We were all excited. Next port was Mauritius and we had decided that one stop we had to make was to the Museum of Natural History to see the only complete Dodo bird in existence, stuffed of course, as the last reported sighting of this extinct bird was in 1682. We were a small group of world cruisers who in no time had become as thick as thieves.
“The dodo is in the Museum of Natural History right downtown Port Louis. It is in a park. We can take either a water taxi or land taxi into town.” There was some joshing as they were used to my having a modicum of knowledge on ports and sights. The fact is that I go, and listen, to port talks.
Bea pointed: “There is a water taxi, but that does not look safe at all.”
“I agree. I think we have to go the land taxi route. At the port talk there was a woman who has been here before explaining that getting out from the water taxis can be dangerous and involves climbing vertical iron steps.” I reminded them.
We opted for the land taxi. The drivers were not the most hospitable bunch as each one demanded we take a tour before being dropped off in town. We finally settled on a tour costing $20.
The tour was worth it. Mauritius is quite beautiful but you have to go away from Port Louis to see that. Once we left the port area and started on the road which wound between sugar cane plantations, up to the beautiful church on the hill and drove into the country we were pleasantly surprised. We drove by the City cemetery, library, Hindu Temple and various consulates. But the dodo was our objective and soon we were dropped off in town near the park gates. Our driver/tour guide told us how to find the museum.
“I wonder why we say as dumb as a dodo?” Jay asked. For the first time our driver smiled.
“Because they are stupid and look stupid too!” he exclaimed as he drove away.
(Dodo – Illustration)
The museum exhibit cleared that up somewhat. Apparently the Portuguese named it ‘doudo’ which means ‘fool ‘or ‘crazy’. But the dodo is also to blame for its name. They were not used to humans so when the first settlers came the dodo were fearless and also curious. They went up to greet these strange new creatures. The Dutch, who were the first settlers looked at these fat funny looking flightless birds and saw MEAT! The hungry Dutch sailors and first settlers ate them to extinction. That is a popular theory. The more reasonable and scientific explanation is that the rats, cats, dogs, pigs, goats and deer brought to the island by the settlers contributed greatly to the dodo’s extinction. The dodo was meat for one and all.
There is an entire gallery devoted to the dodo which is the national bird and which you see on stamps, clothing, souvenirs of every form, coins, buildings, and a very colourful statue of the dodo in the park. Mauritians are very proud of their museum and of this bird which is synonymous with extinction and obsolescence.
We left the museum transitioning from the somewhat ridiculously sublime to the ridiculous as after only a few steps to the market we came upon outlet stores for Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren. We knew that both these companies had factories and ergo outlet stores here in Port Louis. Here they were.
Eureka! Jeans from Hugo Boss! T-shirts from Ralph Lauren!. Buy, buy, buy at some ridiculous prices too.
That night on board ship, as we rehashed the day we decided that seeing the stuffed dodo in Mauritius was not a bucket list item but rather a ‘bragging rights’ travel story. What’s the difference? We toured Port Louis, Mauritius and the Museum of Natural History on March 30th. Just six weeks prior we had attended the opera at the Sydney Opera House, Australia. Now THAT was an item on all our bucket lists!
Which would you choose for your bucket list?
The Meander: Travel to discover. It is an education. I do not believe that the Mauritius Museum of Natural History appears on any top ten list of museums. However, read about the history of Mauritius and about the extinction of the dodo and you cannot help but think about how man can and does encroach on nature with devastating results. The Dodo did not stand a chance.