I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world from the moment I was born thanks to my parents, I think travel must be in our blood because at just 18-years-old my father decided to leave his home country of Mauritius and board a plane to England. Since then he hasn’t stopped travelling with my family and is always planning his next holiday whether it’s to America or somewhere in Europe. We’ve travelled to Mauritius just twice in my lifetime, and I think we’re long overdue for a visit, but each time I’ve discovered yet more tropical beauty that lies on its shores. Mauritius is the ultimate honeymoon destination – it’s gorgeous, white sandy beaches are perfect for sipping cocktails and watching the sun go down. But the fun doesn’t stop there, why do honeymooners have to have all the fun? Mauritius is actually a great destination for all travellers, packed with culture, incredible food, music, dancing, colour and history. And the beauty of it being so tiny is that you don’t actually need very long to explore the whole island. My last visit to the country was when I was 16-years-old, and I was eager to return to visit my family who live in the capital, Port Louis, many of them I hadn’t seen for almost a decade! It was a great opportunity to catch up with my gran and cousins, plus I had ready made tour guides who knew all the best places to eat and shop!
While in the capital city you simply have to make a visit to the Central Market – the perfect place to stock up on fruits and vegetables while seeing the market sellers in full swing. It’s a great glimpse into the culture and how better to enjoy it than by sampling some of the local delicacies – my favourites are a snack of Dholl Puri (street food) washed down with a refreshing milky drink of Alooda. A short walk to the harbour is worth it in the heat, and be sure to take a look at the colonial-inspired buildings along the way. Don’t forget to check out the replica of the dodo, the country’s now extinct bird at the Mauritian Museum, and finish up in the Chinese Quarter for a look at the impressive food displays and dinner.
Just outside the city you can easily escape the hustle and bustle by heading to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden for the day. Here you can see all kinds of tropical plants including the famous giant lily pads, visit giant tortoises up to 200-years-old – so amazing! Plus deer and fruit bats. The Labourdonnais castle in the grounds is worth a visit and don’t miss out on a rum tasting session at the distillery. Then pristine sandy beaches await, and where better to try your hand at fishing, which is popular with the locals. Sugar plantations line the roads and back in the botanical garden you will find the remains of the first Mauritian sugar factory.
You simply can’t miss a visit to Chamarel, where the unique coloured earths sparkle in the sunlight – a phenomenon on it’s own. I can’t help but marvel every time I see it. Follow this with a peek at the country’s religious background as you visit the sacred lake of Grand Bassin, where Hindus gather every year to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratree. Monkeys roam wild around the grounds – but be careful, my cousin and I were chased last time! Just a couple of miles away are the tea plantations and factories where you can sample the different varieties, before heading to Black River Gorges National Park where the Mauritian kestrel can be spotted. See where the mountain meets the sea at Le Morne Brabant, an area that has been declared a world heritage sight by the United Nations. And be sure to visit one of the many waterfalls.
Being a tiny island itself, you forget that there are several other small islands surrounding Mauritius, each of these can make great day trips – Trou aux Cerfs and Ile aux Aigrettes in particular. One of my favourite memories from our last trip to Mauritius was a boat trip to Trou aux Cerfs where on arrival I promptly fell out of the boat and soaked myself and everything I owned. The trip improved when I helped the fisherman catch a fresh lunch of fish and shrimps to be barbecued on the beach. It was the perfect tropical island and so untouched.
One of the things I really love about Mauritius is that is has such a cosmopolitan culture and that so many different groups meld together so well. You’ll find locals speaking a mixture of English, French and Creole, which makes it easier to understand if you don’t particularly speak one. All across the island you see a mix of religious denominations from Punjabi and Hindi to Tamil and Chinese, my family are Tamil but when I visited I had a chance to experience all aspects of the culture which was great. Music plays a huge part in the culture so be sure to enjoy a performance of the national dance, Sega! It goes well with seafood and a few rums in my experience – the lively dance will have even the most shy on their feet. I remember when we spent Christmas Day in Mauritius and ended up in a busy restaurant filled with music and dancing, plus some amazing lobster! Be sure to enjoy the food in all its flavours – they vary a lot from the traditional Indian and African food, instead offering a blend of all of these flavours that put the street food in a league of its own! It’s a perfect place to travel whether you fancy a romantic break with your other half, a backpacking culture tour or a family trip. Wow, after writing this I’m about ready to book a flight – how about you? If you do fancy a trip, why not contact The Flight Centre.
Have you been to Mauritius? What was your favourite part? What other tropical paradises do you have on your travel list for 2016?