The island of Rodrigues is located 550 kilometres off the north east coast of Mauritius, and is the smallest of the Mascerene islands. Spread across an area of 108 square kilometres, it has a population of 37,000. Rodrigues makes for a tranquil and enjoyable vacation, and is duty-free all throughout, making shopping in Rodrigues cheaper than in the neighbouring Mauritius.
A few things that are must buys in Rodrigues are the local crafts made from various natural materials. Some of the materials used to make these handicrafts include raffia, aloe, bamboo, and veviter, transformed into items such as baskets and coconut shell jewellery, among others.
Read our Rodrigues shopping guide below for tips on the best places to pick up a bargain. After a day of shopping, grab a bite to eat in one of Rodrigues' charming restaurants .
Port Mathurin, the capital of Rodrigues, is quite unlike the other island capitals of the Indian Ocean such as St. Denis (Reunion Island) or Port Louis (Mauritius). It is extremely small, and the absence of traffic jams and urban chaos make it quite peaceful. Old but well maintained colourful stores line the streets and add a touch of gaiety to an otherwise sleepy town. These stores are no more than shacks, built of wood or iron sheets.
The Rodrigues markets are a colourful blend of Chinese style hand painted signs, make-shift racks and street stalls. Since most of the shops are home businesses, their wares are of no definite genre or kind. Each shop displays whatever its proprietor fancies or manages to procure. Most shops are owned by people of Chinese origin, some of who are descendants of the original settlers on the island.
Most shops are no more than kiosks made of iron and wood with an assorted array of goods on sale. It is quite likely to find shops stocking goods totally unrelated to each other. One has to make an effort to remember what one set out to buy as the confusing variety distracts you! But there is a method to the madness, you will discover. And the advantage is that one does not have to go to specialized stores to buy every single need.
Chances are that you may spot diverse items under one roof. For example, it is possible to find within one little shop interesting local fabrics, woven hats, pies, brooms and cooking utensils. However, the topmost items on your list while shopping for food items or eating out in Rodrigues should be Rodriguan honey, fresh seafood, beef rougaille, octopus curry, maize pudding and honey glazed pork.
The other things worth buying are definitely the handicrafts made of natural fibres, coral and coconut husk. Pickles are also popular here. Many varieties of pickled chillies are sold, often home made. These are highly pungent but can add a zing to any bland meal. Try the chilli lemon, mango or pawpaw chutneys for a tangy twist to your meals. Rodriguan honey is known to have won awards even in England. So do pick up a bottle or two.
Make sure you don't miss the ‘big market' on Sunday mornings. This is a weekly bazaar, the largest of its kind on the island, where inhabitants from all over the island meet to buy and sell farm products, fish, fruit, vegetables, and handicrafts. The hustle and bustle begins as early as 5 am on Sunday morning, when buses packed with merchants and their goods begin to arrive. The market lasts for about 3 to 4 hours, till about 9 am, after which the fresh goods are all sold out.
After noon, Port Mathurin falls into a gentle lethargy, with most of the vendors going home and things returning to a slow pace.
The people of Rodrigues love to sing and dance and need no particular excuse to break into a song and dance routine on any street corner. The Saturday market in Port Mathurin is a good place to catch one of the many cultural shows. The Sega tambour is one of the more popular dances, and is open to anyone wishing to join in. These markets also provide great opportunity to find the famous Rodriguan handicrafts, hand woven straw hats and baskets, jars of local honey, pickles and preserves. The traditional local attire is also available for sale.