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Experience Mauritius Island

Overview

Mauritius, or officially known as the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 350 miles east of Madagascar. This nation forms part of the Mascarene Islands and is mainly based on the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Mauritius is a beautiful blend of Indian, African and European influences. And although it has the reputation for luxury beach vacations, it is also a perfect destination for hiking, fantastic mountain climbing, and world-class diving.

Beyond its celebrated beaches, native forests grow over the cooler central plateau, providing a home to rare plants and animals such as the Mauritius flying fox, which can be found nowhere else on Earth. Villages of the island, such as Petite Julie and Queen Victoria exemplify the mixed Anglo-French heritage of the country, and it is these sleepy fishing communities that bring seg music played in its most traditional form.

The northern regions boast the perfect combination of beaches, cuisine and nightlife. Further west, the capital, Port Louis, is famed for its Caudan Waterfront complex of restaurants, shops, and casinos, as well as the colonial-era central market and Places D’Armes.

Visit the west coast for Dophin safaris, rum distilleries, and sand dunes, along with the famous Le Morne mountain, which was used as a hideout by runaway slaves. Today, this rugged outcrop stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a symbol of freedom.

With all it’s exquisite beauty, welcoming locals, and fantastic year-round weather, along with a distinct cultural identity, Mauritius checks off all the boxes to accomplish a destination well worth a visit! In recent years, a lot of upscale resort hotels attracting couples have been opened here. The island is a fantastic destination for a honeymoon or family vacation.

Things to See and Do

Lounge on the fabulous beaches of Mauritius, they are everywhere! The northern beaches, such as Trou aux Biches, shaded by tall casuarinas trees, is a favorite spot amongst many visitors and ideal for snorkeling, kayaking, and water-skiing. The shallow, calm waters here make this a great beach for children. Considered one of the island’s most beautiful, the east coast Belle Mare beach sits in front of a deep lagoon lined with casuarina trees and coconut palms, this is a great beach for snorkeling. For sunset cocktails and an energetic vibe, head to the beach cafes and resorts lining Grand Baie, on the northwest coast.

Take a tour of Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius with many interesting attractions. As you explore, notice the beautiful colonial architecture of buildings such as the Government House, which sits atop the palm-lined Place d’Armes, check out the Blue Penny Museum and discover the world's rarest stamps, or learn about the history of Mauritius in the Natural History Museum.

Domaine Les Pailles is a popular suburb of the capital where visitors can enjoy many interesting excursions such as exploring local nature in a miniature train, taking a jeep ride in the piedmont region, or enjoying a delicious meal at the local restaurants. The local botanical garden here is also worth visiting for its many trees that are several centuries old. You can also find huge water lilies and other exotic plants here.

Discover the Grand Bassin Pilgrimage that leads to a natural crater lake and sacred Hindu site on the Plaine Champagne. The Statue of Shiva sits at the entrance of the beautifully decorated temples, lively with people and amazing smells.

Explore the River Gorges National Park, a 17,000 acre forest that is home to indigenous plants, birds and various wildlife. This is also where you’ll find Little Black River Peak, Mauritius’ highest mountain, which stands at 2,700 ft high of beauty. Hike to the summit or take the Maccabee Trail, which slopes down to the lush banks of the Black River.

Go diving in the beautiful waters, there are many diving centers all along the coast that cater to both beginners and professional divers. Check out Flic-en-Falc to the west of the island and Trou aux Biches in the north, just to name a few. The clarity of the waters, warm seas, and abundance of sea life make this one of the world’s top diving destinations.

Check out the nature reserve on Ile aux Aigrettes that lies off the coast of Mauritius where you’ll get to discover several species that are only found in this region of the world, including pink pigeon, giant Aldabra tortoises, and Telfair’s skink. A 90-minute visit to the island leaves daily from Mahebourg.

