In the travel industry there are certain destinations that have rightly earned a reputation for being 'something a bit special'. A destination that warrants saving up for, somewhere that you need to book well in advance so that you get the maximum enjoyment out of eager anticipation of your visit....
From Diva to Dodo …..
If you really want to find out just how friendly a country is and how welcoming the population are, then I challenge you all to take part in a treasure hunt. It certainly worked for us!
On a recent trip to Mauritius, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the sunshine with a glass of vino in hand and were preparing for an afternoon of more R&R, when someone mentioned the words “Treasure Hunt”. Rather than enjoy a luxury coach trip back from our lunch stop, returning to our lovely five star hotel, wouldn’t we all rather experience just how friendly the Island of Mauritius really is? “Now look” I cried, “I was a girl guide with the best of them but I am not so sure I want to go native with my two apprehensive pioneers on such a lovely day”.
My protests went unheard and casting my Jimmy Choo (well Kurt Geiger to be truthful) aside, it seemed like “game on”. Adopting a “keep calm and carry on British spirit” we grabbed the instructions for our challenge and were the first trio (there were seven teams in total) to head out onto the streets!
One of us (she will remain nameless, for now at least) made countless pleas as we started off on our trail to stop for a strategy planning session. In true pioneering style we declined the request for fear of losing ground to the competition – an action we would possibly live to regret!?!
The first clue involved having a photo taken behind bars with a guard. What a breeze! The hotel guard seized his opportunity for a photo with three pasty lasses from Blighty and smiled for all his worth. Tick!
In addition to clues there were challenges. Blag a cigarette it said, get a photo with your donor it said. Thanks to our non-strategic approach to the Treasure Hunt, we secured said photograph with the donor, thanked them profusely, returned the said cigarette and went on our way. Then we realised that we should have kept the cigarette. Dodo moment number one recorded for posterity.
Back on the trail we looked out for an anniversary gift to commemorate the Designer Travel 10th Anniversary – we kissed a large Dodo statue – not for any particular reason, it was just cute and we thought it would make a smart photo. We asked the local beach vendor for a picture of her lovely cakes. We got hold of some matches with a Dodo logo and a shop keeper donated a local newspaper. We were flying….well, not literally, and in fact very Dodo like, we were just walking at pace.
Into the bowling arena we did OK with our six balls – we then spent ten minutes trying to relocate the box with our shoes in, plus the clues for the treasure hunt that we had left with said shoes! Dodo moment number two.
Onto the bumper cars – yes real bumper cars not a UK carjacking challenge! We were doing OK….in fact we thought we might be in the lead!
On our way to an appointed bar to mix our very own cocktail (to share and name), we ran into the Chief Inspector of police and two of his officers. Another photo opportunity duly exercised and another smiley snap for the photo album – can you imagine asking a Chief of Police in the UK for a snap as part of a treasure hunt!!!!!
We followed the clues and eventually found the bar which had been briefed on our cocktail antics. Six or seven measures of Vodka later it seemed rather a shame to ruin it with juice! Our Mauritian “I am a Dodo, I can fly” cocktail went down well………………….that was until we heard the eerie charms of a local ice cream seller peddling his wares.
Now I should mention that our Treasure Hunt clue sheet stated that we needed to get to a particular beach en-route back to the hotel and whilst at the beach we needed to get a photo of an ice-cream van in the background. Get the picture? Well, we fled as fast as our little lightly tanned legs would carry us and took up residence (along with another team) in the back of the van – yes with the cones, flakes and the ice cream pump. I told Tracy (sorry Tracy, I promised I wouldn’t name and shame you earlier) not to touch the said cones but could she resist?!?
At this point I would like to say that our Ice Cream Dream Machine set out at pace, leaving dust in its tracks. Well, that would be a total fib. The ice cream van, now filled with eight extra passengers, including part of a camera crew who seemed to think our exploits should be captured on film for posterity, pottered slowly along, playing it’s little jingle at regular intervals – to be fair I think one of us may have had their bottom pressed on the ice cream van’s jingle button!
We arrived at Mont Choisy beach and leapt from the van to take the required photo. Our creative juices were working hard at this point and we decided Designer Travel’s 10th anniversary would best be rewarded with the largest ice cream cone in Mauritian history, accompanied by ten chocolate sticks. Now here’s the thing. Had we had our strategy meeting, the lovely temperature in Mauritius may well have been a point to consider? However, no strategy meeting and no discussion on temperature resulted in one very short lived ice cream extravaganza – no three human beings have ever tried to consume a cone at such a rate and it was inevitable that the cone would ultimately grace the beach of Mont Chosiy as its final resting place. Dodo moment number three.
Up until this point our Treasure Hunt had, believe it or not, almost gone to plan. However, it is worth mentioning to any Mauritian Ice Cream sellers that you may meet along the way, that ice cream vans and huge tree branches and roots do not make great travelling companions. Our poor ice cream van is likely never to be quite the same again!!!
With a photo of a local football field in the can, we asked the Ice cream world’s equivalent of Lewis Hamilton to floor it back to the hotel. The ten minute journey back to Trou aux Biches was eventful – we waved at other teams waiting for a local bus (cheap option…but oh so boring), we waved and cheered at the locals, we overtook another ice cream van in a cloud of exhaust dust and then, probably rather predictably, we overshot the hotel entrance. Never fear – a three point turn on a Mauritian road in an ice cream van was always going to add to the excitement.
And so, we arrived back at the hotel. Cruising into the drive (I use cruising as a rather loose description), my fellow team mates appointed me as the financial controller in charge of brokering an exit deal. (if you think Brexit is going to be tough you really should have been there!) As they all ran for the finish line, I paid the lovely ice cream man who had risked life and limb to get us back to the hotel first, rather more than the peanuts we had been allocated to spend – yes folks it’s fair to say I cheated but all for the very best of reasons.
Alas, the financial reward for the ice cream van sealed our team’s fate that night when the trophies were presented. That and the fact that we couldn’t find the Harley Davidson shop that was on the list. Add cheating to not finishing the challenge and you get a team that avoids being presented with an assortment of local Dodo memorabilia – we were heartbroken, but in a very good way!
Thank-you team mates, thank you Beachcomber and thank you people of Mauritius – you turned an average Thursday afternoon into an absolute blast and showed us all just what your beautiful island has to offer (plastic dodo’s aside of course!)
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