As has been mentioned before myself and my fiancé aren’t ardent ‘beach people’. Don’t get me wrong sitting on a nice beach is enjoyable but after a day or two I’m ready to get up and explore. Whereas tropical islands in the Caribbean only have enough to fill one day of sightseeing Mauritius was more enticing to us with much on offer. Overall we had 10 nights in Mauritius staying in 3 different hotels on the East, South-West and North of the island. Little fact for you all to get us started, Mauritius is the only African country that has a majority Hindu population.
Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean, about 900 km (559 mi) East of Madagascar and 2,000 km (1,250 mi) off the nearest point of the African coast. Mauritius has a total area of about 2,040 sq km.
The East Coast of the country is slightly cooler as it is more exposed to the prevailing winds of the vast Indian Ocean, the nearest major landmass isn’t until you reach Australia. It is slightly less developed than other parts of the island meaning more isolated beaches and less tourists. Infrastructure is limited throughout the country (despite the British impact there is no train network). As such I would recommend, as we did, to hire a car. We used a local company called Ebrahim Car Rental. We simply liaised by WhatsApp and they were able to deliver the car to our hotel and collect it again when we dropped it off at the airport 9 days later.
Whilst we were on the East Coast we explored the quieter beaches of this area such as Palmar and Belle Mare, both lovely spots for snorkeling and relaxing. We also visited Ile Aux Aigrettes Nature Reserve. This small island is protected for its biodiversity as European Colonialists ravaged Mauritius’ famed flora and fauna many years ago. The most famous victim of this expansion was the Dodo. Legend has it these docile creatures were so friendly when the Dutch landed ashore the Dodo’s ran down to the beach to greet them before, well I won’t go into detail but it didn’t end well for them! Tours for Ile Aux Aigrettes can easily be arranged through the local tourist office online and you will get a chance to see lots of bird-life and the resident tortoises.
After getting the boat back from Ile Aux Aigrettes we drove to Blue Bay where there was fantastic snorkeling right off the beach. It can be quite tricky to wade out due to the coral so special activity shoes are recommended. Here the water is really clear but there was a strong current so you need to take care. Finally on our way back to the hotel we took the scenic route through the peaceful village of Cluny where we had been recommended to visit Eau De Bleue, a hidden waterfall. After some searching we spotted a gap through a sugar cane field and clambered down to see………..a bare cliff face. This was definitely the spot but unfortunately we were in the dry season so there was no cascade, we had tried at least.
A few days later we took the scenic route along the South Coast to our 2nd hotel, the amazing St Regis. Situated next to the imposing Le Morne Brabant peninsula in the rugged South West corner of Mauritius this area is an excellent base for exploring the Black Gorges National Park and Chamarel. Both are excellent places to do some self-guided hikes. In addition there is the 7 Coloured Earth attraction as well as some more amazing beaches. Le Morne Brabant itself is a UNESCO cultural site being that the mountain had helped to protect slaves from their oppressors in the 18th and 19th centuries, Today it is a symbol of slaves’ fight for freedom, their suffering, and their sacrifice,
We spent a full day exploring the Black Gorges National Park, there are loads of trails and although it was hot we had the chance to walk through the forest to cool off when we needed. The area was fairly quiet and affordred great views around the surrounding landscape.
Our last stop was at the Westin Turtle Bay Resort on the North West Coast. En-route we passed through the capital Port Louis. Other than shopping the only other reason to stop here would be to visit the second UNESCO site on Mauritius. Aapravasi Ghat is where the modern indentured labour diaspora began. In 1834, the British Government selected the island of Mauritius to be the first site for what it called ‘the great experiment’ in the use of ‘free’ labour to replace slaves. Weren’t the British lovely back in the day?!
The North-West coast is the best part of the island for snorkeling, being that the coral has not suffered too much bleaching as elsewhere around Mauritius unfortunately has. We visited Trou Aux Biches and finally got to spot some Turtles about 100 metres off the beach. We negotiated a price with a local to take us out on his boat but if you are a strong swimmer arguably you could make it out there yourself. It was great as there was only 1 other couple there and 3 or 4 turtles were happy to swim lazily and let us interact with them!
There are a few inland activities in the North West area too. If you are after a bit more culture you can visit Domaine de Labourdonnais, an old chateau and grounds previously occupied by a rich European family. Nearby is the SSR Botanic Gardens which are nice enough and have giant lily pads, apparently they get much bigger than the ones in the photo below!
Mauritius is a beautiful and diverse island in the Indian Ocean, more developed but also less expensive than the Seychelles and the Maldives it offers the chance to relax and snorkel off the amazing coastline. In addition if you get itchy feet from too much sitting around there is plenty to keep you occupied. We spent 10 days there and did not have 1 full day of chill and were never bored.
Top Tips for Mauritius:
- Stay in at least 2 hotels so you can see much more of the island. Although it is feasible to see a lot of the island if you base yourself in one, it will just mean more moving around.
- Hire a car and go explore the island yourself on your own schedule.
- Do your research for where the best snorkeling spots are, coral bleaching is affecting this dramatically.
- Buy some activity shoes as the coral can be very close to the shoreline.
- Best time to go is November to April.