Take a hike up Le Morne! Located on the South Western tip of Mauritius, the top of this mountain is a big cross that stands as a memorial for the history of this mountain. Slaves would come here to throw themselves off a 550+ meter cliff to escape from their masters. In 2008 UNESCO named Le Morne as a World Heritage Site. The hike up takes about 2-hours and it is recommended to have a guide to be able to reach the top. Make sure to start the climb just after sunrise to prevent heat stroke.

Take in some adventure at the spectacular Moka Range. You can tour by quad bike, horse or a 4 wheel drive. There is an easy two-hour climb of Le Pouce, Mauritius’ third highest mountain, which reaches a height of 2,664 ft. with the top offering beautiful panoramic views of Port Louis. The village of La Laura is the best place to start the hike.

Go to the resort town of Grand Baie, a seaside village and the center of the island’s water sport industry. Here, you’ll find parasailing, underwater walks, submarine excursions and semi-submersible scooters all available. At La Cuvette, a long stretch of beach and clear waters between Grand Baie and Cap Malhereaux, sailors, windsurfers and water skiers can all be found enjoying the beautiful waters.

Take a trip to Rodrigues Island, 350 miles east of Mauritius. This rugged, volcanic island is quaint and relaxing. Explore the capital, Port Mathurin, only seven streets wide, go diving, deep sea fishing, and just relax on the fantastic white sandy beaches.

Visit the Charmarel 7-colored earth, an impressive sight. Many years ago, Mauritius had active volcanoes and because of the eruption that part of the earth is not fertile. All the different colors really pop up when it doesn’t rain.

Shopping

Tourist shopping centers are situated all around the island. The Caudan Waterfront complex in Port Louis offers an excellent selection of designer shops, as well as in the resort town of Grand Baie. If you are in the market for some bargain hunting, check out the textile markets and clothing factory outlet stores of Curepipe, Quatre-Bornes, and Rose-Hill.

Popular souvenirs of Mauritius include locally produced baskets, tea, spices and fabrics. Another popular souvenir are model sips, for which Mauritius is famous for. Mauritius has abolished taxes on most shopping items, which makes it a great place to buy luxury goods, such as designer clothing, jewelry, perfume, and electrical goods.

Nightlife

Most visitors tend to stay and party within their resort. The main activity on the island can be found in and around Grand Baie, where there is lively bars, live music, several restaurants and a few nightclubs. Nightlife on the island is getting more hip at hotels, and there are some great bars and clubs if you know where to find them. There are a few key hotspots on the island, from cool beach parties with international DJs spinning the decks to dancing, live music and jam sessions, and top sports bars to spots for a sundowner. A few of these nightlife hotspots include the Banana Beach Club, C Beach Club, Big Willy’s, Lakaz Cascavelle, and Lambic.

Port Louis has mainly restaurants and bars, but is neither very busy or safe after dark beyond the Caudan Waterfront. Head to the Creole fishermen’s district, Riviere Noire for dancing, especially lively on Saturday nights. Sega troupes give performances at most hotels.

Eating and Drinking

Mauritian food is a unique mix of African, Indian and Chinese cuisines. The blend of influences gives Mauritian dishes a range from curries to coq au vin, via noodles and English bacon, while the basic ingredients of Creole dishes are tomatoes, onion, ginger and mild spice palate.

Seafood is a common dish of Mauritius, with items ranging from octopus curry to vindayecamarons (freshwater crayfish) and smoked blue marlin, which is delicious when combined with palm heart salad. You’ll also find plenty of fresh fruit including lychees, mangoes, pineapple and bananas.

Restaurants: While some of the most special and most expensive dining experiences are offered by the island’s hotels and resorts, some with Michelin-starred celebrity chefs, for an authentic taste of the island you’ll need to venture out. With a few exceptions, lunch is the best time to try a local meal, the main meal out for most Mauritians, who typically eat with their families in the evening. Mauritius also isn’t the easiest place to drive after dark; and outside the main tourist centers such as Flic en Flac, Grand Baie and Port Louis, there aren’t many restaurants open in the evenings.

