Everywhere I travel around the globe, my Mauritian background is a constant source of fascination to the people I meet. The constant guessing of my heritage and questions about my tan meets the confusion over my entirely British accent, often ending in the usual comments of how exotic I am. I may have grown up in the UK, but being half-Mauritian is a huge part of my life and I'll take any chance to talk about the many, many reasons to visit this paradise island and experience firsthand the magic of Mauritius. This tiny island in the Indian Ocean, just off the east coast of Madagascar, is not one that first springs to mind when planning holidays instead remaining one of Africa's best kept secrets.
This friendly nation is by far one of the most multicultural and welcoming I have had the pleasure to experience with a mixture of Indian and Creole, while British, French and Dutch influences reign strong to this day. I've been lucky enough to have the pleasure of experiencing the country as a tourist and as a Mauritian girl reunited with her huge Mauritian family for family celebrations over the years and although I'm desperate to go back, my last visits still stay fresh in my mind. The most memorable visit being when I was six-years-old and we went, as a family, to celebrate the wedding of my parents with a full Mauritian wedding ceremony. I may have been just a kid but I remember the gorgeous henna designs and lush silken saris in rich reds and golds. I remember the spicy aromas of fresh curries and delicious sweet treats floating on the breeze interlaced with lively music.
As I grew older, my visits changed to experiencing the country as more of a tourist - my family wanted to show off the beauty and culture of Mauritius and I was more than happy to experience it. From snorkelling with tropical fish and sharks, to counting lily-pads in the botanical gardens, to fishing with locals on Ile aux Cerfs before barbecuing up fresh catch for lunch. Exploring the markets we were met with the cries of salesmen flaunting their wares from brightly coloured fabrics to exotic jewels and bangles, to the smell of fresh spices and the shouts from the fruit and vegetable stalls. For such a tiny island, Mauritius has so much to offer travellers, from family holidays to honeymooners, with endless activities and amazing sights.
Spend your days on the pristine, white sandy beaches or dive into the tropical waters, or if you're in the mood for exploring why not head inland and discover volcanic peaks or a taste of luxury at the many 5* hotels, spas and golf resorts. One of my favourite things to discover about the island is how beautifully the different cultures and religions sit so peacefully alongside each other creating such a magical blend of spirituality. Look for bright temples adorning the roadsides while finding peace in the chanting of the monks in the early mornings. And what would a trip to Mauritius be without a taste of the exotic flavours and the fine cuisine offered on the island - fresh seafood reigns in my memory with the amazing blend of spices in the Indian, Creole and Chinese sectors of the island. So often the foodie influences blend into entirely new dishes when mixed with the French and British influences. You'll want to laden your plate with my favourite street food dhal puris, roti and Creole stew rougaille, all washed down with the local Phoenix beer.
My top 10 Mauritian experiences:
- Taking a speedboat to Ile aux Cerfs for a day on this uninhabited tropical island where you can join the local fishermen in catching fresh seafood to barbecue up on the beach.
- Take in the beauty at pilgrimage site Grand Bassin where Ganga Taleo, a stunning crater lake in a secluded mountain area.
- Spend your days soaking up the sunshine and splashing in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean on the beaches at Flic en Flac.
- Visit the Crocodile & Giant Tortoises Park to spend time with these huge prehistoric creatures - if you love tortoises as much as I do you'll be in heaven.
- See the giant lily-pads for yourself at Pamplemousses Ramgoolam Botanic Garden, where lush green jungle beauties await.
- Black River Gorges National Park will give the true jungle experience as you explore this wild expanse of rolling hills and thick forest - when I visited as a youngster we saw wild gorillas swinging in the trees.
- Visit the markets and explore the tastes and sights of Port Louis while shopping for fabrics, jewellery or spices.
- Experience a Mauritian celebration - whether you have family/friends there or you simply find a night of Sega dancing to experience the fun, and the rum, of this amazing culture.
- Take a rum or sugar tour and find out all about production of both within the country.
- See the beauty of faith when you visit the temples/churches - whether Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim - all have their own beauty and serenity as they sit alongside each other.
If that hasn't persuaded you that Mauritius should be the next place on your must-travel list, I don't know what will! I'm looking at flights there as I write - it's definitely time for a trip back there if you ask me. If you're planning a romantic escape, a family getaway or a solo explore - check out Mauritius holidays here.