Enjoy more of Mauritius
This tear-drop-shaped island situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean is a treasure trove of activities, sights and luxury. Here are the must-visits
Imagine relaxing in a hammock by the seaside, with a book in your hands and toes tucked into soft, white sand.A tear-drop-shaped island made of volcanic rock, Mauritius is set in the Indian Ocean, 800km east of Madagascar. Most of Mauritius’s 2,000 square kilometres is swathed in sugar cane fields that sit at the feet of dark, craggy mountains.
Born 10 million years ago, out of lava and ash spewing out from the ocean, Mauritius came into being in a brilliant spectacle of fire and light. Due to its strategic location between Asia and Africa, Mauritius soon attracted merchants and traders, Dutch settlers and French and British colonists. French, Creole and English are the languages primarily spoken on the island. With a strong economy based on sugar cane, tourism and textiles, the people of the island have seen their country make fast progress in the past three decades.
On a beautiful sunny day, I’m out and about with an a taxi-driver-and-guide, who is taking me on a tour of the island.
The countryside is a mosaic of sugar-cane fields, mountains and tall sugar-mill chimneys interlaced with long, serpentine roads.
Consisting of rocky cliffs, stunning beaches and coves, the island has something for everyone.
I catch a glimpse of a slice of the ocean sandwiched between blue sky and sprawling green fields.
In search of a better life
My guide explains that the population consists mostly of fourth- and fifth-generation Asians and South East Asians who had left their countries for a better life, settling down in Mauritius to start their own businesses or factories. It is not unusual to find sari-clad Indian women bantering in French in the marketplace.
Strains of Sega music drift from a nearby snack shop in Pointe de Flacq as the lazy day wears on and fluffy white clouds float lazily across a blue sky.
Most towns and villages have retained their French names, such as Quatre Bornes, Beau-Bassin and Grand Bassin. While the touristy strip of Grand Baie lies in the north, the capital Port Louis can be found on the west coast of the island.
To the south and southwest are the Grand Bassin, Tamarin and Black River gorges.Visited by a large number of the Hindu residents of Mauritius every year, Grand Bassin is a great religious site.Mauritius also has an international airport in Plaisance, which is located in the island’s southeastern part.
Belle Mare, one of the most beautiful beach strips, runs along the east coast of the island.
This is also where premium luxury resorts can be found. The central plateau of Mauritius is formed of lava from smaller volcanoes and is full of meandering rivers and gushing waterfalls.
Here is a list of what to see and do in Mauritius:
North of the island
No one should leave Mauritius without a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Pamplemousses. With 60 acres of lush gardens, it is a treasure trove of greenery. Feast your eyes on giant lily pads, a variety of tropical and subtropical trees and large ponds with fish and giant turtles, while meandering through a maze of pathways.
The capital of Mauritius and a largely industrial zone, Port Louis is the working man’s city. Having said that, it is still a must-see for every visitor.For some bargain shopping, the harbour market is a great place to pick up special handcrafted souvenirs. Stores selling bags, T-shirts and sarongs line the little indoor market.
You can also take a walk on the cobble-stoned alleys. The city of Port Louis is quite a change from the little villages that pepper the island.
To the far north of the island lies a touristy strip of beaches, resorts, boutiques, restaurants and shopping centres. The area is charming, with numerous fishing boats bobbing on the sea.
There are many nightclubs around the area, which makes it a popular tourist haunt.
West of the island
Casela Nature Park:
This park situated in the Flic en Flac area is a detour from the regular sun and sand of an island country. If you fancy a walk on the wild side, the exciting safari rides the park provides will be just the thing for you. With the chance to catch glimpses of cheetahs and lions in the wild, the rides are a treat for wildlife lovers. There are also walks conducted in and around the park.
Tamarin Beach, along the island’s western coastline, offers water sports such as surfing.On the other hand, Riviere Noire Centre de Pêche is where you can head off to for a great fishing experience.Further inland, the Black River gorge allows a special trekking experience.
South of the island
Rochester Falls in Souillac is well known for its waterfalls.Riviere des Anguilles is home to the Vanilla Crocidile Park and Madagascar-imported crocodiles. This park is perfect for those with a love for all things reptilian.
East of the island
The Île aux Cerfs on the east coast of Mauritius is one of the major beach attractions. Taking its name from the French word cerf, which means deer, this tiny island is managed by the Touessrok Hotel. You can reach the island by boat from Trou d’eau Douce nearby. The island is popular with sunbathers and water-sports junkies.
This piece originally appeared in Gulf News, the UAE’s leading newspaper
Andrea Bailey is a Dubai based travel writer. She is also a travel consultant with Travel Counsellors and specializes in cruises, family holidays and honey moons. When she’s not out and about discovering destinations and different cuisines of the world, you would probably find her busy with her 3 daughters and her other passions involving art and music.
As a mosaic artist, she has travelled to Italy and studied ancient Roman techniques of the art form and as a jazz flautist she has had the opportunity of performing across various Dubai venues.