Restaurants are typically open for lunch from noon to 3pm and dinner from 7pm to 10pm. Many restaurants offer a good-value prix fixe or set lunch menu, and a la carte offerings range from fried noodles (mines frites) to lobster.

Mauritian street food is popular in towns and markets, and beside some public beaches. It’s traditionally carried in glass cases on the back of bicycles or motorcycles. Dholl puri (flat pancakes cooked on a griddle and stuffed with yellow split peas) served with tomato sauce and pickles are a national favorite along with the popular gâteaux piments (split-pea cakes with chilli) and samosas. Port Louis has the most stalls selling Chinese-style mines frites (fried noodles), boulettes (balls made with fish, vegetables or meat and served in a broth) and Chinese cakes. Creole-inspired street dishes are usually an adaptation of the typical spicy, tomato-based cuisine, such as octopus rougaille with chapati, rice or in a roll. Sweet snacks include peeled pineapple carved into a spiral, served in a bag with tamarind and chilli, and fresh coconut juice.

Drinks: Tea and coffee are standard, and tea is also produced on the island. The Corson or Bois Cheri brands are the best to try, although brews are weak by British standards and often flavored with vanilla. Coffee is produced in tiny quantities and only found at Chamarel. Mauritians love the gelatinous milky drink alooda (from falooda): colored pink or green, it’s made with dissolved agar agar, basil seeds and vanilla-and-almond essence – look out for it in Port Louis market. As Mauritius is a tropical island, there’s also plenty of fresh fruit juice available.

Phoenix is most popular for local beers, named after the town where it’s produced. Blue Marlin and Flying Dodo are also a favorite beer of the island, locally produced and found at selected outlets. Wines are all imported, but you will find a nice selection. The island’s rum, and the domaines of Saint Aubin and Chateau Labourdonnais have received international praise for their top-quality agriculturally produced spirits. Home-made rum arrangé – rum steeped in fruits and even chilli – offered in restaurants and bars.

Culture and Traditions

The Arabs were the first to inhabit Mauritius, then the Dutch, French and the British followed. Along came Africans and Indians, then Chinese traders. Which brought this uninhabited island built for human habitat from scratch. This is Creole, and it is absolutely beautiful to observe this cultural blend from this vast expanse of the world.

Creole is a culture and way of life in Mauritius. The island has developed intricate cultural variations over time, mixed with European and African influences as well. Expect a Mauritian to refer to Monsoon as La Monsoon, as a part of widespread French influence of everyday language. English is the official language of the island and other islets and atolls.

Local Crafts: The most famous local craft in Mauritius is woodcraft where model ships are built in workshops all over the island. These woodcrafts are the perfect souvenir to take home for the end of your trip. Historic Marine, the largest Mascarene model factory in Goodlands, has a showroom and a workshop that are worth seeing. In addition, in local markets and shops, visitors can buy typical products such as rum, volcanic stone boxes, embroidery, clothes and baskets made of vacoas fiber, raffia, aloe or bamboo.

Religion: There is no official religion within Mauritius as the population is so diverse. Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and others from all around the world live in unity and appreciate the different practices of all religions in Mauritius. The island is full of churches, mosques, and temples. In this plurality of religious practices, the main populations are Hindu and Tamil. Once a year, there is a big pilgrimage to the most sacred site in Grand Bassin, near the lake bordered by a huge statue of Shiva.

Traditions: Like everywhere in the world, Mauritius has its own traditions. The "Sundowner" - literally the "sunset" - is a traditional weekend and holiday ritual during which the Mauritians join together on the beach to enjoy the sunset, a beautiful tradition, especially in summer. In addition, Mauritius organizes regular event, sports, cultural and the Regatta.

Music: Mauritian culture revolves around music and the most listened to styles are Séga, Reggae and Seggae. Séga is a musical expression of the way of life in Mauritius: amusement, energetic, and happy. It was originally used to express the pain and sensuality of African slaves torn from their land, it is now a festive tropical dance. Women wear large colored skirts and men a baggy shirt and wide pants. Visitors are often invited to join this cheerful dance barefoot when they visit the island.