Rodrigues: Stunning, Sustainable and Serene

Cornel Schalkwyk on 08 October 2022
I was lucky enough to be treated to a trip to the island of Rodrigues in October 2022, courtesy of the Rodrigues Tourism Office. Pronounced Rod-reeg, it is an island territory of Mauritius, 600km to the East and 1.5 hours away by air.

I fell in love with Rodrigues before we even landed. It is an absolutely beautiful, unspoilt island, inhabited by fewer than 45,000 people. The island’s language is Creole, though the children are schooled in English so most islanders’ command of English is excellent.

It’s a perfect size to be able to explore the whole island in a car or scooter. There are few signposts and everything is tucked away off the beaten track so be prepared to explore! My best advice is to just stop and ask a local for directions.

What is so special about Rodrigues?

1. SUSTAINABILITY Despite its tiny size, Rodrigues has a miniscule carbon footprint. Sustainability is key to the island and this is evident in their focus on eco-tourism. I love that for every passenger arriving by plane, an endemic species of tree is planted.

In terms of resources, Rodrigues is almost self-sufficient with very few imports. The islanders produce almost all their food and export little. The main imports are electricity and water, and these are recognised as valuable commodities and definitely not to be wasted. There is no fresh water on the island, this is delivered monthly, and there are generators for electricity. All the main tourist hotels and resorts have desalination facilities so they’re not reliant on imported fresh water.

One of the places I stayed, Origin, is the first eco-chalet lodge on the island, and is almost completely self-sufficient. The owners bought the land and built four chalets, set in a mango orchard and where all food is produced on their own orchard and farm. They handmade all the chalets’ facilities, with materials available on the island, including the plunge pools outside. As well as a fruit orchard, there are hens and geese, bread is homemade and they are planning to start making jam and butter. All grey water is reused on the land and any leftover food goes to the pigs.

2. FOOD I was so impressed by the food. I will admit I was expecting low budget, but I got high-end luxury. Every single food encounter was like this – the quality, the variety and the presentation. It was all completely natural and totally fresh and I could taste all the flavours. I’d be happy to send food lovers and those who want a luxury, high-end experience. Even the street food was incredible – less pretty, but still tasted unbelievable. And the lack of imported food doesn’t stop the choices. For example, no rice is grown on Rodrigues so a polenta-based alternative is used.

3. UNSPOILT For now, Rodrigues is a hidden gem, untouched and unspoilt. The island is fringed with empty, white sandy beaches, even in the resorts. I imagine this is what Mauritius was like before it became discovered and loved by tourists. Mauritius is a stunning destination but it does feels commercialised with its hotel-lined streets. In comparison, Rodrigues still feels undiscovered. Rodrigues is still relatively unknown in the UK travel market, although it has started to feature in some travel write ups. At the moment, the tourists come from Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands – they come here for a holiday from their own beautiful homes.

4. ACTIVITIES All activities on Rodrigues are sustainable, of course, and nothing is engine-based. The island is surrounded by a lagoon, making it super safe for swimming and water activities. Some of the activities on offer, and all of which I tried are: • Kite surfing - a major activity with Rodrigues a destination for kite surfing lovers. There is an International Kite Surfing festival every July. • Zip lining through the trees with great views of the coastline, the valleys and gorges. Here you will be able to experience amazing views, from 100 metres in the air. • Walk across the suspension bridge, which is 120 metres long and 40 metres high. Being suspended above the trees and gorge on a wobbly bridge is not for the faint hearted but is worth it for the fabulous views. • There are lots of walking and running trails, though few road signs, so be sure to remember your bearings. • François Leguat Reserve, which is a sanctuary for giant tortoises that are native to the island. They were actually driven to extinction in the 18th century and the tortoises that live on the island now are the closest living species, reintroduced by Francois Leguat. There are now more than 3000 giant tortoises at the reserve. It is only open for guided tours. • Grande Montagne Nature Reserve, which has an affiliation with Chester Zoo, and is focused on the conservation and preservation of endemic plant and animal species. There are giant tortoises here too, but they are left to fend for themselves as if in the wild. Also only open for guided tours. • Rodrigues is a mecca for bird watchers and the international crowd come for just one night to catch the birds at dusk and dawn.

Despite it being relatively unknown, the island does cater for tourists. All accommodation has a boutique feel and comes in all shapes and sizes – there are resorts with 100+ rooms, hotels with around 60 rooms, and chalets for 8 people. One of note that I visited but didn’t stay at is the Tekoma Boutik Hotel with its 32 individual chalets, all with sea views. I sampled the amazing food and enjoyed walking on the peaceful beaches – where I didn’t see another single person.

Getting to Rodrigues is fairly straightforward. Both Air Mauritius and British Airways fly to Mauritius, then you take a connection to Rodrigues, flying over the turquoise Indian Ocean into what feels like the middle of nowhere.

It would be ideal to tie in a trip to Rodrigues when visiting Mauritius. You could easily stay for a week, or longer if you’re a kite surfing fan. There’s not so much for families to do unless you all enjoy the type of outdoor activities on offer – there are certainly no kids’ clubs, for example. But it is the perfect destination for couples, singles, honeymooners, friends – anyone looking for somewhere unspoilt and away from the crowds.

I absolutely loved the beautiful island of Rodrigues – the people, the natural beauty, the food – and I would be delighted to help you plan a trip there to try it for yourself.