Far away from the bustling world tucked on the south-western Indian Ocean, the secluded and serene Rodrigues Island might just be your perfect hideaway. Rodrigues offers an idyllic retreat, where you can take a much-needed break to rejuvenate at its pristine coves. This hilly and volcanic island is 650 km away from the northeast of Mauritius stretches 18 km in length and 8 km in width.
Time seems to tick slowly on the island of Rodrigues. The philosophy of the place lies in the simple living lifestyle, similar to what the Costa Ricans would call- ‘Pura Vida’. Here the locals know how to appreciate life. The only ‘busy’ part of the island is its capital-Port Mathurin, where most of the facilities are available. Interestingly, all of the stores and governmental administrative buildings are closed before six in the afternoon. You don’t have to put too much pressure on your delicate mind when you’re here; Rodriguans know the art of simple living.
Fortunately, Rodrigues has been able to escape from the mainstream image of the typical island vacation, where you would normally find the seaside paraphernalia at the beaches. Here, there is just you, the clear blue sky, glistening sea horizon, wide turquoise ocean, and the picturesque coves!
What makes this island particularly interesting apart from its geological features is the authentic, friendly hospitality of the Rodriguans and its safe environment. You do not feel like a stranger here, you are just a part of the family.
Quick Facts about Rodrigues Island
Time Zone: GMT + 4 hours
Location: South Indian Ocean
Spoken Languages: Rodriguan Creole, French, and English
Capital: Port Mathurin
Currency: Mauritian Rupees
Driving Side: Left side of the Road
Discover Rodrigues Island – Complete Travel Guide
Rodrigues was formed some 1.5 million years ago along the edge of the Mascarene Plateau which covers an area of 115,000 kilometers squares and is the second-largest in the Indian Ocean. It consists of many incredible small islands, atolls, and fishing banks such as the Saya de Malha, Nazareth, and Soudan Banks. Despite being the tiniest of the Mascarene Islands, Rodrigues has exceptional geological features, which can be seen through its extensive limestone deposits and caves. Its topography consists of hilly mountains adorned with terrace cultivations, steep slopes, edgy cliffs, splendid bays, and wide-open pastures. Its highest peak is the Mountain Limon with a height of 398 meters, where you can bask in the magnificent views of the ocean with sea birds soaring in the sky. The island is encompassed by a 90 km long of coral reef, thus creating a lagoon which shelters 18 islets with the most visited one-Ile aux Cocos.
Rodrigues was discovered in 1528 by the Portuguese navigator, Don Diego Rodriguez who sailed the Indian Ocean while returning from Goa. The island, which was not yet colonized, was named after him. In 1691, a band of French Protestant refugees led by Francois Leguat came to Rodrigues, escaping from the persecution of Louis XIV. Leguat with his seven companions lived over two years on the island. They cultivated gardens, built huts, fished in the lagoon, and hunted animals. They were lucky to have an abundant supply of food like tortoises and birds. However, the small group didn’t last for long, due to the prolonged droughts.
After their departure, Rodrigues remained under French influence, however, in 1761 the British invaded the island by attacking some of the stationed French ships. Eventually, the French were defeated, leaving them with no option than to live with disharmony and disagreement under a truce. The British influence remained on the island until April 1812.
In 1967, Rodriguans voted against the independence from Britain unlike its sister island Mauritius. After the independence, Rodrigues, in turn, claimed a degree of autonomy from Mauritius in 2002.
Some of the major historical events that occurred in Rodrigues are worth noting. In 1761, a group of scientists led by astronomer and naval geographer Alexandre Guy Pingré visited Rodrigues to observe the transit of Venus at Pointe Venus, which is currently the location of Pointe Venus Hotel. Another event occurred in 1901 at Pointe Canon, whereby Rodrigues held as one of the staging posts for the undersea cable connecting Britain and Australia.
Previously known as the 10th district of Mauritius, Rodrigues has made a long way in gaining its autonomous status in 2002. Today it is governed by a decentralized government, notably the Rodrigues Regional Assembly.
The economic pillar of the country relies on its tourism, agriculture, fishing, small-scale industries, handicrafts, including livestock production which is partly exported in Mauritius. Efforts are being made by the local authority to diversify the economy.
