We’ve had a giant tortoise – Mingie – in the family since before I was born. My uncle took it home one day when he was young. It fitted into his pocket then. Today, that same tortoise weighs a few 100 kilos and is enjoying his retirement at La Vanille Nature Park in Mauritius.

Mingie is now over 40 years old. He spent his childhood at my grand parents’ house. My cousins and I grew up playing with him and his mate, who somehow managed to run away one day sadly. By the time I was a young teen, Mingie was already big enough to carry us on his back. A favourite pastime then.

When my grand father passed away, my dad took Mingie in at our place. He built an enclosure for Mingie in the backyard where he stayed until my own dad passed away. That was when Mingie was moved from our home to a park which eventually led him to la Vanille Nature Park.

In all honesty, I think it’s for the better that Mingie is where he is right now. Mingie is surrounded by dozens of other tortoises of his kind. And La Vanille Nature Park has a big yard for all of them to move freely around.

In addition to tortoises, the park has a number of other animals. You will get to see dozens of massive crocs and gators, monkeys, bats, birds and more. There is also an insectarium with different species of butterflies, but that’s not quite my thing so I have that a miss.

La Vanille Nature Park can be a real pain to find if you are driving. The GPS indicated a completely different route and I had to ask for directions multiple time to get it right.

Tip: If you are driving, there is only one route for you to get there. From the main road, you will see a sign to the park. Thereafter, you follow the road which curves right. At the end of that road, you will need to make a left turn in the direction of the village centre. Drive slowly from then on because you will need to turn left in a one-way road that leads to the park (you turn left at the junction and drive on until you see the sign to the park on the right). If you miss the road, you will need to turn right at the main road and start all over again.