After my two visits to Mauritius, I maintain, Mauritius is one of those few places in the world you can fall in love with immediately… even before landing. Mark Twain called it “paradise”, and Joseph Conrad “a pearl”. It is a beautiful island country, known for its white beaches and pristine waters. Each side of the island has a different landscape.
What makes it a pleasure is something that you will need to discover by experiencing yourself. These are a few reasons to ensure you an amazing yet offbeat holiday in island Paradise.
1. Pristine Beaches. Turquoise blue water and endless white sandy beaches with coconut & palm trees along the 330 KM long coastline make Mauritius an ideal tropical beach holiday destination.
This paradise is for those who want to enjoy the sea and the sun. Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs which have created big lagoons all around. These lagoons are not only with crystal clear water, but also provide ideal water conditions for swimming, bathing and snorkeling.
On my both the visits, I stayed near Trou aux Biches beach, one of the best beaches in Mauritius. Mont Choisy, Grand Baie and St Felix are some other beaches that are popular. You’ll also find some easily accessible street food stands, and a string of cafes and restaurants along the coast road.
2. World Heritage sites. The first UNESCO heritage site that I am going to talk about is, Apravasi Ghat where Indians & Africans came via sea to work, mostly as plantation workers in sugarcane fields and set their first step on Mauritian soil at this historic place in Port Louis harbor, in the capital of Mauritius. Rest is history.
In contrast, Chateau Labourdonnais, another beautiful heritage site, tells us about the other side of plantation history. Inspired by Italian neo-classical architecture, the residence was built mainly from teak wood and has a double colonnaded gallery. More details on this beautiful chateau later.
3. Wildlife. I can visit Mauritius just for this reason! For those who are interested in wildlife, Mauritius has plenty to offer. Though it has a relatively low diversity of wildlife compared to other African countries, you can still enjoy Lions, Caracals, Tigers, Zebras, Ostriches, Deer, African Antelopes, White Rhinoceros, Impalas, Kudus, Camels, Mauritius Kestrel and many more. A high proportion of the animals are endemic species occurring nowhere else in the world. Many of these are now extinct, for example the ever famous Dodo.
4. Mountains, waterfalls & nature. – When volcanic eruptions made Mauritius, they also made sure to give it enough mountains, waterfalls and greenery. You can go for hiking to mountains, most of them have interesting stories about them. One of them has a head like shape at the top which is said to be of Pieter Both. Waterfalls such as Sept cascade a.k.a. Seven waterfalls (remember this video?), Chamarel waterfall are the popular ones. Don’t forget to swim under Sept Cascades if you love adventure.
5. Mauritius National Botanical Garden– I loved it! Can you imagine 85 different varieties of palm trees are brought here from different corners of the world? Formally known as Sir Seewoosagur Botanic Garden, The Botanic Garden is one of the most visited attractions in Mauritius. Located in the vicinity of Port-Louis, this garden was initially opened as a private garden nearly 300 years ago, later to become the national botanical garden of Mauritius. It has more than 650 varieties of plants. Baobabs, the Palmier Bouteille, Giant Water Lilies, variety of medicinal plants, a large spice garden are more famous.
6. Geological wonders. Chamarel & 23 colored earth is one of the more touristy spots in Mauritius. They look like colored sand dunes. The dunes are protected by a wooden fence and visitors are not allowed to climb on them. Chamarel, the seven colored earth is a geological phenomenon and the colors have evolved through conversion of basaltic lava to clay minerals. The origin of the fascinating 23 Coloured Earth La Vallée des Couleurs dates back to millions of years after the volcanic eruption of the Bassin Blanc. Its ashes which bear witness to that episode, are unique in the world.
7. Adventure activities. Are you a person who doesn’t like to relax on the beach, instead want to test some adrenalin rush? Worry not. Go for sea karting, zip lining, snorkeling, go for underwater activities, horse riding, and many more. I promise, you won’t complain.
8. Entertainment Galore. If ever, you are bored by over indulging in above activities, which is nearly impossible, Curious Corner is definitely the place to go to. You become a kid and take your kids as well. As the name suggests, Curious Corner is for those like me who have a probing mind. Stimulate your brain cells and rejuvenate yourself for some more tonic called Mauritius. It is a house filled with a variety of amazing delusional fantasies. As soon as you walk in, some tricks and puzzles challenge you and your brain.
Play golf in the sprawling golf course in Le Telfair Horse racing, soccer are some other outdoor sports that you can indulge in.
9. Sugars and Rum. I haven’t seen sugarcane fields and factories in such numbers in any country. Probably I haven’t travelled much. Rum is widely popular in Mauritius. There are several Rhumeries where you can see the entire process of rum making, visit the factories and buy rum as well. The Rum is available in flavors like ginger, passion fruit, vanilla, coffee, coconut, chili. Which one would you like to have?
10. Food. Speaking of Mauritian food, there’s plenty of local cuisine … a blend of Creole, Chinese, Indian and European. Don’t forget to try a dholl puri (pea flour pancake), and a farata (wheat flour pancake) and alouda (milk-based drink with tapioca). My personal recommendation is Palm Heart Salad, made from the core of a certain type of Palm tree. If you are a non-vegetarian, do try crocodile meat.
11. Shopping. Shopping is an integral part of visiting a place and Mauritius won’t disappoint you. Be it a local market like Grand Baie or central market of Port Luis, or modern malls, there are plenty of them. Locally made clothes, souvenirs and cane artefacts (table mats, hats, bags etc.) which was my favourite.
12. Le Caudan Waterfront. Being the main city in Mauritius, Port Louis is the home of the largest market, where you can find fresh food items, local dishes, and variety of handcrafted goods which tourists buy as souvenirs. There are cinema theatres playing Indian movies as well. Le Caudan Waterfront is always crowded, even during weekdays.
13. Festivals. The best way to learn about the culture of a place is to attend local festivities. Mauritius has large number of residents of Hindu religion, and hence they celebrate almost all the Hindu festivals. Diwali, Holi, Ganapati, Sankranti, Teej, Thai Pusam are a few of them. Vasu has attended Thai Pusam on one of his visits and twice I attended the Creole festival which has come from African cultures.
14. A mix of languages & cultures. When I first came here, I didn’t know much about Mauritius and was quite surprised. It is a land with mainly four languages. Creole or Kreol as it is known locally is widely spoken at home, with family and friends and in local markets. French takes the 2nd place, mostly spoken in work places. Generally people are more comfortable speaking in French than English. Besides English, children learn one more language in schools.
You’ll better understand the reason behind it if you know a bit of Mauritian history. First occupied by the Dutch, then French & British. The sugar plantations & factories were operated by slaves brought from India & Africa which gave rise to another language called Creole which has influence of African, French, Bhojpuri. If you need a taste of all these, Mauritius is the place.
15. Ganga Talao. I was fortunate enough to visit Mauritius’ most sacred Hindu Site called ganga Talao. To me, it was no different from a place in Haridwar or Varanasi where pilgrims sing bhajans, worship their Gods and offer coconuts, flowers and other related stuff.
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