mauritius africa’s hidden treasure

I remember when I first read about Mauritius (now what seems a lifetime ago), my imagination conjured up images of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and people soaking up the sun.  So pretty much the stereo-typical impression when one thinks of an island.  But boy!  Was I far off the mark!  Indeed it has the some of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen, but the island, this tiny drop in the Indian Ocean located off the south-east coast of Africa and spans approximately 1865 km² is so much more than just a tropical paradise.  It is a melting pot of diverse cultures, food and traditions that will have you going back for more each time!

Mauritius or officially called the Republic of Mauritius was formerly a French and later a British colony.  It gained its independence in 1968.  I won’t bore you by going into its history which can easily be looked up and read online.  Apart from the soft, powdery white sandy beaches and warm beautiful turquoise waters, the thing that stands out most for me is the warmth of its people.  Mauritians are the epitome of what it means to live in harmony among such a diverse mix of cultures ranging from Indian, Chinese, Creole and French and where people are colour blind to the colour of skin, respectful and accommodating to religion and traditions and accepting and welcoming of all people no matter your race or nationality.

There is plenty to do on the island which is both a business hub and a haven for tourists.  Come along with me as I take you to explore some of my favourite treasures of the island.

Attractions

Port Louis

Let’s start with Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius and centre for business.  It is a vibrant and bustling place that is packed with people, street food, shops and cars… lots and lots of cars!  My favourite part of Port Louis is its markets, especially the Central Market in the heart of the city.  Here you can find anything from medicinal remedies, to fresh produce, souvenirs and snacks.  Grab a snack of freshly cut coconut or the delicious dhal puri (split pea wrap) and wash it down with some delectable coconut or almond drinks they have on offer, freshly made and utterly divine.

The Port Louis Market, adjacent to the Central Market, offers something for every taste when it comes to souvenirs and handicrafts.  Bargaining is tolerated when done in a friendly and respectful manner.

For the more discerning shopper, head on to the Le Craft Market at the Caudan Waterfront.  There is an array of boutiques and shops all nestled under rows of colourful umbrellas suspended in the air.  My personal favourite is Phydra, a beauty and cosmetics store specialising in locally made perfumes, oils, makeup and soaps.  The perfumes are exotic and their scents linger for hours on end. Go on, spoil yourself !

East Coast

The East Coast is unarguably the most beautiful part of the island when it comes to resorts and beaches. Belle Mare is where you should plan on staying when visiting.  It gets extremely windy though during the winter months from May to August.  The water literally looks as if countless blue-green topaz stones have been used to colour it, the beaches as if strewn with baby powder.  The beaches are protected by a barrier reef and thus giving it the ideal swimming conditions and enabling you to enjoy all the fun water activities.  Some of my most enjoyable ones being the paddle boats and also the glass bottomed boats giving you a peek into life under the sea.

l’île aux cerfs

Accessible by boat, the little island of L’île Aux Cerfs sits across from Le Touessrok Resort and is a must see for every tourist visiting for the first time.  Granted, it is a very “touristy” thing to do, but spending a few hours here will certainly be great for the soul.  Whether you spend your time in the crystal blue waters, go parasailing with the most spectacular views or simply enjoy a round of golf on its magnificent 18-hole golf course, you’re sure to enjoy every moment on this true treasure cove.

For the adventurers and adrenalin junkies there are plenty of activities to get the blood pumping ranging from several hiking routes to zip lining and bungee jumping.  All these guarantee breathtaking views to turn your attention away from the daredevil stunts!  My favourite is the Chamarel Waterfall Hike which, at 80m, is the highest waterfall in Mauritius and boasts some of the oldest volcanic rock on the island, formed nearly 10 million years ago.  The hike takes approximately 3 hours, giving you enough time to marvel at the incredible wonders and beauty of nature.

Mauritius In Pictures

East coast of Mauritius Beautiful lagoon

Mauritius a seafood paradise

Golf course in l’île aux cerfs in Mauritius island

Bain Boeuf Beach in Grand Baie, Pereybere North

Caudan Waterfront, marina of Port-Louis, Mauritius

Kalaisson Temple Port Louis-Mauritius

Accommodation

Mauritius has flourished to the extent that it caters for every type of traveler, whether you’re on a shoestring budget or whether money is no object.  An important fact to bear in mind is that if you are accustomed to life’s little luxuries, do not opt for anything less than 5 star.  Among the top 5 star resorts are the Lux Belle Mare. In fact, all of the Lux resorts are sensational. Then there is The One & Only Le Saint Geran, Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Hotel which is the perfect place to honeymoon, The Anahita Gold and Spa Resort and Long Beach, to name but a few.

