“You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven.” These are words uttered by American author Mark Twain before he died in 1910. A century on and this untouched gem is still just as beautiful. Conquered by the Dutch, French and British, inhabited by Indian and Chinese speakers, and flung off the coast of Africa, Mauritius is a cultural melting pot in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
It boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a breathtaking botanical garden, reef-sheltered lagoons and warm coastal plains. This tropical paradise isn’t just for sun seekers though – fuse together every imaginable water sport, myriad hiking opportunities and a fantastic food offering and you can immediately see why every traveller is clamouring to get here.
Black River Gorges National Park, in the south-western hills of Mauritius, is undoubtedly the most popular destination for visitors. Even if you’re purely visiting to soak up some rays and lay on the beach, it’d be remiss of you not to spend a day in this rugged refuge – home to thick forests, jaw-dropping cascades (such as Tamarin Falls) and much of the country’s most elusive wildlife species and avifauna, such as the echo parakeet and pink pigeon.
Those looking for the best scenery should head for the nearby Le Morne peninsula, epitomised by a huge coastal monolith of the same name, or the geologically-confounding Seven Coloured Earths in Chamarel. But if you simply can’t tear yourself away from the beach, make sure you opt for some of the prettiest ones at least; Belle Mare and Trou aux Biches host some of the most picture-perfect sands. Mauritian islands like Aux Cerf and Rodrigues offer some great silica too while the island’s capital, Port Louis, serves up a mishmash of bustling markets, colonial architecture and blissfully private beaches.
Eat and Drink
Mauritian food is often lauded as one of the greatest Creole cuisines out there – a well-constructed jumble of African, Chinese, Indian and French grub, so good that it’s attracted many celebrity chefs and Michelin stars. Grand Baie, a coastal village to the north of the country, is where the dining scene is at its most vibrant. Here you can try national specialities like vindaye (deep-fried fish coated in spices), rougaille (hot tomato sauce) and the beloved dholl puri (flatbreads).
Le Fangourin serves elegant Mauritian dishes with a modern twist, while the ambient Chez Tino’s offers authentic meals at a fair price – both are great finds in a restaurant-saturated region. Street food is great on the island too, especially if you’re seeking cheaper eating options. Try fresh coconut water, fruit smothered in chilli and sugar, hot curries, and Chinese noodles, to name a few. Be sure not to miss the delicious miniature Victoria pineapples either, or a cup of Mauritian tea for that matter.
From volcanic backdrops to Indian temples, white sand beaches to sea caves once frequented by rugged pirates – no matter where you go or what you see in Mauritius, you’re guaranteed a truly incredible stay. Relaxation seekers should try the 5-star Oberoi, a yoga and spa retreat nestled on the shores of Turtle Bay in Pointe au Piments, or the uber romantic Lux Grand Gaube, a 5-star hideaway that boasts an open air cinema, world-class diving and heaps of local fishing village culture.
Got the kids in tow? The authentic Zilwa Attitude has abundant restaurants and an inclusive kids club, much like the luxurious Heritage Awali Golf Club & Spa Resort, which is conveniently-located next to the Frederica Nature Reserve and its bountiful waterfalls.
We can relate to this one: tea is a huge part of Mauritian culture – at home, in the workplace and when socialising. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the Bois Cheri tea estate, where a range of black, green, herbal and flavoured teas are produced. A vanilla-infused brew is the big favourite here.
Tours around the plantation will take you into the sweet-smelling fields, museum and factory, and even include a taste-testing back at the chalet. So even though you’ve left Britain for a few weeks, you can still enjoy a warm, soothing cuppa.
Mauritius Like a Local
Nothing will prepare you for the warm French-Mauritian hospitality and laidback island lifestyle, something that’s felt across the country. Stay in a local apartment and you’ll experience it all first hand – strolling through the neighbourhoods, eating freshly-ripped loaves of bread, bathing in lagoons that are off the tourist trail and weaving through sky-high fields of sugarcane. Beware though; this type of cool routine can quickly get addictive.