Frequently, the country faces a huge water problem, since it doesn’t rain much. Mostly the lands are arid, and there is a lack of a proper water supply system. On the other hand, there is a severe lack of job opportunities which is why most of its young people prefer to look for career opportunities abroad.
Interestingly, the women of the country are very energetic and are always involved in entrepreneurship endeavors such as craftsmanship, agricultural plantation, pickle and coffee making, farming, and octopus fishing. In order to maintain a sustainable approach towards octopus fishing, the local government has set specific periods for fishing to avoid over exploitations.
The island has great potential in its tourist industry, and the current government lays emphasis on ecological Rodrigues. It encourages its young generation to show interest in agriculture, nature conservation, and entrepreneurship. With this vision, the locals have shown interest in catering for tourists at their guesthouses, which are commonly known as ‘Chambres d’hôtes’ or ‘gîtes’.
The guesthouses are basically surrounded by an ecological environment, and organic food is mostly produced. Currently, there are about 30-50 guesthouses, where tourists can have a taste of the local culture. Additionally, there are some decent hotels and luxurious villas across the island.
The island has a population of about 42,396 people (Digest of Statistics on Rodrigues 2016) with women slightly outnumbering men. The inhabitants are descendants of European and African origins, whereby the majority of them are mixed. Roman Catholicism is the religion mostly practiced, and the minorities consist of other faiths such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists. They generally speak the Rodriguan Creole with a slight difference to the Mauritian Creole accent. French is widely spoken compare to English. The country is divided into various zones, and each zone has a community center, whereby everyone comes together to organize many events relating to culture and community development. There is a sense of community in the villages, which makes this little island really different. Many activities are organized by the local government and the Rodriguans are very enthusiastic to participate. Young people are encouraged to indulge in outdoor activities.
Folkloric music and dance are deeply rooted in the Rodriguan culture. Mostly during the weekends, you can hear the beating sounds of the drum, and triangle accompanied by accordion music. Back in the old days, traditional dance enthusiasts participated in dancing competitions every Saturday night, where they challenged each other to perform folkloric dance such as quadrille, polka, mazurka, and many other traditional dances originated in France. Music and dance were basically their main entertainment.
Sega Tambour, on the other hand, is a Rodriguan folk music performance that originated among the slave communities. The performance consists of percussion music, accompanied by claps of hands and dance. This cultural heritage is very much respected across the island and Rodriguans take great pride in it. The Sega Tambour is listed as a cultural heritage by the UNESCO.
Climate in Rodrigues Island
The climate is pretty mild all year round. The summer season starts between November till April, and the winter season starts around May till October. The temperature varies between 28°C and 35°C in the summer and between 18°C and 27°C in winter.
Summer is generally packed with cyclone formations, which tend to disrupt the weather conditions. You can expect most of the rainfalls at the beginning of the year. The driest periods normally occur in September and October.
Flora in Rodrigues Island
The flora of the tiny island was once lush and verdant flourishing before the 1730s, but with the arrival of man, the ecological environment has changed drastically. Today, there is an absence of native forests on the island.
Many efforts have been put forward to restore endemic plant species over the years by local non-profit organizations, along with the local government. The island was once filled with invasive introduced plants such as Lantana and Acacia but was later replaced by endemic plants. Some of the rare plants are Vieille-fille, café marron, and Bois de Mangue.
Fauna in Rodrigues Island
Golden Bat of Rodrigues
The Rodrigues fruit bat or commonly known as the Golden Bat is an endemic bat species found on the island. Its scientific name is Pteropus rodricensis and is listed as being ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Due to their endangered status, some of the bats have been bred in various zoos around the world. These animals have been threatened by the frequent cyclones that hit the island, thus affecting their habitats.
As per the recommendation of naturalist Charles Darwin, the endemic Aldabra tortoise from the Aldabra atoll of Seychelles was introduced in Mauritius and Rodrigues islands in the 1880s. This was done under the ‘re-wilding’ project, which was about an ecosystem reconstruction in view to replace the extinct tortoise species with the analog species. The Aldabra giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) are held captive for conservation measures at the Francois Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve in Rodrigues.
Unlike its close related cousin dodo, the Rodrigue’s Solitaire (Pezophaps Solitaria) is described by Francois Leguat as ‘delightfully beautiful’ and ‘delightfully edible’ in his memoir. Its actual closest genetic relative is the Nicobar pigeon. By the late 18th century the bird was already extinct. Its extinction was due to its massive hunting, along with the introduction of foreign animals like cats that preyed on their eggs.
