Dodo Trail Mauritius: Not Just a Romantic Island Getaway
Whoever thought that the island of Mauritius was just a romantic honeymoon destination has obviously never heard of the Dodo Trail Run. The race, which saw its inaugural run in 2011, offers some of the best views of the island but is also rated as highly technical. This may come as a surprise when media usually creates the impression that Mauritius is flat and comprises endless golden beaches only. Au contraire! There are more than 15 annual trail running events hosted on this small island, ranging from short, flat fun runs to technical ultra-marathons! Is this your kind of holiday destination too? Then pull up a chair.
Mauritius in a Nutshell
The island of Mauritius, only 720.0 square miles (1,864.8 km2) in size, is of volcanic origin and located in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa. With its good climate all year-round and lack of monsoons, Mauritius is known as the ideal tropical island destination for romantic getaways. But all-day cocktail-sipping and sunbathing isn’t all that is on offer. Nature lovers may enjoy trekking around the lush mountainsides, while cultural fundies may be interested in discovering the temples of the island. Foodies will love the world-renowned cuisine and find allure in the spice markets of the capital. Not to mention the countless opportunities to enjoy snorkeling, diving and other water activities offered around the island’s reefs. Kids are fascinated by the Curious Corner of Chamarel. They also love trips on the Nessee, a semi-submarine, and myriad other possibilities.
Dodo Trail: Running Adventure for The Whole Family
In search of an African winter trail race, we stumbled upon the Dodo trail on Mauritius. With its exceptional variety of scenery and activities, the choice of Mauritius for a run-cation was a no-brainer. We could sign up the entire family and combine the race with some island exploration.
The Dodo offers 5 different events based on distance. We entered our two boys (5 and 7) for the flat 5 km Fun Run and ourselves as a team for the technical 50 km relay. There was also the technical 10 km Active, 25 km Trooper and the big mama, the 50 km Extreme.
With the race headquarters is in Tamarin in the southwestern part of the island, the main event was hosted by the Riverland Sports Centre. Here the race pickup was a breeze with many a friendly volunteer. The various sponsors involved made each and every entrant feel special and pampered with swag to die for.
The 50 km Relay and Extreme 50 km Race Course
The southwestern part of Mauritius is very hilly. First timers or unprepared Dodo runners were in for a big, shocking surprise. The Dodo Extreme route has a 3,500m+ altitude gain and similar loss over the 50 km course. The race kicked off at the foot of Le Morne Brabant mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage site for its historical and cultural significance.
The course traversed surfaces ranging between uneven rocky and muddy single track to easier sections of gravel country roads. The going up and down the various mountains were steep and technical to extremely technical with up to 30% inclines. Trails were covered in anything from tree roots, slippery grass, rocks, and boulders.
Technicality and inclines aside, the Dodo Trail’s main draw-card is the spectacular views of the island from the various vantage points. From the final peak, La Tourelle de Tamarin, the scenery is especially impressive. Black River Bay, Tamarin Bay, le Morne Brabant and Yemen is visible from this 548 m high summit. From there the single track down to the finish line is highly technical. It involves a descent of the entire mountain face through a number of steep, dusty and rocky sections. Assistance via fixed rope in a few places prevents a sure slide or severe tumble. With this type of technical trail, it is not surprising that the total time allowance for the 50 km Extreme Dodo is 15 hours.
African Skyrunning Championships
In August 2015 the Dodo Trail hosted the inaugural Salomon African Skyrunning Championships. A total of 1700 runners participated in races over the various categories making it the biggest trail racing event in southern Africa, and likely the continent. The 2018 male Dodo Extreme winner was Simon Desvaux De Marigny in a time of 5:55:00. Alexandra Clain was the first lady to cross the line in 7:54:31.
Active For The Environment
Mauritius, like many other small, highly isolated islands, is home to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals. Before the Portuguese arrived in 1507 and introduced alien invasive species, the island was home to a number flightless birds (including the Dodo) and endemic reptiles. Destruction of natural habitat leads to the rapid loss of endemic flora and fauna. Today less than 2% of the native forest remains under park protection. Over 100 species of plants and animals became extinct and many more are threatened.
For this reason, the Dodo Trail is dedicated to support the environment and to try to minimize their ecological footprint. The 2018 event donated Rs 78 000 (USD 2,300) to FORENA (Foundation Resources et Nature). FORENA is an NGO is concerned with promoting conservation and reintroduction of native biodiversity on Mauritius. Not only did they donate but the Dodo team also got down and dirty. They went out and helped the FORENA team with planting some of these endemic tree species.
The Dodo Trail on Mauritius is an all-inclusive event with something for everyone. It is also a very well-organized race with its heart in the right place. Although the course may be tough you will search far and wide for better scenery or friendlier volunteers. For adventurous runners who like to travel for races, a trip to Mauritius is well worth it.