“An enchanting and unspoiled island” Gerald Durrell
Named after the Portuguese navigator Don Diego Rodriguez who discovered it in 1598, the small self-governing island dependency of Rodrigues lies 560km to Mauritius’s northeast. The island is just 17.5km long and 8km wide, with an 80km-long coastline sheltering around twenty secluded beaches. Rustic simplicity and a laidback Creole charm are its hallmark, and visitors to Mauritius’s sleepy sister, nicknamed “Cinderella of the Mascareignes”, invariably return misty-eyed. The pace may be as slow as the tortoises that once covered the island – Rodrigues is often referred to as a “Mauritius of fifty years ago” – but there’s a surprising amount to do. Although the island’s main attractions can be covered in three days, you could easily spend a week here.
With the second highest number of endemic island species in the world (after Ascension Island), Rodrigues is a natural destination for ecotourism and in the island’s centre a network of eco-trails and cycle routes crisscross the hills. Offshore, trips run to several small islands, including Île aux Cocos, where noddys and terns bob on branches in the breeze. The island has a great network of guesthouses and tables d’hôtes, but there are no big hotels, motorized watersports, billboards or shopping malls, and just two discos island-wide. Port Mathurin, on the north coast, is Rodrigues’ capital and only town, with a centre just seven streets wide, while the beautiful east coast beats Mauritius hands-down for snorkelling, diving and deep-sea fishing.