More than just a pretty face, Mauritius is an island with an environmental protection policy that takes pollution and plastics control very seriously indeed. Littering is controlled with fines ranging from Rs 2000 (E45) for a first offense to Rs 10 000 (E250) and a year in jail if you do it again.
Within 8 hours direct flight from Europe and a 2 hour time difference, Mauritius has year-round warm water, clear visibility, and the coral reefs are re-growing. Diving in the North is exceptional, and it is a real pleasure to dive in clean, clear, warm water, to walk on beautiful white beaches, and to breathe clean air. The endangered Green Turtles are returning to the Island, and there are now 11 on Turtle Rock, various sizes.
Plastic shopping bags are banned. Textile manufacturing companies supplement the income lost to Chinese competition by sewing sturdy woven IKEA-type shopping bags. All the supermarkets sell them, branded with their logos, well designed and well-constructed. If you forget yours on a shopping trip, you might be offered a thin, recycled bio-degradable bag or a paper bag for your stuff, but its no to plastic bags throughout the island.
There are recycling bins for plastic bottles and glass outside the supermarkets, and there are more than 36 recycling companies registered in Mauritius. Recycling of bottles and other plastics has become a good business for Surf-rider, a small company in the North. They collect the plastic bottles and packaging materials, and turn them into planks, gates benches and dustbins.
The Maxi-Clean teams of ladies in their orange overalls sweep and clean the streets and beaches every day, and this policy protects the sea and the reefs from pollution.
Most hotels in Mauritius are owned by Mauritians who assist Government by spearheading the war on plastics, coral reef protection and recycling. Of course, it’s in their best interests to preserve the marine environment, as tourism accounts directly and indirectly for 26% of the Mauritius GDP and Mauritius has built its reputation on its clean sandy beaches and pristine lagoons.
It’s easy to impose fines for littering, to have clean-up days and to prosecute offenders, but at a very deep grass roots level, the Mauritius Hotel chains and the local NGO Conservationists are working together to teach the next generation about conservation.
One example, and there are many, is The Attitude Group of Hotels under the leadership of Jean Michel Pitot. He has gone much further with conservation than recycling, sewerage reticulation, water conservation and re-educating the population. He has also replanted the mangroves around the rocky parts of the island in the North to prevent coastal erosion.
It’s refreshing to meet a hotelier who refers to his staff as family, encourages them to participate in profit sharing, and who is both humble in his accomplishments and respectful of his environment. He looks at to the next generation for the future of Mauritius and wants to ensure that the island retains its benign simplicity and family values.
In addition, his family of Attitude Hotels has sponsored Reef Conservation by building the REEF Nauticaz Oceanographic Resource Centre and paying its staff. REEF visits schools throughout Mauritius, teaching kids about the reefs, the ocean, and how they can help to preserve this extraordinary Island.
Diving Mauritius is beautiful, with white sand, blue water and colourful soft corals. But even more, it’s reassuring to know that you will see only blue when you are diving with the sharks beneath Shark Island, or enjoying a safari to Confetti bay and Djabeda wreck, or checking out an Anemone Clown fish on Reef Garden.
- Words: Jill Holloway
- Images: Ian Haggerty
- Copyright: Ocean Spirit