The Rodrigues Starling is an extinct bird that was first spotted by the French maroon sailor Julien Tafforet in 1726 on the offshore of islet Gombrani (ile Gombrani). The scientific name of the bird is Necropsar rodericanus, which is believed to be closely related to the Mauritius starling and the hoopoe starling of Reunion Island.
Marine Biodiversity in Rodrigues Island
Rodrigues is fortunate to have a rich marine biodiversity. There are several marine reserves around the island, and one of the popular is the Rivière Banane. This marine reserve consists of an eclectic species of corals and marine creatures, including fish, turtles, rays, octopus, and the likes. Additionally, the site is filled with seagrass, macroalgae, and fish larvae.
How to get to Rodrigues Island?
In order to reach the island, you will have to choose either a flight trip or a sea voyage from Mauritius. Either way, you choose, your journey will be an exciting one since you will get to witness some amazing views on your way.
Choose your preferred option:
The air flight is ideal for those who are under time constraints. This is by so far the most popular travel mode as it only takes 90 minutes to reach the island. The perk of traveling by air is the fact that you get to appreciate the beautiful bird’s eye view from above if you are traveling daytime. Don’t miss the opportunity to capture glimpses of the gorgeous islets when you approach Rodrigues. As you will approach the asphalt runway (1,287 by 30 meters) expect the airplane to land with a thud, and that’s how you start your adventure!
Flight Duration: 90 minutes of Luggage limitation: 15 kg per person (excess weight will be charged).
Requirement: A valid passport + a return ticket
Recommendation: Book in advance in order to secure a ticket, especially during peak seasons (November-December; April; August)
Website: Air Mauritius
If you are opting for an adventurous journey, where you can mingle with the locals, and travel enthusiasts like you, then a sea voyage is better. You can expect the beautiful sunrise and sunset, dolphins, and definitely the gorgeous views of the faraway islets. Currently, Mauritius Trochetia operates as the cargo/passenger ship and it can accommodate up to 108 cabin passengers, including 165 containers. The ship sails to the Rodrigues Island around 3 to 4 times per month.
Duration: 36 hours from Port- Louis to Port-Mathurin; 24 hours from Port-Mathurin to Port-Louis
Cabin: Deluxe, Semi Deluxe, First Class Cabin & Tourist Class Cabin
General Facilities: Tourist Class Cafeteria, bar, leisure room, first-class dining room, children’s corner, karaoke facilities, TV, and a library.
Website: Mauritius Trochetia
Useful Information about Rodrigues Island
Bus: Choose the local bus if you wish to experience the country-side of the country. This is the best way to mingle with the locals. However, it is time-consuming, so it is better to use it to cover smaller distances. The bus station is located in Port-Mathurin.
Rental Services: You can hire a car, scooter, or motorcycle to explore this tiny island. This is the most adventurous way!
Taxi: You can hire a taxi as well for a day trip across the island as well.
For more information, refer to the tourism office in Port Mathurin.
It is important to note that Rodrigues Island is frequently affected by tropical cyclones (storms) in the summer season, mostly between December and March. The island enjoys mild weather throughout the year, but the ideal periods to visit the country are between April and June, the end of October, and November.
The island is free from venous animals like snakes and diseases like malaria, though it is advisable to bring mosquito repellent. The temperature on the island is much higher compare to Mauritius, so it is recommended to bring sun protection items. You can find pharmacies in Port Mathurin.
Consumer Product Price
Some products can be slightly expensive compare to Mauritius. This is due to the shipping freight expenses incurred to Rodrigues while importing goods from Mauritius.
There is a slow internet/ Wi-Fi connection in Rodrigues. There are two major internet service providers notably, Orange and Emtel in Port Mathurin. There are some free Wi-Fi spots such as community centers across the island and also at the Alfred North-Coombes building in Port-Mathurin.
What to Bring:
Light clothes, mosquito repellent, footwear (flip-flop and tennis shoes), swimsuit, sunscreen, books, and magazines. Remember you will have to purchase mineral water since it is not advisable to drink tap water while staying on the island.
Helpful Links – Rodrigues Island
USEFUL CREOLE WORDS/PHRASES