Just to show how useful it is to look-see again, we were surprised by the little headland that separates the bay into two places- making the water look like a pair of tonsils on the map. Rather than the expected smattering of high price villas, there was a tightly packed community with narrow streets running down to the seafront and one or two jetties which contained artisanal fishing boats instead of the big plastic dinghies in front of the resorts. This was a predominantly Creole community, no doubt housing just those people who were to service the richer residents and tourists. When the coast tucked back against the main road another small public beach marked the end of this district and the more expected high status villas returned.
One problem with walking a coastline is that if it takes more than a couple of hours you will necessarily run into tidal issues. Mauritian tides are not huge as they are in greater latitudes, but they still fluctuate and when you are using your GPS and noting down all the facts on your survey notebook, you might not notice the water lapping round your feet. Towards the end of our day on Grand Baie this proved a challenge as to complement the incoming tide, the next stretch of coast consisted of the high class villas with their extensive dividing walls coming right up to the water’s edge. We had to carefully negotiate the hard concreting , assorted gabions, piles of rocks and walls. The water had relentlessly climbed up and in some places was splashing well over the areas we had to walk through. I worked out this was not just due to simple tidal issues. This west side of the bay was far more exposed to the narrow opening and tide, wind and waves bashed in here regularly. Any sand that had existed had long been washed away and if nature had been left to its own devices a much more incised lobe would have been carved out. Instead people had done their best to protect their coastline and the hardest forms of protection had been bought in. Unfortunately this now had caused the energy of the waves to be stronger – with nothing to drag and lessen their impact even the smallest wave seemed to bash against the defences, and when it found a weakness it mercilessly exploited it. We saw so many broken down walls or rusted gabion cages, and behind the plots of land scoured out even more vigorously by the water.
Eventually we reached a rocky headland and completed our survey on a short stretch of public beach at the very north of Grand Baie.
We headed back to our car – as the crow flies not so far away but on the other side of this incised bay and thought – this was our smallest pressure zone. Would we be able to complete the others in the allotted time – both the sea and the land sides? Well, we had committed to them so we just had to take the plunge; and we also realised that although much of it was easy observational work and walking, when something difficult cropped up like a tide, fenced off areas or deep mud and jagged rocks, it would slow us down significantly. We consoled ourselves that the Grand Baie Pressure Zone was the most built up, busiest and most complex from a human perspective, but it was still a tough task.