There are great 3 and 4 star properties and resorts such as the Attitude Resort chain, La Pirogue Mauritius and the Beachcomber resort properties.  You are guaranteed an incredible and memorable stay at any of these.

For the business traveller who wants to be close to the business hubs of Port Louis and Ebene, a stay at either one of the 5 star Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel or the Le Suffren Hotel & Marina are superb choices, situated at the Caudan Waterfront and offers a myriad of restaurants around both hotels (which is within 100m walking distance of each other) to choose from.  The 4 star business hotel, The Hennessy Park hotel situated in Cybercity, a mere 10-15 minutes in peak traffic from Port Louis is an alternative if you have business in Ebene.

Eating Out

Le Capitaine

Mauritius has, hands down, the best food that I have ever had within Africa!  With so many options due to its diverse culture, you are truly spoilt for choice.  From Indian, to Asian, to Mauritian/Creole, French cuisine and so much more.  You could opt for a different choice every day and at every meal time! Some of my all time favourites are Le Capitaine Restaurant situated in Grande Baie. A simple yet elegant restaurant overlooking the ocean with a seafood menu to die for!  The menu is very reasonably priced and the food will leave you salivating for more.  Check out my TripAdvisor review as well

Caudan Waterfront

The Food Court at the Caudan Waterfront boasts a variety of take away options that are no less flavourful and delectable than any of the haute cuisine eateries.  Here too, you are spoilt for choice and even better still, will not do any damage to your pocket.

Clubs & Bars

Fifty Five Lounge Club – Grand Baie

If you’re looking to party in style, then Club Fifty Five is the ideal place to spend an elegant evening out.  The club’s sophisticated decor decorated with posters of celebrities is often itself frequented by famous DJ’s and international musicians. Opening hours are daily from 6pm to 2am.

Big Willy’s Tamarind Bay

This al fresco sports bar and Beer garden is not to be missed if you’re looking to enjoy some of the best nightlife in Mauritius.  Its casual and chilled atmosphere makes for a great experience especially when watching a sports event.  Opening hours are from 10 am to 10 pm Tuesday to Thursday and from 4pm to 5am Fridays and Saturdays.  The bar is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Cinemas & Theatres

Mauritius is home to four theatres, two of which have historical significance, The Port Louis Theatre, built in 1822 and now under renovation and still remains closed.  The other being The Plaza Theatre, built in 1927 and which showcases a number of plays but also many cultural performances as well.  The biggest theatre which is the Caudan Arts Centre, is of modern architecture and the building houses conference rooms, a 430 seat theatre, exhibition rooms and plenty more. Enquire at the concierge of your hotel for a list of theatre and art shows at the time of your stay.

Cinemas are plentiful all over the island as well as the Caudan Waterfront and the Bagatelle Mall of Mauritius.

Shopping

Mauritius is a haven for shopping.  Many famous brands are actually manufactured on the island such as Calvin Klein, Zara, Adidas, Levis, to name but a few.  Shop around before buying.

Markets are plentiful on the island and t-shirts are a great buy and most of them are of superb quality.  Another great buy are model ships.  Expertly handcrafted and sold everywhere on the island and obviously ranging from cheap knockoffs to the real deal.  Often the genuine models are quite expensive and also too big to carry around (these simply cannot be stuffed into your luggage as they are too fragile), however, you can make arrangements at most of the craft stores and have them package and seal it so that it would be safe to check in.  Tea is also a great buy and many teas locally made are delicious!  Do try some, even if you are not a tea lover.

Mauritius has something for everyone, families, honey-mooners or just for those wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  No matter what, you will always find a reason to return once you’ve had a taste of this little piece of Eden.  In my mind, I am pretty certain that this is what heaven looks like.  Now all I need to do, is to make sure that I am good at all times, so that when the time comes, I can spend eternity here.

Hints & Tips

Getting Around

Travelling around the island you only have two choices, either hire your own car or travel by local taxi.  Unfortunately Uber is not yet available in Mauritius so your best bet is to get the name and number of a local taxi driver that you will be able to use all the time.

Currency

Mauritius uses the Mauritian Rupee (MUR).  Always be sure to carry cash with you as taxis do not use credit card machines.  Most local stores also do not have credit card facilities.

Tours and excursions

All travel agencies on the island are fantastic at arranging tours and excursions and whereas hotels do make a little something by recommending their own tour guides, you could arrange these by asking around on the beaches, but be sure to “shop around” when enquiring with the guides on the beaches and be careful to not pay upfront but to secure a price for the service before embarking on it.

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