10 things you need to know about Rodrigues island
I have to be honest with you. Even after so many years of almost constant traveling, I had not heard of Rodrigues island until I went to World Travel Market in London in the beginning of November 2017. There my friends told me to go to visit their stand in the Mauritius section so I did. This is how I found out about the hidden gem in the Indian Ocean. I was lucky to visit Rodrigues island already 3 weeks after in the beginning of December. After spending a week of deep observation of the island, I decided to write the following 10 things you need to know about Rodrigues island.
Rodrigues island surprised me in so many ways, you have no idea. It’s probably the most extraordinary island I’ve ever visited. And being such an island girl I am, it says a lot.
Some facts about the Rodrigues island first
- The island was named after a Portuguese explorer Diogo Rodrigues (sometimes also spelled as Diego Rodriguez or Diogo Roiz) who discoverd the island in February in 1528. However, a few other European and Arab sailors had visited the island before Diego.
- Rodrigues is one of the Mascarene islands, together with Mauritius and Reunion and small islands and reefs around them. The islands are located East of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean.
- Rodrigues is the oldest out of the 3 main islands, then Reunion and the youngest is Mauritius.
- All the three islands are of volcanic origin and are quite hilly.
- The Rodrigues highest Mountain Limon is almost 390 m a.s.l., while the highest peak on the Mascarene islands is on Reunion, the so called Piton des Neiges with its 3,069 m a.s.l..
- As Rodrigues has the most limestone out of the Mascarene islands, we can find more than 30 caves there. Only 2 out of the 30 caves are open to public.
- The wettest month is February, the coolest month is August. The temperatures range from 14 to 24 in winter to around25 to 35 in summer which to me is perfect.
- The low season is from May to September when the prices are lower, and when there’s also no cyclones.
- The highest season is from November to January.
- The locals are called Rodriguans.
- Since 2002 Rodrigues is an autonomous outer island of the Republic of Mauritius. Its capital Port Mathurin is situated in the North coast of the island.
- Big majority of the inhabitants are of mixed African and French descent, the so called Creole.
- 96% of the locals are Christians which is another thing that makes it different from the Hindu Mauritius.
- The local currency is Mauritian Rupee. In 2017 when I visited 1 euro was equivalent to 40 Rupees.
- To get to the island, you can take a plane from or Mauitius or Reunion.
- Rodrigues has very little in common with Mauritius and Reunion, other Mascarene islands. This is why you should also visit Rodrigues if you ever happen to visit this part of the world.
If you ever visit Rodrigues, I am sure my list will help you a lot.
10 things you need to know about Rodrigues island
1. Secluded beaches
One of the things I loved on the island was that I could always find a beach for myself only. During the week (not the weekend) I was always on the beach on my own for an hour or so, then someone would walk around or come to take a dip and leave again. And that was in the high season in December, so imagine in low season 🙂
Personally, I do prefer empty secluded beaches over crowded touristy ones so I was in heaven on the Rodrigues island. If you are the same, then this island might be a great choice for your next trip.
Rodrigues island has approx. 40,000 inhabitants. The local tourism is growing every year. Nowadays, there’s approx. 1,000 beds in hotels and the island gets around 80,000 tourists per year. That means you will never find it overcrowded no matter where you go. Go visit as soon as possible if you prefer less tourists around you.
I’ve asked my Instagram followers if they’ve heard of Rodrigues island and more than 80% said no until my visit there. Which is good in a way, don’t you think? It is still possible to visit the island and enjoy secluded beaches to yourself only. For the next few years the island will not get overcrowded for sure so use your chance when it’s still unspoiled 🙂
2. Weekend camping on the beach
Speaking of empty beaches on week days, I should also mention that the same beaches might get more visitors on weekend. There’s a local tradition to go camping on the beach over the weekend. I was so surprised to see many tents just a few metres from the Graviers beach from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. Families and friends just take their tents and spend the weekend under the trees having a party there. I believe it would be quite easy to join them 🙂
Some beaches on the Rodrigues island have a sort of a forest just a few metres from the sand. So imagine… the Indian Ocean, sandy beach and then trees. The shadow under the trees makes Rodrigues beaches a perfect place for a picnic. There’s also wooden tables and chairs spread underneath the trees, at least on the Graviers beach. You won’t see this on many tropical islands around the world so I take it as an advantage. And the shade comes handy when it gets too hot on the beach at mid-day.
When I walked along the beach at sunset time on Saturday evening, a group of local kids who were camping with their families there came to me. And the following day, when I went for the last dip in the Ocean on Sunday morning before leaving, the kids wanted to play with me in the sea as well. We had so much fun as only some of them understood some English and the rest were trying to talk to me in their mother tongue Creole.
