PORT-LOUIS, Mauritius－Turquoise waters, abundant marine fauna, and majestic corals.
Mauritius has rediscovered the charm of again being a tourist paradise.
Five months after the Japanese Panamanian-flagged freighter MV Wakashio struck the reef at the southeastern lagoon of Mauritius and coated the area with oil spilled by the carrier, Mauritius has almost completely cleaned up and is now reopen to the public.
While waiting to welcome new tourists, the inhabitants have regained a taste for the pleasure of the sea. At Blue Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, children currently on school holidays are enjoying the pleasures of the beach.
In Mahebourg, the capital of the region, the regatta on the occasion of the Mauritian Language and Culture Festival on Dec 12 has resumed. The lagoon came back to life and only the fishermen have yet to collect their catch on the high seas.
The lagoon is scheduled to reopen for them in early 2021 and the MV Wakashio will just become a bad memory.
The world was horrified to discover the images of a black sea of oil on Aug 7 while local residents tried to prevent an unprecedented disaster in Mauritius.
Local residents and volunteers swiftly installed artisanal floating dams to contain the fuel and prevent it from spreading toward the east coast.
The nature reserve of the Ile aux Aigrettes (Island of The Egrets), which was protected by the Mauritian government since 1965, has been managed by a local NGO, the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation.
Since 1985, the Ile aux Aigrettes has been regarded as a refuge to stabilize and restore endangered species in an endemic setting.
Letichia, a professional guide of the site, does not hide her joy after months of cleaning.
"In the wake of the shipwreck and the oil spill, the air was unbreathable on the island for at least two weeks. We had to put in place an emergency rescue plan with the evacuation of the bats, the cardinals of Mauritius and more than 4,000 plants. Certain reptiles were also brought back on the mainland but not all could be," she said.
"We don't know how the oil and the vapors could have affected the plants and animals, if there are mutations, or sterilization. We have set up a monitoring of the impact for the long term," the guide added.
For their part, the biologists who live on the island will continue the work of conservation.
So far, the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation has implemented 40 conservation programs to support various endangered species.
The Mauritius National Parks and Conservation Service said Ile aux Aigrettes has the best preserved native vegetation cover of all the Mascarene coral islands.