One of the unmissable excursions in Mauritius is the visit of the Île aux Cerfs (Isle of Deers). The sea and the beaches are truly enchanting and since it is an uninhabited island, coming here you would expect something very close to an earthly paradise. However, the exploitation of the island for tourism purposes is slowly affecting the magic of this place and if you are not prepared for all this situation, the risk is that your coveted trip will turn into a poor experience. We want to tell you about our experience so that you can plan your visit at the best.
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The Île aux Cerfs is located not far from the east coast of Mauritius, a few minutes of navigation would be enough to reach it, however the organized excursions add stops to fill the day and make the experience more complete. The organized outings are divided between those by speedboat and those by catamaran, choose the vehicle you prefer because the offer is almost equivalent. We opted for the catamaran for its quieter sailing: we liked the idea of being lulled by the waves and being able to lie down while sailing to admire the amazing colors of the sea below.
All catamaran excursions start (with few exceptions) from Trou d’Eau Douce. We suggest to book the excursion at least a day in advance, however if you want to be sure to choose a sunny day and prefer to wait until the morning (given that the weather forecast is unreliable in Mauritius) you could still do it, but you should go autonomously to Trou d’Eau Douce and find a boarding early in the morning (usually before 9.00 am), infact agents still chase tourists until the last minute. If you stay in a very touristic area of Mauritius (for example in the cities of the north-west coast) you could book the excursion directly in an agency and probably they will also offer you the transfer from your hotel to Trou d’Eau Douce. If instead you stay in a less touristic area, such as the southern part, you may have difficult to find agencies, so we suggest you go directly to Trou d’Eau Douce and book in one of the agencies that you will find along the main road, alternatively try to ask for information at the reception of your facility or for some contact at the local people. Among the information that we have managed to collect, for example, we point out that in Pointe d’Esny there is a catamaran that departs from Pointe Jerome Embarkation Point (the same marina from which motorboats leave for Ile aux Aigrettes) which makes the excursion to the Île aux Cerfs and on the Blue Bay beach there are the tables of the agencies that carry out the same excursion by motorboat. A catamaran excursion costs about 1500-2000 MUR per person depending on the agency and on your starting point (having the possibility of moving by car, we decided to book directly in Trou d’Eau Douce and we paid 1800 MUR (~41€), if we had purchased it through an external tourist agency we would have spent 1500 MUR (~34€), if we had taken the catamaran in Pointe d’Esny it would have cost 2100 MUR (~48€)), the speedboat excursions instead cost around 2500-3000 MUR per person and start from all over Mauritius.
Boarding in Trou d’Eau Douce will be in the same point for all the agencies and for all the catamarans at the same time. You will not find anyone from your reference agency to accompany you, at this stage you will be at the mercy of the port staff who will gradually send you to the motorboats headed to the catamarans. Do not be worried if you do not find anyone else going to your same catamaran, it means that in the confusion your motorboat has already left, but they will not leave you ashore, more trips by speedboat are expected until all the guests have boarded, in the meantime the catamaran will advance very slowly waiting for you.
When everyone is on board the excursion officially starts with the welcome by the staff, drinks are distributed to all participants and the day’s program is presented. At the beginning, the coasts of the Île aux Cerfs will be lapped but from afar, because it will be the final stage of the tour, and then:
- ascent of the river and visit to the waterfall (Grand River South East Waterfall) aboard of smaller boats, because the river bed in some places is very low and some outcropping rocks drastically reduce the passage section (the motorboats in this case have a higher gear because they arrive where the catamarans are forced to stop). Along the river you will be able to see macaques and giant bats; in the meantime the crew will prepare lunch;
- snorkeling on a stretch of coral reef in front of the mouth of the river;
- lunch in catamaran based on grilled fish and meat and accompaniment of rice salad, pasta and buttered bread;
- group entertainment and dancing;
- navigation to Île aux Cerfs;
- stop of about 2 hours on Île aux Cerfs, although it is an uninhabited island you will find many commercial activities for the entertainment of tourists: restaurants and bars on the beach, establishments and equipped beaches, souvenir shops, adventure trails in the middle of trees, water activities (which the staff recommends to book on board, in order not to pay the huge extra charge on the beach), a golf course (which occupies a large part of the island’s surface) and even a low-environmental-impact hotel built recently, but for few lucky guests. Once landed on Île aux Cerfs you can walk along its external perimeter until you find the paths blocked by the private property of the golf club, sunbathe, swim, admire the views, create drawings on the sand with the shells of the sea urchins or enjoy the services for tourists (for a fee) on the island;
- return to Trou d’Eau Douce.
All catamaran excursions are organized in the same way, so there is no difference between choosing one agency instead of another. Now what’s the downside to all of this? It is that you will do everything simultaneously with about 15 other catamarans. So everyone will go to see the waterfall at the same time, so there will be a line of boats to pass in front of the waterfall, you all will have lunch and snorkeling at the same point at the same time, you all will land simultaneously on Île aux Cerfs.
In addition, if the sky is gray, you could not admire the beautiful colors of the sea, or you could risk of seeing the sun come out just a few minutes before embarking for Trou d’Eau Douce (as it happened to us, infact the excursions are held even in case of bad weather, even rain). Furthermore, if you land in a moment of low tide, the thin and scenic tongue of water that divides the Île aux Cerfs from the Ilot Mangenie (represented in all the postcards of Mauritius) disappears and that stretch of sea that had to be the most suggestive in the island turns into a large expanse of parked boats, deckchairs and groups of tourists…nothing further from the earthly paradise you had imagined.
So if your intent is to try a new experience (as it can be to get on a catamaran) and you like the idea of diversifying the activities during the day, spending pleasant and funny time with the staff on board and meet people from all over the world, then the catamaran excursion is right for you. If conversely you are not interested in any of these things and your main goal is to reach the Île aux Cerfs and spend as much time as possible without the overcrowding of tourists and without timetables, then we suggest you to look for a private boarding (such as a taxi boat) to the island and reach it early in the morning. In this way you will anticipate all catamarans and motorboats that will be heading to the waterfall and you will enjoy at least for a while the beauty and tranquility of this unique place in the world. Alternatively, you could consider a journey of few nights in the only hotel on the island (the Bubble Lodge Île aux Cerfs, click here to visit the website), placed inside the Île aux Cerfs Golf Club, it is not an economic solution but it could give you an unforgettable experience. Whichever solution you choose, have a good stay on this beautiful and damned island!
See you soon
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