3. Endemic fauna and flora
Rodrigues is a volcanic island that emerged from the ocean between 1.5 to 1.3 million years ago. Because of its unique location far from other islands, fauna and flora has developed in a specific way. That’s the reason why we can find MANY endemic plants and even animal species on the island. There’s a wide variety of different plants growing on the Rodrigues island that do not grow anywhere else in the world. However, it’s also possible to see some species that are endemic to Rodrigues and Mauritius, or even Reunion island.
I really appreciate the fact that there are many programmes nowadays trying to protect endemic fauna and flora. The locals have learned from what happened in the 18th century when some endemic animal species died out on Rodrigues, such as giant land turtoise or solitaire (endemic flightless bird). In the present, more and more locals are really trying to take a good care of their nature, fauna and flora on the Rodrigues.
Rodrigues fody and Rodrigues warbler are 2 endemic bird species still living on the Rodrigues, but are vulnerable or near threatened. We can also see citically endangered Rodrigues flying fox on the island, which is an endemic fruit bat species. Always look around you when walking around the Rodrigues, as you might spot peculiar animals.
If you would like to learn more about the endemic flora on Rodrigues island, I recommend you to visit Botanical garden Jardin des 5 Sens in the middle of the island. There a cute guide will explain you a lot of information about the local endemic plants, medicinal and aromatic herbs and you can even see them in real. That’s a unique opportunity you should not miss. I get always so amazed at the medicinal use of many plants everywhere I visit, so the Botanical garden left me speechless. I have not seen so many of their plants anywhere else in the world.
As the reef around the Rodrigues island does not receive any zooplankton from anywhere else, certain species of crustaceans, corals and damselfish can be found only there. There’s a big 200 square kilometre lagoon with coral reefs surrounding Rodrigues island which looks amazing also from the airplane. Don’t forget to look down when landing/taking off 🙂
In addition to endemic fauna and flora, we will also observe cattle all around the Rodrigues island. Seeing loads of cows, goats and even sheep everywhere I went would always put a smile on my face. Loved how rustic the island still is! Rodrigues is so not a typical beach destination. I had a good laugh when I walked down to the beach from Bakwa Lodge for the first time and saw a cow there. And then had another laugh to see goats around my sunbed just in front of my Bakwa Lodge room. Isn’t it cool to see animals running free around the island?
There’s also many big spiders living on the island, but they are completely harmless and are mostly relaxing in the nets around the electricity posts. Great thing? No snakes on the island at all, no other poisonous animals. It’s super safe to go hiking around the island.
One of the things I was looking forward to the most was to drink young coconuts. Because that’s what I do a lot when on tropical islands. If you’ve been following me on social media channels for longer, then you know I am so crazy about coconuts that some people even started calling me #coconutqueen 😀
But Rodrigues island surprised me in this as well. Despite of hundreds of coconut palm trees growing around the island, it is not common to get a young coconut at restaurants. They just don’t sell them. I only managed to get 2 coconuts during my week stay (I usually tend get 2 per day on a tropical island). It’s possible to buy young coconuts by the market in Port Mathurin. But that was the only place I found on the island. The second coconut I got was at La Chez Perle restaurant and only because my taxi driver Arnaud managed to get it for me from the tree 😀
I hope the locals realize the potention of selling coconuts to tourists as many people love them as much as I do. And we kind of expect them on an island visit, too. Young coconuts are extremely healthy, they contain many electrolytes, minerals and vitamins and are perfect for hydration. You need to hydrate your body in hot weather.
5. Fresh cuisine
I was very happy to see that most of the food you will get on the Rodrigues will come from local ingredients. Many people do not use chemicals to grow fruit and veggies, which is something I really appreciated. Eveything tasted so natural and had so much flavor to it. I give a big thumbs up for local produce!
Although most of the traditional local specialties contain sea food (mostly fish, crabs, shrimps, octopus and lobster from the Ocean around the island) or meat (from local cattle), it was not difficult to thrive as a vegan there either. You won’t find vegan meals on the restaurant menu, but if you ask waiters, they won’t have any problem explaining to chefs about your vegan/vegetarian diet. Plus, there’s so many exotic fruit growing on the island which you should taste. I recommend you to try wild raspberries, sweet small pineapple, bananas, pomegranate, papaya (called paw-paw), Rodriguan lemon, chow chow vegetable etc.
