Sea Gatherers

Several characteristics unite the islands of the Indian Ocean. One of those is that the Saltpans in Reunion Island, Madagascar and Mauritius, are all present on the West Coast. Those of Tamarin are resplendent, sunbaked, with rough black stones, and shine brightly as light hits the salt water. On both sides, old lime ovens have turned into a birds’ haven. In the pans, women wearing large-brimmed hats tied under their chins slowly scrape the surface. The sea gatherers are those who mine this white gold. Their light movements are several thousand years older than themselves and as they work, their blue skirts wave about in the wind. On the edges of the pans, blue or woven baskets abound with freshly collected salt. Fleur de sel, this first fine layer, the nectar of salt, will enhance the meal of a great chef or enrich a faraway table. It is women’s job, a very tough one – they are paid per basket – but these women are strong and beautiful, as are the wives of fishermen.