The plane had hardly touched the tarmac when an enamel mug of rum had been shoved in my one hand and a Roti [Indian Flatbread] in the other. ‘I finally found paradise’, I thought to myself. Mauritian hospitality has no bounds as our hosts greeted us with Mithai [sugary coconut sweets], gifts and rum on our arrival in the airport lounge. Within the first 10 minutes of my feet on Mauritian soil I was convinced that this was going to be an epic adventure – and that is exactly what it was.
The island of Mauritius lies in the Indian Ocean 1200 miles off the southeast coast of Africa. You are quite correct should you be envisioning a clichéd tropical island with exquisite beaches, palm trees, coconuts and cocktails being sipped on white sands next to clear turquoise waters. However, this island is all but a cliché. The mix of cultures and cuisines is intriguing in this multiethnic nation. The natural beauty and volcanic origin make it home to some of the rarest plants and wildlife. Mauritius should not just be seen. It should be explored, tasted, climbed and sailed. And here is exactly how to do it.
10 Must-Do’s for your visit to Mauritius
10. Set Sail – Take a Cruise
The sunset cruise off the coast of Grande Baie was picture perfect. As the catamaran made its way out into the waters of the endless ocean our very own trio of local musicians serenaded us with island reggae. Out came the rum (of course) and canapés. I never thought a day to end more perfectly than feeling the warm breeze of the Indian Ocean while dancing to tropical tunes as the sun cascaded its glimmering colours over the water.
Besides the chilled vibes of sunset cruises there are many more ways to sail the turquoise waters of Mauritius. Take a glass bottom boat to Blue Bay Marine Park for snorkelling or even a cruise to the uninhabited Islands of Isle aux Cerfs in Mahebourg or Ile Plate Island near Grande Baie to soak up the tropical sun and feast on a beach barbeque.
For a small island of only 1 million people, Mauritius has it all. The diverse food culture is infused with influences from Creole, French, Chinese and Indian people and an abundance of fresh seafood and locally grown fruits. The Trou Aux Biches Beachcomber Resort boasted a buffet fit for a king from oysters and the most delectable seafood to Italian, traditional Indian and of course Creole choices. Not to mention the gelato van and a pastry section leaving you essentially, well… fat. A different theme every evening kept me always hungry for more and I even had a personal cooking lesson, chefs hat and all, at Beachcombers all-inclusive Shandrani resort.
My advice when booking at any resort is to book an all-inclusive or half-board package as your dining may set you back a small fortune should you have to pay separately at the end of your stay. It’s definitely worth the unique experience of seafood, spices, local produce and tropical treats. Another tip to keep in mind for your trip is to make sure you add many sporting activities into your daily itinerary to avoid the inconvenience of returning home a size bigger.
Street food is always the most fun to explore. You can get everything from fresh coconut water, chopped fruit covered in chilli and sugar, hot curries and traditional Chinese cuisine.
8. Swim with Dolphins
Scuba, snorkel, parasail, water ski, stand up paddle or kite-surf. Mauritius is definitely a mecca for water sports lovers. However, joining the dolphins for a swim in their underwater playground is an activity not to be missed. Swimming with these beautiful creatures is an unforgettable experience and is completely safe with a crew of experienced hands to assist you if needed.
The trip out to sea however could involve some bumpy waters and if you are prone to sea-sickness this may spoil the entire day for you and you might want to opt for a more land-friendly activity.
7. Wildlife Safari
Safari on Segway, safari on foot, safari in a 4×4, or even on a quad bike. In Mauritius, you can Safari in your own style. Although Mauritius is more of a tropical location than in-land African savannah, it offers visitors the complete Safari experience from lion interaction and rhino encounters to hippo feeding. The Yemen Natural Reserve Park, where you can safari on segway, is home to herds of African buck, wild boars, monkeys, mongoose, zebras and ostriches. Should you be happier exploring the African Wild from a 4-wheel drive (which I recommend if you are a family with small children) Casela Park is exactly the place for you. Here you and the little ones can meet the King of the Jungle face to face. The adventure park is a family focused park with a 4D Cinema, petting zoo, kids playground, canyon swing and Nepalese bridge.