There’s 3 official languages on the Rodrigues island: Rodriguan Creole, French and English (both because of history) . English is taught at schools and most of the people will understand it. However, not everyone speaks English fluently. You know how it goes with foreign languages… if you don’t practice, you forget. I guess that’s also the case on Rodrigues island with some locals who are not in touch with tourists speaking English every day.
I’d still say that it’s easy to get around the island if speaking English. I had no problems at all. However, it might be even easier if you can speak French. I guess you don’t speak fluent Rodriguan Creole, right? 🙂
Rodriguan Creole is similar to Mauritian Creole, just some words are pronounced differently. English and French are languages of Government administration and are widely used in business and court, too.
7. Water is scarce
I’d say that the biggest problem on the Rodrigues island is water. It does no rain enough there. Rodrigues is warmer and drier than Mauritius and you can see it’s true already when landing. The locals get water from 3 sources: rain water (not enough of it), undeground water and desalinated sea water. But out of 5 desalination stations on the island, only 2 are working nowadays. Hopefully the other 3 will reopen soon again.
I’m telling you this to prepare you for what to expect. If you come from Europe or Northern America, you might not be used to this. But don’t get surprised to see signs asking tourists to save water as much as possible. You will see those kind of signs at hotels and restaurants, no doubt. Don’t get surprised to see unflushed toilets because sometimes there is just not enough water left to flush it. Don’t get surprised to have little water in the shower. Just remember to switch it off when putting shampoo on your hair so there’s still some left to wash the shampoo off 😀
As I believe that everything has both advantages and disadvantages, we should learn something positive from this. Water scarcity hopefully will make you realize that almost 1/5 of the world population does not have access to clean drinking water.
Please save water also when you go back home from Rodrigues.
8. Slow wifi and phone connection
As Rodrigues is located so far away from other islands and mainland, both phone and wifi connection are not the best. In a way, it makes sense. And logically, so many hills are not helping the connection either. I can tell you Rodrigues island is definitely not a place for digital nomads, unless you want to go there to disconnect. Internet detox is something you should count on when visiting Rodrigues. Some hotels and restaurants do have wifi but usually it’s slow to even upload photos on social media channels. However, Facebook messages and whatsapp should work most of the time.
To be honest, although I went there to work online, I did not manage to do much due to slow wifi. But then I just took it as a sign to enjoy the island the most, and then go back to online world once at home again.
Some sources say Rodrigues is situated 650 km East from Mauritius, others say it’s 560 km. So you choose 😀 No matter what distance you believe in, it’s still in the middle of nowhere which makes it unique. Forget about online world and simply enjoy the incredible beauty of the Rodrigues island.
9. It’s very hilly
Although Rodrigues island is just 18 km long and 8 km wide at its widest, it seems much bigger than it actually is. At least that’s the feeling I got while there. I’ve been to super tiny islands that you can walk within a few minutes before (e.g. in the Maldives, Panama, Philippines). And I’d also naively thought that with its 108 square kilometres Rodrigues is quite small, too. Boy, was I wrong!
Basically the whole island is formed by hills which gives you a feeling it’s rather big. The roads are very curvy and you have to climb up and down a hill every few minutes. But at least being on top of a hill gives you a chance to get some cool views of the Indian Ocean.
Rodrigues is the smallest out of the Mascarene islands, then Mauritius and the biggest is Reunion.
Despite of its small size, the Rodrigues island is quite diverse. Usually the North and West side are less windy than the East and South. I stayed at 2 different hotels in the South /Southeast (Bakwa Lodge and La Belle Rodriguaise) and it was quite windy in that area. To me it was a big advantage as I didn’t experience a big temperature shock when coming from winter snowy Slovakia. I mean the difference was 30 Celsius degree, but thanks to the wind it felt less. Pleasant 30, and not unbearable sweaty 30 Celsius. If you prefer no wind, go to the North or West. If you don’t want to sweat but still enjoy warm weather, stay in the South or East of the Rodrigues.
Another thing I found interesting is the Western part of the island. You can see loads of corals when driving around, especially on the way to the Francois Leguat Turtoise Reserve. And now I mean dead corals that used to be under the sea million years ago. You cannot see those big dark coral stones sticking off the ground in other parts of the island.
TIP: Here’s more of my photos from the Rodrigues island.
I give the Rodrigues island thmbs up for beautiful nature, pleasant people, safety, nice weather, tasty cuisine from fresh local ingredients and the variety of activities one can do on the island.
I visited the Rodrigues island thanks to Tourist board on the Rodrigues. So grateful for this unique opportunity! You can find more information about the island on their Tourism Rodrigues website both in English and French.