|Face-to-face with the cliffs|
There are few better ways to appreciate the Western coastline than on kayak trips organised by Yemaya Adventures, which also take you into a couple of the caves which punctuate the cliff-face. It’s a beautiful sight, the vegetation atop the cliffs resembling the dry landscape of the African savannah, while a crystal-clear sea laps against a wild and impressive coastline on one side before it melts into the deep-blue of the open sea on the other.
The kayak trip, to explore the West Coast’s magnificent and sometimes awesome cliffs from out at sea, departs from a sandy beach at Pointe aux Sables. It’s a three-mile trip each way following the rocky coastline as far as the famous lighthouse standing on a headland at Pointe aux Caves in Albion (perhaps so-named because of its cliffs, evocative of Perfidious Albion’s white cliffs of Dover). A hundred feet tall, this is the only lighthouse of the kind in Mauritius and has been guiding ships in the approaches to Port Louis Harbour since 1910.
It’s an outing for those who are in reasonably good physical shape and who enjoy being out on the water, but there’s no need to be a champion kayaker used to dealing with rapids and giant waves. Outings only take place when the sea is relatively calm, although it is a good idea to know how to use your arms to manipulate the kayak and keep it going in the right direction. After all, you do have to paddle for the best part of three hours, even if there are stops along the way to admire the view and weave in and out of the caves.
The guide on the kayak trips is Patrick Haberland, who runs Yemaya Adventures. He always starts each excursion with a thorough briefing session that includes safety rules and shows you how to handle the paddles and the use of the lifejackets and helmets. It’s only after that that the kayaks are launched and everyone sets off.
Having left the starting point in a small lagoon area, the craft zoom over the first few hundred yards of a trip that is full of surprising sights. In the morning sunshine, there’s already quite a view, from a couple of feet above the sea, of the various shades of blue, ranging from marine to turquoise and even emerald in places where a few sandy coves are tucked away amongst the cliffs. From the water, cruising alongside the rocky coastline, the basalt cliffs seem even more impressive, especially for the more adept who can move up close if the weather is right – while the less experienced admire them from a safer distance.
The cliffs rise – even tower – several feet above sea level, here and there showing signs of erosion caused by the waves over thousands of years, with caverns several feet deep in places. There, with helmets firmly in place, you can glide and experience the whispering and grumbling sounds produced by the spray and movement of the waves. At times, it sounds as if the stomach of the earth itself is rumbling.
The journey continues, tossed around by ripples or waves – depending on the state of the sea and how much the wind is blowing. Along the way, some spots at the feet or summit of the cliffs have acquired imaginative names like Montagne Zaco (Ape Mountain), Caverne Trou Néné (Nostrils Cavern) and Pointe aux Caves (Point of the Caves). After this Point on which the lighthouse stands, the kayak trip can also be extended to the sandy beach at Albion just over half a mile away.
After that, it’s time to head back, glancing from time to time at the grey and brown cliff-face or out over the vast expanse of blue ocean where, if you’re lucky and the season is right, you may see dolphins in the distance or a whale sounding. Such an excursion provides a great opportunity to reconnect with a natural environment that has remained relatively unaltered over time – but for how much longer? Even if the project for a coal-fired power station has been dropped for the moment, the shadow of a new petroleum hub looms over the area.
Yemaya Adventures |
Yemaya Adventures organises various excursions, including mountain biking, sea kayaking and hiking. It’s now 16 years since Patrick Haberland, a former champion cyclist who runs Yemaya Adventures, first started the venture, keen to share with Mauritians and visitors his love of nature and for environmental conservation. He organises environmentally-friendly ways of combining sport and leisure activities so that as many people as possible can discover more of what Mother Nature has to offer in Mauritius.
A sea-kayaking outing can be organised either to the mangroves at Amber Island or the cliffs at Albion. For experienced kayakers, tailor-made trips or tours around the island’s coasts can also be arranged.