waters and powder-white beaches have made it a hit with honeymooners, but
Mauritius is much more than just a fly-and flop destination. Discover an island
that is diverse in both landscape and culture.
The natural world
reserve on an island just offshore, Île
aux Aigrettes preserves very rare remnants of the coastal forests of
Mauritius and shelters unique wildlife, such as ebony trees, wild flora,
endangered pink pigeons and Aldabra giant tortoises. There are frequent tours
every day, leaving from the mainland. Book in advance (admission from £16).
Some of the
best dive sites on the island can be found just beyond the village of Flic en
Flac, where shallow waters suddenly give way to the deep. The most popular site
is La Cathédrale, with its stone arches and cavern. Also nearby is the Rempart
Serpent, a sinuous strip of submerged rock that attracts scorpion fish, moray
eels and lionfish. Top local operator Sun Divers offers dives every day
(dives from £35 with equipment).
a gathering place for surfers, Tamarin Beach is now better known for its daily
visits from friendly pods of bottlenose and spinner dolphins. There are lots of
tours offering the chance to travel out of this sandy cove by boat and swim
with the gentle beasts, but be sure to choose a sustainable operator. JP Henry Charters offers highly
recommended 1½-hour dolphin trips on either speedboat or catamaran (tours £30).
Mauritius’s capital, Port Louis can feel
overwhelming with its honking horns and cajoling vendors, but its alleyways
conceal some of the island’s best places to eat. The Central Market is full of
stalls peddling street food such as gâteaux
piments (chilli cakes) and dhal puri (thin
pancakes served with spicy sauce), while a portion of honey-glazed pork can be
had for around 60p in Chinatown.
d’hôtes – privately hosted meals at guesthouses – offer a unique insight into
local life and cuisine. Les Lataniers
Bleus offers island hospitality at its finest. The communal evening meal
takes place on the veranda, where charming host Josette Marchal- Vexlard serves
up excellent seafood and fine conversation. Call on the morning of your visit, as
residential guests are given priority (Black River; Mon–Fri; three course meal
with aperitif £16).
many opportunities to dine by the sea in Mauritius, Fish and Rhum Shack is one
of the best, and far from humble. This beachside barbecue is held one or two
evenings a week at the luxurious Shanti
Maurice resort. Island fish, game and meat are grilled on request and
served with salads and herbs picked from the hotel’s garden, alongside local
beer and cocktails made with Mauritian rum (Bel Ombre; dinner £85, excluding
Beautiful stretches of sandy beach have made Pointe D’Esny and Blue Bay
a favoured spot for
private villas and chambres d’hôtes (b&bs). At weekends Blue Bay beach can
be crowded with picnicking locals, but during the week it is alluringly quiet.
Blue Bay has been given marine park status to protect its corals, which means
high-speed watercraft are banned.
Shaped like a hammerhead shark, Le Morne has
some of the island’s best beaches and a particular resonance in Mauritian
culture. According to legend, in the early 19th century a group of escaped
slaves – ignorant of the fact that slavery had recently been abolished – jumped
to their death when they spotted a group of soldiers making their way up the
cliff. Hence ‘Le Morne’ (the mournful one).
good-looking offshore island, Île aux Cerfs was once populated mostly by stags, imported
for hunting from Java, but now it lures plenty of visitors. However, with more
than 2½ miles of sand to choose from, there’s room for everyone to find their
own patch of beach. Lots of boat operators in mainland Trou d’Eau Douce offer a
water-taxi service for £7 a round-trip (your hotel can book one, or try Bateaux
Vicky on 00 230 754 5597).
By far the
easiest way to get around under your own steam is to hire a car (from £35 per day). There’s also a
fairly reliable bus network – the National Transport Authority has details of routes (fares from 30p).
Where to stay
d’Esny has a great selection of guesthouses, and L’Oiseau du Paradis is the pick
of the bunch. Rooms are painted in a tropical palette and feature an eclectic
mix of traditional wooden furniture. Guests have access to the nearby beach via
the owner’s private villa over the road (Pointe d’Esny; from £45).
stylish without the attendant price tag, the Récif Attitude gives on to a
relatively undeveloped stretch of beach, and has plenty of pillow-strewn nooks
for lounging away from the sand (Pointe aux Piments; from £100).
is a cluster of hut-villas arranged along 500m of sandy beach. Rooms open out
onto a palm-filled grove, and the seaside restaurant hosts regular seafood
barbecues and lobster nights (Flic en Flac; from £230 half-board).
The article 'Mini guide to coastal Mauritius' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.