6. Religious Festivals
Being a melting pot of cultures Mauritius offers many fun festivals which enchant with colour, dance and a variety of traditional cuisines. The main festivals drawing many tourists are the Hindu Festival of Lights (Diwali) around October month each year. Holi, Cavadi and the Spring Festival (which is the Chinese New Year) also bring on bounds of celebratory activities. Regardless of whether your trip falls during any of these celebration times, be ensured to snag yourself a Sega show. You will likely be treated to a show at your hotel as I was, or at a local restaurant. You will have the opportunity to partake in the traditional dance yourself. The colourful dresses and ethnic music make for a festive vibe and very entertaining evening, especially if you throw a bit of rum into the mix. What is Sega without rum anyway?
5. Taste Rum, Make Rum, Drink Rum
Amidst the sugar cane fields in the South West of Mauritius is the Rhumerie de Chamarel Distillery. The distillery focuses on high quality ‘eco-friendly’ agricultural rum, distilling pure cane juice as opposed to the traditional distillation of molasses. The tour of the distillery was incredibly fascinating and concluded with a tasting of exotic flavoured rums.
After lunch at the distillery we had the very enjoyable experience of making our own bottle of flavoured rum. An array of tropical ingredients including pineapple, raisins, star anise, cinnamon and orange were laid out on a table for us to choose from. After combing the rum and my ingredients of choice into a glass bottle I had it sealed and my rum will be ready for consumption 4-6 weeks after returning home. The perfect keepsake to enjoy while reminiscing the sweet memories of tropical island adventures.
4. Treetop Adventures
Mauritius offers a few different locations from which you can enjoy an adrenaline drenched zip line adventure. My Tarzan-like transformation happened in the south part of Mauritius discovering Rivière des Galets from the treetops with Chazal Ecotourism. The opportunity to fly through treetops in awe of endless green hills and waterfalls is exhilarating. In my case however, I was more focused on keeping my heart from leaping out my chest and missed most of the scenery while in the air. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as you may need to do a bit of hiking to get to your starting point. And for those who are afraid of heights – there is always Mauritian rum.
3. Underwater Safari
From the heights above to the depths below, Mauritius has the power to transform from an eagle into a mermaid.
One of the most popular activities on the island is an underwater safari. Completely safe on the ocean bed (about 3-4m depth) you get to stroll through the marine life and marvel at its colourful fish and corals in their natural habitat. The underwater sea walk does not require any knowledge of swimming or diving. Alternatively you can take a subscooter in Trou aux Biches or even have lunch for 2 while fish-gazing from a submarine.
2. Botanical Gardens
Although I did not manage to visit the botanical gardens, I definitely have this as a first priority for my next visit. I am not much of a horticulturalist but the Mauritius National Botanical Garden is home to an incredible variety of tropical and indigenous plants including Giant Water Lilies which look like something out of a fairytale. A fairytale I want to be in.The garden, located in Port Louis, stretches over endless acres of land and is said to possibly take you more than a week to cover. Over 650 varieties of plants include Baobabs, 85 different varieties of palm trees, medicinal plants and a large spice garden.
1. Beach Yoga
Get your toes in the white island sand and breathe in the refreshing tropical breeze. Whether you are a good yogi, a bad yogi or no yogi at all, take time to re-connect during your trip and take care of your soul before returning back to the chaos of life back home. Many beachfront resorts offer yoga sessions on the beach as did the Paradis Beachcomber Resort where I was hosted. Taking time to quiet my mind and completely soak up the natural beauty of what the island has to offer was a magnificent start to the day. Still, turquoise waters and the sun peaking over the horizon – I had found paradise indeed.