The American author Mark Twain once said “Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied by Mauritius.” This spectacular country is 2,000 miles off the southeast coast of Africa and is home to sapphire waters, powder-white beaches and a lush interior forest with an array of African flora and fauna. Mauritius is a multicultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual country with influences from Indian, African, British, French and Chinese cultures, making it an incredibly fascinating place to visit. You can explore this diverse culture by eating Mauritian food, watching a Sega dance, learn a bit of the main spoken language – Mauritian Creole, visit some of its temples, the street markets and more! As you can see, there is plenty to do here – you don’t have to spend all your time relaxing on a beach whilst drinking a coconut!
As it is a tropical island, where best to start than the beach. One of the country’s most spectacular beaches is on the smaller island of Ile aux Cerfs, just off the east coast. It has the largest lagoon in Mauritius and is the perfect place to sit back and relax. Surrounding the whole of the island is a beautiful coral reef which is great for snorkelling and scuba diving enthusiasts. The best place to go is Blue Bay Marine Park which is famous for its rare and diverse coral. If you like water sports, many of the hotels have facilities for paddle boarding, kite surfing, water skiing, windsurfing and much more. You can also go on boat rides for dolphin and whale spotting.
Hiking up Le Morne
If you are into hiking, you have to get up early one morning and hike up the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Le Morne, for some breathtaking views. This 550m-tall rock is on the western side of the island and has an interesting history. Mauritius was once a stop on the eastern slave trade in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Plantation slaves sought refuge on Le Morne, having escaped from the plantations. One day in 1835, a group of runaway slaves saw officials coming their way and decided to throw themselves off the rock rather than be captured. What they didn’t know was that the officials were coming to tell them slavery had been abolished and they were free. Today Le Morne is seen as a symbol representing the fight for freedom.
Black River Gorges National Park
Black River Gorges National Park is probably the most spectacular corner of the island. You can go on day trips hiking through the forest, spotting out for giant fruit bats, its 300 species of flowers and the endangered pink pigeon. Mauritius is famous for being the only known habitat of the extinct bird, the Dodo. This 4 million-year-old bird became extinct in 1681, only 100 years after the island had been occupied by humans.
There are many waterfalls in Mauritius but one of the most famous is Chamarel waterfall. It’s in a very picturesque part of the country and is only half a mile from the “Seven Coloured Earths”. This natural phenomenon of rainbow-coloured sand attracts tourists throughout the year and is best visited at sunrise. The colours evolved through the conversion of volcanic lava to clay minerals and the colours include red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow. It’s a fantastic place to visit.
Port Louis is the vibrant capital city famous for its French colonial architecture, lively food markets, China town and Le Caudan Waterfront – a great place to do some souvenir shopping. To get a real feel of Mauritius you have to go to Port Louis to mingle with the locals and try some of the traditional street food such as dholl puri, roti and Gateau Piment, with half a pineapple covered in chilli for dessert. It’s delicious and something you will be trying when you get back home!