands from above. If you are flirting with the idea of exploring Mauritius’ surrounding areas, then definitely head to Rodrigues Island.

It’s rumoured to be what Mauritius was like 40 years ago 

Rodrigues Island Hills Nature

One of the most extraordinary things about Rodrigues Island is that, unlike Mauritius, it’s not very built up (as of yet). Immense stretches of wild, lush vegetation and dramatic volcanic terrain make this destination such a popular place for those who like to travel “off the beaten track” as well as those who want to immerse themselves in the beauty of the island’s natural surrounds. 

Some believe Rodrigues Island to be the best-kept secret of the Indian Ocean because it’s still largely unknown and so incredibly wild—tropical vegetation practically covers the island, development has been kept to an absolute minimum, the accommodation is low-key and the extraordinary beaches here are pristine and amazingly crowd-free—a huge contrast to the ever-popular beaches of Mauritius. It’s only when you touch down in Rodrigues that you will truly understand what Mauritius might have once looked like before it was developed, in fact, many believe that Mauritius was very similar to Rodrigues a whopping 40 years ago, when much of the island was still untouched. 

The island has an interesting history 

Rodrigues Island History Scenic

Rodrigues Island was ‘officially’ discovered all the way back in 1528 by a Portuguese explorer (although this is widely disputed with many historians saying that it had been found long before by the Arab and then European sailors). The name of the Portuguese explorer was Diogo Rodrigues (but his name has been spelt in different ways over time which includes Diogo Roiz and Diego Rodriguez). As was common for explorers at the time, he named the island after himself. However, it is said (along with the fact that it had been found long before 1528) that before it was named Rodrigues the island had a slew of other names which range from Diogo Fernandes To Île Marianna.

Because the island was so out of the way (as in not on the main trade routes), few sailors visited it until the 17th century when the Dutch started going there in search of food. While farming wasn’t particularly successful on the island, there were a lot of other food sources that the Europeans were interested in such as the seafood, tortoises and even birds. 

During the 18th century, the French made a number of attempts to develop the island (and brought in slaves during this time) but were ultimately unsuccessful. The French then lost control of Mauritius and Rodrigues in the 19th century to the British. Under the British, as was the case in Mauritius, slavery was finally abolished and many years later in 1968 Rodrigues joined Mauritius in a victory for independence and in 2002, it became an autonomous region of Mauritius.

It’s the ultimate place to kick back and relax

Rodrigues Island Beach

When you are not exploring the beautiful Rodrigues Island then it makes for an unparalleled place to relax and take in the untouched beauty of this stunning place. The pace here is relaxed, the people are down to earth and the secluded beaches are the perfect spots to allow yourself to let go of all life’s worries as you soak up the African sunshine.

It has phenomenal endemic flora and fauna

Despite the small size of Rodrigues, there is a number of wonderful activities to partake in here; from hiking and kite surfing to sampling the local cuisine and learning more about the diverse culture, languages and religions of the island. But if you are a nature lover, then you should definitely also take some time to explore the local flora and fauna. If you are pressed for time but would still like a glimpse of the flora and fauna found in Rodrigues, then definitely head to the Jardin des Cinq Sens botanical gardens. 

The locals feel strongly about protecting and preserving the natural surrounds on the island and there are a number of special programmes in place to ensure that the flora in Rodrigues is protected and there is a strong focus on reforestation. This is crucial because there is an array of endemic plants, animals and birds in Rodrigues you can’t find anywhere else in the world (namely the Rodrigues fody and Rodrigues warbler), which makes ensuring their survival extra important.

It’s a big hit for foodies

One of the best things about Rodrigues Island is the phenomenal array of local dishes to try. Here, as is the case in Mauritius, you are able to see the distinct cultural influences that make this destination so special with Creole, European, Chinese and Indian dishes, as well as some sensational seafood, making up much of the local cuisine. This magnificent culinary scene is so extraordinary mainly because of the unparalleled freshness of the local ingredients and the simplicity (and genius) of the recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The types of dishes you are likely to come across (many of which should be sampled!) include a range of curries (chicken and octopus being two favourites), Chinese pork, Creole Roast beef, Mussel gratin, steamed fish, piments limon (which are small picked lemons that have been ground and mixed with chillies) and vegetables cooked in a French-style (among many others). If you only try one dish while you are here, however, definitely go for the fresh local shellfish soup that is finished off with coriander. 

If you are looking to make a trip to Rodrigues than we highly recommend booking a stay in Mauritius and hopping over to the island from there. If you are looking for truly sensational accommodation while on your holiday to paradise then take a look at the stunning options at Sun Resorts. At any of these hotels, your dream holiday is sure to become a reality. 

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